Synopsis

The Strange Transfiguration of Hannah Stubbs

Signor Ricardo, apparently a poor Italian refugee, is a complete mystery to his landlady, Mrs Battleby.  He rents three attic rooms and keeps one of them locked against her prying eyes.  Her neighbour’s helpful suggestion that he might be Jack the Ripper further excites her interest.  Their discussion is interrupted by the arrival of Ricardo’s friend, Dr Steinberg, who finds his own way to the attic.  Mrs Battleby starts complaining about her new maid, Hannah Stubbs, the daughter of a friend who has sent her away into service after a series of spooky goings-on in which furniture started moving around of its own accord.  Her new mistress is none too pleased by the broken crockery that has attended her arrival.

Ricardo is delighted to see Steinberg.  The two friends share a great interest in science and wish to answer the world’s mysteries.  Ricardo is a student of Spiritualism, whilst Steinberg is extremely sceptical.  Ricardo reveals that his study of the Occult has been prompted by his enduring love for his late wife, Leonora.  He tells the astonished Steinberg that he was once the Marchese di Sorrento, but lost his land and fortune after a political offence.  He life was further blighted when he stabbed his wife to death, suspecting her of having committed adultery.  Ever since, he has been racked with guilt, wondering whether she had been unjustly accused.  He is desperate to raise her spirit in order that he might ascertain the truth.

Ricardo escorts an incredulous Steinberg through to his séance room, which is in complete darkness.  He cannot comprehend that his friend really believes the spirit of his dead wife will return to him, but is completely unnerved when he feels a ghostly presence beside him.  He refuses to have anything more to do with Spiritualism, accusing Ricardo of being in league with the Evil One.

A despondent Ricardo goes out for a walk and discovers a distraught Hannah Stubbs cleaning the front step.  She explains that she is to be dismissed from her post as Mrs Battleby is fed up with the dancing furniture and broken crockery.  Ricardo feels strangely drawn to Hannah’s eyes and resolves to assist her in her plight.  He witnesses for himself her extraordinary ability to make inanimate objects move.  Steinberg has by this point returned, apologising for his earlier peremptoriness and eager to join Ricardo in his paranormal investigations.  Between them they convince Hannah that she is suffering from an illness and promise they can cure her.  Afterwards, Ricardo tells Steinberg that he thinks she possesses mediumistic powers.  Steinberg scoffs at the idea, countering that it is a clear case of hysteria and that he is the man to cure her.  Ricardo arranges with Mrs Battleby to pay Hannah’s wages in order to keep her under the same roof.

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