The Elliott Communion
There are some borders and boundaries within the occult which, despite an endless capacity for curiosity, we are not nearly ready nor properly prepared to venture beyond.
While the nature and extent of these abilities are the subject of fervent and earnest debate, the accepted existence of individuals with certain psychic sensitivities is as close to axiomatic as any phenomena gets in the fields of occult studies. Buoyed, most likely, by the fact that it is a spectrum which allows for the extremes of both the intimidatingly performative as well as the more intimate and subtle instances of such talents, it has become an area of intense study and scrutiny. Still, eager as people are to quantify and codify these capabilities, most of the experiments are small in scale, benign in intent and conclusion. A caution probably instilled into the discipline after one of its most famous and catastrophic failures: The Elliott Communion.
The project was named for Harper Elliott, the fringe academic and the leader and creator of the project, who had the fiscal and logistical backing of a financier or financiers whose names have been diligently misplaced or unceremoniously redacted from the recovered project notes. Elliott believed that the existence of psychic phenomena pointed to an undiscovered field or force which connected every mind - to a lesser or greater degree - and, furthermore, than there was some strange intelligence behind it. His intention was to cloister a cohort of sensitives, psychics and empaths away in a remote and specially-built facility in the Adirondacks, creating the conditions for a critical confluence of esoteric energies and using the resulting signal as a beacon to reach out beyond the limits of what was previously imaginable.
The process of selecting candidates for the project was onerous and arduous, with Elliott’s search and interviews taking place all over the globe across a period of some four or five years as he searched for people who met his exacting experimental criteria. Every measure that could be taken to root out tricksters, con artists and mundane magicians was applied to each and every applicant, with many of those passing such tests still variously culled until the pool of potential candidates was whittled from several thousand down to just forty-nine. Elliott, who had tried to maintain contact with all of the people he had chosen for the project in the intervening period since their first meetings - which had sometimes been several years prior - reached out, offering to bring them to meet with him again in New York.
Of these, forty-four responded; arriving in dribs and drabs over the course of a month until, in May 1879, Elliott led them North and into the mountains and to the unoccupied facility where the experiment would begin. They found their temporary home, a small, unfenced compound with a main house and a few smaller supply sheds dotted around it, and took up residence. Over the following months Elliott worked to help them coordinate and synchronise their abilities through the repetition of simple exercises; passing basic images and information from one mind to another, empathetic reading and meditating with a singular focus on a shared intent. Once these abilities were primed to his satisfaction - and in the face of growing impatience on the part of his subjects - Elliott gave them a single word whose intent they would all project: Greetings.
The nature of what the group made contact with was vehemently, sometimes aggressively contested, even at the time and amongst those present: Some thought it was divine, the faintest edges of the mind of God, others the exact opposite - a glimpse into the bleakest hell. A few saw it as a well of thought and sensation so vast and so deep and so other that it could only be something from another world or reality that was entirely alien to our experience and our understanding. Others gravitated to the idea of a deep and turbulent ocean; its waters a deafening cacophony of every fleeting thought and passing impulse, the dreams and nightmares of every person on Earth, struggling to name what Jung would later come to call the collective unconscious.
One participant suggested a more prosaic theory: That it was an echo-chamber of those present - that the overlap of so many people attempting to project and receive thoughts had created a white noise of interference that was shot through with flashes of imagery too primal and urgent to be drowned out. Certainly, and despite the pretence of scientific rigour, the idea of letting go of the niceties and mores that might cause psychic inhibitions had been quite fervently embraced by a goodly number of those present - an accounting of the various drugs and alcohol taken in the house would be a mammoth undertaking even without an attendant list of the various flings, trysts and affairs that took place under their influence and allowances.
Somewhat fraught already as a result, once the experiment had become the Communion the conditions became increasingly and escalatingly tense. Even while the participants fragmented into factions - cultish cliques aligned behind like-minded explanations for what they had reached - the coordinated efforts of a quorum were required in order to establish their psychic connection to it. Nonetheless they pushed forward, compromising on shorter, more frequent Communions that would allow people to recover from the vertiginous waves of overwhelming ecstasy and despair, as the contact became easier and easier to make and maintain. Elliott - already a somewhat frustrated observer who lacked the sensitivities to have taken part - assumed that this was the result of practice and repetition until his dreams began to reflect a fraction of what the psychics were experiencing. Then he realised that he had been gravely mistaken.
Neither limited to being (nor content to be) at the beck and call of the amassed psychics and sensitives, the entity or energy with which the experiment had made contact was keeping the channel active beyond the confines of Elliott’s experiment. The gates of Communion had been flung open and, regardless of its motives, the thing on the other side was broadcasting more sensory and informational experience than could be contained by mere mortal minds. As if shocked awake by this contact, Elliott could finally see that the psychics he had brought together had been reduced by degrees into variously crude imitations of their former selves: They were as much extensions of the alien presence as they were the people he had once known, antennae that were broadcasting back to their unbidden and unknowable controller.
They started to act as a unit, a colony rather than a group, and Elliott began to actively feel the pull of the will that drove them. Fearing that the Communion would decide to leave the confines of the facility, that it would seek out new minds and new sensations and overwhelm those too, he made the choice to act: Notes and ledgers secured in one of the outbuildings as a warning to those who would find them. Elliott locked the main house up and barred the windows and doors, trying to ignore the protests of former associates playing out half-lives, then set to burning the building down. All the expected bodies were later accounted for, charred and buried in the ashes and the embers, and the presence of the facility was carefully covered up.