Ask Dr. Eldritch

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Don't fall victim to vampires! Don't get slashed by a psycho! Don't get stuck, ASK DR. ELDRITCH!

Dear Dr. Eldritch,
I need to get rid of a ghost, without letting anyone know that he's been haunting me!

It all started when my daughter had some friends here for a sleep-over. The next day, I found one of those devices that supposedly allow one to communicate with spirits; I think they had been playing at having a séance, like teenage girls do. I fooled around with it, and called for the spirit of a recently-deceased mathematician, not expecting anything to happen. But he started guiding the planchette around! He was talking with me!

I'll admit that I was a bit frightened, but he turned out to be very personable. We had met briefly at a conference once, and we talked about that, which led to me inquiring about the work he'd been doing before he passed. Well, he launched into a description of some theoretical concepts that took my breath away! Elegant and insightful; just positively stunning. I had to rig a whole new board with a set of mathematical symbols for him to be able to tell me about it all.

If that wasn't enough, he said that since he's crossed over, so much more has become clear to him. He could see the missing parts in his new theories, not to mention understand aspects of quantum physics that still elude the Living. He kept saying that he shouldn't tell me too much, but he let a few things slip here and there, and I kept notes.

This would have just been an one-time encounter with the supernatural, if he hadn't mentioned that all his notebooks were boxed up in his sister's basement, and his brother-in-law wants to toss them all out so he has room to put in a karaoke machine. He ranted about how all his relatives never had any interest or comprehension of his work, and since he hadn't shared any of the material with his peers, it was probably doomed to vanish without a trace. That gave me an idea so exciting that I had to break off the communication right then.

I'm not proud of this, but I looked up where his sister lived, and asked her husband to give me the boxes. In his ignorance, he did so gladly, not realizing what a treasure trove they are! Since then, I've published two papers using the materials I found, and both have been met with wild enthusiasm by both academic and corporate mathematicians. I'm being hailed as the Modern Leibniz, have been asked to be keynote speaker at several conferences, and must fend off combinatorics groupies left and right.

All this fame has come with a price. I published under my name, not his. I didn't think that a dead mathematician would care about credit, as he should no longer being concerned about worldly things, but I was wrong. He is incensed, and my entire family is paying the price!

He roams our house while we try to sleep, knocking pictures off walls and sending books flying. Eerie sounds come from empty rooms, and nobody will go into the basement after dark. We find horrifying equations scrawled on the walls in blood. And what's worst, he makes me dream that I'm endlessly trapped in a classroom of dull-eyed teenagers, trying to teach them sixth-grade math! Remedial! I can't sleep, my family has fled to stay with relatives, and I don't know what to do. If I can exorcise this angry spirit, perhaps we can reclaim our lives.

So please, how can I cast him out, lay him to rest, or do whatever it is you people do so a ghost will move on? He deserves to be at peace.

-- Mathematician "X", Ph.D.

Dear Mathematician "X",

Here's a bit of wisdom they probably didn't mention in the graduation address when you got your degree: HAVING A DOCTORATE DOESN'T PREVENT YOU FROM BEING AN IDIOT!

What were you thinking? Okay, I know the answer to that: You saw a chance to take credit for publishing work far superior to anything you could do yourself. In the academic world, that's better than finding a winning lottery ticket or a lifetime "Free Meal" pass at IHOP. However, you've learned that a mathematician's concern for his work lasts well after his physical body has reached the limit.

I try to be sympathetic, but you're asking the wrong question. You made a mistake, and it's fine that you're seeking help. However, you want both the ill-gotten fame and a peaceful night's sleep, but you can't have your cake and ice-cream too. If you want to silence the angry spirit, you need to do the right thing.

My advice: Announce that your expired colleague is the primary source. Yes, there will be repercussions, and your career will take a hit. Your peers will think much less of you for your plagiarism than if you had initially presented the work as "co-authored," but that is so often the fate of people who try to snatch more than they deserve. I'm certain that once your unfriendly ghost is properly acknowledged, your nocturnal harassment will approach zero.

Good luck, and let me know how it comes out!

-- Dr. Eldritch

(DISCLAIMER: Anyone intelligent enough to be reading this should understand 1) Satire, and 2) That following the advice given may result in physical, mental, or spiritual harm to beings living, dead, or undead. The author does not suggest that anyone other that the originator of any given letter follow his advice, and cannot be held liable if anyone else does.
If you need more, read this Advanced Disclaimer!) All content © 2005 Evan M. Nichols