Some time after I left Laos in October 1958, I read an article in a news magazine about that remote place. The author of the article made a statement to the effect that often it seemed easier to communicate with the man in the moon than to get a message to or from Vientiane. Those who served in Laos probably know from their own experience how true this statement was. I recall having heard about numerous letters addressed to me while I was there that I never received, and I think that a good number of letters that I wrote failed to reach their destination.
For that reason, I thought it an anomaly that the letter that appears below should be delivered without the slightest difficulty. Written in May 1958 and placed in an envelope bearing only a four-cent stamp, and inadequately addressed to Police Department, Laos, it came by air mail from the United States to Vientiane, and was sent immediately to the headquarters of the National Police. The official who opened it fortunately had no understanding of English, and seeing that the letter came from America, assumed that it was intended for the Public Safety Division of the USOM (United States Operations Mission). He sent the letter by messenger to a clerk in our office. The latter, in turn, could not understand it and brought it to me.
It was a letter written by a woman living in Berkeley, California. She had had it mimeographed in numerous copies, which presumably she had mailed to police departments throughout the world, probably judging this the most effective way to divulge on a large scale the feeling of alarm with which she was obsessed. She apparently had serious misgivings concerning the school board of Oakland, California, British and American doctors and politicians, and an ominous institution known to her as the Foundation Room. Not considering any of these matters particularly relevant to the task of providing technical and economic assistance to the Laotian police force, I never referred the letter to anyone for action. I decided to keep it, however, because it struck me as being a minor masterpiece of science fiction. I quote it here in its entirety:
The letter was carefully signed in ink by the woman who wrote it, and it also indicated her address, that of a house in a quiet street in Berkeley. I have the impression, however, that anybody interested in obtaining from her some further information about the curious mental telepathy device would have beeen likely to find her in some psychiatric ward.
First published in SIROCCO, the weekly bulletin of the U. S. Embassy, Tunis, January 25, 1962. Republished by permission of the author.