An American Prophet



Copyright © 2000 Sidney D. Kirkpatrick. All rights reserved.
ISBN: 1-57322-139-2

Chapter One

A Most
Unusual Child

Thomas Jefferson Cayce, a handsome and successful farmer, was purported to love his bourbon nearly as much as the red and black rolling hills of his native Christian County. The fact that his choice of liquor and the earth that produced it were the same color was merely evidence of what he knew in his heart: that he, like his corn whiskey and the lush dark leaves of the tobacco plants that grew in his fields, were merely an extension of the rich soil that had been his birthright. And Tom and his family had much to be proud of. From the Liberty Church on the Palmyra Pike near the crossroads village of Beverly, Kentucky, Tom could walk the seven miles into Hopkinsville without leaving property owned by a Cayce or their neighbors, the Majors. And as everyone in Christian County knew, the Cayces and the Majors had married so often and generated so many children that there practically wasn't a Cayce in the county who didn't have a Major as a family member.

    The Kentucky branch of the Cayce clan believed that the family had originally come from France before settling in Cumberland County, Virginia. Their Virginia ancestors, however, have genealogical records that indicate their earliest known descendant had come to colonial America from Scotland. The Virginia Cayces had fought with distinction at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, helped build the Library of Congress, and were stone masons for the Washington monument. The Kentucky branch of the family, led by pioneers William and Betsy Cayce, established themselves in Beverly on 29 1/4 acres purchased for $145 in 1873. All ten of William and Betsy's children, including the youngest, Thomas Jefferson, became corn, wheat, and tobacco farmers, and collectively increased the family's holdings to over 4,500 acres in less than a decade. Unlike their Virginia cousins, the variety of tobacco that they raised was dark fired, which was used primarily for chewing and pipe smoking as opposed to the burley tobacco used in cigarettes. The success of that crop in the limestone-rich soil of Christian County did much to insure the prosperity of the Cayces and Majors, and made the region the dark tobacco capital of Kentucky, as it remains to this day.

    Tom Cayce became one of the best farmers and businessmen in the county, second only, perhaps, to his brother George, who was twenty-two years his elder and outlived him by sixteen years. In addition to an original farm consisting of 205 acres, Tom owned and farmed 122 acres that he acquired through extensive land trading and was also partners with George in the highly successful Hopkinsville tobacco planters' warehouse.

    In 1851, Tom married his cousin, Sarah Thomas, from Piney Fork, Tennessee, and during their thirty-year marriage the couple had seven sons and one daughter: Edgar, Leslie, Ella, Clint, Matthew, Robert E. Lee, Lucian, and Delbert. Their home grew larger as each son married, for Tom and Sarah required their newlywed children to live with them for their first year of marriage.

    Tom's neighbors, Howard and Uriah L. Major, were brothers who had moved to Kentucky in 1828 from Madison County, Virginia. Family legend held that Uriah, who was known as U. L., built his home out of bricks he had imported from England, though this story is probably not accurate given that Christian County produced some of the finest red-clay bricks in the country. Howard constructed his house entirely out of wood, with handhewn and pegged-oak shingles. U. L.'s youngest daughter, Carrie Elizabeth Major, married Tom's second son, Leslie, and they would later become the parents of Edgar Cayce Jr.

    Along with his large home, Tom Cayce built a smokehouse, two barns for curing tobacco, and stables so large that his men could drive a team of four horses through any door and turn them around inside. His children remember Tom as being as proud of these buildings as he was of the land they were built upon. Everything had to be kept neat and orderly and was always properly maintained. As Thomas Jefferson, after whom Tom Cayce had been named, said: "The greatest fertilizer that a field can experience is the shadow of its owner."

    Tobacco's importance to Tom Cayce, and to his grandson Edgar Jr., cannot be overstated. Tom raised tobacco his entire life. Edgar did so until he was sixteen. And they lived in a community where social status was determined by their skills as tobacco farmers and where the entire community attended churches that passed the collection plate once at the end of each year, when the fall tobacco harvest had been sold.

    Tom loved the lore and conversation of tobacco growing as much as he loved the smell of tobacco smoke. He also adored the social aspects of it: the pooling of family resources and labor during the harvesting and planting, when all the Cayces came together to help each other get the job done. These times of hardest work were also times of the largest meals, when long tables filled with ham, hominy, corn cakes, and beans were set out in the yard. There was always much conversation, laughter, music, and dipping of the ladle into the whiskey barrel.

