BY ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, M.D., LL.D.
PRESIDENT D'HONNEUR DE LA FEDERATION SPIRITE INTERNATIONALE
PRESIDENT OF THE LONDON SPIRITUALIST ALLIANCE
PRESIDENT OF THE BRITISH COLLEGE OF PSYCHIC SCIENCE
I. The Career of Eusapia Palladino
II. Great Mediums from 1870 to 1900:
Charles H. Foster-Madame d'Esperance-Eglinton-Stainton Moses
III. The Society for Psychical Research
V. Spirit Photography
VI. Voice Mediumship and Moulds
VII. French, German, and Italian Spiritualism
VIII. Some Great Modern Mediums
IX. Spiritualism and the War
X. The Religious Aspect of Spiritualism
XI. The After-Life as Seen by Spiritualists
(not included in this eBook)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Oliver Lodge
Rev. W. Stainton Moses
Madame Juliette Bisson
Dr. Gustave Geley
The Experiment at the Institut Metapsychique, Paris
Plaster Cast of Ectoplasmic Hand
THE CAREER OF EUSAPIA PALLADINO
The mediumship of Eusapia Palladino marks an important stage in the
history of psychical research, because she was the first medium for
physical phenomena to be examined by a large number of eminent men of
science. The chief manifestations that occurred with her were the
movement of objects without contact, the levitation of a table and other
objects, the levitation of the medium, the appearance of materialized
hands and faces, lights, and the playing of musical instruments without
human contact. All these phenomena took place, as we have seen, at a much
earlier date with the medium D. D. Home, but when Sir William Crookes
invited his scientific brethren to come and examine them they declined.
Now for the first time these strange facts were the subject of prolonged
investigation by men of European reputation. Needless to say, these
experimenters were at first sceptical in the highest degree, and
so-called "tests" (those often silly precautions which may defeat the
very object aimed at) were the order of the day. No medium in the whole
world has been more rigidly tested than this one, and since she was able
to convince the vast majority of her sitters, it is clear that her
mediumship was of no ordinary type. It is little use pointing out that no
psychic researcher should be admitted to the seance room without at least
some elementary knowledge of the complexities of mediumship and the right
conditions for its unfoldment, or without, for instance, an understanding
of the basic truth that it is not the medium alone, but the sitters
equally, who are factors in the success of the experiment. Not one
scientific man in a thousand recognizes this, and the fact that Eusapia
triumphed in spite of such a tremendous handicap is an eloquent tribute
to her powers.
The mediumistic career of this humble, illiterate Neapolitan woman, of
surpassing interest as well as of extreme importance in its results,
supplies yet another instance of the lowly being used as the instrument
to shatter the sophistries of the learned. Eusapia was born on January
21, 1854, and died in 1918. Her mediumship began to manifest itself when
she was about fourteen years of age. Her mother died at her birth, and
her father when she was twelve years old. At the house of friends with
whom she went to stay she was persuaded to sit at a table with others. At
the end of ten minutes the table was levitated, the chairs began to
dance, the curtains in the room to swell, and glasses and bottles to move
about. Each sitter was tested in turn to discover who was responsible for
the movements, and in the end it was decided that Eusapia was the medium.
She took no interest in the proceedings, and only consented to have
further sittings to please her hosts and prevent herself from being sent
to a convent. It was not until her twenty-second or twenty-third year
that her Spiritualistic education began, and then, according to M.
Flammarion, it was directed by an ardent Spiritualist, Signor Damiani.
In connexion with this period Eusapia relates a singular incident. At
Naples an English lady who had become the wife of Signor Damiani was told
at a table seance by a spirit, giving the name of John King, to seek out
a woman named Eusapia, the street and the number of the house being
specified. He said she was a powerful medium through whom he intended to
manifest. Madame Damiani went to the address indicated and found Eusapia
Palladino, of whom she had not previously heard. The two women held a
seance and John King controlled the medium, whose guide or control he
continued ever after to be.
Her first introduction to the European scientific world came through
Professor Chiaia, of Naples, who in 1888 published in a journal issued in
Rome a letter to Professor Lombroso, detailing his experiences and
inviting this celebrated alienist to investigate the medium for himself.
It was not until 1891 that Lombroso accepted this invitation, and in
February of that year he had two sittings with Eusapia in Naples. He was
converted, and wrote: "I am filled with confusion and regret that I
combated with so much persistence the possibility of the facts called
Spiritualistic." His conversion led many important scientific men in
Europe to investigate, and from now onward Madame Palladino was kept busy
for many years with test sittings.
Lombroso's Naples sittings in 1891 were followed by the Milan Commission
in 1892, which included Professor Schiaparelli, Director of the
Observatory of Milan; Professor Gerosa, Chair of Physics; Ermacora,
Doctor of Natural Philosophy; M. Aksakof, Councillor of State to the
Emperor of Russia; Charles du Prel, Doctor of Philosophy in Munich; and
Professor Charles Richet, of the University of Paris. Seventeen sittings
were held. Then came investigations in Naples in 1893; in Rome, 1893-4;
in Warsaw, and France, in 1894-the latter under the direction of
Professor Richet, Sir Oliver Lodge, Mr. F. W. H. Myers, and Dr.
Ochorowicz; in 1895 at Naples; and in the same year in England, at
Cambridge, in the house of Mr. F. W. H. Myers, in the presence of
Professor and Mrs. Sidgwick, Sir Oliver Lodge and Dr. Richard Hodgson.
They were continued in 1895 in France at the house of Colonel de Rochas;
in 1896 at Tremezzo, at Auteuil, and at Choisy Yvrac; in 1897 at Naples,
Rome, Paris, Montfort, and Bordeaux; in Paris in November, 1898, in the
presence of a scientific committee composed of MM. Flammarion, Charles
Richet, A. de Rochas, Victorien Sardou, Jules Claretie, Adolphe Bisson,
G. Delanne, G. de Fontenay, and others; also in 1901 at the Minerva Club
in Geneva, in the presence of Professors Porro, Morselli, Bozzano,
Venzano, Lombroso, Vassalo, and others. There were many other
experimental sittings with scientific men, both in Europe and in America.
Professor Chiaia, in his letter to Professor Lombroso already referred
to, gave this picturesque description of the phenomena occurring with
Eusapia. He invited him to observe a special case which he considers
worthy of the serious attention of the mind of a Lombroso, and continues:
The case I allude to is that of an invalid woman who belongs to the
humblest class of society. She is nearly thirty years old and very
ignorant; her look is neither fascinating nor endowed with the power
which modern criminologists call irresistible; but when she wishes, be it
by day or by night, she can divert a curious group for an hour or so with
the most surprising phenomena. Either bound to a seat or firmly held by
the hands of the curious, she attracts to her the articles of furniture
which surround her, lifts them up, holds them suspended in the air like
Mahomet's coffin, and makes them come down again with undulatory
movements, as if they were obeying her will. She increases their weight
or lessens it according to her pleasure. She raps or taps upon the walls,
the ceiling, the floor, with fine rhythm and cadence. In response to the
requests of the spectators, something like flashes of electricity shoot
forth from her body, and envelop her or enwrap the spectators of these
marvellous scenes. She draws upon cards that you hold out, everything
that you want-figures, signatures, numbers, sentences-by just stretching
out her hand toward the indicated place.
If you place in the corner of the room a vessel containing a layer of
soft clay, you find after some moments the imprint in it of a small or a
large hand, the image of a face (front view or profile) from which a
plaster cast can be taken. In this way portraits of a face taken at
different angles have been preserved, and those who desire so to do can
thus make serious and important studies.
This woman rises in the air, no matter what bands tie her down. She seems
to be upon the empty air, as on a couch, contrary to all the laws of
gravity; she plays on musical instruments-organs, bells, tambourines-as
if they had been touched by her hands or moved by the breath of invisible
gnomes. This woman at times can increase her stature by more than four
Professor Lombroso, as we have seen, was interested enough by this
graphic account to investigate, with the result that he was converted.
The Milan Committee (1892), the next to experiment, say in their report:
It is impossible to count the number of times that a hand appeared and
was touched by one of us. Suffice it to say that doubt was no longer
possible. It was indeed a living human hand which we saw and touched,
while at the same time the bust and arms of the medium remained visible,
and her hands were held by those on either side of her.
Many phenomena occurred in the light supplied by two candles and an
oil-lamp, and the same occurrences were witnessed in full light when the
medium was in trance. Dr. Ochorowicz persuaded Eusapia to visit Warsaw in
1894., and the experiments there were in the presence of men and women
eminent in scientific and philosophical circles. The record of these
sittings says that partial and complete levitations of the table and many
other physical phenomena were obtained. These levitations occurred while
both the medium's feet were visible in the light, and when her feet were
tied and held by a sitter kneeling under the table.
After the sittings at Professor Richet's house on the Ile Roubaud in
1894, Sir Oliver Lodge in the course of his report to the English Society
for Psychical Research said:
However the facts are to be explained, the possibility of the facts I am
constrained to admit. There is no further room in my mind for doubt. Any
person without invincible prejudice who had had the same experience would
have come to the same broad conclusion, viz.: that things hitherto held
impossible do actually occur. The result of my experience is to convince
me that certain phenomena usually considered abnormal do belong to the
order of nature, and, as a corollary from this, that these phenomena
ought to be investigated and recorded by persons and societies interested
in natural knowledge.*
* JOURNAL, S.P.R., Vol. VI, Nov. 1894., pp. 334, 360.
At the meeting at which Sir Oliver Lodge's report was read, Sir William
Crookes drew attention to the resemblance of the phenomena occurring with
Eusapia to those that happened in the presence of D. D. Home. Sir Oliver
Lodge's report was adversely criticized by Dr. Richard Hodgson, then
absent in the United States, and as a consequence Eusapia Palladino and
Dr. Hodgson were invited to England, and a series of sittings were held
at Cambridge at the house of Mr. F. W. H. Myers in August and September,
1895. These "Cambridge Experiments," as they were called, were for the
most part unsuccessful, and it was claimed that the medium was repeatedly
detected in fraud. A great deal has been written on both sides in the
acute controversy that followed. It is enough to say that competent
observers refused to accept this verdict on Eusapia, and that they
roundly condemned the methods adopted by the Cambridge group of
It is interesting to recall that an American reporter, on the occasion of
Eusapia's visit to his country in 1910, bluntly asked the medium if she
had ever been caught tricking. Here is Eusapia's frank reply: "Many times
I have been told so. You see, it is like this. Some people are at the
table who expect tricks-in fact, they want them. I am in a trance.
Nothing happens. They get impatient. They think of the tricks-nothing but
tricks. They put their mind on the tricks, and-I-and I automatically
respond. But it is not often. They merely will me to do them. That is
all." This sounds like Eusapia's ingenious adoption of a defence she has
heard others make on her behalf. At the same time it has no doubt an
element of truth in it, the psychological side of mediumship being little
Two important observations may be made in this connexion. First, as Dr.
Hereward Carrington pointed out, various experiments conducted with the
object of duplicating the phenomena by fraudulent means resulted in
complete failure in almost every case. Second, that the Cambridge sitters
were apparently entirely ignorant of the existence and operation of what
may be called the "ectoplasmic limb," a phenomenon observed in the case
of Slade and other mediums. Carrington says: "All the objections Mrs.
Sidgwick raises might be met if we could suppose that Eusapia
materializes for the time being a third arm, which produces these
phenomena, and which recedes into her body at the conclusion of a
phenomenon." Now, strange as it may appear, this is just the conclusion
to which abundant evidence points. As early as 1894. Sir Oliver Lodge saw
what he describes as an "appearance as of extra limbs," continuous with
Eusapia's body or very close to it. With that assurance which ignorance
so often assumes, the editorial comment in the JOURNAL of the Society for
Psychical Research, wherein Sir Oliver's account was printed, says: "It
is hardly necessary to remark that the continuity of the 'spirit' limbs
with the body of the medium is PRIMA FACIE a circumstance strongly
suggestive of fraud."
But later scientific investigators amply confirm Sir Oliver Lodge's
surmise. Professor Bottazzi states:
Another time, later on, the same hand was placed on my right forearm,
without squeezing it. On this occasion I not only carried my left hand to
the spot, but I looked, so I could see and feel at the same time: I saw a
human hand, of natural colour, and I felt with mine the fingers and the
back of a lukewarm, nervous, rough hand. THE HAND DISSOLVED, AND (I SAW
IT WITH MY EYES) RETREATED AS IF INTO MADAME PALLADINO'S BODY, DESCRIBING
A CURVE. I confess that I felt some doubt as to whether Eusapia's left
hand had freed itself from my right hand, to reach my forearm, but at the
same instant I was able to prove to myself that the doubt was groundless,
because our two hands were still in contact in the ordinary way. If all
the observed phenomena of the seven seances were to disappear from my
memory, this one I could never forget.
Professor Galeotti, in July, 1907, plainly saw what he called the
doubling of the left arm of the medium. He exclaimed: "Look, I see two
left arms, identical in appearance! One is on the little table, and it is
that which M. Bottazzi touches, and the other seems to come out of her
shoulder-to approach her, and touch her, and then return and melt into
her body again. This is not an hallucination." At a seance in July, 1905,
at the house of M. Berisso, when Eusapia's hands were thoroughly
controlled and visible to all, Dr. Venzano and others present "distinctly
saw a hand and an arm covered by a dark sleeve issue from the front and
upper part of the right shoulder of the medium." Much similar testimony
might be given.
Towards a study of the complexities of mediumship, especially with
Eusapia, the following case is deserving of serious attention. In a
sitting with Professor Morselli, Eusapia had been detected liberating her
hand from the professor's grasp and stretching it out to reach a trumpet
which was on the table. She was prevented, however, from doing this. The
report then says:
At this moment, while the control was certainly more rigorous than ever,
the trumpet was raised from the table and disappeared into the cabinet,
passing between the medium and Dr. Morselli. Evidently the medium had
attempted to do with her hand what she subsequently did mediumistically.
Such a futile and foolish attempt at fraud is inexplicable. There is no
doubt about the matter; this time the medium did not touch, and could not
touch, the trumpet; and even if she could have touched it she could not
have conveyed it into the cabinet, which was behind her back.
It may be mentioned that a corner of the room was curtained off to form
what is called a "cabinet" (i.e. an enclosure to gather "power") and that
Eusapia, unlike most other mediums, sat outside it, about a foot distant
from the curtains behind her.
The Society for Psychical Research in 1895 had decided that Eusapia's
phenomena were all fraudulent, and would have no more to do with her. But
on the Continent of Europe group after group of scientific inquirers,
adopting the most rigorous precautions, endorsed Eusapia's powers. Then
in 1908 the Society for Psychical Research decided to investigate this
medium once more. It nominated three of its most capable sceptics. One,
Mr. W. W. Baggally, a member of the Council, had been investigating
psychic phenomena for more than thirty-five years, and during that
time-with the exception, perhaps, of a few incidents at a seance with
Eusapia a few years before-had never witnessed a single genuine physical
phenomenon. "Throughout his investigations he had invariably detected
fraud, and nothing but fraud." Also, he was an expert conjurer. Mr.
Everard Feilding, the honorary secretary of the society, had been
investigating for some ten years, but "during all that time he had never
seen one physical phenomenon which appeared to him to be conclusively
proved," unless, again, perhaps in the case of a seance with Eusapia. Dr.
