A few years before she died Mary Craig Sinclair, wife of Upton Sinclair, wrote J. B. Rhine about growing old and losing so many friends who had died. “I look out across the world and it is peopled with strangers!” Mary Craig had conducted experiments in telepathy which further galvanized Dr. William McDougall’s support of J. B. Rhine. She made an important contribution to parapsychology. But she had such a horrible end.
I pieced together the last year of her life based on letters, articles, Upton Sinclair’s autobiography, and a most excellent Upton Sinclair biography called Radical Innocent by Anthony Arthur.
The Sinclairs were living in near-seclusion towards the end. Western Union telegrams had to be thrown over a high fence that Sinclair had constructed in order to provide a “serene, undisturbed atmosphere” for Mary Craig, who had a heart condition. A rare visitor said “deeply shrouded electric lamps, with bowls of pink camellias, stood in every corner of the room, while his wife, who was scarcely able to move, so frail her heart was, sat in the semi-darkness like a heroine of Poe.” At one point Upton described cooking over 3,000 pots of rice for Craig as part of a special diet. He was looking after her and reading to her “almost constantly,” he so desperately didn’t want her to leave him and did everything he could to keep her alive.
It was just downright painful reading about her final days. “I do not have any relief from constant and most uncomfortable fibrillation,” she wrote Rhine. Upton described it as a distressing and “endless quivering of the heart” that made it impossible for her to sleep. Craig asked Rhine to suggest hypnotists who could give her “curative suggestions,” but Rhine knew few hypnotists, and none in her area. Mary Craig died a little over a month after writing Rhine, and she was terrified right up until the end. “Her fears dominate her whole being,” Upton wrote his son. In a particularly harrowing chapter in his autobiography, Sinclair described her in her last days as a “hideously tormented human being.” He begged the doctors to end her suffering, but they refused. “It was life. It is our human fate. It happened to me and it could happen to you. The universe is a mystery to me. How beauty, kindness, goodness should have such an end visited upon it will keep me in agony of spirit for the rest of my days on this planet … why she should have died in such untellable horror is a question I ask God in vain.”
She died on April 26, 1961.