    There was no doubt that Tom liked to drink. Edgar Jr. mentions it in his letters, and describes Tom Cayce as "a grand, good man," but also says that Tom, "like so many of the Cayces, was his own worst enemy. He would take too much now and then causing anxiety and even want in many ways." However, Tom didn't become abusive or mean-spirited when he drank, and this was not the reputation that followed him beyond the grave. What people remembered Tom Cayce for most was his alleged psychic ability, which Sarah Cayce called "the gift of the second sight." Exactly what this "second sight" was remains something of a mystery, for unlike his grandson, Tom Cayce's "gift" was never tested in a formal setting, or even discussed beyond family circles.

    The talent that Tom had as a "water witch," or dowser, has never been disputed. He would cut a forked limb from a peach tree, grasp a branch in each hand, and, holding the limb in front of his chest, walk back and forth over a parcel of land until he felt the "vibrations" that told him where a well should be dug. The fact that he was particularly good at this, however, is not proof that he used psychic powers to locate water. And as any Christian County farmer will point out, the land around Beverly is full of underground streams and hidden pools. Anyone could pick a spot, dig deep enough, and eventually find water.

    Beyond being a good dowser, however, Tom is alleged to have had psychokinetic powers—the ability to move objects without touching them. Edgar said that his grandfather could make a broom appear to "dance" by merely holding his hand over it, or move a table without touching it. According to Sarah, Tom's wife, he rarely used the "energy" in his hands to move inanimate objects, choosing instead to channel his energy to make plants grow, "as God intended," and to make animals behave. A deeply religious man, he believed it was evil to use it in any other way, and that the Lord would take the power away from him if he used it to do tricks for entertainment purposes.

    However exaggerated the accounts of Tom's unusual "psychic" powers might have been, the fact remains that he and his extended family believed he could do things that were beyond the abilities of normal human beings. This is not only important to his own story, but to that of his grandson, for it went a long way toward creating an environment that was not hostile to behavior that might otherwise have been seen as abnormal or even evil. As Edgar's devoted mother repeatedly admonished her son, "The Lord works in mysterious ways. It's not ours to question His intentions."

    Of course, the rural farming communities of Kentucky had many beliefs and practices that would be characterized today as superstitious. These included the hour and day a hog should be butchered, the way a corpse was prepared and displayed for burial, the significance of an owl hooting in the daytime, and certain odors in a smokehouse before a rainstorm. They also believed that the dead sometimes appeared as spirits, as evidenced by the rich and varied ghost stories that circulated throughout the region in the late 1800s. A favorite story was that of an unfortunate black servant who had been raped and murdered on a farm outside of Hopkinsville. Her face was said to have appeared in a tree that grew out of her grave.

    There was also a long tradition of using clairvoyance to solve problems and heal the sick. Two notable psychics of the time were Dr. Schlatter of Henderson, Kentucky, who healed by the laying on of hands, and Blind Mary, a sightless black medium who lived outside of Hopkinsville on the Clarksville Pike. Blind Mary was so well respected that the mayor of Hopkinsville routinely consulted her on business and family decisions.

    It is doubtful that Tom Cayce ever used his talents as Blind Mary did. He didn't take his powers for granted, but he also didn't make a show of them. The fact that Tom had been attending Liberty Church since before the church had a regular pastor, and that he had publicly pledged his faith and was baptized in front of his friends and family a few months before his fiftieth birthday, is further indication that he saw no conflict between his faith in the Lord and his special gifts.

    Leslie Burr Cayce, Tom's second-born son and Edgar's father, manifested no such psychic ability, and except for his drinking and good looks, shared little if anything in common with his father. Although Tom Cayce enjoyed farming and the fields of his youth, his son Leslie was more at home in the smoke-filled public meetings held behind the Liberty Church, playing cards at the Beverly Store, or gambling with tobacco futures at the planters' association meeting room. It was perhaps as a result of volatile disagreements at the planters' association meetings, or fistfights in his teenage years, that Leslie was reported to have had nearly every bone in his body broken at least once before his twenty-first birthday.

    Leslie Cayce was a man of neat appearance, with clothes always well pressed, shoes shined, and, except for a neatly waxed handlebar mustache, a clean-shaven face. His brothers described him as a man who was always looking for new inventions, and in several instances he took exclusive sales rights for items such as butter churns and gate locks. He was a good speaker, loved to debate, and by all accounts, enjoyed life. "I wish I could be as optimistic as my Dad used to be," Edgar later wrote of his father. "He was a very unusual man in many ways, and his expressions `as good as new' and `tip top' are still voiced by many who knew him."