Hereward Carrington, the third of the nominees, though he had attended
countless seances, could say, until he sat with Eusapia, "I had never
seen one single manifestation of the physical order which I could
At first blush this record of the three investigators seems like a
crushing blow to the assumptions of the Spiritualists. But in the
investigation of Eusapia Palladino this trio of sceptics met their
Waterloo. The full story of their long and patient research of this
medium at Naples will be found in Dr. Hereward Carrington's book,
"Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena" (1909).
As evidence of the careful investigation of scientific investigators on
the Continent, we may mention that Professor Morselli noted no fewer than
thirty nine distinct types of phenomena occurring with Eusapia Palladino.
The following incidents may be mentioned because they can well be classed
under the heading "Foolproof." Of a seance in Rome in 1894, in the
presence of Professor Richet, Dr. Schrenck Notzing, Professor Lombroso,
and others, the report says:
Hoping to obtain the movement of an object without contact, we placed a
little piece of paper folded in the form of the letter "A" under a glass,
and upon a disc of light pasteboard. Not being successful in this, we did
not wish to fatigue the medium, and we left the apparatus upon the large
table; then we took our places around the little table, after having
carefully shut all the doors, the keys of which I begged my guests to put
in their pockets, in order that we might not be accused of not having
taken all necessary precautions.
The light was extinguished. Soon we heard the glass resound on our table,
and having procured a light, we found it in the midst of us, in the same
position, upside down, and covering the little piece of paper; only the
cardboard disc was wanting. We sought for it in vain. The seance ended. I
conducted my guests once more into the antechamber. M. Richet was the
first to open the door-well bolted on the inside. What was not his
surprise when he perceived near to the threshold of the door, on the
other side of it, upon the staircase, the disc that we had sought for so
long! He picked it up, and it was identified by all as the card placed
under the glass.
A strong objective proof worth recording is the fact that M. de Fontenay
photographed various hands appearing over Eusapia's head, and in one
photograph the medium's hands can be seen to be securely held by the
investigators. Reproductions of these photographs are given in the
"Annals of Psychical Science" (April, 1908, p. 181 et seq.).
At the sixth and last seance of the series at Genoa with Professor
Morselli in 1906-7, an effective test was devised. The medium was tied to
the couch with a thick, broad band, of the kind used in asylums to fasten
down maniacs, and capable of being tied very tightly without cutting the
flesh. Morselli, with experience as an alienist, performed the operation,
and also secured the wrists and ankles. After a red electric lamp of
ten-candle power had been lighted, the table, which was free from all
contact, moved from time to time, small lights were seen and a hand. At
one stage the curtains in front of the cabinet opened, giving a view of
the medium lying securely bound. "The phenomena," says an account, "were
inexplicable considering that the position rendered movement on her part
Here, in conclusion, are two accounts, out of many, of convincing
materializations. The first is related by Dr. Joseph Venzano in the
"Annals of Psychical Science" (Vol. VI, p. 164., September, 1907). Light
was provided by a candle, enabling the figure of the medium to be seen::
In spite of the dimness of the light I could distinctly see Madame
Palladino and my fellow sitters. Suddenly I perceived that behind me was
a form, fairly tall, which was leaning its head on my left shoulder and
sobbing violently, so that those present could hear the sobs: it kissed
me repeatedly. I clearly perceived the outlines of this face, which
touched my own, and I felt the very fine and abundant hair in contact
with my left cheek, so that I could be quite sure that it was a woman.
The table then began to move, and by typtology gave the name of a close
family connexion who was known to no one present except myself. She had
died some time before, and on account of incompatibility of temperament
there had been serious disagreements with her. I was so far from
expecting this typtological response that I at first thought this was a
case of coincidence of name, but while I was mentally forming this
reflection I felt a mouth, with warm breath, touch my left ear and
whisper, IN A LOW VOICE IN GENOESE DIALECT, a succession of sentences,
the murmur of which was audible to the sitters. These sentences were
broken by bursts of weeping, and their gist was repeatedly to implore
pardon for injuries done to me, with a fullness of detail connected with
family affairs which could only be known to the person in question. The
phenomenon seemed so real that I felt compelled to reply to the excuses
offered me with expressions of affection, and to ask pardon in my turn if
any resentment of the wrongs referred to had been excessive. But I had
scarcely uttered the first syllables when two hands, with exquisite
delicacy, applied themselves to my lips and prevented my continuing. The
form then said to me, "Thank you," embraced me, kissed me, and
With other mediums there have been finer materializations than this one,
and in better light, but in this case there was internal, mental evidence
The last example we shall give occurred in Paris, in 1898, at a sitting
at which M. Flammarion was present, when M. Le Bocain addressed a
materialized spirit in Arabic, saying: "If it is really thou, Rosalie,
who art in the midst of us, pull the hair on the back of my head three
times in succession." About ten minutes later, and when M. Le Bocain had
almost completely forgotten his request, he felt his hair pulled three
separate times, just as he had desired. He says: "I certify this fact,
which, besides, formed for me a most convincing proof of the presence of
a familiar spirit close about us." He adds that it is hardly necessary to
say that Eusapia knows no Arabic.
Opponents and a section of psychic researchers contend that the evidence
for phenomena occurring at seances is of little value because the usual
observers have no knowledge of the resources of conjurers. In New York in
1910 Dr. Hereward Carrington took with him to a seance given by Eusapia,
Mr. Howard Thurston, whom he describes as the most noted magician in
America. Mr. Thurston who, with his assistant, controlled the hands and
feet of the medium in a good light, wrote:
I witnessed in person the table levitations of Madame Eusapia
Palladinoand am thoroughly convinced that the phenomena I saw were not
due to fraud and were not performed by the aid of her feet, knees, or
He offered to give a thousand dollars to a charitable institution if it
could be proved that this medium could not levitate the table without
resort to trickery or fraud.
It will be asked what has been the outcome of all the years of
investigation conducted with this medium. A number of scientists holding
with Sir David Brewster that "Spirit" is the last thing they will give in
to have invented ingenious hypotheses to account for the phenomena, of
the genuine nature of which they are fully convinced. Colonel de Rochas
tried to explain them by what he called "exteriorization of motivity." M.
de Fontenay spoke of a dynamic theory of matter; others believe in
"ectenic force" and "collective consciousness," and the action of the
subconscious mind, but those cases, well authenticated, where the
operation of an independent intelligence is clearly shown, make these
attempted explanations untenable. Various experimenters were forced to
adopt the Spiritualist hypothesis as the only one that explained all the
facts in a reasonable way. Dr. Venzano says:
In the greater number of the materialized forms perceived by us either by
sight, contact, or hearing, we were able to recognize points of
resemblance to deceased persons, generally our relatives, unknown to the
medium and known only to those present who were concerned with the
Dr. Hereward Carrington speaks with no uncertain voice. Regarding Mrs.
Sidgwick's opinion that it is useless to speculate whether the phenomena
are Spiritualistic in character, or whether they represent "some unknown
biological law," until the facts themselves have been established, he
says: "I must say that before I obtained my sittings I, too, took Mrs.
Sidgwick's view." And he continues: "My own sittings convinced me finally
and conclusively that genuine phenomena do occur, and, that being the
case, the question of their interpretation naturally looms before me. I
think that not only is the Spiritualistic hypothesis justified as a
working theory, but it is, in fact, the only one capable of rationally
explaining the facts."*
* "Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena." By Hereward Carrington Ph.D.,
The mediumship of Eusapia Palladino, as we said at the outset, was
similar to that of others, but she had the advantage of enlisting the
attention of men of influence whose published accounts of her phenomena
have had a weight not given to the utterances of less well-known people.
Lombroso in particular has recorded his convictions in his well-known
book, "After Death-What?" (1909). Eusapia was the means of demonstrating
the reality of certain facts not accepted by orthodox science. It is
easier for the world to deny these facts than to explain them, and that
is the course usually adopted.
Those who try to explain away all Eusapia's mediumship by alluding to her
superficial habit of playing conscious or unconscious tricks upon the
sitters are simply deceiving themselves. That such tricks are played is
beyond all question. Lombroso, who entirely endorses the validity of her
mediumship, describes the tricks thus:
Many are the crafty tricks she plays, both in the state of trance
(unconsciously) and out of it-for example, freeing one of her two hands,
held by the controllers, for the sake of moving objects near her; making
touches; slowly lifting the legs of the table by means of one of her
knees and one of her feet; and feigning to adjust her hair and then slyly
pulling out one hair and putting it over the little balance tray of a
letter-weigher in order to lower it. She was seen by Faifofer, before her
seances, furtively gathering flowers in a garden, that she might feign
them to be "apports" by availing herself of the shrouding dark of the
room. And yet her deepest grief is when she is accused of trickery during
the seances-accused unjustly, too, sometimes, it must be confessed,
because we are now sure that phantasmal limbs are superimposed (or added
to) her own and act as their substitute, while all the time they were
believed to be her own limbs detected in the act of cozening for their
In her visit to America, which was late in life when her powers were at a
low ebb, she was detected in these obvious tricks and offended her
sitters to such an extent that they discarded her, but Howard Thurston,
the famous conjurer, narrates that he determined to disregard these
things and continued the sitting, with the result that he obtained an
undoubted materialization. Another well-known sitter deposed that at the
very moment when he was reproaching her for moving some object with her
hand, another object, quite out of her reach, moved across the table. Her
case is certainly a peculiar one, for it may be most truthfully said of
her that no medium has ever more certainly been proved to have psychic
powers, and no medium was ever more certainly a cheat upon occasions.
Here, as always, it is the positive result which counts.
Eusapia had a peculiar depression of her parietal bone, due, it is said,
to some accident in her childhood. Such physical defects are very often
associated with strong mediumship. It is as if the bodily weakness caused
what may be described as a dislocation of the soul, so that it is more
detached and capable of independent action. Thus Mrs. Piper's mediumship
followed upon two internal operations, Home's went with the tubercular
diathesis, and many other cases might be quoted. Her nature was
hysterical, impetuous and wayward, but she possessed some beautiful
traits. Lombroso says of her that she had "a singular kindness of heart
which leads her to lavish her gains upon the poor, and upon infants in
order to relieve their misfortunes, and which impels her to feel
boundless pity for the old and the weak, and to be awake at night
thinking of them. The same goodness of heart drives her to protect
animals that are being maltreated by sharply rebuking their cruel
oppressors." This passage may be commended to the attention of those who
think that psychic power savours of the devil.
GREAT MEDIUMS FROM 1870 TO 1900: CHARLES H. FOSTER-MADAME
D'ESPERANCE-WILLIAM EGLINTON-STAINTON MOSES
There were many notable and some notorious mediums in the period from
1870 to 1900. Of these D. D. Home, Slade, and Monck have already been
mentioned. Four others, whose names will live in the history of the
movement, are the American, C. H. Foster, Madame d'Esperance, Eglinton,
and the Rev. W. Stainton Moses. A short account of each of these will now
Charles H. Foster is fortunate in having a biographer who was such an
admirer that he called him "the greatest spiritual medium since
Swedenborg." There is a tendency on the part of writers to exaggerate the
claims of the particular sensitive with whom they have been brought in
contact. None the less, Mr. George C. Bartlett in his "The Salem Seer"
shows that he had close personal acquaintance with Foster, and that he
really was a very remarkable medium. His fame was not confined to
America, for he travelled widely and visited both Australia and Great
Britain. In the latter country he made friends with Bulwer Lytton,
visited Knebworth, and became the original of Margrave in "A Strange
Foster seems to have been a clairvoyant of great power, and had the
peculiar gift of being able to bring out the name or initials of the
spirit which he described upon his own skin, usually upon his forearm.
This phenomenon was so often repeated and so closely examined that there
can be no possible doubt as to the fact. What may have been the cause of
the fact is another matter. There were many points about Foster's
mediumship which suggested an extended personality, rather than an
outside intelligence. It is, for example, frankly incredible that the
spirits of the great departed, such as Virgil, Camoens and Cervantes,
should have been in attendance upon this unlearned New Englander, and yet
we have Bartlett's authority for the fact, illustrated with many
quotations, that he held conversations with such entities, who were ready
to quote the context in any stanza which might be selected out of their
Such evidence of familiarity with literature far beyond the capacity of
the medium bears some analogy to those book tests frequently carried out
of late years, where a line from any volume in a library is readily
quoted. They need not suggest the actual presence of the author of such a
volume, but might rather depend upon some undefined power of the loosened
etheric self of the medium, or possibly some other entity of the nature
of a control who could swiftly gather information in some supernal
fashion. Spiritualists have so overpowering a case that they need not
claim all psychic phenomena as having necessarily their face value, and
the author confesses that he has frequently observed how much that has
somewhere, some time, been placed on record in print or writing is
conveyed back to us, though by no normal means could such print or
writing be consulted at any time by the medium.
Foster's peculiar gift, by which initials were scrawled upon his flesh,
had some comic results. Bartlett narrates how a Mr. Adams consulted
Foster. "As he was leaving, Mr. Foster told him that in all his
experience he had never known one individual to bring so many spiritsthe
room being literally packed with them, coming and going. About two
o'clock the next morning Mr. Foster called to mesaying: 'George, will you
please light the gas? I cannot sleep; the room is still filled with the
Adams family, and they seem to me to be writing their names all over me.'
And to my astonishment a list of names of the Adams family was displayed
upon his body. I counted eleven distinct names; one was written across
his forehead, others on his arms, and several on his back." Such
anecdotes certainly give a handle to the scoffer, and yet we have much
evidence that the sense of humour is intensified rather than dulled upon
the Other Side.
The gift of blood-red letters upon Foster's skin would seem to compare
closely with the well-known phenomenon of the stigmata appearing upon the
hands and feet of devout worshippers. In the one case concentration of
the individual's thoughts upon the one subject has had an objective
result. In the other, it may be that the concentration from some
invisible entity has had a similar effect. We must bear in mind that we
are all spirits, whether we be in the body or out, and have the same
powers in varying degree.
Foster's views as to his own profession seem to have been very
contradictory, for he frequently declared, like Margaret Fox-Kane and the
Davenports, that he would not undertake to say that his phenomena were
due to spiritual beings, while, on the other hand, all his sittings were
conducted on the clear assumption that they were so. Thus he would
minutely describe the appearance of the spirit and give messages by name
from it to the surviving relatives. Like D. D. Home, he was exceedingly
critical of other mediums, and would not believe in the photographic
powers of Mumler, though those powers were as well attested as his own.
He seems to have had in an exaggerated degree the volatile spirit of the
typical medium, easily influenced for good or ill. His friend, who was
clearly a close observer, says of him:
He was extravagantly dual. He was not only Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but
he represented half a dozen different Jekylls and Hydes. He was strangely
gifted, and on the other hand he was woefully deficient. He was an
unbalanced genius, and at times, I should say, insane. He had a heart so
large indeed that it took in the world; tears for the afflicted; money
for the poor; the chords of his heart were touched by every sigh. At
other times his heart shrunk up until it disappeared. He would become
pouty, and with the petulance of a child would abuse his best friends. He
wore out many of his friends, as an unbreakable horse does its owner. No
harness fitted Foster. He was not vicious, but absolutely uncontrollable.
