PseudoPod 822: The Experiment of Erich Weigert


The Experiment Of Erich Weigert

By Sewell Peaslee Wright


The moment I gazed out over the audience I saw him. He was seated far back under the balcony that overhung the little auditorium, but even in the heavy shadow I could see his eyes; eyes that seemed alight with cold brilliance, like a diamond in the moonlight.

Although I was more or less accustomed to public speaking, and was very much at home with my subject that evening, “Radio As It Used To Be,” something about the unfaltering regard of the man under the balcony confused me. His eyes were on me constantly; every move I made, every gesture, every change in expression, those unwinking blue orbs seemed to register.

I wondered who he was; surely I had never seen him before, nor he me. I caught myself addressing myself to him, and when once his head seemed to nod slightly as though in approval of something I had said, a strange thrill of pleasure tingled along my spine. There was a power in the man; a sort of benign malignancy. I was glad when I finished and could escape from that unwavering regard.

After the meeting broke up he came up toward the stage, where I was chatting with several officers of the radio association responsible for the meeting I had just addressed. They moved away as they noted the stranger’s obvious intention to speak to me.

He was a little man, I saw now, not more than five feet six inches in height, but his shoulders were broad and massive, and his head was larger than mine.

But it was his face that held my gaze. His eyes, as I had said, seemed to burn coldly, with the same chilly, weird blue light of an electric spark. They were deep-set eyes, separated with a thin, sharply beaked nose that somehow seemed repulsively cruel. His mouth was thin and turned down sharply at the corners, two deep wrinkles springing from near the base of his nose accenting its contour. Above a high forehead that bulged strangely clung tangled sparse gray locks.

He smiled ingratiatingly as he drew near, and as he spoke, his voice was surprisingly pleasant.

“Mr. Saylor, I enjoyed your talk very much indeed. For a man of your years you have a very keen insight into radio.”

He offered his hand as he spoke, and I took it cordially. For all his unprepossessing appearance, there was a certain appeal about the man; the strength of his personality attracted more than his appearance repelled.

“I’ve been working with radio for fourteen years now,” I replied smiling. “Ham, Marconi ‘op’, experimental work for a manufacturer, designing, all that sort of thing. Bound to pick up a little here and there, you know.”

“Yes, indeed! A great deal of experience for a young man. You seem—pardon me! I have neglected to introduce myself; Erich Weigert, at your service! ” He bowed a quick little foreign, military bow, heels together. “If you have nothing else in mind, Mr. Saylor, and would be interested, I would like to take you through my own little laboratory this evening.”

Erich Weigert! And an invitation to go through his laboratory! It is no wonder that I gasped. I had heard of him as a wealthy, somewhat mysterious recluse with scientific leanings, but I had never seen him before that memorable night.

Wiegert’s machine soon whisked us out to his residence near the outskirts of the city. Only a few lights were burning as we turned in at the grass-grown drive, but I could make out the house as a massive, square pile, squat and ugly in the moonlight, topped with an octagonal cupola, like some uncouth excrudescence, its panes glaring bleakly over the rather extensive, high-walled grounds that surrounded the place.

The door was opened by a young woman whom a moment later Weigert introduced as his wife. The affection and pride in his voice as he presented me struck me as being the first real feeling that he had evidenced since I had met him.

He had a very real reason for his pride, for his wife was undeniably beautiful. The instant she raised her soft, dark eyes to mine I was struck almost dumb with their remarkable loveliness. I say I was struck almost dumb; I say that because to talk of love at first sight is to bring up visions of youthful exaggerations. It is true that as Vera Weigert and I looked into each other’s eyes that night, something was born of that union of glances that never died— that never will die. Call it what you will, for I must on with my story.

I remember but vaguely the trip through the big bare laboratory that Weigert had made of two adjoining rooms at one side of the house. Later I became very well acquainted with the delicate instruments, the generators and transformers and the immense variety of tubes with which the laboratory was equipped, but that night my mind was too full of Vera Weigert. It was not until after Weigert invited me to a chair in front of the big fireplace in the front room, between himself and his wife, that the trend of his conversation began to make an impression on my mind.