    Leslie married Carrie Elizabeth Major on June 10, 1874, when he was not yet twenty and she barely seventeen. Photographs of Carrie show a thin, plain-looking young woman with a large, prominent nose and dark hair that she tied in a bun. People who knew her, however, have been more generous with their compliments of her physical appearance. They describe her as quite attractive—almost radiant—and tall to the point of being statuesque. There is no doubt that she had a warm and generous personality with a deep love for children. Edgar would later describe her as "genteel and courteous on the one hand, loving, forgiving, compassionate, and God fearing on the other."

    By all accounts, Tom Cayce and the rest of the Cayce clan considered Leslie's choice to be a good one, for she was a Major first and foremost, and the daughter first in line to inherit a few hundred acres of her father's prosperous farm. The Major family may not have viewed the union quite as favorably as the Cayces. Although they would presumably have approved of her marriage to a Cayce, Leslie was not a good farmer and was generally considered to be a spendthrift and a playboy. As best as can be inferred from the historical record, Carrie must have been swept off her feet by her fast-talking, easy-living suitor. The fact that her own father was an alcoholic perhaps numbed her to the fact that Leslie drank to excess. She conceived her first child within days of their wedding night.

    The joy of their union was short-lived. Leslie ultimately spent much of his time away from home, presumably chasing other women and get-rich-quick schemes. Debts quickly piled up. For a girl who had grown up the center of attention of an adoring father and four brothers, and who had been waited upon by her own servant, the shock of finding herself doing the housework as well as managing the farm must have been daunting. Moreover, Leslie, who had an eighth-grade education and an inflated opinion of himself, made and enforced the rules of the house. Carrie, who had attended the Baptist-run Bethel Female College in Hopkinsville, was permitted no decision-making power. Her sole comfort was in her children, whom she doted upon, and her close friendship with Leslie's sister, Ella Cayce Jones.

    There is no doubt that Leslie was a poor farmer. Repeated attempts to farm the 166 acres that Carrie inherited from her father proved futile, and the property was turned over to creditors soon after the birth of their first child. A few months later, she and Leslie were renting a two-room cottage behind the Beverly Store, located near the intersection of the Palmyra Pike and LaFayette Road. The reason offered by the Cayce family for Leslie's failure as a farmer was not his inability to raise crops, but rather an obsessive fear of snakes dating back to childhood. According to his brothers, snakes were strangely attracted to Leslie. It didn't seem to matter if they were harmless garter snakes or deadly water moccasins. If he put his hat down on the ground a snake would crawl into it or curl around the crown. If he stood still long enough they wrapped themselves around his ankles or crawled up a pant leg. They apparently never harmed him, they just liked to be near him.

    Leslie always said that this "vexing" attraction of snakes greatly contributed to his desire to drink. Upon encountering a snake, he was said to take a shot of whiskey to calm his nerves. But where Tom Cayce was said to love his bourbon, his son Leslie sometimes let the bottle take control of him. When drunk, he was angry and belligerent and sometimes took a whip to his children.

    The most notable incident involving his drinking occurred on December 24, 1875, the night his and Carrie's first child, Leila Beverly Cayce, was born and died. They were living in a home on Carrie's brother's farm because the land Carrie inherited hadn't come with a house on it. No specific details of what happened on that Christmas Eve night exist except for a reference in a letter, which Edgar would write years later to an old family friend, that said that Leslie got "mad" drunk and stormed out of the house. The next morning the child was found dead in her crib. Family members have long alluded to a connection between his drinking and the child's death, but no evidence exists to support or deny such a claim.

    Leslie's brothers often referred to Leslie in their correspondence as "selfish" and "self-centered," and took him aside for heart-to-heart talks. It was they who convinced him to lease the Beverly Store, located in a quarter-mile-long settlement of homes and other buildings that included a blacksmith shop, a doctor's office, a church, and a one-room schoolhouse. Leslie traded what remained of his wife's inheritance for dry goods and other inventory.

    Despite the fact that the store didn't do very well under Leslie's management, he clearly took more pleasure and pride in it than he had in farming. The store carried everything from buggy whips to potato mashers. Leslie sold shoes for $2, a bushel of meal for 40 cents, and a pound of coffee for 20 cents. For each dollar spent on dry goods, a customer was entitled to one drink from a barrel of whiskey. Leslie's duties not only included managing the store and its merchandise, but being post master and justice of the peace, which is how he came to be known as "Squire Cayce."

