Lloyd Ferriss met Hendrikus Stump in 1978 when Ferriss was a writer for the Maine Sunday Telegram. Stump shared that he'd been part of a serious group studying telekinesis, the Round Table Foundation, on the Maine coast in the 1950s. Not that Ferriss could write about the secretive group.
Then Stump walked away.
And that was that.
"That was a very memorable moment," said Ferriss, 71. "I had this feeling that he knew everything about me and at the same time, he was OK with me — but not OK enough to grant an interview."
Three decades later, relying on interviews with Stump's family and friends and the late artist's partial, unpublished memoir, Ferriss has finally written about the man, the group and the wild experiments.
"Harry Stump: Maine's Psychic Sculptor," includes Stump's essays on growing up in Holland: his early, troubling visions and the unexpected influence of famous author Aldous Huxley.
Ferriss writes about Stump's last four decades.
"When I began questioning people about Harry's psychic abilities, I didn't talk to anyone who was a New Age guru," Ferriss said. "I kept encountering people who were very well-grounded and yet they had seen Harry's psychic abilities and (kept saying), 'He was the real thing.'"
Ferriss, now retired and living in Richmond, never forgot that early encounter. When he received a call for presentations for the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center's Mysteries of Northern New England conference, he set about exploring the Round Table Foundation.
In 2007, that research led to Stump's widow, his third wife, Rita Harper Stump, and the unpublished memoir. It was 30 pages with run-on sentences and stories out of order, and it ended in 1955. (Stump died in 1998 in his Warren studio.) Ferriss offered to edit it. Rita agreed.
Stump was born in Holland in 1923. As a young man, Stump wrote, he realized he could detect subtle changes in people's voices if they knew they were lying. That was followed by visions, sometimes triggered by places. He kept a lid on any abilities, writing, "People who knew of my telepathy feared me."
During World War II, Stump was part of the Dutch resistance, imprisoned by the Gestapo two or three times. He finally emigrated to America in 1952.
"He came to New York really poverty-stricken and suffering from the aftereffects of the war, but then he lands on his feet and a few years later he's in Maine, talking with Aldous Huxley with what he describes, these 'wordless conversations,'" Ferriss said. "The whole thing just fascinated me."
Stump was directed to the Round Table Foundation by one of its rich benefactors, Alice Bouverie, an Astor hotel heir. The 18-room mansion in Glen Cove in Rockport was named for a large meeting-room table, and maybe, Ferriss thinks, a nod to Arthurian legend.
He believes Stump was there from roughly 1954 to 1960, hired for $50 a week, plus room, board and studio space, by Dr. Andrija Puharich, who was studying extrasensory perception.
Puharich took the work seriously.
"He devised these copper-lined Faraday cages that had an electrical current circulating on the outside," Ferriss said. "It was so sealed off that when Harry was in there he had a candle and when that candle flame flickered low he would signal to Puharich to end the experiment, that he needed oxygen."
From inside the cages, Stump attempted to reach out to other psychics around the world, and did, he claimed. He also worked in trances and took psychedelic mushrooms.
Ferriss said Stump enjoyed the grounds and the time spent sculpting, but "the experiments could be quite frightening."
The foundation was filled with scientists, one studying telepathy with humans and insects. He kept bees and cockroaches.
In 1955, Huxley, the "Brave New World" author, came for a three-week visit. Stump enjoyed the chance meeting, writing, "Aldous understood me. He told me once that everyday life is so fantastic that — if one were to write truthfully about life happenings — publishers would reject the book as too bizarre. It was better, he said, to call it fiction."
Ferriss was told that when Huxley was dying, he was asking for Harry. "One of the reasons why Harry had such esteem for him, all his life Harry had suffered from people thinking he was a quack or being afraid of him, not wanting to touch his hand because they would feel he could read their mind.
"Huxley had that sixth sense," he said. "He was also a kind man, and creative, and the two of them just clicked together and Harry felt vindicated, like, 'I'm not crazy after all.'"
The foundation closed after the death of benefactor Bouverie. Stump continued to live on the coast. An art show at the University of Maine in 1962 drew attention to his sculpting. His pieces are in several museums.
The old mansion still exists, divided now into three condos.
Ferriss said the book took him five years to research and write. It's self-published, available at Amazon.com, through Maine Authors Publishing and several coastal bookstores.
As intrigued as he was, Ferriss couldn't find reference to the Round Table Foundation in any Maine newspapers or magazines in the 1950s.
"It was a place on the hill that people whispered about and it was a little bit too kooky," he said. "I'm sure Puharich and the people who lived there had absolutely no interest in opening up their research to the public because I'm sure they would realize they would be ridiculed, they would be laughed at and people might take offense."
Weird, Wicked Weird is a monthly feature on the strange, intriguing and unexplained in Maine. Send ideas, photos and all manner of kooky to firstname.lastname@example.org