He would go his own way, which way was often the wrong way. Like a child
he seemed to have no forethought. He seemed to live for to-day, caring
nothing for to-morrow. If it were possible, he did exactly as he wished
to do, regardless of consequences. He would take no one's advice, simply
because he could not. He seemed impervious to the opinions of others, and
apparently yielded to every desire; but after all he did not abuse
himself much, as he continued in perfect health until the final breaking
up. When asked, "How is your health?" his favourite expression was,
"Excellent. I am simply bursting with physical health." The same dual
nature showed itself in his work. Some days he would sit at the table all
day, and far into the night, under tremendous mental strain. He would do
this day after day, and night after night. Then days and weeks would come
when he would do absolutely nothing-turn hundreds of dollars away and
disappoint the people, without any apparent reason, save he was in the
mood for loafing.
Madame d'Esperance, whose real name was Mrs. Hope, was born in 1849 and
her career extended over thirty years, her activities covering the
Continent as well as Great Britain. She was first brought to the notice
of the general public by T. P. Barkas, a well-known citizen of Newcastle.
The medium at that time was a young girl of average middle-class
education. When in semi-trance, however, she displayed to a marked degree
that gift of wisdom and knowledge which St. Paul places at the head of
his spiritual category. Barkas narrates how he prepared long lists of
questions which covered every branch of science and that the answers were
rapidly written out by the medium, usually in English, but sometimes in
German and even in Latin. Mr. Barkas, in summing up these seances, says*:
* PSYCHOLOGICAL REVIEW, Vol. I, p. 224.
It will be admitted by all that no one can by normal effort answer in
detail critical and obscure questions in many difficult departments of
science with which she is entirely unacquainted; it will further be
admitted that no one can normally see and draw with minute accuracy in
complete darkness; that no one can by any normal power of vision read the
contents of closed letters in the dark; that no one who is entirely
unacquainted with the German language can write with rapidity and
accuracy long communications in German; and yet all these phenomena took
place through this medium, and are as well accredited as are many of the
ordinary occurrences of daily life.
It must be admitted, however, that until we know the limits of the
extended powers produced by a liberation or partial liberation of the
etheric body, we cannot safely put down such manifestations to spirit
intervention. They showed a remarkable personal psychic individuality and
possibly nothing more.
But Madame d'Esperance's fame as a medium depends upon many gifts which
were more undoubtedly Spiritualistic. We have a very full account of
these from her own pen, for she wrote a book, called "Shadow Land," which
may rank with A. J. Davis's "Magic Staff" and Turvey's "The Beginnings of
Seership," as among the most remarkable psychic autobiographies in our
literature. One cannot read it without being impressed by the good
feeling and honesty of the writer.
In it she narrates, as other great sensitives have done, how in her early
childhood she would play with spirit children who were as real to her as
the living. This power of clairvoyance remained with her through life,
but the rarer gift of materialization was added to it. The book already
quoted contained photographs of Yolande, a beautiful Arab girl, who was
to this medium what Katie King was to Florence Cook. Not unfrequently she
was materialized when Madame d'Esperance was seated outside the cabinet
in full view of the sitters. The medium thus could see her own strange
emanation, so intimate and yet so distinct. The following is her own
Her thin draperies allowed the rich olive tint of her neck, shoulders,
arms and ankles to be plainly visible. The long black waving hair hung
over her shoulders to below her waist and was confined by a small
turban-shaped head-dress. Her features were small, straight and piquant;
the eyes were dark, large and lively; her every movement was as full of
grace as those of a young child, or, as it struck me then when I saw her
standing half shyly, half boldly, between the curtains, like a young
In describing her sensations during a seance, Madame d'Esperance speaks
of feeling as if spiders' webs were woven about her face and hands. If a
little light penetrated between the curtains of the cabinet she saw a
white, misty mass floating about like steam from a locomotive, and out of
this was evolved a human form. A feeling of emptiness began as soon as
what she calls the spider's web material was present, with loss of
control of her limbs.
The Hon. Alexander Aksakof, of St. Petersburg, a well-known psychical
researcher and editor of Psychische Studien, has described in his book,
"A Case of Partial Dematerialization," an extraordinary seance at which
this medium's body was partly dissolved. Commenting on this, he observes:
"The frequently noted fact of the resemblance of the materialized form to
that of the medium here finds its natural explanation. As that form is
only a duplication of the medium, it is natural that it should have all
This may, as Aksakof says, be natural, but it is equally natural that it
should provoke the ridicule of the sceptic. A larger experience, however,
would convince him that the Russian scientist is right. The author has
sat at materializing seances where he has seen the duplicates of the
medium's face so clearly before him that he has been ready to denounce
the proceedings as fraudulent, but with patience and a greater
accumulation of power he has seen later the development of other faces
which could by no possible stretch of imagination be turned into the
medium's. In some cases it has seemed to him that the invisible powers
(who often produce their effects with little regard for the
misconstructions which may arise from them) have used the actual physical
face of the unconscious medium and have adorned it with ectoplasmic
appendages in order to transform it. In other cases one could believe
that the etheric double of the medium has been the basis of the new
creation. So it was sometimes with Katie King, who occasionally closely
resembled Florence Cook in feature even when she differed utterly in
stature and in colouring. On other occasions the materialized figure is
absolutely different. The author has observed all three phases of spirit
construction in the case of the American medium, Miss Ada Besinnet, whose
ectoplasmic figure sometimes took the shape of a muscular and
well-developed Indian. The story of Madame d'Esperance corresponds
closely with these varieties of power.
Mr. William Oxley, the compiler and publisher of that remarkable work in
five volumes entitled "Angelic Revelations," has given an account of
twenty-seven roses being produced at a seance by Yolande, the
materialized figure, and of the materialization of a rare plant in
flower. Mr. Oxley writes:
I had the plant (IXORA CROCATA) photographed next morning, and afterwards
brought it home and placed it in my conservatory under the gardener's
care. It lived for three months, when it shrivelled up. I kept the
leaves, giving most of them away except the flower and the three top
leaves which the gardener cut off when he took charge of the plant.
At a seance on June 28, 1890, in the presence of M. Aksakof and Professor
Butlerof, of St. Petersburg, a golden lily, seven feet high, is said to
have been materialized. It was kept for a week and during that time six
photographs of it were taken, after which it dissolved and disappeared. A
photograph of it appears in "Shadow Land" (facing p. 328)
A feminine form, somewhat taller than the medium, and known by the name
of Y-Ay-Ali, excited the utmost admiration. Mr. Oxley says: "I have seen
many materialized spirit forms, but for perfection of symmetry in figure
and beauty of countenance I have seen none like unto that." The figure
gave him the plant which had been materialized, and then drew back her
veil. She implanted a kiss on his hand and held out her own, which he
"As she was in the light rays, I had a good view of her face and hands.
The countenance was beautiful to gaze upon, and the hands were soft,
warm, and perfectly natural, and, but for what followed, I could have
thought I held the hand of a permanent embodied lady, so perfectly
natural, yet so exquisitely beautiful and pure."
He goes on to relate how she retired to within two feet of the medium in
the cabinet, and in sight of all "gradually dematerialized by melting
away from the feet upwards, until the head only appeared above the floor,
and then this grew less and less until a white spot only remained, which,
continuing for a moment or two, disappeared."
At the same seance an infant form materialized and placed three fingers
of its tiny hand in Mr. Oxley's. Mr. Oxley afterwards took its hand in
his and kissed it. This occurred in August, 1880.
Mr. Oxley records a very interesting experience of high evidential value.
While Yolande, the Arab girl, was speaking to a lady sitter, "the top
part of her white drapery fell of and revealed her form. I noticed that
the form was imperfect, as the bust was undeveloped and the waist
uncontracted, which was a test that the form was not a lay figure." He
might have added, nor that of the medium.
Writing on "How a Medium Feels During Materializations," Madame
d'Esperance throws some light on the curious sympathy constantly seen to
exist between the medium and the spirit form. Describing a seance at
which she sat outside the cabinet, she says*:
* MEDIUM AND DAYBREAK, 1893, p. 46.
And now, another small and delicate form appears, with its little arms
stretched out. Someone at the far end of the circle rises, approaches it,
and they embrace. I hear inarticulate cries, "Anna, oh, Anna, my child,
my dear child!" Then another person rises and throws her arms around the
spirit; whereupon I hear sobs and exclamations, mingled with
benedictions. I feel my body moved from side to side; everything grows
dark before my eyes. I feel someone's arms around my shoulders; someone's
heart beats against my bosom. I feel that something happens. No one is
near me; no one pays the slightest attention to me. Every eye is fixed
upon that little figure, white and slender, in the arms of the two women
It must be my heart that I hear beating so distinctly, yet, surely,
someone's arms are around me; never have I felt an embrace more plainly.
I begin to wonder. Who am I? Am I the apparition in white, or am I that
which remains seated in the chair? Are those my arms around the neck of
the elder woman? Or are those mine which lie before me on my lap? Am I
the phantom, and if so, what shall I call the being in the chair?
Surely, my lips are kissed; my cheeks are moist with the tears so
plentifully shed by the two women. But how can that be? This feeling of
doubt as to one's own identity is fearful. I wish to extend one of the
hands lying in my lap. I cannot do so. I wish to touch someone so as to
make perfectly certain whether I am I, or only a dream; whether Anna is
I, and if I am, in some sort, lost in her identity.
While the medium is in this state of distracted doubt another little
spirit child who had materialized comes and slips her hands into those of
How happy I am to feel the touch, even of a little child. My doubts, as
to who and where I am, are gone. And while I am experiencing all this,
the white form of Anna disappears in the cabinet and the two women return
to their places, tearful, shaken with emotion, but intensely happy.
It is not surprising to learn that when a sitter at one of Madame
d'Esperance's seances seized the materialized figure, he declared it to
be the medium herself. In this connexion Aksakof's views* on the general
question are of interest:
* "A Case of Partial Dematerialization," p. 181.
One may seize the materialized form, and hold it, and assure himself that
he holds nothing except the medium herself, in flesh and bone; and it is
not yet a proof of fraud on the medium's part. In fact, according to our
hypothesis, what could happen if we detain the medium's double by force,
when it is materialized to such a degree that nothing but an invisible
simulacre of the medium remains in the seat behind the curtain? It is
obvious that the simulacre-that small portion, fluid and ethereal-will be
immediately absorbed into the already compactly materialized form, which
lacks nothing (of being the medium) but that invisible remainder.
M. Aksakof, in the Introduction he has written for Madame d'Esperance's
book, "Shadow Land," pays a high tribute to her as a woman and as a
medium. He says she was as interested as himself in trying to find the
truth. She submitted willingly to all the tests he imposed.
One interesting incident in the career of Madame d'Esperance was that she
succeeded in reconciling Professor Friese, of Breslau, to Professor
Zollner, of Leipzig. The alienation of these two friends had occurred on
account of Zollner's profession of Spiritualism, but the English medium
was able to give such proofs to Friese that he no longer contested his
It should be remarked that in the course of Mr. Oxley's experiments with
Madame d'Esperance moulds were taken of the hands and feet of the
materialized figures, with wrist and ankle apertures which were too
narrow to allow the withdrawal of the limb in any way, save by
dematerialization. In view of the great interest excited by the paraffin
moulds taken in 1922 in Paris from the medium Kluski, it is curious to
reflect that the same experiment had been successfully carried out,
unnoticed save by the psychic Press, by this Manchester student so far
back as 1876.
The latter part of Madame d'Esperance's life, which was spent largely in
Scandinavia, was marred by ill health, which was originally induced by
the shock that she sustained at the so-called "exposure" when Yolande was
seized by some injudicious researcher at Helsingfors in 1893. No one has
expressed more clearly than she how much sensitives suffer from the
ignorance of the world around them. In the last chapter of her remarkable
book she deals with the subject. She concludes: "They who come after me
may perchance suffer as I have done through ignorance of God's laws. Yet
the world is wiser than it was, and it may be that they who take up the
work in the next generation will not have to fight, as I did, the narrow
bigotry and harsh judgments of the 'unco' guid'."
* * * * *
Each of the mediums treated in this chapter has had one or more books
devoted to his or her career. In the case of William Eglinton there is a
remarkable volume, "'Twixt Two Worlds," by J. S. Farmer, which covers
most of his activities.
Eglinton was born at Islington on July 10, 1857, and, after a brief
period at school, entered the printing and publishing business of a
relative. As a boy he was extremely imaginative, as well as dreamy and
sensitive, but, unlike so many other great mediums, he showed in his
boyhood no sign of possessing any psychic powers. In 1874, when he was
seventeen years of age, Eglinton entered the family circle by means of
which his father was investigating the alleged phenomena of
Spiritualists. Up to that time the circle had obtained no results, but
when the boy joined it the table rose steadily from the floor until the
sitters had to stand to keep their hands on it. Questions were answered
to the satisfaction of those present. At the next sitting on the
following evening, the boy passed into a trance, and evidential
communications from his dead mother were received. In a few months his
mediumship had developed, and stronger manifestations were forthcoming.
His fame as a medium spread, and he received numerous requests for
seances, but he resisted all efforts to induce him to become a
professional medium. Finally, he had to adopt this course in 1875.
Eglinton thus describes his feelings before entering the seance room for
the first time, and the change that came over him:
My manner, previous to doing so, was that of a boy full of fun; but as
soon as I found myself in the presence of the "inquirers," a strange and
mysterious feeling came over me, which I could not shake off. I sat down
table, determined that if anything happened I would put a stop to it.
Something did happen, but I was powerless to prevent it. The table began
to show signs of life and vigour; it suddenly rose off the ground and
steadily raised itself in the air, until we had to stand to reach it.
This was in full gaslight. It afterwards answered, intelligently,
questions which were put to it, and gave a number of test communications
to persons present.
The next evening saw us eagerly sitting for further manifestations, and
with a larger circle, for the news had got widely spread that we had
"seen ghosts and talked to them," together with similar reports.
After we had read the customary prayer, I seemed to be no longer of this
earth. A most ecstatic feeling came over me, and I presently passed into
a trance. All my friends were novices in the matter, and tried various
means to restore me, but without result. At the end of half an hour I
returned to consciousness, feeling a strong desire to relapse into the
former condition. We had communications which proved conclusively, to my
mind, that the spirit of my mother had really returned to us. I then
began to realize how mistaken-how utterly empty and unspiritual-had been
my past life, and I felt a pleasure indescribable in knowing, beyond a
doubt, that those who had passed from earth could return again, and prove
the immortality of the soul. In the quietness of our family circlewe
enjoyed to the full extent our communion with the departed, and many are
the happy hours I have spent in this way.
In two respects his work resembles that of D. D. Home. His seances were
usually held in the light, and he always agreed willingly to any proposed
tests. A further strong point of similarity was the fact that his results
were observed and recorded by many eminent men and by good critical
Eglinton, like Home, travelled a great deal, and his mediumship was
witnessed in many places. In 1878 he sailed for South Africa. The
following year he visited Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. In February,
1880, he went to Cambridge University and held sittings under the
auspices of the Psychological Society. In March he journeyed to Holland,
thence proceeding to Leipzig, where he gave sittings to Professor Zollner
and others connected with the University. Dresden and Prague followed,
and in Vienna in April over thirty seances were held which were attended
by many members of the aristocracy. In Vienna he was the guest of Baron
Hellenbach, the well-known author, who in his book, "Prejudices of
Mankind," has described the phenomena that occurred there. After
returning to England, he sailed for America on February 12, 1881,
remaining there about three months. In November of the same year he went
to India, and after holding numerous seances in Calcutta, returned in
April, 1882. In 1883 he again visited Paris, and in 1885 was in Vienna
and Paris. He subsequently visited Venice, which he described as "a
veritable hotbed of Spiritualism."