    Edgar Jr., named after his father's older brother, was born at 3:20 P.M. on Sunday, March 18, 1877, fourteen months after the death of his sister, Leila. Dr. John L. Dulin, one of Beverly's two resident physicians, assisted with the birth. The delivery went smoothly and nothing unusual was noted about the condition of the child or his mother. He was called Edgar Jr., not because he was technically a Jr., but to distinguish him from his uncle Edgar, who was a regular visitor to the house.

    Leslie had nothing but praise for his son. "He was, we thought, an exceptionally fine baby, healthy, with large brown eyes, fat and rosy cheeks, and a remarkably cheerful face," he later reminisced. However glowing his report, Leslie's powers of observation left room for improvement. His son's eyes were not brown, but a blue that grew darker in passing years.

    During his first month, Edgar cried incessantly and only stopped when Patsy Cayce, a former slave of Tom Cayce's, who now had a room of her own in his house, treated him for "milk breast," a common malady resulting from a hormonal imbalance at birth. The hormones passed on to the child from the mother cause the child's breasts to become enlarged. Patsy took a sterilized needle and pricked each of Edgar's nipples, whereupon a milk colored fluid came out. Leslie noted that the child rarely ever cried after that and soon began "cooing" or making a "jolly sort of grunt" whenever someone entered the room.

    Once Edgar began to crawl, he would not stay still. Leslie remembers coming home from his store one rainy day for lunch. After sitting down to chat with Carrie and to play with Edgar, he returned to the store, leaving Edgar to crawl about. Carrie went back to her household duties. But soon afterward, she heard a loud cry from outside the front door and ran to find Edgar lying outside on the ground, with sheets of rain water from the porch gutter pouring over him. Evidently he had gotten out the door and fallen off the porch while trying to follow Leslie to work.

    A far more serious accident occurred on May 27, 1880, when Edgar, now three years old, fell headfirst off a fence post onto a board with a nail protruding out of it. The nail went so deeply into his head that it reportedly punctured his cranium and entered his brain cavity. Leslie, who had seen the accident happen, immediately ran to him and removed the nail. Carrie was following close behind. After the initial trauma of the fall, Edgar appeared to be perfectly fine. Turpentine was poured onto the open wound, the head was bandaged, and the child eventually resumed his normal play.

    The degree to which this injury may have left lasting physiological damage or altered Edgar's normal brain development is not known. It must be pointed out, however, that other psychics, among them Dutch-born Peter Hurkos, attributed the development of their psychic abilities to similar blows they suffered to the head, which they believe stimulated their pineal or pituitary glands. Little or nothing is said about this incident by those who knew or wrote about Edgar in his later years, perhaps because Cayce himself believed that his gifts were given him from God and were not of physiological origin.

    A final episode of Edgar's early childhood is worth noting. At the age of three, he had gone wading out into a pond at his grandfather's house after a heavy rainstorm. He discovered many fish that had been stranded in the shallows. Edgar was busily catching them in his hands and putting them into deeper water when he lost his footing and fell in over his head. A former slave who worked for his grandfather came to Edgar's rescue and was credited with saving his life.

    Carrie gave birth to another daughter, Annie Cayce, in 1878, and would subsequently give birth to four more children; Thomas, Ola, Mary, and Sarah. With her hands full, and with Leslie at the store, she hired an eleven-year-old nephew, Edward Cayce, to look out for Edgar. This was an arrangement, Leslie said, that proved "quite satisfactory."

    Not long after Edgar's "big brother" came on board, Dr. Dulin, the physician who assisted at Edgar's birth, came to take meals with the Cayces. He was a bachelor who lived alone and operated out of an office adjacent to the Beverly store. Most of the Cayces and Majors believed that he disliked children, so it was only natural that Leslie and Carrie were not certain that he would ever consent to being seated at the dinner table with their son. While Dulin initially protested, he did agree to give the arrangement a try. To everyone's surprise, Dulin not only became reconciled to the situation, but actually came to enjoy Edgar's company.