“Your remark this evening that the mystery had all gone from radio, despite the fact that radio was doing greater marvels today than ever, struck me particularly,” Weigert said with a nod of approval, glancing first at me, and then at his wife. “It is true, today they hook up eight tubes and hear from one coast to another or perhaps one continent listens to another—with the power of the sending station listed in many thousands of watts. Bah! It is like killing ants with a steam-roller! In the days when we caught the buzz and scratch of spark signals two thousand miles away — and more — with our crystals, silicon, galena, perikon — then there was mystery, romance, to radio. Today my barber’s wife can twiddle the switches and dials of her set and copy from coast to coast as easily as she can change the records on her phonograph. The scientist, the man with imagination, has left that phase of radio far behind; it is a husk from which all the sweetness has been sucked!”

“True,” I nodded. “I find no interest in radio communications now. But, sir, the transmission of photographs by radio—and we are doing that now, you know—fires my imagination. I have been working myself along those lines,” I added somewhat timidly, for Erich Weigert had a terrific force of personality that made me feel very young beside him. “Perhaps the day is not so far off when we shall be able to broadcast moving pictures as well as the music to accompany them!”

“Aber! Aber! That is but a step!” broke in Weigert, interrupting me with sudden and unexpected violence. “First code, then speech, then pictures. Good! A start, perhaps, but —not more than a start, Mr. Saylor!” He dropped his voice until it was little more than an insinuating whisper, and his eyes gleamed with indescribable earnestness. “Thought! That’s the thing; the transmission of thought! Through the ages they have tried it. Some have claimed to have perfected it, but it was never so. Between two particular individuals, perhaps; but it has never been made a science. Radio can make it a science, Mr. Saylor; radio and I!”

I think he would have said more, but his wife deftly changed the subject, and Weigert allowed himself to be led by the soft leash of her voice. As for me, I was in a sort of uneasy paradise to be there beside her, to listen to her sweet voice, and the rest of the evening flew by far too quickly.

For days after two voices ruled my brain. One was her soft ‘ ‘ Good night, Mr. Saylor!” and the other was Erich Weigert’s cordial invitation to return to talk radio again some other night very soon. Should I go? Or should I heed the warning that my inner self shrieked in my mental ears? Should I place myself as one side of a triangle? And such a triangle! It was very evident that Weigert was wildly in love with his young wife, and with his temperament and personality —but why prolong the debate that raged in my mind ? You know, if you have ever been a man, and young, how it was decided. I went—went not once but many times.

I think that Erich Weigert grew for me a real affection; I could follow him along the lesser-trodden paths of radio research and could even lead him into some of the ramifications of the great science. My ideas, or at least many of them, agreed with his own. And to the man who had cut himself off from the rest of the world that he might devote himself to his work, I suppose I was a welcome contact point with the outside.

It was the love that waxed and grew between Vera and myself that caused me the most concern. There was that between us that made every moment near her a bitter paradise; a joyous hell. And that she responded to my passion with a love as great as my own, I had only to look into her eyes to see.

A quick pressure of her hand, a touch on the arm in passing; little things, yet they were all we had. And they were enough to drive me to any madness.


One night, Weigert excused himself for a moment, to fetch something from the laboratory. As he disappeared through the heavy drapes her eyes met mine, and for a long moment we sat, drinking deep of the forbidden draft. Then, compelled by a force greater than the will of either of us, we rose to our feet and an instant later I had her in my arms, my lips crushed on hers.

I thought that I caught out of the corner of my eyes, a movement of the drapes across the door, and she detected my sudden start.

“What is it, dear?” she whispered.

“Nothing. But I thought the drapes moved just then. It startled me for a moment.”

“It might have been him!” she whispered fiercely. “He is a devil! He knows everything. Perhaps—”

But before she could finish we heard his steps coming down the hall, and we hastened to seat ourselves.

Evidently Weigert had not been spying on us, for he was his normal self when he entered the room. Intensely jealous though he was, he had never seemed to see the love that was between his wife and me.

I should have read the man better; should have realized that those cold blue eyes missed nothing, and that such a personality could dissemble until—until—


“We have often talked about thought transmission by radio, Saylor. You remember?” Weigert was talking to me over the ’phone, as we often chatted of an afternoon, when both of us had a little time. There was a certain tenseness in his voice that vaguely excited me.