In Paris, in 1885, Eglinton met M. Tissot, the famous artist, who sat
with him and subsequently visited him in England. A remarkable
materializing seance at which two figures were plainly seen, and one, a
lady, was recognized as a relation, has been immortalized by Tissot in a
mezzotint entitled "Apparition Medianimique." This beautiful, artistic
production, a copy of which hangs at the offices of the London
Spiritualist Alliance, shows the two figures illuminated by spirit lights
which they are carrying in their hands. Tissot also executed a portrait
etching of the medium, and this is to be found as the frontispiece to Mr.
Farmer's book, "'Twixt Two Worlds."
A typical example of his early physical mediumship is described* by Miss
Kislingbury and Dr. Carter Blake (Lecturer in Anatomy at Westminster
* THE SPIRITUALIST, May 12, 1876, p. 221.
Mr. Eglinton's coat-sleeves were sewn together behind his back near the
wrist with strong white cotton; the tying committee then bound him in his
chair, passing the tape round his neck, and placed him close behind the
curtain (of the cabinet) facing the company, with his knees and feet in
sight. A small round table with various objects upon it was placed before
the medium outside the cabinet and in view of the sitters; the little
stringed instrument known as the Oxford Chimes was laid inverted across
his knees, and a book and a hand-bell were placed upon it. In a few
moments the strings were played upon, though no visible hand was touching
them, the book, the front of which was turned towards the sitters, opened
and shut (this was repeated a great number of times, so that all present
saw the experiment unmistakably), and the handbell was rung from within,
that is, without being raised from the board. The musical box placed near
the curtain, but fully in sight, was stopped and set going, while the lid
remained shut. Fingers, and at times a whole hand, were now and then
protruded through the curtain. An instant after one of these had
appeared, Captain Rolleston was requested to thrust his arm through the
curtain and ascertain whether the tying and sewing were as at first. He
satisfied himself that they were, and the same testimony was given by
another gentleman later on.
This was one of a series of experimental seances held under the auspices
of the British National Association of Spiritualists, at their rooms, 38
Great Russell Street, London. Referring to these, THE SPIRITUALIST says*:
* May 12, 1876.
The test manifestations with Mr. Eglinton are of great value, not because
other mediums may not obtain equally conclusive results, but because in
his case they had been observed and recorded by good critical witnesses
whose testimony will carry weight with the public.
At the beginning Eglinton's materializations were obtained in the
moonlight, while all present sat round a table, and there was no cabinet.
The medium, too, was usually conscious. He was induced to sit in the dark
for manifestations by a friend who had been to a seance with a
professional medium. Having thus started he was apparently obliged to
continue, but stated that the results obtained were of a less spiritual
character. A feature of his materializing seances was the fact that he
sat among those present and that his hands were held. Under these
conditions full-form materialization s were seen in light which was
sufficient for the recognition of those appearing.
In January, 1877, Eglinton gave a series of nonprofessional seances at
the house, off Park Lane, of Mrs. Makdougall Gregory (widow of Professor
Gregory, of Edinburgh). They were attended by Sir Patrick and Lady
Colquhoun, Lord Borthwick, Lady Jenkinson, Rev. Maurice Davies, D.D.,
Lady Archibald Campbell, Sir William Fairfax, Lord and Lady Mount-Temple,
General Brewster, Sir Garnet and Lady Wolseley, Lord and Lady Avonmore,
Professor Blackie, and many others. Mr. W. Harrison (editor of The
Spiritualist) describes one of these seances*:
* THE SPIRITUALIST, Feb. 23, 1877, p. 96.
Last Monday evening ten or twelve friends sat round a large circular
table, with their hands joined, under which conditions Mr. W. Eglinton,
the medium, was held on both sides. There were no other persons in the
room than those seated at the table. An expiring fire gave a dim light,
permitting only the outlines of objects to be visible. The medium sat at
that part of the table which was nearest to the fire, consequently his
back was to the light. A form, of the full proportions of a man, rose
slowly from the floor to about the level of the edge of the table; it was
about a foot behind the right elbow of the medium. The other nearest
sitter was Mrs. Wiseman, of Orme Square, Bayswater. This form was covered
with white drapery, but no features were visible. As it was close to the
fire, it could be seen distinctly by those near it. It was observed by
all who were so placed that the edge of the table or intervening sitters
did not cut oft the view of the form; thus it was observed by four or
five persons altogether, and was not the result of subjective
impressions. After rising to the level of the edge of the table, it sank
downwards, and was no more seen, having apparently exhausted all the
power. Mr. Eglinton was in a strange house and in evening dress.
Altogether it was a test manifestation which could not have been produced
by artificial means.
One sitting described by Mr. Dawson Rogers showed remarkable features. It
was held on February 17, 1885, in the presence of fourteen sitters, under
test conditions. Though an inner room was used as a cabinet, Mr. Eglinton
did not stay there, but paced about among the sitters, who were arranged
in horseshoe formation. A form materialized and passed round the room
shaking hands with each one. Then the form approached Mr. Eglinton, who
was partially supported from falling by Mr. Rogers, and, taking the
medium by the shoulders, dragged him into the cabinet. Mr. Rogers says:
"The form was that of a man taller by several inches and older than the
medium. He was apparelled in a white flowing robe, and was full of life
and animation, and at one time was fully ten feet away from the medium."
Particular interest attaches to that phase of his mediumship known as
Psychography, or slate-writing. With regard to this there is an
overwhelming mass of testimony. In view of the wonderful results he
obtained it is worthy of note that he sat for over three years without
receiving a scratch of writing. It was from the year 1884 that he
concentrated his powers on this form of manifestation, which was
considered to be most suited to beginners, especially as all the seances
were held in the light. Eglinton, in refusing to give a seance for
materialization to a party of inquirers who had had no experience of this
phase, wrote giving the following reason for his action: "I hold that a
medium is placed in a very responsible position, and that he has a right
to satisfy, as far as he possibly can, those who come to him. Now, my
experience, which is a varied one, leads me to the conclusion that no
sceptic, however well-intentioned or honest, can be convinced by the
conditions prevailing at a materialization seance, and the result is
further scepticism on his part, and condemnation of the medium. It is
different when there is a harmonious circle of Spiritualists who are
advanced enough to witness such phenomena, and with whom I shall always
be delighted to sit; but a neophyte must be prepared by other methods. If
your friend cares to come to a slate-writing seance I shall be happy to
arrange an hour, otherwise I must decline to sit, for the reasons stated
above, and which must commend themselves to you as to all thinking
In the case of Eglinton, it may be explained that common school slates
were used (the sitter being at liberty to bring his own slates), and
after being washed, a crumb of slate pencil was placed on the upper
surface and the slate placed under the leaf of the table, pressed against
it and held by the hand of the medium, whose thumb was visible on the
upper surface of the table. Presently the sound of writing was heard, and
on the signal of three taps being given, the slate was examined and found
to contain a written message. In the same way two slates of the same size
were used, bound tightly together with cord, and also what are known as
box slates, to which a lock and key are attached. On many occasions
writing was obtained on a single slate resting on the upper surface of
the table, with the pencil between it and the table.
Mr. Gladstone had a sitting with Eglinton on October 29, 1884, and
expressed himself as very interested in what took place. When an account
of this sitting appeared in Light it was copied by nearly all the leading
papers throughout the country, and the movement gained considerably by
this publicity. At the conclusion of the seance Mr. Gladstone is reported
as saying: "I have always thought that scientific men run too much in a
groove. They do noble work in their own special lines of research, but
they are too often indisposed to give any attention to matters which seem
to conflict with their established modes of thought. Indeed, they not
infrequently attempt to deny that into which they have never inquired,
not sufficiently realizing the fact that there may possibly be forces in
nature of which they know nothing." Shortly afterwards Mr. Gladstone,
while never professing himself to be a Spiritualist, showed his sustained
interest in the subject by joining the Society for Psychical Research.
Eglinton did not escape the usual attacks. In June, 1886, Mrs. Sidgwick,
wife of Professor Sidgwick, of Cambridge, one of the founders of the
Society for Psychical Research, published an article in the JOURNAL of
the S.P.R. entitled "Mr. Eglinton,"* in which, after giving other
people's descriptions from over forty seances for slate-writing with this
medium, she says: "For myself, I have now no hesitation in attributing
the performances to clever conjuring." She had no personal experience
with Eglinton, but based her belief on the impossibility of maintaining
continuous observation during the manifestations. In the columns of LIGHT
Eglinton invited testimony from sitters who were convinced of the
genuineness of his mediumship, and in a later special supplement of the
same journal a very large number responded, many of them being members
and associates of the S.P.R. Dr. George Herschell, an experienced amateur
conjurer of fourteen years' standing, furnished one of the many
convincing replies to Mrs. Sidgwick.
* June, 1886, pp. 282-324. 1886, p. 309.
The Society for Psychical Research also published minute accounts of the
results obtained by Mr. S. J. Davey, who professed to obtain by trickery
similar and even more wonderful results in slate-writing than those
occurring with Eglinton.* Mr. C. C. Massey, barrister, a very competent
and experienced observer, and a member of the S.P.R., embodied the views
of many others when he wrote to Eglinton in reference to Mrs. Sidgwick's
* S.P.R. PROCEEDINGS, Vol. IV, pp. 416-487.
I quite concur in what you say that she "adduces not one particle of
evidence" in support of this most injurious judgment which is opposed to
a great body of excellent testimony, only encountered by presumptions
contrary, as it seems to me, to common sense and to all experience.
On the whole, Mrs. Sidgwick's rash attack on the medium had a good
effect, because it called forth a volume of more or less expert testimony
in favour of the genuineness of the manifestations occurring with him.
Eglinton, like so many other mediums for physical manifestations, had his
"exposures." One of these was in Munich, where he had been engaged to
give a series of twelve seances. Ten of these had proved very successful,
but at the eleventh a mechanical frog was discovered in the room, and
though the medium's hands were held, he was charged with fraud because
the musical instruments, having been secretly blackened, black was
afterwards found on him. Three months later a sitter confessed that he
had brought the mechanical toy into the room. No explanation of the
blackening was forthcoming, but the fact of the medium's hands being held
should have been sufficient refutation.
A fuller knowledge since that time has shown us that physical phenomena
depend upon ectoplasm, and that this ectoplasm is reabsorbed into the
body of the medium carrying any colouring matter with it. Thus, in the
case of Miss Goligher after an experiment with carmine, Dr. Crawford
found stains of carmine in various parts of her skin. Thus, both in the
case of the mechanical frog and of the lamp-black, it was, as so often
happens, the "exposers" who were in the wrong and not the unfortunate
A more serious charge against him was made by Archdeacon Colley, who
declared * that at the house of Mr. Owen Harries, where Eglinton was
giving a seance, he discovered in the medium's portmanteau some muslin
and a beard, with which portions of drapery and hair cut from alleged
materialized figures corresponded. Mrs. Sidgwick, in her article in the
S.P.R. journal, reproduced Archdeacon Colley's charges, and Eglinton, in
his general reply to her, contents himself with a flat denial, remarking
that he was absent in South Africa when the charges were published and
did not see them until years after.
* MEDIUM AND DAYBREAK, 1878, pp. 698, 730. THE SPIRITUALIST,
1879, Vol. XIV, pp. 83, 135. 1886, p. 324.
Discussing this incident, LIGHT in a leading article says that the
charges in question were fully investigated by the Council of the British
National Association of Spiritualists and dismissed on the ground that
the Council could by no means get direct evidence from the accusers. It
Mrs. Sidgwick has suppressed very material facts in her quotation as
printed in the JOURNAL. In the first place the alleged circumstances
occurred two years previous to the letter in which the accuser made his
charge, during which time he made no public move in the matter, and only
did so at all in consequence of personal pique against the Council of the
late B.N.A.S. In the second place, the suppressed portions of the letter
quoted by Mrs. Sidgwick bear upon their face the mark of utter
worthlessness. We affirm that no one accustomed to examine and weigh
evidence in a scientific manner would have accorded to the correspondence
the slightest serious attention without the clearest corroborative
None the less, it must be admitted that when so whole-hearted a
Spiritualist as Archdeacon Colley makes so definite a charge, it becomes
a grave matter which cannot be lightly dismissed. There is always the
possibility that a great medium, finding his powers deserting him-as such
powers do-should resort to fraud in order to fill up the gap until they
return. Home has narrated how his power was suddenly taken from him for a
year and then returned in full plenitude. When a medium lives on his work
such a hiatus must be a serious matter and tempt him to fraud. However
that may have been in this particular instance, it is certain, as has
surely been shown in these pages, that there is a mass of evidence as to
the reality of the powers of Eglinton which cannot possibly be shaken.
Among other witnesses to his powers is Kellar, the famous conjurer, who
admitted, as many other conjurers have done, that psychic phenomena far
transcend the powers of the juggler.
There is no writer who has left his mark upon the religious side of
Spiritualism so strongly as the Reverend W. Stainton Moses. His inspired
writings confirmed what had already been accepted, and defined much which
was nebulous. He is generally accepted by Spiritualists as being the best
modern exponent of their views. They do not, however, regard him as final
or infallible, and in posthumous utterances which bear good evidence of
being veridical, he has himself declared that his enlarged experience has
modified his views upon certain points. This is the inevitable result of
the new life to each of us. These religious views will be treated in the
separate chapter which deals with the religion of Spiritualists.
Besides being a religious teacher of an inspired type, Stainton Moses was
a strong medium, so that he was one of the few men who could follow the
apostolic precept and demonstrate not only by words but also by power. In
this short account it is the physical side which we must emphasize.
Stainton Moses was born in Lincolnshire on November 5, 1839, and was
educated at Bedford Grammar School and Exeter College, Oxford. He turned
his thoughts towards the ministry, and after some years' service as a
curate in the Isle of Man and elsewhere he became a master at University
College School. It is remarkable that in the course of his wanderjahre he
visited the monastery of Mount Athos, and spent six months there-a rare
experience for an English Protestant. He was assured later that this
marked the birth of his psychic career.
Whilst Stainton Moses was a curate he had an opportunity of showing his
bravery and sense of duty. A severe epidemic of smallpox broke out in the
parish which was without a resident doctor. His biographer says: "Day and
night he was in attendance at the bedside of some poor victim who was
stricken by the fell disease, and sometimes after he had soothed the
sufferer's dying moments by his ministrations he was compelled to combine
the offices of priest and gravedigger and conduct the interment with his
own hands." It is no wonder that when he left he received a strongly
worded testimonial from the inhabitants, which may be summed up in the
one sentence, "The longer we have known you and the more we have seen of
your work, the greater has our regard for you increased."
It was in 1872 that his attention was drawn to Spiritualism through
seances with Williams and Miss Lottie Fowler. Before long he found that
he himself possessed the gift of mediumship to a very unusual extent. At
the same time he was prompted to make a thorough study of the subject,
bringing his strong intellect to bear upon every phase of it. His
writings, under the signature of "M.A. Oxon.," are among the classics of
Spiritualism. They include "Spirit Teachings," "Higher Aspects of
Spiritualism," and other works. Finally, he became editor of Light, and
sustained its high traditions for many years. His mediumship steadily
progressed until it included almost every physical phenomenon with which
we are acquainted.