    By the time Edgar had begun to talk, at age two, Dr. Dulin had begun showing him around his office, introducing him to patients and remarking that Edgar was the "best" and "most interesting" child he had ever known. Dulin would talk and joke with him, sometimes imitating Edgar's mannerisms. He was the first to call Edgar "old man," a nickname that stuck throughout his early childhood. Edgar didn't mind it. In fact, he seemed to like it better than his own name, although he preferred Eddy, or simply Cayce.

    As he grew older, Edgar often visited his father's store, where he quickly became familiar with the inventory and could, when asked, retrieve items for customers. When business was slow, Edgar was quite content to sit quietly among the barrels and boxes and listen to the men discuss politics and farming. He also liked the occasional talk of women as they bought yards of cloth, barrels of sugar, sacks of rice, herbs, tea, or medicine. Most of the customers were cousins, uncles, aunts, or people from the Major farms. They liked little Eddy and paid him quite a bit of attention, although it did seem to them that he was quite precocious. One uncle described Edgar as a "grave, skinny, intense little boy," given to long periods of quiet. He acted, quite literally, like an "old man."

    Nevertheless, Edgar's inquisitive nature was much in evidence. His favorite toy was a mechanical circus with two clowns, a ringmaster, several horses and their riders, and a small crowd of spectators that spun slowly around in a circle. Edgar liked to wind the toy up and turn it off and on, and it was not long before he wanted to take it apart to see what was inside. Leslie and Carrie knew ahead of time that he wouldn't be able to get it back together, but they let him dismantle it anyway because they were impressed by the "deep thought" he put into it.

    In 1881, when Edgar was four years old, a real circus came to Hopkinsville, and Edgar was determined to go. Leslie was reluctant to close the store early and asked one of his brothers to take Edgar on ahead in his buggy. They would meet up later on. Upon arriving and throughout the show, Leslie and Carrie searched for Edgar and his uncle but couldn't find them. Afterward, when they still hadn't appeared, his parents became concerned. They eventually located Edgar's uncle, who said that Edgar had spotted his parents during the performance and had gone to join them. They immediately organized a search of the grounds and tent area. Shortly afterward, Edgar—not the least bit concerned—walked out of one of the tents deep in discussion with a neighbor from home.

    Indeed, Edgar demonstrated remarkable independence, but his preference to play alone soon became a source of concern for his parents. He loved nothing better than to entertain himself in the garden behind the store where he built a teepee out of a row of butterbeans that were held up with cross sticks. It was here that he played with what he described as the "little folk." His parents thought of them as imaginary playmates, but they were intensely real to little Edgar. In fact, they would remain a part of his life for decades to come.

    In a trance reading conducted forty years later, Edgar suggested that he had indeed been visited by spirit "entities," who at the time appeared in a form that would not frighten or threaten him. Their purpose, according to this reading, was to prepare him for the trials and tribulations to come, and many of these entities, if not all, were alleged to have been later reincarnated as people who became closely associated with the work.

    All Leslie and Carrie knew about the "little folk" was what Edgar told them about the games they played in the vegetable garden. There were never more than seven or eight of them, boys and girls, all about his own age. They had names, personal backgrounds, and distinct personalities. The only things that apparently troubled Edgar was that they didn't appear to get wet when it rained and didn't like being seen by other people.

    Edgar could become quite upset if a parent or another child interrupted his play time with the "little folk" and would sometimes cry. On one occasion his mother humored him by saying that she too saw his playmates and that they were outside waiting for him in the garden. Hearing this pleased Edgar greatly, and he immediately rushed to the vegetable garden to see them. From that moment on, Edgar believed that his mother actually saw his playmates.

    Leslie never humored his son the way Carrie did, but he didn't mind listening to the curious stories Edgar told when visiting the Beverly Store. Leslie and his customers often remarked about the sophistication of Edgar's imagination—his "make-believe" friends weren't Kentucky farm children, they came from places that people in Beverly didn't talk about, let alone visit, such as Egypt and Persia. Leslie remembered one day when he sat next to Edgar in the family garden. Instead of becoming infuriated, as was often the case when he was interrupted during play, his son broke out in unexpected laughter. Leslie asked him what was so funny. Edgar turned and pointed to someone or something that only he could see.

