Frank Blighton & the Fourth Dimension

But Edwards honestly thought there were other things than prison walls, rifle-bullets. and striped men.

He believed in the world of invisibility, and besides he didn’t want to let the arrogant keeper have the best of the argument.

“I really hate to show you up, Jack,ˮ he slowly replied. “You sure got Crossman, as we all know. But Crossman isn’t Swami Ram. And if Swami Ram ever takes it into his brown nut to make a getaway. you won't have anything to shoot at—believe me!ˮ

“That’s all right.ˮ retorted the man addressed, with a tolerance bordering on loftiness. “But it looks to me, Bill, as I was a showin’ up your—not you, me. I asked yuh where he’d vanish to. And yuh ain’t told me—yet.ˮ

Edwards continued to fill his pipe, lighted it and puffed contemplatively. The pause gave weight to his words when he spoke.

“He might vanish into the fourth dimension," said he judicially. “Ever hear of that, Jack—the fourth dimension?” he went on, dreamily.

“Now you got me!ˮ acknowledged the other, with a frankness which was unusual for him. “I’m a little out of my depth—but if I’m ignorant and you’re so damn wise, Bill, you ain’t going to sit there and see me drown, are you?ˮ

Edwards smiled, his slow smile. His lips drew away from the stem of the pipe which he held in his teeth.

The other guards were hanging on his words. Bill was educated—Bill generally knew what he was talking about.

“l can’t tell you what it is, Jack,ˮ said he with the utmost friendliness. The other’s demoniacal effort at a responsive smile disturbed him not at all. “But I can tell you what it ain’t. Everything has three dimensions—that is ’most everything. Take the stones out in that wall. They have length, breadth, and thickness. here’s your three dimensions. But some people think there’s another—the fourth dimension. I don’t know where it is—but there’s folks that does. And there’s folks that know right around Danforth prison.

“The Germans understand it—they write books about it. Old Burston—he’s Dutch—I think he knows about it. Leastways he’s got a book about it—all full of jaw-breaker words and funny pictures made of lines with letters and numbers sprinkled through ’em like currants in a cake. I never could make head or tail of it—but I know there is such a thing, for I tried to read Burston’s book one day.

“Now these here Hindoos know everything there is to know. I figger that they put that girl into the fourth dimension from that basket Paddy told us about yesterday. Or the kid that climbed the ropę that Hank told about.ˮ

“I’m from Kansas—which is west of Missouri!ˮ gibed Delahunty.

“That was in Vancouver—which is northwest of Kansas,ˮ kept on the placid Edwards. “Now Hank says that ropę just stuck up in the air. All right. Other folks beside Hank has seen that trick done. If you are so almighty wise, Jack, and so sure there ain’t no such thing as the fourth dimension, can you tell me this—ˮ

He paused, removed his pipe. leaned over and slowly tapped the doubting officer on the knee.

“Let’s admit for a minute that there is such a thing as the fourth dimension—some place where a feller can sit around and not be seen. On the ground. in the air, or anywhere. Suppose there was a fellow sittin’ in that fourth dimension when that old Hindoo threw that rope up into the air, and he just grabbed it, and held it. That would have kept it up, wouldn’t it?ˮ

ˮSure it would—if there is such a place," agreed Jack.

“And suppose the same feller that was a holding the ropę up there, or even another feller alongside of him, pulled the kid into the fourth dimension—wouldn’t that explain how he got away?ˮ

“It sure would,ˮ affirmed the guard; “that is—Billy—provided there really is such a thing as the fourth dimension. I never heard of it until today!ˮ

“There you go again!ˮ chided Edwards. “You never seen the city of London. Yet there is such a place. Folks write about it, make pictures of it—and you can read about it until you can go there. What you don’t know, Jack, and what I don’t know, would make a book big enough to crowd these four walls. Just use a little sense.

“There must be such a place as this fourth dimension, because folks write about it and make pictures about it. I don’t understand it—neither do you; but what does that prove? A three-year-old kid don’t understand lots of things that it afterward learns through experience. Books and experience—there you have it. Now, if you really want to beat this Swami Ram to it, why don’t you look up this here fourth dimension—before he jumps into it like that kid did Hank was a tellin’ about?ˮ

SOURCE: Blighton, Frank. “Into the Fourth Dimensionˮ [featuring Swami Ram], The Cavalier, vol. 24, no. 2, January 11, 1913, pp. 344-359. This extract, pp. 346-8.