These results were not obtained until he had passed through a period of
preparation. He says:
For a long time I failed in getting the evidence I wanted, and if I had
done as most investigators do, I should have abandoned the quest in
despair. My state of mind was too positive, and I was forced to take some
personal pains before I obtained what I desired. Bit by bit, here a
little and there a little, the evidence came, AS MY MIND OPENED TO
RECEIVE IT. Some six months were spent in persistent daily efforts to
bring home to me proof of the perpetuated existence of human spirits and
their power to communicate.
In Stainton Moses's presence heavy tables rose in the air, and books and
letters were brought from one room into another in the light. There is
independent testimony to these manifestations from trustworthy witnesses.
The late Serjeant Cox, in his book "What am I?" records the following
incident which occurred with Stainton Moses:
On Tuesday, June 2nd, 1813, a personal friend, a gentleman of high social
position, a graduate of Oxford, came to my residence in Russell Square,
to dress for a dinner party to which we were invited. He had previously
exhibited considerable power as a Psychic. Having half an hour to spare
we went into the dining-room. It was just six o'clock and, of course,
broad daylight. I was opening letters, he was reading The Times. My
dining-table is of mahogany, very heavy, old-fashioned, six feet wide,
nine feet long. It stands on a Turkey carpet, which much increases the
difficulty of moving it. A subsequent trial showed that the united
efforts of two strong men standing were required to move it one inch.
There was no cloth upon it, and the light fell full under it. No person
was in the room but my friend and myself. Suddenly, as we were sitting
thus, frequent and loud rappings came upon the table. My friend was then
sitting holding the newspaper with both hands, one arm resting on the
table, the other on the back of a chair, and turned sidewise from the
table so that his legs and feet were not under the table but at the side
of it. Presently the solid table quivered as if with an ague fit. Then it
swayed to and fro so violently as almost to dislocate the big pillar-like
legs, of which there are eight. Then it moved forward about three inches.
I looked under it to be sure that it was not touched; but still it moved,
and still the blows were loud upon it.
This sudden access of the force at such a time and in such a place, with
none present but myself and my friend, and with no thought then of
invoking it, caused the utmost astonishment in both of us. My friend said
that nothing like it had ever before occurred to him. I then suggested
that it would be an invaluable opportunity, with so great a power in
action, to make trial of motion without contact, the presence of two
persons only, the daylight, the place, the size and weight of the table,
making the experiment a crucial one. Accordingly we stood upright, he on
one side of the table, I on the other side of it. We stood two feet from
it, and held our hands eight inches above it. In one minute it rocked
violently. Then it moved over the carpet a distance of seven inches. Then
it rose three inches from the floor on the side on which my friend was
standing. Then it rose equally on my side. Finally, my friend held his
hands four inches over the end of the table, and asked that it would rise
and touch his hand three times. It did so; and then, in accordance with
the like request, it rose to my hand, held at the other end to the same
height above it, and in the same manner.
At Douglas, Isle of Man, during a Sunday in August, 1872, a remarkable
exhibition of spirit power was given. The facts related by Stanton Moses
are corroborated by Dr. and Mrs. Speer, at whose house the phenomena
occurred, and they lasted from breakfast-time until ten o'clock at night.
Raps followed the medium wherever he went in the house and even at church
he and Dr. and Mrs. Speer heard them while sitting in their pew. On
returning from church Stanton Moses found in his bedroom that objects had
been moved from the toilet table and laid on the bed in the form of a
cross. He went to summon Dr. Speer to witness what had taken place, and
on returning to the bedroom discovered that his collar, which he had
removed a minute or so before, had in his absence been placed round the
head of the improvised cross. He and Dr. Speer locked the door of the
bedroom and adjourned to lunch, but during the course of the meal loud
raps occurred and the heavy dining-table was moved three or four times.
On a further inspection of the bedroom they found that two other articles
from the dressing-case had been added to the cross. The room was again
locked, and at three subsequent visits fresh objects had been added to
the cross. We are told that on the first occasion there was no one in the
house who was likely to play a trick, and that afterwards adequate
precautions were taken to prevent such a thing from happening.
Mrs. Speer's version of this series of events is as follows:
During the time we were at church, raps were heard by each member of the
circle in different parts of the pew in which we were all sitting. On our
return Mr. S. M. found on his bed three things removed from his dressing
table, and placed in the form of a cross on his bed. He called Dr. S.
into his room to see what had taken place during our absence. Dr. S.
heard loud raps on the foot board of the bed. He then locked the door,
put the key in his pocket, and left the room vacant for a time. We went
to dinner, and during our meal the large dining-table, covered with
glass, china, etc., repeatedly moved, tilted and rapped; it seemed to be
full of life and motion.
Raps accompanied the tune of a hymn our little girl was singing, and
intelligent raps followed our conversation. We paid several visits to the
locked-up room, and each time found an addition had been made to the
cross. Dr. S. kept the key, unlocked the door, and left the room last. At
last all was finished. The cross was placed down the centre of the bed;
all the dressing things had been used that our friend had in his
travelling dressing-case. Each time we went into the room raps occurred.
At our last visit it was proposed to leave a piece of paper and pencil on
the bed, and when we returned again we found the initials of three
friends of Mr. S. M.'s, all dead, and unknown to anyone in the house but
himself. The cross was perfectly symmetrical, and had been made in a
locked room that no one could enter, and was indeed a startling
manifestation of spirit power.
A drawing showing the various toilet articles in their arranged form is
given in Arthur Lillie's "Modern Mystics and Modern Magic" (p. 72).
Further examples are given in the Appendix.
At his sittings with Dr. and Mrs. Speer many communications were
received, giving proofs of the identity of the spirits in the form of
names, dates, and places, unknown to the sitters, but afterwards
A band of spirits is said to have been associated with his mediumship.
Through them a body of teaching was communicated by means of automatic
writing, beginning on March 30, 1873, and continuing to the year 1880. A
selection of them is embodied in "Spirit Teachings." In his Introduction
to this book Stanton Moses writes:
The subject-matter was always of a pure and elevated character, much of
it being of personal application, intended for my own guidance and
direction. I may say that throughout the whole of these written
communications, extending in unbroken continuity to the year 1880, there
is no flippant message, no attempt at jest, no vulgarity or incongruity,
no false or misleading statement, so far as I know or could discover;
nothing incompatible with the avowed object, again and again repeated, of
instruction, enlightenment and guidance by Spirits fitted for the task.
Judged as I should wish to be judged myself, they were what they
pretended to be. Their words were words of sincerity, and of sober,
A detailed account of the various persons communicating, many of them
having renowned names, will be found in Mr. A. W. Tetley's book, "The
'Controls' of Stainton Moses" (1923).
Stainton Moses aided in the formation of the Society for Psychical
Research in 1882, but resigned from that body in 1886 in disgust at its
treatment of the medium William Eglinton. He was the first president of
the London Spiritualist Alliance, formed in 1884, a position he retained
until his death.
In addition to his books "Spirit Identity" (1879), "Higher Aspects of
Spiritualism" (1880), "Psychography" (2nd ed. 1882), and "Spirit
Teachings" (1883), he contributed frequently to the Spiritualist Press as
well as to the SATURDAY REVIEW, PUNCH, and other high-class journals.
A masterly summary of his mediumship was contributed to the PROCEEDINGS
of the Society for Psychical Research by Mr. F. W. H. Myers.* In an
obituary notice of him Mr. Myers writes: "I personally regard his life as
one of the most noteworthy lives of our generation, and from few men have
I heard at first hand facts comparable in importance for me with those
which I heard from him."
* PROCEEDINGS S.P.R., Vol. IX, pp. 245-353. and Vol. XI, pp. 24-113.
The various mediums treated in this chapter may be said to cover the
different types of mediumship prevalent during this period, but there
were many who were almost as well known as those which have been quoted,
Thus Mrs. Marshall brought knowledge to many; Mrs. Guppy showed powers
which in some directions have never been surpassed; Mrs. Everitt, an
amateur, continued throughout a long life to be a centre of psychic
force; and Mrs. Mellon, both in England and in Australia, excelled in
materialization s and in physical phenomena.
THE SOCIETY FOR PSYCHICAL RESEARCH
Any full account of the activities of the Psychical Research Society,
with its strangely mingled record of usefulness and obstruction, would be
out of place in this volume. There are some points, however, which need
to be brought out, and some cases which should be discussed. In certain
directions the work of the society has been excellent, but from the
beginning it made the capital error of assuming a certain supercilious
air towards Spiritualism, which had the effect of alienating a number of
men who could have been helpful in its councils, and, above all, of
offending those mediums without whose willing co-operation the work of
the society could not fail to be barren. At the present moment the
society possesses an excellent seance room, but the difficulty is to
persuade any medium to enter it. This is as it should be, for both the
medium and the cause he represents are in danger when misrepresentation
and injurious charges are made as lightly as in the past. Psychical
research should show some respect for the feelings and opinions of
Spiritualists, for it is very certain that without the latter the former
would not have existed.
Amid the irritations of what they regard as offensive criticism
Spiritualists must not forget that the society has at various times done
some excellent work. It has, for example, been the mother of many other
societies which are more active than itself. It has also nurtured a
number of men both in London and in its American branch who have followed
the evidence and have become whole-hearted advocates of the spirit view.
Indeed, it is not too much to say that nearly all the bigger men, the men
who showed signs of strong mentality apart from this particular subject,
adopted the psychic explanation. Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge,
Russel Wallace, Lord Rayleigh, Sir William Barrett, Professor William
James, Professor Hyslop, Dr. Richard Hodgson, and Mr. F. W. H. Myers were
all in different degrees on the side of the angels.
There had been a previous society of the same nature, the Psychological
Society of Great Britain, which was founded in 1875 by Mr. Serjeant Cox.
On the death of this gentleman in 1879 this society dissolved. On January
6, 1882, a meeting was held at the initiative of Sir William Barrett to
consider the formation of a new society, and on February 20 it came into
being. Professor Henry Sidgwick of Cambridge was elected President, and
among the Vice-Presidents was the Rev. W. Stainton Moses. The Council
included such representative Spiritualists as Mr. Edmund Dawson Rogers,
Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood, Dr. George Wyld, Mr. Alexander Calder, and Mr.
Morell Theobald. We shall see in the course of our review of its history
how the Society for Psychical Research gradually alienated the sympathies
of these members and caused many of them to resign, and how the cleavage
thus early begun has gone on widening with the passage of the years.
A manifesto of the society sets out:
It has been widely felt that the present is an opportune time for making
an organized and systematic attempt to investigate that large group of
debatable phenomena designated by such terms as mesmeric, psychical and
Professor Sidgwick, in his first presidential address to the society on
July 17, 1882, speaking of the need for psychical research, said:
We are all agreed that the present state of things is a scandal to the
enlightened age in which we live, that the dispute as to the reality of
these marvellous phenomena of which it is quite impossible to exaggerate
the scientific importance, if only a tenth part of what has been alleged
by generally credible witnesses could be shown to be true-I say it is a
scandal that the dispute as to the reality of these phenomena should
still be going on, that so many competent witnesses should have declared
their belief in them, that so many others should be profoundly interested
in having the question determined, and yet that the educated world, as a
body, should still be simply in an attitude of incredulity.
The attitude of the society, as thus defined by its first president, was
a fair and reasonable one. Answering a criticism to the effect that their
intention was to reject as untrustworthy the results of all previous
inquiries into psychical phenomena, he said:
I do not presume to suppose that I could produce evidence better in
quality than much that has been laid before the world by writers of
indubitable scientific repute-men like Mr. Crookes, Mr. Wallace, and the
late Professor De Morgan. But it is clear from what I have defined as the
aim of the society, however good some of its evidence may be in quality,
we require a great deal more of it.
The educated world, he pointed out, was not yet convinced, and thus more
evidence must be piled up. He did not add that there was abundant
evidence already but that the world had not yet troubled to examine it.
Returning to this aspect at the close of his address he said:
Scientific incredulity has been so long in growing, and has so many and
so strong roots, that we shall only kill it, if we are able to kill it at
all as regards any of those questions, by burying it alive under a heap
of facts. We must keep "pegging away," as Lincoln said; we must
accumulate fact upon fact, and add experiment upon experiment, and, I
should say, not wrangle too much with incredulous outsiders about the
conclusiveness of any one, but trust to the mass of evidence for
conviction. The highest degree of demonstrative force that we can obtain
out of any single record of investigation is, of course, limited by the
trustworthiness of the investigator. We have done all that we can when
the critic has nothing left to allege except that the investigator is in
the trick. But when he has nothing else left he will allege that. We must
drive the objector into the position of being forced either to admit the
phenomena as inexplicable, at least by him, or to accuse the
investigators either of lying or cheating or of a blindness or
forgetfulness incompatible with any intellectual condition except
The early work of the society was devoted to an experimental
investigation of thought-transference, a subject which Sir William (then
Professor) Barrett had brought before the British Association in 1876.
After long and patient research it was considered that
thought-transference, or telepathy, as it was named by Mr. F. W. H.
Myers, was an established fact. In the domain of mental phenomena much
valuable work has been done by the society, and this has been placed on
record in a systematic and careful manner in the society's "Proceedings."
Its researches, too, into what are known as "Cross Correspondences"
constitute an important phase of its activities. The investigation of the
mediumship of Mrs. Piper was also a notable work, to which we shall refer
Where the society has been less fortunate has been in its consideration
of what are known as the physical phenomena of Spiritualism. Mr. E. T.
Bennett, for twenty years the assistant secretary to the society, thus
refers to this aspect:
It is a remarkable thing, we are inclined to say one of the most
remarkable things in the history of the society, that this branch of
inquiry should have been-it is hardly an exaggeration to say-absolutely
barren of result. It may also be said that the result has been barren in
proportion to the simplicity of the alleged phenomena. As to the moving
of tables and other objects without contact, the production of audible
raps, and of visible lights, opinion, even within the society itself, to
say nothing of the outside intelligent world, is in the same state of
chaos as it was twenty years ago. The question of the movement of tables
without contact is exactly in the state in which it was left by the
Dialectical Society in the year 1869. Even then, the fact of the movement
of a heavy dining-room table, untouched by anyone present, and not in the
presence of a professional medium, was attested by a number of well-known
men. If it was "a scandal that the dispute as to the reality of these
phenomena should still be going on," when Professor Sidgwick gave his
first presidential address, how much more of a scandal is it that now,
after the lapse of nearly another quarter of a century, "the educated
world as a body should still be simply in an attitude of incredulity." In
the whole series of volumes issued by the society, there is no light
whatever thrown on these simple alleged phenomena of seeing and hearing.
With regard to the higher physical phenomena which imply intelligence for
their production, such as Direct Writing and Spirit Photography, some
investigation has been made, but to a large extent, though not entirely,
with negative results.*
* "Twenty Years of Psychical Research," by Edward T. Bennett (1904),
pp. 21-2. LIGHT, 1833, p. 54.
These sweeping charges against the society are made by a friendly critic.
