Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Traces of H.P.B.

by Henry S. Olcott

[Reprinted from The Theosophist (Adyar, Madras, India)
April 1893, pp. 429-431.]

On the 3rd of March 1893, S. V. Edge and I met in the train between Nalhati and Calcutta, Major-General C. Murray (retired), late 70th Bengal Infantry, now Chairman of the Monghry Municipality, who met H. P. B. in 1854 or ‘55, at Punkabaree, at the foot of the Darjeeling Hills. He was then a Captain, commanding the Sebundy Sappers and Miners. She was trying to get into Tibet via Nepaul "to write a book"; and to do it, she wished to cross the Rungit river. Capt. M. had it reported to him by the guard that a European lady had passed that way, so he went after and brought her back. She was very angry, but in vain. She stopped with Captain and Mrs. Murray for about a month when, finding her plan defeated, she left, and Capt. M. heard of her as far as Dinajpore. She was then apparently about 30 years of age.

The above facts were so interesting that I wrote them out in the railway carriage and got General Murray to append his certificate, as follows: -

"The above memo is correct.

(Signed) C. Murray,
Major General."

In the presence of H. S. O. and S. V. Edge.

It will be seen that General Murray’s story substantially confirms H. P. B.’s narrative of one of her attempts to enter Tibet, which Mr. Sinnett gives on Page 66 of his "Incidents in the life of Madame Blavatsky," where he approximately fixes the date of her arrival in India "at quite the end of 1853." She had come out here in company with an English gentleman, whom she had met in Germany, and a Hindu "Chela," whom she came across "at Copan, in Mexico" (Copan is really in Central America) with the design of making the attempt jointly. Owing to some disagreements, the little party broke up, and H. P. B. tried her luck by way of Nepaul. Her plan failed, chiefly she believed, through the opposition of the British Resident then in Nepaul. She then "went down to Southern India, and then on to Java and Singapore, returning thence to England."

The British resident probably did have something to do indirectly with her detention, for strict orders had been given to Captain Murray, in military command of that Frontier District, to permit no European to cross the Rungit, as they would be almost sure of being murdered by the wild tribes in that country.

I got trace of another of her Tibetan attempts from a Hindu gentleman living at Bareilly (?) while on one of my North Indian official tours. The first time H. P. B. came to that station after our arrival in India, this gentleman recognized her as the European lady, who had been his guest many years before, when she was going northward to try and enter Tibet via Kashmir. They had much pleasant chat about old times. I have written to friends whom I think were present when the story was told me, and shall have their replies in due time. For my part, I shall not be at all surprised to get from time to time the evidence to corroborate all her, hitherto unsupported, narratives of her various attempts to penetrate the "Land of Snow."


All H. P. B.’s personal acquaintance are aware of the devoted affection she always expressed for her aunt, Mdme. N. A. F. of Odessa:  an attachment far stronger than any she ever felt for either of her associates in the T. S. They will hardly be surprised, then, to read the following letter to myself from her sister, Mdme. de Jelihovsky, replying to my inquiry as to the truth of the rumour that the stone of a certain ring which H. P. B. had given Mdme. N. A. F. some years before, had mysteriously changed its colour at or just before H. P. B.’s death. Mdme. de J. writes: -

St. Petersburg, 14 - 26th January, 1893.

"She (H. P. B.) gave my aunt a ring, which had this strange property, that it became quite black two or three weeks before my sister’s last illness, and after her death came back to its original colour. Here is what my aunt wrote me about it: ‘I had a warning, but at first I did not understand it. You know the ring she sent me from India? A plain, large ring with an agate; the stone is oval, flat, of a light yellowish colour, quite transparent, and with a minute sprig of moss embedded in the middle of the crystal. [It was a simple moss-agate which she bought out here. H. S. O.]. I have worn it some twelve years, and its colour never changed - it was always clear as glass. But since about a month (the date of this letter was 4-16th, May 1891) I perceived that it was darkening, and had lost its brilliancy. Finally it became black as coal, so that the sprig of moss could no more be seen. I could not imagine how a quartz stone like this could darken. I washed and cleaned and rubbed it, but to no effect. The stone remained black until Helen’s death, when it gradually cleared, and after some days returned to its natural transparency.’"

I have permission to publish the foregoing extracts. While we were in New York, H. P. B. possessed and used to wear a silver Rosicrucian jewel, set with garnets in the cross and the legs of the compasses, and with larger-sized, white, crystals in the arc connecting the two limbs. The jewel had belonged to an Adept, who had given it her in Tibet - I believe, as a talisman. The white crystals in question were in such a mysterious auric relation with herself, that they would change colour when she was ill, and change back again upon her recovery. I have seen them turn of a dirty brown, an emerald green, and even black. What was strangest of all was, that they would not all become discolored at a time, but only some. Upon coming to India, she laid the jewel away in a box, and after we moved to Madras, I got her to give it over into my possession so that I might watch for changes. Some of the crystals were then bright green, and the others dirty white. I kept the jewel several years, but no changes occurring, I, fearing it might be stolen, took it with me to London in 1888, and gave it to H. P. B. at Lansdowne Road. Babula can testify to having packed it in my box. The jewel remained in H. P. B.’s possession until her death, and was seen by members of the London Head-quarters family, who are my informants. It has now disappeared, perhaps was taken in the confusion after her decease.

Before H. P. B.’s decease, there were many mysterious warnings in the Odessa family mansion. I quote further from the aunt’s letter to Mdme. de. J.

"On Easter Monday (1891, and forty-one days by our Calendar before H. P. B.’s death - H. S. O.) we heard in the very middle of the dining-table, a knock so loud that every one was startled. She was alive then; but all those subsequent days we heard strange sounds, as of the breaking of glass and snappings and blows in the furniture, night and day. When I received Countess Wachtmeister’s letter that things were going worse, she (Helen) was no more, but we were not aware of her death. I was busy reading it in the drawing-room to my sister (Mdme. Witte) who, after listening to my reading, said "I am sure she will recover." At the same moment there was a crash; we jumped to our feet in affright and ran to look what had happened, for the noise, which came from one corner of the room, was as if the wall had crumbled into pieces. Then we thought, perhaps, the dining-table with all the glasses and porcelain on it were smashed. Not at all:   all was in order and unharmed. After I received Vera’s letter and your telegram, all noises ceased."

Before the family message had reached Odessa, however, and two days after H. P. B.’s death, the aged sisters, Mdme N. A. F. and Mdme.Witte, were in their large drawing-room as usual in the evenings, trying to read but really thinking intently about their distant dear Niece. Suddenly, Mdme. Witte, gazing fixedly into the same dark and distant corner of the room, whispered: "I see her! There she is!" She described the wraith as clad in white, and with great white flowers on her head, exactly as she was laid out in her coffin. This was her farewell to earth.

H. S. O.