Posts tagged ‘William Lindsay Gresham’

The Last Days of the Ipsy-Wipsy Institute


110 Portland Road, Highlands, N.J., one-time site of the Ipsy-Wipsy Institute. View larger map. (Thanks to Bill Higgins for geographical research.)


Back in Highlands, New Jersey, William Lindsay Gresham was soon forgotten. At least he was not spoken of. Around then, the Mannings became less likely to drop by on a Saturday night. A coolness seemed to have developed between the neighbors. I don’t think that is necessarily a coincidence, but I don’ know any details. Fletcher didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t press him.

The weekends were still pleasurable and the company generally good. If there was any significant difference in tone it was only that Fletcher himself seemed to be a little less bouncy in spirit. The billiard-room sessions with the portable typewriter in his lap were going a bit more slowly.

I haven’t, in these pages, said anything about Fletcher’s religion. I haven’t said anything much about anyone else’s, either. Personal religion was not high on the interest list among the people of the Ipsy-Wipsy. But I did know that Fletcher had been brought up Christian Science, back in those Buffalo days of his youth, and that he still had some sort of ties to Mary Baker Eddy’s church. Yet when Fletcher began to concede, under Inga’s questioning, that, yes, it was possible that he’d picked up a mild case of the flu, I was confident that if any symptoms became really worrisome, religion would not prevent Fletcher from taking the matter to a real M.D.

Indeed, it didn’t. But unfortunately Fletcher let it go a bit too late. When the surgeons opened his abdomen up on the operating table there was no longer anything they could do. They simply sewed him back together and let him die, which he did on the 11th of June, in the year 1956. He had been 59 years old.

That was the end of the Ipsy, for Inga didn’t have heart to try to carry it on without him. She put the big old house up for sale, and the buyer who appeared was, I think, a dentist from, I believe, Jersey City. The dentist didn’t have it long, though. Before long in a midweek a fire started there, with hardly anybody around, and the Ipsy-Wipsy Institute suffered a Viking’s funeral,

The dentist tore down the wreckage and put up a more normal-sized house on that great piece of land. But the new house had none of the Ipsy-Wipsy’s magnificence, and especially none of its well-loved people.

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William Lindsay Gresham

    William L. Gresham

By the third or fourth year of the Ipsy, the great house in Highlands had pupped a fair-sized litter of clones. There was me and my family in Red Bank, the del Reys a quarter of a mile away, George and Dona Smith in Rumson and, at least briefly, the Kornbluths in Long Branch and the Budryses in Oceanport … and, perhaps most important, the Laurence Mannings in Highlands itself, next door to the Ipsy-Wipsy itself.

When Laurence Manning — Fletcher’s long ago collaborator from the days when science-fiction magazines had the square footage of telephone books (no, not in the number of pages, of course!) — and his family came out for a weekend, they loved the location as well as the company. And when Laurence mentioned that he was looking for a house to buy and move to, Fletcher was quick to say that when he and Inga had bought the Ipsy, they’d bought more acres of land than they had any use for, and the Pratts would be happy to hive off a few acres to sell to the Mannings if they’d care to build a house next door. Which they did, and so the Pratts and the Mannings were next-door neighbors.

Actually that seemed like quite a nice arrangement. Although Manning didn’t have much interest in science fiction anymore he still liked the company of writers, and the conviviality of an Ipsy-Wipsy weekend. And we liked the Mannings.

He knew everything about home plantings, which made him a useful resource for those of us who, like myself, had never had to plant a space much bigger than a windowbox before. He was good company and by no means limited to shop talk. So things went swimmingly, with the Mannings’ house guests walking the couple hundred feet of lawn to the great house next door on Saturday nights … until they didn’t.

Remember that I once said that, with all the social drinking that went on of an Ipsy weekend, I had only once seen anyone unpleasantly drunk?

This was the once. The man in question I did not know well, though I had read some of his work. His name was William Lindsay Gresham.

Continue reading ‘Fletcher Pratt, Part 5: Shadow Over the Ipsy’ »