Let us see how Spiritualists of that time viewed its activities. To start
from near the beginning, we find early in 1883, a year after the
formation of the society, a correspondent writing to Light asking, "What
is the distinction between the Society for Psychical Research and the
Central Association of Spiritualists?" and also inquiring whether there
was any antagonism between the two bodies. The reply is given in a
leading article from which we make this extract. With our retrospect of
forty years from that date it has an historic interest:
Spiritualists cannot doubt what the end will be-they cannot doubt that,
as time goes on, the Society for Psychical Research will afford as clear
and unquestionable proofs of clairvoyance, of spirit-writing, of
spiritual appearances, and of the various forms of physical phenomena as
they have so successfully afforded of thought-reading. But mean while
there is a sharp line of distinction between the Society for Psychical
Research and the Central Association of Spiritualists. The Spiritualists
have a settled faith-nay, more, a certain knowledge-in regard to facts
about which the Society for Psychical Research would not yet profess to
have any knowledge whatever. The Society for Psychical Research are busy
with phenomena only, seeking evidence of their existence. To them the
idea of spirit communion, of sweet converse with dear departed friends-so
precious to Spiritualists-has no present interest. We speak of them, of
course, as a Society-not of individual members. As a Society they are
studying the mere bones and muscles, and have not yet penetrated to the
heart and soul.
The editor, continuing, takes a dip into the future, though how distant a
future it was destined to prove he could not see:
As a Society, they cannot yet call themselves Spiritualists. As a
Society, they will, as their proofs accumulate, in all probability
become-first, "Spiritualists without the spirits"-and ultimately very
like other Spiritualists, with the added satisfaction that in reaching
that position they have made good every step in their path as they went
along, and have, by their cautious conduct, induced many noble and clever
men and women to tread the same way with them.
In conclusion, the correspondent is assured that there is no antagonism
between the two bodies, and that Spiritualists are confident that the
Society for Psychical Research is doing a most useful work.
The extract is instructive, showing as it does the kindly feelings
entertained by the leading Spiritualist organ towards the new society.
The prophecy accompanying it, however, has been far from realized. In an
exaggerated striving after what was considered to be an impartial,
scientific attitude, a certain little group within the society has
continued for many years to maintain a position, if not of hostility to,
yet of persistent denial of, the reality of physical manifestations
observed with particular mediums. It has mattered not what weight of
testimony was forthcoming from trustworthy men whose qualifications and
experience made them worthy of credence. As soon as the Society for
Psychical Research came to consider such testimony, or, more rarely, to
conduct an investigation for themselves, either open charges of fraud
were levelled against the mediums or possibilities of how the results
might have been obtained by other than supernormal means were suggested.
Thus, we have Mrs. Sidgwick, who is one of the worst offenders in this
respect, saying of a sitting with Mrs. Jencken (Kate Fox), held in light
reported to be sufficient to read print by, when direct writing was
obtained on a sheet of paper supplied by the sitters and placed under the
table: "We thought that Mrs. Jencken might have written the word with her
foot." Of Henry Slade: "The impression on my mind after about ten seances
with Dr. Sladeis that the phenomena are produced by tricks." Of William
Eglinton's slatewriting: "For myself I have now no hesitation in
attributing the performances to clever conjuring." One lady medium, the
daughter of a well-known professor, described to the author how
impossible, and indeed how unconsciously insulting, was the attitude of
Mrs. Sidgwick on such an occasion.
Many further quotations to the same effect, and about other famous
mediums, could be given, as already stated. A paper entitled "Mr.
Eglinton," contributed by Mrs. Sidgwick to the society's JOURNAL in 1886,
caused a storm of angry criticism, and a special supplement of Light was
devoted to letters of protest. In an editorial comment coming from Mr.
Stainton Moses, this newspaper, which in the past had shown such uniform
sympathy with the new body, writes
The Society for Psychical Research have in more than one direction placed
themselves in a false position, and when their attention has been drawn
to the fact, have allowed judgment to go by default. Indeed, the secret
history of "Psychical Research" in England will, when written, prove a
very instructive and suggestive narrative. Moreover, we regret to say
that (and we say it with a full sense of the gravity of our words), as
far as free and full discussion of these matters is concerned, their
policy has been an obstructionist one. In these circumstances, therefore,
it rests with the Society for Psychical Research itself to decide whether
the friction which now unfortunately exists shall be intensified, or
whether a MODUS VIVENDI between themselves and the Spiritualistic body
shall be established. No official disavowal of Mrs. Sidgwick's views as
being representative of the Society has, however, yet been made. That is
assuredly the first step.
The situation here indicated in the fourth year of the existence of this
society has continued with little alteration until the present day. We
can see it well described by Sir Oliver Lodge,* who says of the society,
while of course not agreeing with the dictum: "It has been called a
society for the suppression of facts, for the wholesale imputation of
imposture, for the discouragement of the sensitive, and for the
repudiation of every revelation of the kind which was said to be pressing
itself upon humanity from the regions of light and knowledge."
* "The Survival of Man." (1909), p. 6.
If this criticism be deemed too severe, it at least indicates the tone of
a considerable body of influential opinion regarding the Society for
One of the earliest public activities of the S.P.R. was the journey to
India of their representative, Dr. Richard Hodgson, in order to
investigate the alleged miracles which had occurred at Adyar, the
headquarters of Madame Blavatsky, who had taken so prominent a part in
resuscitating the ancient wisdom of the East and forming it, under the
name of Theosophy, into a philosophic system which would be intelligible
to and acceptable by the West. This is not the place to discuss the mixed
character of that remarkable woman, and it may simply be stated that Dr.
Hodgson formed a most adverse opinion of her and her alleged miracles.
For a time it seemed that this conclusion was final, but later some
reasons were put forward for its reconsideration, the best epitome of
which is to be found in Mrs. Besant's defence.* Mrs. Besant's chief point
is that the witnesses were thoroughly malicious and corrupt, and that
much of the evidence was clearly manufactured. The net result is that
while this and similar episodes will always cast a shadow over Madame
Blavatsky's record, it cannot be said that the particular case was
finally established. In this as in other instances the society's standard
of evidence, when it wishes to prove fraud, is very much more elastic
than when it examines some alleged psychic phenomenon.
* "H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters of Wisdom." (Theosophical Publishing
LIGHT, 1901, p. 523.
It is more pleasing to turn to the thorough examination of the mediumship
of Mrs. Leonora Piper, the celebrated sensitive of Boston, U.S.A., for
this ranks amongst the finest of the results achieved by the Society for
Psychical Research. It was continued over a period of fifteen years, and
the records are voluminous. Among the investigators were such well-known
and competent men as Professor William James, of Harvard University, Dr.
Richard Hodgson, and Professor Hyslop, of Columbia University. These
three were convinced of the genuineness of the phenomena occurring in her
presence, and all favoured the Spiritualistic interpretation of them.
The Spiritualists were naturally jubilant at this justification of their
claims. Mr. E. Dawson Rogers, President of the London Spiritualist
Alliance, at a gathering of that body on October 24, 1901, said:
A little event has occurred during the past few days which it is thought
calls for a few words from myself. As many of you know, our friends of
the Psychical Research Society-or some of them-have come over to our
camp. I do not mean to say they have joined the London Spiritualist
Alliance-but I mean that some who laughed and scoffed at us a few years
ago now proclaim themselves as adherents to our creed; that is, adherents
to the hypothesis or theory that man continues to live after death, and
that under certain conditions it is possible for him to communicate with
those he has left behind.
Well, now, I have a somewhat painful memory of the early history of the
Society for Psychical Research. I was, fortunately or unfortunately, a
member of its first Council, as was also our dear departed friend W.
Stainton Moses. We sat together and we were sadly distressed by the way
in which the Council of the Society for Psychical Research received any
suggestion about the possibility of demonstrating the continued existence
of man after so-called death. The result was that, being unable to endure
it any longer, Mr. Stainton Moses and I resigned our position on the
Council. However, time has had its revenges. At that time our friends
professed to be anxious to discover the truth, but they hoped, and
strongly hoped, that the truth would be that Spiritualism was a fraud.
Happily that time, and that attitude, have passed, and we can now regard
the Society for Psychical Research as an excellent friend. It has gone
assiduously and sedulously to work, and has proved our case-if it needed
proving-up to the hilt. First of all we had our good friend Mr. F. W. H.
Myers, whose memory we all cherish, and we do not forget that Mr. Myers
stated plainly that he had come to the conclusion that the Spiritualistic
hypothesis alone accounted for the phenomena he had himself witnessed.
Then there is Dr. Hodgson. You will remember, those of you who have been
long acquainted with the subject, how earnestly he pursued all who
professed Spiritualism. He was a very Saul persecuting the Christians.
Yet he himself, by virtue of his investigations of the phenomena
occurring in the presence of Mrs. Leonora Piper, came over to our side,
and honestly and fearlessly declared himself a convert to the
Spiritualistic hypothesis. And now within the last few days we have had a
notable volume by Professor Hyslop, of the Columbia University, New York,
and published by the Society for Psychical Research-a book of 650 pages,
which shows that he too, a vice-president of the Society for Psychical
Research, is convinced that the Spiritualistic hypothesis is the only
possible hypothesis to explain the phenomena he has witnessed. They are
all coming in, and I am beginning almost to have a hope of our good
friend Mr. Podmore.
From our vantage ground of twenty odd years later, we see that this
forecast was altogether too optimistic. But the work with Mrs. Piper
stands beyond challenge.
Professor James became acquainted with Mrs. Piper in 1885, through
hearing of the visit of a relative of his who obtained highly interesting
results. Though he was rather sceptical, he determined to investigate for
himself. He obtained a number of evidential messages. For instance, his
mother-in-law had lost her bank-book, but Dr. Phinuit, Mrs. Piper's
control, when asked to help in finding it, told her where it was, and the
statement proved to be correct. On another occasion this control said to
Professor James: "Your child has a boy named Robert F. as a playfellow in
our world." The F.s were cousins of Mrs. James and lived in a distant
town. Professor James told his wife that Dr. Phinuit had made a mistake
in the sex of the dead child of the F.'s, because he had said it was a
boy. But Professor James was wrong; the child was a boy, and the
information supplied was correct. Here there could be no question of
reading the sitter's conscious mind. Many more examples of veridical
communications could be given. Professor James describes Mrs. Piper as an
absolutely simple and genuine person, and says of his investigation, "The
result is to make me feel as absolutely certain as I am of any personal
fact in the world, that she knows things in her trances which she cannot
possibly have heard in her waking state."
After Dr. Richard Hodgson's death in 1905, Professor Hyslop obtained
through Mrs. Piper a series of evidential communications which convinced
him that he was indeed in touch with his friend and fellow-worker.
Hodgson, for instance, reminded him of a private medium about whose
powers the two men had differed. He said he had visited her, adding, "I
found things better than I thought." He spoke of a coloured-water test
which he and Hyslop had employed to test a medium five hundred miles
distant from Boston, and about which Mrs. Piper could know nothing. There
was also the mention of a discussion he had had with Hyslop about cutting
down the manuscript of one of Hyslop's books. The sceptic may object that
these facts were within the knowledge of Professor Hyslop, from whom Mrs.
Piper obtained, them telepathically. But accompanying the communications
there were many evidences of personal peculiarities of Dr. Hodgson which
Professor Hyslop recognized.
To enable the reader to judge the cogency of some of the evidence given
through Mrs. Piper under the Phinuit control, the following case is
* PROCEEDINGS of S.P.R., Vol. VI, p. 509. Quoted in M. Sage's "Mrs. Piper
and the S.P.R.".
At the 45th English sitting on Dec. 24, 1889, when Messrs. Oliver and
Alfred Lodge and Mr. and Mrs. Thompson were the sitters, Phinuit suddenly
"Do you know Richard, Rich, Mr. Rich?"
MRS. THOMPSON: "Not well. I knew a Dr. Rich."
PHINUIT: "That's him. He's passed out. He sends kindest regards to his
At the 83rd sitting, when Mr. and Mrs. Thompson were again present,
Phinuit said all at once: "Here's Dr. Rich!" upon which Dr. Rich proceeds
DR. RICH: "It is very kind of this gentleman" (i.e. Dr. Phinuit) "to let
me speak to you. Mr. Thompson, I want you to give a message to father."
MR. THOMPSON: "I will give it."
DR. RICH: "Thank you a thousand times; it is very good of you. You see, I
passed out rather suddenly. Father was very much troubled about it, and
he is troubled yet. He hasn't got over it. Tell him I am alive-that I
send my love to him. Where are my glasses?" (The medium passes her hands
over her eyes.) "I used to wear glasses." (True.)
"I think he has them, and some of my books. There was a little black case
I had-I think he has that, too.
I don't want that lost. Sometimes he is bothered about a dizzy feeling in
his head-nervous about it-but it is of no consequence."
MR. THOMPSON: "What does your father do?" The medium took up a card and
appeared to write on it, and pretended to put a stamp in the corner.
DR. RICH: "He attends to this sort of thing. Mr. Thompson, if you will
give this message, I will help you in many ways. I can, and I will."
Professor Lodge remarks about this incident: "Mr. Rich, senior, is head
of Liverpool Post Office. His son, Dr. Rich, was almost a stranger to Mr.
Thompson, and quite a stranger to me. The father was much distressed
about his son's death, we find. Mr. Thompson has since been to see him
and given him the message. He (Mr. Rich, senior) considers the episode
very extraordinary and inexplicable, except by fraud of some kind. The
phrase, 'Thank you a thousand times,' he asserts to be characteristic,
and he admits a recent slight dizziness." Mr. Rich did not know what his
son meant by "a black case." The only person who could give any
information about it was at the time in Germany. But it was reported that
Dr. Rich talked constantly about a black case when he was on his
M. Sage comments, "No doubt Mr. and Mrs. Thompson knew Dr. Rich, having
met him once. But they were quite ignorant of all the details here given.
Whence did the medium take them? Not from the influence left on some
object, because there was no such object at the sitting."
Mrs. Piper had several controls at various stages of her long career. The
original one was a Dr. Phinuit, who claimed to have been a French doctor,
but whose account of his own earth life was contradictory and
unsatisfactory. Apart from himself, however, his ministrations were most
remarkable, and he convinced very many people that he was actually an
intermediary between the living and the dead. Some of the objections to
him, however, had force, for though it is quite possible that a prolonged
experience of otherworld conditions may take the edge off our earthly
recollections, it is hardly conceivable that it could do so to the extent
which was implied by the statements of this control. On the other hand,
the alternative theory that he was a secondary personality of Mrs. Piper,
a single strand, as it were, separated from the complete fabric of her
individuality, opens up even greater difficulties, since so much was
given which was beyond any possible knowledge on the part of the medium.
In studying these phenomena Dr. Hodgson, who had been among the most
severe critics of all transcendental explanations, was gradually forced
to accept the spiritual hypothesis as the only one which covered the
facts. He found that telepathy from sitter to medium would not do so. He
was much impressed by the fact that where the communicating intelligence
had been deranged in mind before death, the after messages were obscure
and wild. This would be inexplicable if the messages were mere
reflections from the memory of the sitter. On the other hand, there were
cases, such as that of Hannah Wild, where a message sealed up in lifetime
could not be given after death. While admitting the validity of such
objections, one can but repeat that we should cling to the positive
results and hope that fuller knowledge may give us the key which will
explain those which seem negative. How can we realize what the laws are,
and what the special difficulties, in such an experiment?