“Yes,” I answered quickly. “Have you ?”

“I think so. I am going to try the experiment tonight. Would you care to be on hand and assist me?”

“I certainly deem it an honor to be asked!”

He chuckled as at some private bit of humor before he replied.

“Will you be on hand at 8 sharp, then? I must get to work now; there’s a lot to do before tonight. Remember, 8 o’clock sharp!”

It was exactly three minutes of 8 when Erich Weigert admitted me that night. I showed him my watch, laughingly.

“See how well I obeyed orders?”

“Fine!” he nodded. “We will go directly to the laboratory; I am naturally anxious as to the success of our experiment.”

The cold glitter in his eyes and the deepening of the harsh lines that accented the habitual sneer on the ‘thin lips had told me at first glance that his nerves were near the breaking point, and as he spoke a vibrant undertone of his voice affirmed the truth of my judgment.

The laboratory, as I have said, was composed of two rooms, but tonight Weigert had pulled tightly shut the sliding doors between them. Before I had time to question him, even had I felt so inclined, he directed my attention to a table in the center of the room. On it was a mass of apparatus, in which I recognized many familiar instruments, although one or two of the devices were utterly foreign to my experience. Four receiving tubes burned near one edge of the tangle.

“Sit down in the chair, Saylor,” suggested Weigert. “You’re going to act as the receiving agent in this little test, since you so kindly volunteered to help. There; so.”

He placed me in a big, overstaffed chair that stood beside the table and directed his attention to the apparatus.

“You see, I have reasoned it out this way,” he commented as he worked: “thought is a function of the brain. Therefore”—he turned to me with an odd contrivance in his hand, a collar-like piece of apparatus, attached to some part of the array on the table by two long, flexible wires— “receiving of thought must be by getting in contact with the brain, either directly or through nerves running to the brain. Understand?”

I nodded, only partly understanding, and yet dominated utterly by the intense blue light that flared in his agate-hard blue eyes.

“So! Then we place this little collar of soft chamois around your neck, buckling it tightly in place,” he continued, suiting the action to the word. “That cold sensation you feel at the back is nothing but a plate of heavy silver foil; its function is to conduct to the nerve-cable of your spinal column the thought impulses after they are sufficiently amplified and energized by this apparatus.”

For a few minutes he seemed to forget me utterly, and he leaned over the apparatus on the table, inspecting it, testing and adjusting. I watched him curiously, a premonition of evil settling down over me as a cold ocean fog rolls down into the lowlands. I was glad when he finally straightened up and once more spoke.

“Everything seems to be all ready,’’ he said. “I’m not quite sure what current will be needed here, so I’ll cut out this potentiometer slowly. You tell me”—and he put his face close to mine and glared down into my eyes—“what you feel.”

“But—but the other subject?” I ventured. “Who is transmitting?”

“The other subject,” he said curtly, “is in the next room. Keep your mind as free from outside thoughts as you can. Close your eyes. Relax.”

In the stillness of the room I could hear the slight scrape of the contact arm over the wires of the potentiometer, but save for a nervous tickle up and down my spine I could feel nothing.

“Not enough, eh?” questioned Weigert, evidently watching my impassive face. I shook my head.

The potentiometer scraped again, and I became aware of a soft warmness in the region directly under the metal plate; a warmth that crept upward until it suffused the whole base of my brain. There was a sort of undulating quality about it that made me dizzy, that ‘ seemed to make me reel and sway even as I sat ensconced in the broad arms of the chair.

“It begins to make itself felt?”

I opened my eyes with a little start ; his voice seemed to come from some outer world.

Weigert was peering down at me, his blue eyes alight with scientific fervor—or was it something more? He scowled as he saw my eyes open.

“Keep your eyes shut!” he commanded harshly. “How can the experiment succeed if you disobey orders?” I closed my eyes and sank back into the chair, and again the surging heat swept upward into my brain. I heard the potentiometer scrape; more and more….

It is hard to put down in black and white that which sounds so incredible that I myself can hardly believe it. But I shall try.

