Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Room for One More (Crashing Elevator Legend)

“Preview of Death,” Eerie Adventures #1 (Ziff-Davis, Winter, 1951). Sir Melville Duff, alarmed by a presentiment of death, avoids entering an elevator. It then crashes, killing all its occupants. This version of the “Room for One More” legend, with its distinctive motif of a mysterious man seen carrying a coffin on his back, is probably based on the story told by (and later told of) Lord Dufferin, which was popularized by its appearance in Camille Flammarion’s Death and Its Mystery at the Moment of Death (1922). Other versions have been traced back to the late nineteenth century.


Camille Flammarion, Death and Its Mystery at the Moment of Death, trans. Latrobe Carroll (New York: The Century Co., 1922), 200-1.

Rev. Stainton Moses, “Notes by the Way,” Light: A Journal of Psychical, Occult, and Mystical Research (London), vol. 12, no. 588, 16 April 1892, p. 1.

Some other versions can be found in Alexander Woollcott, “The Triple Warning,” The New Yorker, 19 September 1931, p. 36; Bennett Cerf, Try and Stop Me (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), 277-9;  Edgar Cayce, Auras: An Essay on the Meaning of Colors (Virginia Beach: A.R.E. Press, 1945), 8; Augustus Hare, In My Solitary Life (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1953), 297-8; Albert Howard Carter, “Some Folk Tales of the Big City,” Arkansas Folklore, vol. 4, no. 1 (15 August 1953), 4; Katherine Briggs and Ruth Tongue, Folktales of England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 67-8; and Joseph J. Weed, Psychic Energy: How to Change Desires into Realities (West Nyack, NY: Parker Publishing Company, 1970), 157-8.

For an overview, see Melvin Harris, Investigating the Unexplained (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1986), 107-20, 213-14.
Here is another supernatural legend from the late nineteenth century about a woman avoiding death in an elevator.

Andrew Lang, The Book of Dreams and Ghosts (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1897), 82. “In the same way, in August, 1890, a lady in a Boston hotel in the dusk rang for the lift, walked along the corridor and looked out of a window, started to run to the door of the lift, saw a man in front of it, stopped, and when the lighted lift came up, found that the door was wide open and that, had she run on as she intended, she would have fallen down the well. Here part of her mind may have known that the door was open, and started a ghost (for there was no real man there) to stop her.”

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