In March, 1892, the Phinuit control was largely superseded by the George
Pelham control, and the whole tone of the communications was raised by
the change. George Pelham was a young literary man who was killed at the
age of thirty-two by a fall from his horse. He had taken an interest in
psychic study, and had actually promised Dr. Hodgson that if he should
pass away he would endeavour to furnish evidence. It was a promise which
he very amply fulfilled, and the present author would wish to express his
gratitude, for it was the study of the George Pelham records * which made
his mind receptive and sympathetic until final proofs came to him at the
time of the Great War.
* Dr. Hodgson's Report. PROCEEDINGS of S.P.R., Vol. XIII, pp. 284-582.
M. Sage. "Mrs. Piper and the S.P.R." p. 98.
Pelham preferred to write through Mrs. Piper's hand, and it was no
unusual thing for Phinuit to be talking and Pelham to be writing at the
same moment. Pelham established his identity by meeting thirty old
friends who were unknown to the medium, recognizing them all, and
addressing each in the tone which he had used in life. Never once did he
mistake a stranger for a friend. It is difficult to imagine how
continuity of individuality and power of communication-the two essentials
of Spiritualism-could be more clearly established than by such a record.
It is instructive that the act of communication was very pleasant to
Pelham. "I am happy here, and more so since I find I can communicate with
you. I pity those people who cannot speak." Sometimes he showed ignorance
of the past. M. Sage, commenting upon this, wisely says: "If there is
another world, spirits do not go there to ruminate on what has happened
in our incomplete life: they go there to be carried away in the vortex of
a higher and greater activity. If, therefore, they sometimes forget, it
is not astonishing. Nevertheless, they seem to forget less than we do."
It is clear that if Pelham has established his identity, then all that he
can tell us of his actual experience of the next world is of the utmost
importance. This is where the phenomenal side of Spiritualism gives way
to the religious side, for what assurance from the most venerable of
teachers, or of writings, can give us the same absolute conviction as a
first-hand account from one whom we have known and who is actually
leading the life which he describes? This subject is treated more fully
elsewhere, and so it must suffice here to say that Pelham's account is,
in the main, the same as that which we have so often received, and that
it depicts a life of gradual evolution which is a continuation of earth
life and presents much the same features, though under a generally more
agreeable form. It is not a life of mere pleasure or selfish idleness,
but one where all our personal faculties are given a very wide field of
In 1898 James Hervey Hyslop, Professor of Logic and Ethics at Columbia
University, took the place of Dr. Hodgson as chief experimenter. Starting
in the same position of scepticism, he in turn was forced by the same
experiences to the same conclusions. It is impossible to read his
records, which are given in his various books and also in Vol. XVI of the
S.P.R. Proceedings," without feeling that he could not possibly withstand
the evidence. His father and many of his relatives returned and held
conversations which were far beyond every alternative explanation of
secondary personality or of telepathy. He does not beat about the bush in
his conversation, but he says: "I have been talking with my father, my
brother, my uncles," and everyone who reads his account will be forced to
agree with him. How this society can have such evidence in its own
"Proceedings," and yet, so far as the majority of its Council is
concerned, remain unconverted to the spiritual view, is indeed a mystery.
It can only be explained by the fact that there is a certain self-centred
and limited-though possibly acute type of mind which receives no
impression at all from that which happens to another, and yet is so
constituted that it is the very last sort of mind likely to get evidence
for itself on account of its effect upon the material on which such
evidence depends. In this lies the reason for that which would otherwise
No memory was too small or too definite for the father Hyslop to bring
back to his son. Many of the facts had been forgotten and some never
known by the latter. Two bottles upon his writing-desk, his brown
penknife, his quill pen, the name of his pony, his black cap-people may
describe such things as trivial, but they are essential in establishing
personality. He had been a strict member of some small sect. Only in this
did he seem to have changed. "Orthodoxy does not matter over here. I
should have changed my mind in many things if I had known."
It is interesting to note that when on his sixteenth interview Professor
Hyslop adopted the methods of the Spiritualists, chatting freely and
without tests, he obtained more actual corroboration than in all the
fifteen sittings in which he had adopted every precaution. The incident
confirms the opinion that the less restraint there is at such interviews
the more successful are the results, and that the meticulous researcher
often ruins his own sitting. Hyslop has left it on record that out of 205
incidents mentioned in these conversations he has been able to verify no
fewer than 152.
Perhaps the most interesting and dramatic conversation ever held through
Mrs. Piper is that between her two researchers after the death of Richard
Hodgson in 1905. Here we have two men of first-class brain-Hodgson and
Hyslop--the one "dead," the other with his full faculties, keeping up a
conversation at their accustomed level through the mouth and hand of this
semi-educated and entranced woman. It is a wonderful, almost an
inconceivable situation, that he who had so long been examining the
spirit who used the woman should now actually be the spirit who used the
woman, and be examined in turn by his old colleague. The whole episode is
worthy of careful study.*
* "The Psychic Riddle." Funk, p. 58 and onwards.
So, too, is the succeeding message, alleged to be from Stainton Moses.
The following passage in it should give thought to many of our more
material psychic researchers. The reader can decide for himself whether
it is likely to have had its origin in the mind of Mrs. Piper:
This thought we all wish to impress upon you and upon the friends on
earth, that there is a difference between the entrance into the Spirit
World of those who seek for spiritual unfolding and those who simply seek
for scientific knowledge. Dr. Hodgson says that I shall tell you that it
was a great error that he kept himself so largely attuned to material
life and material things. You will understand he means that he did not
move in the realm of the higher or spiritual. He did not view these
psychic matters from the standpoint that I did. He sought to base
everything mainly on material facts, and did not seek to interpret
anything wholly as spiritual. One that comes over as he came over is
transplanted from one sphere of life into another like a babe just born.
He has been besieged since he is here with messages started from your
side. All manner of questions are being carried to him by messengers.
This is all in vain: he cannot answer. He repeats that I shall tell you
he realizes now that he saw only one side of this great question, and
that the lesser important.
Some description of this remarkable medium may interest the reader. Mr.
A. J. Philpott says of her:
I found her a comely, well-built and healthy-looking woman of middle age,
above the medium height, with brownish hair and a rather good-natured and
matronly cast of countenance. She looked like a well-to-do woman without
any particularly marked characteristics, either intellectual or
otherwise. I had rather expected to find a different type of woman,
somebody that would show more evidence of nerves; this woman looked as
calm and phlegmatic as a German HAUSFRAU. She evidently never had
bothered herself with metaphysical or any other kind of questions of a
vague or abstract character. Somehow, she reminded me of a nurse I had
seen in a hospital at one time-a calm, self-possessed woman.
Like many other great mediums, such as Margaret Fox-Kane, she was very
agnostic as to the source of her own powers, which is the more natural in
her case since she was always in deep trance, and had only second-hand
accounts from which to judge what occurred. She was inclined herself to
some crude and superficial telepathic explanation. As in the case of
Eusapia Palladino, her mediumship came on after an injury to the head.
Her powers seem to have left her as suddenly as they carne. The author
met her in New York in 1922, at which time she seemed to have completely
lost all her personal gifts, though she still retained her interest in
The society has devoted an enormous amount of patient work to the
consideration of what are known as "cross correspondences." Many hundreds
of pages in the society's "Proceedings" are given to this subject, which
has aroused acute controversy.
It has been suggested that the scheme was originated on the Other Side by
F. W. H. Myers as a method of communication that would eliminate that
bugbear of so many psychic researchers-telepathy from the living. It is
at least a certainty that while he was on earth Myers had considered the
project in a simpler form, namely, to get the same word or message
through two mediums.
But the cross correspondence of the S.P.R. is in the main of a much more
complicated character. In this, one script is not a mere reproduction of
statements made in another; the scripts seem rather designed to represent
different aspects of the same idea, and often the information in one is
explanatory and complementary of that in another.
Miss Alice Johnson, the Research Officer of the S.P.R., was the first to
notice this link between the scripts. She cites this simple instance:
In one case, Mrs. Forbes's script, purporting to come from her son
Talbot, stated that he must now leave her, since he was looking for a
sensitive who wrote automatically, in order that he might obtain
corroboration of her own writing.
Mrs. Verrall, on the same day, wrote of a fir tree planted in a garden,
and the script was signed with a sword and suspended bugle. The latter
was part of the badge of the regiment to which Talbot Forbes had
belonged, and Mrs. Forbes had in her garden some fir trees, grown from
seed sent to her by her son. These facts were unknown to Mrs. Verrall.
Miss Johnson, who made a close study of the scripts coming through Mrs.
Thompson, Mrs. Forbes, Mrs. Verrall, Mrs. Willett) Mrs. Piper, and
others, thus describes the conclusion to which she came:
The characteristic of these cases-or, at least, some of them-is that we
do not get in the writing of one automatist anything like a mechanical
verbatim reproduction of phrases in the other. We do not even get the
same idea expressed in different ways-as might well result from direct
telepathy between them. What we get is a fragmentary utterance in one
script, which seems to have no particular point or meaning, and another
fragmentary utterance in the other, of an equally pointless character;
but when we put the two together, we see that they supplement one
another, and that there is apparently one coherent idea underlying both,
but only partially expressed in each.
She says*--what is by no means the fact, because hundreds of cases to the
contrary can be cited--that:
* S.P.R. Proceedings, Vol. XXI, p. 375.
The weakness of all well-authenticated cases of apparent telepathy from
the dead is, of course, that they can generally be explained by telepathy
from the living.
And she adds:
In these cross correspondences, however, we find apparently telepathy
relating to the present-that is, the corresponding statements are
approximately contemporaneous, and to events in the present which, to all
intents and purposes, are unknown to any living person, since the meaning
and point of her script is often uncomprehended by each automatist until
the solution is found through putting the two scripts together. At the
same time we have proof of what has occurred in the scripts themselves.
Thus it appears that this method is directed towards satisfying our
The student who will undertake the immense labour of carefully examining
these documents-they run into hundreds of printed pages-may perhaps be
satisfied by the evidence presented.
But, as a matter of fact, we find that many able and experienced psychic
researchers consider it unsatisfactory. Here are a few opinions on the
These are certainly well-marked cases of cryptesthesia, but whether there
is cryptesthesia, or lucidity, or telepathy, these do not in any way
imply survival of a conscious personality.*
* "Thirty Years of Psychical Research."
It has to be remembered, however, that Richet is not an impartial
controversialist, since an admission of Spirit would contradict all the
teachings of his lifetime.
Dr. Joseph Maxwell is of the same school of thought as Richet. He says:
It is impossible to admit the intervention of a spirit. We want proof of
facts, and the system of cross correspondences is founded on negative
facts and is an unstable foundation. Only positive facts have an
intrinsic value, which cross correspondences cannot show, not at present,
at any rate.
It may be remarked that Maxwell, like Richet, has now come a long way
towards the Spiritualistic position.
We find the matter discussed with fitting gravity in the London
Even if such things (i.e. cross correspondences of a complex type) were
common, might it not be argued that they would only prove that some
conscious being was producing them; that they would scarcely prove that
the conscious being was "in the spirit"; that they would certainly not
prove that he was the particular dead person that he claimed to be? A
cross correspondence is a possible proof of organization, not of
It is true that many able men like Sir Oliver Lodge and Mr. Gerald
Balfour accept the evidence from cross correspondences. But if these
satisfy only a comparative few, then their object has not been achieved.
Here are a few examples of the simpler kind taken from the S.P.R.
"Proceedings." As anything from fifty to a hundred printed pages are
devoted to a single one of the more complicated cases, it is difficult
adequately to summarize them in a brief space, and it is impossible to
exaggerate how wearisome they are to the reader in their entirety.
On March 11, 1907, at one o'clock, Mrs. Piper said in the waking stage:
On the same day at 11 a.m. Mrs. Verrall wrote automatically:
"With violet buds their heads were crowned."
"Violacea? odores." (Violet-coloured scents.) "Violet and olive leaf,
purple and hoary." The city of the violet"
On April 8, 1907, the alleged spirit of Myers, through Mrs. Piper, said
to Mrs. Sidgwick:
"Do you remember Euripides?Do you remember Spirit and Angel? I gave
bothNearly all the words I have written to-day are with reference to
messages I am trying to give through Mrs. V."
Mrs. Verrall had, on March 7, in the course of an automatic script, the
words "Hercules Furens" and "Euripides." And on March 25 Mrs. Verrall had
The Hercules play comes in there and the clue is in the Euripides play,
if you could only see it.
This certainly seems beyond coincidence. Again, on April 16, 1907, Mrs.
Holland in India produced a script in which came the words "Mors" and
"The shadow of death."
On the following day Mrs. Piper uttered the word Tanatos (obviously a
mispronunciation of THANATOS-being the Greek word for "death," as Mors is
On April 29 Mrs. Verrall wrote a script wholly occupied with the idea of
Death, with quotations from Landor, Shakespeare, Virgil, and Horace, all
involving the idea of Death.
On April 30 Mrs. Piper, in the waking stage, repeated the word THANATOS
three times in close succession.
Here again the theory of coincidence would seem to be far-fetched.
Another cross correspondence concerned with the phrase AVE ROMA
IMMORTALIS is a very lengthy one. Mr. Gerald Balfour discussing it * says
that the completed idea was a well-known picture in the Vatican.
* S.P.R. PROCEEDINGS, Vol. XXV., p. 54.
Mrs. Verrall's script gave details of the picture unmeaning to herself,
but made clear by the phrase five Roma immortalis, which came a few days
later in Mrs. Holland's script.
An interesting feature was the apparent understanding by the control of
what was being done.
On March 2, when the cross correspondence began, Mrs. Verrall wrote that
she would have word sent "through another lady" that would elucidate
matters. On March 7, when the cross correspondence ended, Mrs. Holland's
contribution was followed by the words: "How could I make it any clearer
without giving her the clue?"
Mr. Gerald Balfour considers, with reason, that these two comments show
that this cross correspondence was being deliberately brought about.
Sir Oliver Lodge, in commenting on the way the meaning is ingeniously
wrapped up in these cross correspondences, says of one of them:
The ingenuity and subtlety and literary allusiveness made the record
difficult to read, even when disentangled and presented by the skill of
This criticism, from one who has been convinced of their veridical
character, is sufficient indication that cross correspondences are not
likely to make anything more than a limited appeal. To the ordinary
Spiritualist they seem an exceedingly roundabout method of demonstrating
that which can be proved by easier and more convincing methods. If a man
were to endeavour to prove the existence of America by picking up
driftwood upon the European shores, as Columbus once did, instead of
getting into touch with the land or its inhabitants, it would present a
rough analogy to such circuitous methods of investigation.
Apart from the cross correspondence scripts, several others have been
closely analysed by the S.P.R., the most remarkable and convincing being
that which has been named "the Ear of Dionysius." It must be admitted
that after the lowly and occasionally sordid atmosphere of physical
phenomena these intellectual excursions do lift one into a purer and more
rarefied atmosphere. The cross correspondences were too prolonged and
complicated to ensure acceptance, and had a painful resemblance to some
pedantic parlour game. It is otherwise with the Ear of Dionysius. It
necessarily takes on an academic tone, since it is a classical subject,
handled presumably by two professors, but it is a very direct and clear
attempt to prove survival by showing that none save these particular men
could have produced the script, and that certainly it was beyond the
knowledge or faculties of the writer.
This writer, who chooses to assume the name of Mrs. Willett, produced in
1910 the phrase "Dionysius's Ear. The Lobe." It chanced that Mrs.