The pulsation of the warm waves increased; slowly at first and then with a sudden rush. Although my eyes were tightly shut, the impression of great red roaring flames swept before me as though my face were buried in a very fountain of fire.

And then, gradually, a thought was born in my mind; not a thought as it springs to the normal, conscious mind, but a thought from without forced itself into my mind and grew there, swelling from an unrecognizable seed to a palpitant growth — and the thought that had been planted in my mind, and that grew there so vividly, as if before some inner eye, was a thought of love! Love as boundless as space itself; as real and actual as a mighty block of granite. Love; love for me! Soundless, formless words, as intangible and elusive as wisps of mist, swam through my bursting brain; words of affection, endearment, sacrifice, love.

I was aware, too, of another element, as though the picture was shot through with intermittent flashes of red, disrupting light. Pain! Agony! Fear! Despair! These were the things that were marring the beauty of my inward vision. I could feel my face writhe with the beauty and the horror of it all, but it held me enthralled in its mysterious grasp. I wanted to tear the accursed thing from my throat, to leap up, to cry aloud

Suddenly, totally, the torture stopped; there were only the warm, throbbing waves of feeling inundating my brain. I opened my eyes and leaped from the chair, cursing.

“What damnable thing is this you have here ? ” I shouted. ‘ ‘ I have been to hell and back again! I should have gone crazy had you not turned it off when you did!”

The eager, curious light went from Erich Weigert’s eyes, and in its place came a glint of sardonic amusement.

“I did not turn it off,” he said calmly. “But I can imagine why you thought I did.” He deftly removed the band around my neck and tossed it carelessly onto the table. “And now—would you not like to see—the other subject; the sender?”

An icy chill gripped my every nerve and sinew; there was something diabolically sinister in the man’s face and in the soft tones of his voice.

I nodded dumbly, still dazed from the experiment, and stumbled in his wake to the closed double doors. He slid the doors open and stood aside that I might enter.

On an operating table near the door lay a figure covered with a long white sheet. A faint odor as of an anesthetic came to my nostrils, but there was something about the absolute, deathly stillness of the supine figure that told me I was in the presence of death itself.

Trembling, the blood draining from my face, I stood and stared at the still figure and at the instrument-littered table beside the operating table. Three small wires from the maze of instruments on the table disappeared under the edge of the sheet; two big transmitting tubes glowed yellowly in the bright light that flooded the room. A dim, horrible idea began to take shape in my mind.

“See!” chuckled Weigert, his voice grating on the silence like the screech of a rusty hinge. “The sending subject!”

He strode forward and tore the sheet from the figure.

I felt my knees tremble beneath me, and I leaned against the wall for support. There on the table, dressed in a simple white robe, lay the body of Vera Weigert!

My eyes refused to move from the fearful sight. A spot above either ear had been shaved, and on the scalp thus exposed a red circle with edges —my God!

“Just as the receiving element must work directly upon the nerve trunk,” I heard Weigert saying, “the sending must be done, at least with the crude apparatus I have, direct from the emanating source. And that, of course, is—the brain! Hence the trephine that seems to strike you as so interesting.

“This little band passes under the head as you see, and presses two silver disks directly upon the brain; or, strictly speaking, upon the dura mater, to get the desired contact.”

Faster and faster the man spoke— or did my reeling senses imagine that? His voice, from a calm, scientific monotone, rose almost to a shriek.

“There she is, Saylor! Why don’t you caress her hand now ? Why don’t you hold her close and press her lips now, man? There she is, and with the last spark of her energy she sent you a message, Saylor! What was the message? You won’t tell me? It must have been wonderful; wonderful!

“I knew the experiment would be a success! You two loved each other; you were attuned as two human beings seldom are attuned. It was an ideal opportunity to prove that I was right; that thought could be transmitted—and to avenge myself upon a faithless wife and a faithless friend!”

I tried to speak, but my dry tongue refused to move from the roof of my mouth. But he saw my throat move, and he chuckled again.

“You would deny it, eh? You But no matter! Let me tell you how I did it. It will interest you.

“I told her what I was going to do. Told her that if she did not submit, I would take your life as the penalty. And—does this give you pleasure, Saylor?—she consented.

