Teacher's Institute Notebook 1886 / Iowa woman's record of eerie exchanges with her young son
Notebook published 1886, remarks ca. 1896. Discovered in Woodbine, Iowa. Wraps, 8vo. An unnumbered book designed for teachers' remarks on their students' recitations. The first page has notes on music theory, then is used by a woman to record odd things her son has said and done, mainly relating to death, at roughly three years old.
I said to Harvey, who is putting paper in his mouth and chewing it, "Harvey Mama doesn’t think you had better do that, for it might make you sick." After a short silence he says, "I want to die and go to God." Has been told when people get sick and die, they go up to God's beautiful house.
The child repeatedly talks of death and spirits, refers to himself in the third person, and makes menacing remarks.
When he wants me to find his lost marble, says “Mama I am crying you’d better get the marble. Harvey is crying.” Repeats it. Enjoys using chair for piano, plays and sings much. Asks me if I like it. Makes face of man with eyes nose, mouth like this [image] puts legs on where I tell him to make arms & puts them out from his head.
There is a thread of music and singing, an early remark indicating he'd hummed a tune continuously for a month before turning 2. Entries are marked inconsistently with either the child's age or the date and seem to suggest she's recorded these over a few years, her handwriting increasingly disordered.
Only about 12 pages with notes, the rest of the book is unused until a name written on the last page: J.D. McAuliff (Heals by rubbing) St. Louis, Mo.
Zoom in on the photos to read more excerpts. An eerie book as well as a poignant reminder of the omnipresence of death, particularly in rural communities pre-modern medicine, and how it is addressed with young children.
"Say mama was grandpa's spirit in his head?" Answer. We don’t know just exactly where our spirits are in us. "Well, we talk out of our heads, and so I rather think our spirits are in our heads." Some 10 days before this he was drawing a picture of a deathbed scene where angels were coming to carry the man's spirit to God in accordance with what he had been told on the subject— He said "Mama I guess one angel holds the man’s mouth open, and the other takes his spirit out of him."