    Leslie and Carrie fully believed that their son's imaginary playmates would go away when his father gave up the Beverly Store and the family moved. Business was not as good as they had hoped, primarily because too many customers sat around and drank whiskey instead of shopping. Leslie decided to try his luck farming again and in 1880 he sold the store and moved into the Benjamin Thompson house, which was located on one of the Cayce farms about 2 1/2 miles from Beverly and a short walk to the home of Tom and Sarah Cayce, Edgar's grandparents. The Thompson house was much bigger than the tiny one they had lived in behind the store. In addition to seven bedrooms in the main house, there was a large barn for curing tobacco and a stable where Leslie kept a fine white stallion, which he used to ride to Hopkinsville. Behind the stable was an old cemetery, nestled among a stand of cedar trees.

    Edgar's baby-sitter was no longer needed at the new house since Tom Cayce was pleased to watch over his grandson. Carrie was relieved to have the extra help, as was Leslie. Besides, Tom and Edgar took to one another instantly. They didn't just spend an hour or two together at a time, but three or four days in a row. They were, as old family friends would later contend, "cut from the same tree." And although no one came out and said as much, the suggestion has always been that old Tom Cayce's talent for handling his grandson was much like his talent for handling the forked limb from the peach tree he kept by the family hearth, which he used to locate water wells. "That boy literally came alive in his hands," one of Leslie's brothers once remarked.

    Leslie had never seen his son so content. According to him, Edgar often napped in Tom's arms and was never happier than when he was wrapped in Tom's long coat. On the nights that he stayed over at his grandparents' house, Edgar would curl up and sleep next to Tom. Sarah said that she would wake up and see little Edgar clutching his grandfather's beard in his little fists. In addition to teaching Edgar to fish and ride horseback, Tom helped Edgar build playhouses out of the tall grass and brush that grew along the banks of the Little River. Their favorite place was the barn where Tom cured tobacco. In the fall, Edgar and his grandfather would watch as farmhands burned great slabs of hickory, and the thick smoke rose through the tiers on which the stalks of tobacco hung. Both he and his grandfather loved the pungent scent of the dark tobacco being fired. They also liked the smell in the smokehouse, where the burning hickory mixed with sassafras chips created an incense that drifted to the meat hanging from the rafters.

    During one of their many rides together, Tom Cayce had a terrible accident. It is not known for certain whether Tom had been drinking or not, although it has long been rumored that he had. The date was June 8, 1881. Edgar, just four years old, was riding behind Tom on a favorite mare. Heading for the machinery house, where Edgar's uncle Lucian was repairing a binder, they stopped to water the horse at the pond near the barn and Tom let Edgar down to catch minnows, his favorite pastime.

    As the story goes, Tom's horse was startled by what may have been a water moccasin emerging from under a buried tree root. The horse bolted, plunged into the water, and swam to the other side. Tom managed to remain in his saddle. The horse, reaching the other side of the pond, tried to jump a fence, failed, and then turned back. At that point the horse stumbled, throwing Tom into the water. Edgar, on the other side of the pond, looked on as the horse reared up and brought its hoofs down on Tom's chest. Lester Major, Tom's young neighbor, was soon at the scene. Edgar had to show him where Tom had disappeared into the water. Dr. Alexander Kenner, a physician who lived nearby, was called for help, but Tom was surely dead before they were able to pull him out of the water. Tom had either been knocked unconscious and drowned or had died from having his chest crushed under the horse's hoofs.

    Tom's body was brought inside the house that same day. As was the custom, his sons and brothers washed and dressed him. Then the body was laid out on a long "cooling board," fully clothed, except for shoes. The lower part of the body was draped with a dark cotton cloth. Edgar watched as all the Cayces arrived by carriage and buckboard at his grandfather's house for the funeral. His uncles Edgar, Clint, Matthew, Robert E. Lee, Lucian, and Delbert all were there, along with his granduncles; George Washington, James Monroe, and Franklin Pierce. His aunt, Ella Jones, was there as were his uncles on the Major side.

    An undertaker arrived from Hopkinsville with a large oak coffin that had metal handles and a thin pane of glass set into the top. Tom's body was taken off the cooling board, placed inside, and then they closed the lid. Although Edgar saw his grandfather go into the coffin, he didn't get to see the coffin going into the ground. Patsy Cayce stayed with him while his uncles and aunts went around to the family cemetery in the garden behind the house.

    Despite the close relationship that had developed between Edgar and his grandfather, Edgar seemed less perturbed by the tragedy than might have been expected. This could be attributed to his youth. But it was also true that even as a young child, Edgar's perception of his grandfather's death wasn't the same as it was for other family members. Not long after the funeral, Edgar's parents found him standing in the tobacco barn "conversing" with his deceased grandfather.