“I gave her scopolamin-morphin as an anesthetic, for I knew that would permit her subconscious mind to continue its functioning. Then, carefully—oh, very carefully, for I did not want her to die too soon!—I trephined the skulk just at the fissure of Sylvius, thus locating my electrodes in the sensory area. Very well thought out, was it not?

“I knew that her last thoughts would be of you; thoughts of love for her lover. Strong thoughts, you know; thoughts that would enable my unperfected apparatus to work; to prove that my idea is feasible! Thoughts that would hold over and run constantly through her subconscious mind. Thoughts of love, eh, Saylor? And thoughts of fear, too, perhaps? Ah! I thought I read that in your face, man; and can you blame her? It is not pleasant to die when you are young and very beautiful and in love!”

He paused and drew the tip of his tongue across his thin, bloodless lips.

“And—oh, this was a joke I had not thought of!—you thought I turned it off, did you? You false friend! You fool! You meddler! You heard”—and his voice rose to a shriek like that of a maniac in hell— “I tell you, Saylor, you heard her die!”

I shook off the icy grip that had numbed me and leaped for the man, but before I could sink my clutching fingers in his throat he stopped me at the point of a gun which he flashed from a pocket.

“Back!” he shrieked. “Back! I don’t want to kill you; I want you to live and remember—but if you move, I’ll shoot to maim. I have my plans all laid for my escape, and—”

Just then I lunged. The gun roared over my head and the stench of the powder smoke swirled in my nostrils. We went down on the floor together in a whirling, flaying heap. The instrument table fell over with a terrific crash, and as I fought I saw out of the comer of my eye a flicker of red flame shoot up as the tangled high-voltage wires hissed their danger signal.

It was. over in a few minutes. He was a maniac, and fought with a maniac’s strength, but I was possessed of ten thousand devils! I wrenched the gun from his hand and put it to his head, holding him down with my body and my left arm in a wrestling hold I had learned years ago.

His cold blue eyes looked up into mine, glinting with sardonic amusement.

“And now for the Great Experiment!” he said, panting. “Shoot!”

I glanced up at the still figure on the operating table. The flames were beginning to roar, now, and were licking fiercely at the woodwork. Then I placed the gun directly above his ear, closed my eyes and pulled the trigger.

**********************

I never looked back. The papers ran a story of a recluse and his wife trapped in a night fire. The bodies were so burned that they could not detect the holes—both just above the ear.

But I know! I know! I, who heard, or felt, or lived, a woman’s dying thoughts, I know.

And tonight—now, just as soon as I write the last word of this—I shall know more, for then I shall put the same gun. to my head carefully just above the ear, and—pull—the—trigger

About the Author

Sewell Peaslee Wright

Sewell Peaslee Wright (1897-1970) was an American science fiction writer, journalist, advertising writer, radio operator, pulp writer, and editor. Sewell served in the military during World War 1 and was a fan favorite of early pulp scifi magazines. A regular contributor to Astounding Stories and Weird Tales, Wright is probably best remembered for his Vampires of Space, although it was not his best work. He was also a contributor to other magazines such as Munsey’s Magazine and Collier’s Weekly. His many works include The House in the Willows, The Forgotten Planet, The Priestess of the Flame, The Terror from the Depths, and The Death Traps of FX-31. (more…)

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About the Narrator

Tony Sarrecchia

Tony Sarrecchi

Tony Sarrecchia creates audio dramas including the award-winning HARRY STRANGE RADIO DRAMA, and the SCARLETT HOOD ADVENTURES. His LADY SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERIES episode, ‘The Lady in Red’, performed at DragonCon and the National Audio Theatre Festival in 2021, won the NATF’s Platinum Festival Fan Favorite award.

You can find his short fiction in the GEORIGA GOTHIC anthology, THE LEGENDS OF NEW PULP anthology, and on the WICKED LIBRARY Podcast and VICTORIA’S LIFT Podcast.

He is a member of the HWA.

This is his first professional narration.

Keep up with all his projects at tsarrecchia.com

Find more by Tony Sarrecchia

Tony Sarrecchi
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