For the complete short story, see:

Into the Fourth Dimension” by Frank Blighton.

Frank [H(arris)] Blighton (1873-1926) used pseudonyms Walcott Lyle, Barclay Northcote & Bertrand Royal. He was a lawyer, newspaper man, and author of scientific books and fiction magazines, according to The FictionMags Index on the Galactic Central web site. Blighton published extensively in the pulps. (See also the chronological listing.)

Blighton published two other stories with higher dimensional space as a topic:

The Hop on Hyperspace” (short story), The Black Mask, vol. 1, no. 2, May 1920, pp. 76-93.

Into the Fifth Dimension” (novelette), All-Story Cavalier Weekly, May 1 1915, pp. 412-445.

Curiously, the appearance of the word “hyperspace” in Blighton’s story (above) predates any literary use of it documented in every reference source of any kind I have consulted.  Follow that link for more background.

Another story featuring Swami Ram, a novelette, is available online in its entirety:

Swami Ram’s Reincarnation,” in The Cavalier, February 7 1914

The sequence of Swami Ram stories is outlined at the beginning of “Into the Fifth Dimension.”

Other stray publications by Blighton can be found online, e.g.:

“Here’s to the day!” by Charles Agnew MacLean (1880-1928) & Frank Blighton. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1915.

Here is one on this web site:

Brother Enemies” by Frank Blighton, All-Story Weekly, Vol. LXVIII, Number 1, February 17, 1917, pp. 30-39.

Blighton is also documented in the The Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

It is conceivable and even probable, though I do not have direct proof, the script-writer Frank Blighton is the same pulp author.

While Blighton is known as a pulp author, I have not been able to find information on him in any of the reference and historical works of pulp fiction or magazines I have so far consulted.

Blighton led another life as an iconoclastic, pro-labor newspaper publisher of the controversial Voice of the People. See:

The Strangled Shout of the “Voice of the People”: Editor Frank Harris Blighton And His Mentor, E.W. Scripps, by Michael S. Sweeney, Media History Monographs [Elon University], vol. 1, no. 2, 1997.

The excerpt reproduced here introduces the fourth dimension into the narrative, whose other central character is the sadistic prison guard John (“Dirty Jackˮ) Delahunty. This tale from 1913 combines a hard-boiled prison yarn with the fourth dimension. The notion of a fourth spatial dimension was a creation of mathematicians in the 19th century and became part of popular culture, even a fad among table-tipping spiritualists. Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner combined spiritualism with the fourth dimension. Blighton’s reference to “the Germans,ˮ especially in connection with the paranormal, suggests Zöllner as a source, rather than H. G. Wells who came later or Einstein’s special relativity even later with the notion of time as the fourth dimension. Mystical notions of hyperspace were widely promoted in popular literature in the anglophone world as well.

Into the Fifth Dimension
by Frank Blighton

Brother Enemies” by Frank Blighton

Black mystic in hyperspace by R. Dumain

Gustav Spiller Against the Fourth Dimension

Friedrich Engels on Empiricism, Spiritualism, Science,
Mysticism, and Philosophical Naivete

Book Review: Barnett’s ‘Universe’

Homage to Martin Gardner

Martin Gardner, Mathematical Games, & the Fourth Dimension
(web guide & bibliography)

Selected Non-fictions: Table of Contents by Jorge Luis Borges;
Eliot Weinberger (ed.,tr.), Esther Allen (tr.), Suzanne Jill Levine (tr.)

Jorge Luis Borges: Selected Study Materials on the Web

Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau: El anacronópete — The First Time Machine

H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine: Selected Bibliography

The Cavalier: Covers & Contents

J. U. Giesy (John Ulrich, 1877-1948) & His Collaborators

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress


Gustav Spiller - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Edwin Abbott Abbott - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Flatland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Charles Howard Hinton - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fourth dimension in literature - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hyperspace - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spiritualism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions
with Illustrations by the Author, A SQUARE [Edwin Abbott Abbott]

Martin Gardner | The Church of the Fourth Dimension
Giulio Prisco, October 13, 2012

C4D | The Church Of The Fourth Dimension

Llull, Bruno, Borges, and the fourth dimension

Borges on Hinton

Charles Hinton and His Cubes by David Auerbach

Blindness (1977) by Jorge Luis Borges

Natural Science and the Spirit World
in Dialectics of Nature by Friedrich Engels

Deflating Hyperspace” by David Pacchioli

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