Verrall, the wife of a famous classical scholar, was present, and she
referred the phrase to her husband. He explained that the name was given
to a huge abandoned quarry at Syracuse, which was roughly shaped like a
donkey's ear. In this place the unhappy Athenian captives had been
confined after that famous defeat which has been immortalized by
Thucydides, and it had received its name because its peculiar acoustic
properties were said to have enabled Dionysius the Tyrant to overhear the
talk of his victims.
Dr. Verrall died shortly afterwards, and in 1914 the script of Mrs.
Willett began to contain many references to the Ear of Dionysius. These
appeared to emanate from the deceased doctor. For example, one sentence
ran: "Do you remember that you did not know, and I complained of your
classical ignorance? It concerned a place where slaves were kept and
audition belongs-also acoustics. Think of the whispering gallery."
Some of the allusions, such as the foregoing, pointed to Dr. Verrall,
while others seemed to be associated with another deceased scholar who
had passed on in 1910. This was Professor S. H. Butcher, of Edinburgh.
Thus the script said: "Father Cam walking arm-in-arm with the Canongate,"
i.e. Cambridge with Edinburgh. The whole strange mosaic was described by
one control as "a literary association of ideas pointing to the influence
of two discarnate minds." This idea was certainly carried out, and no one
can read the result carefully without the conviction that it has its
origin in something entirely remote from the writer. So recondite were
the classical allusions that even the best scholars were occasionally
baffled, and one of them declared that no minds with which he was
acquainted, save only those of Verrall and Butcher, could have produced
the result. After careful examination of the records, Mr. Gerald Balfour
declared that he was prepared to accept the reputed as "the real authors
of this curious literary puzzle." The unseen communicators seem to have
got weary of such roundabout methods and Butcher is represented as
saying: "Oh, this old bothersome rubbish is so tiresome!" None the less,
the result achieved is one of the most clear-cut and successful of any of
the purely intellectual explorations of the S.P.R.
The work of the S.P.R. during recent years has not enhanced its
reputation, and it is with reluctance that the author, who is one of the
oldest members, is compelled to say so. The central machinery of the
society has come into the hands of a circle of men whose one care seems
to be not to prove truth but to disprove what seems preternatural. Two
great men, Lodge and Barrett, stemmed the tide, but they were outvoted by
the obstructionists. Spiritualists, and particularly mediums, look upon
the investigators and their methods with aversion. It seems never to have
dawned upon these people that the medium is, or should be, inert, and
that there may be an intelligent force behind the medium which can only
be conciliated and encouraged by gentle sympathy and thoughtful, tactful
Eva, the materializing medium, came from France, but the results were
meagre, and excessive exaggerated precautions defeated the end in view.
The report in which the committee announce their conclusions is a
contradictory document, for whereas the casual reader would gather from
it that no results-or none worth recording-were obtained, the text is
actually illustrated with photographs of ectoplasmic extrusions exactly
resembling in miniature those which had been obtained in Paris.
Madame Bisson, who accompanied her protege to London, at great
inconvenience to them both, was naturally indignant at such a result, and
Dr. Geley published an incisive paper in the, "Proceedings" of the
Institut Metapsychique in which he exposed the fallacies of the
investigation and the worthlessness of the report. Professors of the
Sorbonne may be excused for handling Eva with no regard for psychic law,
but the representatives of a scientific psychic body should have shown
The attack upon Mr. Hope, the psychic photographer, was examined by a
strong independent committee and was shown to be quite unsound, and even
to bear some signs of a conspiracy against the medium. In this
ill-considered affair the society was directly implicated, since one of
its officers took part in the proceedings, and the result was chronicled
in the official JOURNAL. The whole history of this case, and the refusal
of the society to face the facts when they were pointed out to them,
leave a shadow upon the record of all concerned.
Yet when all is said and done, the world has been the better for the
existence of the S.P.R. It has been a clearing-house for psychic ideas,
and a half-way house for those who were attracted to the subject and yet
dreaded closer contact with so radical a philosophy as Spiritualism.
There has been a constant movement among the members from the right of
negation to the left of acceptance. The mere fact that a succession of
the presidents have been professed Spiritualists is, in itself, a sign
that the anti-spiritual element was not too intolerant or intolerable. On
the whole, like all human institutions, it is open to both praise and
censure. If it has had its dark passages, it has also been illuminated by
occasional periods of brightness. It has constantly had to fight against
the imputation of being a purely Spiritualistic society, which would have
deprived it of that position of judicial impartiality which it claimed,
but did not always exercise. The situation was often a difficult one, and
the mere fact that the society has held its own for so many years is a
proof that there has been some wisdom in its attitude; and we can but
hope that the period of sterility and barren negative criticism may be
drawing to an end. Meanwhile the Psychic College, an institution founded
by the self-sacrificing work of Mr. and Mrs. Hewat McKenzie, has amply
shown that a stern regard for truth and for the necessary evidential
requirements are not incompatible with a human treatment of mediums, and
a generally sympathetic attitude towards the Spiritualistic point of
From very early days Spiritualists have contended that there was some
physical material basis for the phenomena. A hundred times in early
Spiritual literature you will find descriptions of the semi-luminous
thick vapour which oozes from the side or the mouth of a medium and is
dimly visible in the gloom. They had even gone further and had observed
how the vapour in turn solidifies to a plastic substance from which the
various structures of the seance room are built up. More exact scientific
observation could only confirm what these pioneers had stated.
To take a few examples: Judge Peterson states that in 1877 he saw with
the medium W. Lawrence "a fleecy cloud" that seemed to issue from the
side of the medium and gradually formed into a solid body.* He also
speaks of a figure forming out of "a ball of light." James Curtis saw
with Slade in Australia in 1878 a "cloud-like, whitish grey vapour"
forming and accumulating, preparatory to the appearance of a fully
materialized figure. Alfred Russel Wallace describes seeing with Dr.
Monck, first a "white patch," which then gradually formed into a "cloudy
pillar." This same expression, "cloudy pillar," is used by Mr. Alfred
Smedley of an appearance with the medium Williams, when John King
manifested, and he also speaks of it as "a slightly illuminated cloud."
Sir William Crookes saw with the medium D. D. Home a "luminous cloud"
which condensed into a perfectly formed hand. Mr. E. A. Brackett saw with
the medium Helen Berry in the United States in 1885 "a small, white,
cloud-like substance" which expanded until it was four or five feet high,
"when suddenly from it the full, round, sylphlike form of Bertha stepped
forward."** Mr. Edmund Dawson Rogers, in his narrative of a sitting with
Eglinton in 1885, speaks of seeing emerging from the medium's side "a
dingy, white-looking substance" that swayed and pulsated. Mr. Vincent
Turvey, the well-known sensitive of Bournemouth, tells of "red, sticky
matter" drawn from the medium. Particular interest attaches to a
description given by that wonderful medium for materialization, Madame
d'Esperance, who says: "It seemed that I could feel fine threads being
drawn out of the pores of my skin."à This has an important bearing on the
researches of Dr. Crawford, and his remarks on "psychic rods" and
"spore-like matter." We find, too, in The Spiritualist that while the
materialized spirit Katie King was manifesting herself through Miss
Florence Cook, "She was connected with the medium by cloudy, faintly
luminous threads." ***
* "Essays from the Unseen."
** "Materialized Apparitions," p. 106. "Beginnings of Seership," p. 55.
"Shadow Land," p. 229.
*** THE SPIRITUALIST, 1873, p. 83.
As a pendant to these abbreviated references, let us give in detail three
experiences of the formation of ectoplasm. One of the sitters in Madame
d'Esperance's circle supplies the following description:
First a filmy, cloudy patch of something white is observed on the floor
in front of the cabinet. It then gradually expands, visibly extending
itself as if it were an animated patch of muslin, lying fold upon fold,
on the floor, until extending about two and a half by three feet, and
having a depth of a few inches-perhaps six or more Presently it begins to
rise slowly in or near the centre, as if a human head were underneath it,
while the cloudy film on the floor begins to look more like muslin
falling into folds about the portion so mysteriously rising. By the time
it has attained two or more feet it looks as if a child were under it,
and moving its arms about in all directions, as if manipulating something
underneath. It continues rising, sometimes sinking somewhat to rise again
higher than before, until it attains a height of about five feet, when
its form can be seen as if arranging the folds of drapery about its
figure. Presently the arms rise considerably above the head and open
outwards through a mass of cloud-like spirit drapery, and Yolande stands
before us unveiled, graceful and beautiful, nearly five feet in height,
having a turban-like head-dress, from beneath which her long black hair
hangs over her shoulders and down her back. The superfluous white,
veil-like drapery is wrapped round her for convenience, or thrown down on
the carpet, out of the way till required again. All this occupies from
ten to fifteen minutes to accomplish.*
* "Shadow Land," by E. d'Esperance (1897), pp. 254-5.
"Life and Experience," p. 58.
The second account is by Mr. Edmund Dawson Rogers. He says that at the
seance, exclusive of Mr. Eglinton, the medium, there were fourteen
persons present, all well known, and that there was sufficient light to
enable the writer of the report "clearly to observe everybody and
everything in the room," and when the "form" stood before him he was
"distinctly able to note every feature." Mr. Eglinton in a state of
trance paced about the room between the sitters for five minutes, and
He began gently to draw from his side and pay out at right angles a
dingy, white-looking substance, which fell down at his left side. The
mass of white material on the floor increased in breadth, commenced to
pulsate and move up and down, also swaying from side to side, the motor
power being underneath. The height of this substance increased to about
three feet, and shortly afterwards the "form" quickly and quietly grew to
its full stature. By a quick movement of his hand Mr. Eglinton drew away
the white material which covered the head of the "form" and it fell back
over the shoulders and became part of the clothing of the visitor. The
connecting link (the white appearance issuing from the side of the
medium) was severed or became invisible, and the "form" advanced to Mr.
Everitt, shook hands with him, and passed round the circle, treating
nearly everyone in the same manner.
This occurred in London in 1885.
The last description is of a seance in Algiers in 1905 with Eva C., then
known as Marthe Beraud. Madame X. writes:*
* "Annals of Psychical Science," Vol. II, p. 305.
Marthe was alone in the cabinet on this occasion. After waiting for about
twenty-five minutes Marthe herself opened the curtain to its full extent
and then sat down in her chair. Almost immediately--with Marthe in full
view of the sitters, her hands, head, and body distinctly visible--we saw
a white, diaphanous-looking thing gradually build itself up close to
Marthe. It looked first of all like a large cloudy patch near Marthe's
right elbow, and appeared to be attached to her body; it was very mobile,
and grew rapidly both upward and downward, finally assuming the somewhat
amorphous appearance of a cloudy pillar extending from about two feet
above the head of Marthe to her feet. I could distinguish neither hands
nor head; what I saw looked like white fleecy clouds of varying
brilliancy, which were gradually condensing, concentrating themselves
around some-to me invisible-body.
Here we have an account which tallies in a wonderful way with those we
have quoted from seances many years previously.
When we examine the descriptions of the appearance of ectoplasm in
Spiritualistic circles forty and fifty years ago, and compare them with
those in our own day, we see how much richer were the earlier results.
Then "unscientific" methods were in vogue, according to the view of many
modern psychical researchers. At least, however, the earlier researchers
observed one golden rule. They surrounded the medium with an atmosphere
of love and sympathy. Discussing the first materializations that occurred
in England, The Spiritualist in a leading article* says:
* 1873. pp. 82-3.
The influence of the spiritual state of the observers finds optical
expression at face seances. Worldly and suspicious people get the feebler
manifestations; the spirits then have often a pale ghastly look, as usual
when the power is weak. [This is a singularly exact description of many
of the faces at seances with Eva C.] Spiritual people, in whose presence
the medium feels thoroughly happy, see by far the finest manifestations.
Although spiritual phenomena are governed by fixed laws, those laws so
work in practice that Spiritualism undoubtedly partakes much of the
character of a special revelation to special people.
Mr. E. A. Brackett, author of that remarkable book, "Materialized
Apparitions," expresses the same truth in another way. His view will, of
course, excite derision in so-called scientific circles, but it embodies
a deep truth. It is the spirit of his words rather than their literal
interpretation that he means to convey:
The key that unlocks the glories of another life is pure affection,
simple and confiding as that which prompts the child to throw its arms
around its mother's neck. To those who pride themselves upon their
intellectual attainments, this may seem to be a surrender of the exercise
of what they call the higher faculties. So far from this being the case,
I can truly say that until I adopted this course, sincerely and without
reservation, I learned nothing about these things. Instead of clouding my
reason and judgment, it opened my mind to a clearer and more intelligent
perception of what was passing before me. That spirit of gentleness, of
loving kindness, which more than anything else crowns with eternal beauty
the teachings of the Christ, should find its full expression in our
association with these beings.
If anyone should think from this passage that the author was a poor,
credulous fool upon whom any fraudulent medium could easily impose, a
perusal of his excellent book will quickly prove the contrary.
Moreover, his method worked. He had been struggling with doubt and
perplexity, when, on the advice tendered by a materialized spirit, he
decided to lay aside all reserve and "greet these forms as dear departed
friends who had come from afar and had struggled hard to reach me." The
change was instantaneous.
From that moment the forms, which had seemed to lack vitality, became
animated with marvellous strength. They sprang forward to greet me;
tender arms were clasped around me; forms that had been almost dumb
during my investigations now talked freely; faces that had worn more the
character of a mask than of real life now glowed with beauty. What
claimed to be my nieceoverwhelmed me with demonstrations of regard.
Throwing her arms around me, and laying her head upon my shoulder, she
looked up and said "Now we can all come so near you."
It is a thousand pities that Eva C. could not have had a chance to
display her powers in the loving atmosphere of an old-fashioned
Spiritualist seance. It is quite certain that a very different order of
materializations would have been the result. As a proof of this Madame
Bisson, in a private family circle with her, secured wonderful results
never obtained with the thumb-screw methods of scientific investigators.
The first materializing medium who can be said to have been investigated
with scientific care was this girl Eva, or Eva C., as she is usually
described, her second name being Carriere. In 1903 she was examined in a
series of sittings at the Villa Carmen in Algiers by Professor Charles
Richet, and it was his observation of the curious white material which
seemed to be extruded from her person which led to his coining the word
"ectoplasm." Eva was then in her nineteenth year and at the height of her
powers, which were gradually sapped by long years of constrained
investigation. Some attempt was made to cast doubt upon Richet's results
and to pretend that the materialized figures were in truth some domestic
in disguise, but the final answer is that the experiments were carried on
behind locked doors, and that similar results have been obtained many
times since. It is only poetic justice that Professor Richet should have
been subjected to this unfair and annoying criticism, for in his great
book, "Thirty Years of Psychical Research," he is most unfair to mediums,
believing every tale to their discredit, and acting continually upon the
principle that to be accused is the same thing as to be condemned.
In his first reports, published in the "Annals of Psychical Science,"
Richet describes at great length the appearance with the medium Eva C. of
the materialized form of a man who called himself "Bien Boa." The
professor says that this form possessed all the attributes of life. "It
walks, speaks, moves, and breathes like a human being. Its body is
resistant, and has a certain muscular strength. It is neither a lay
figure nor a doll, nor an image reflected by a mirror; It is as a living
being; it is as a living man; and there are reasons for resolutely
setting aside every other supposition than one or the other of these two
hypotheses: either that of a phantom having the attributes of life; or
that of a living person playing the part of a phantom." * He discusses in
detail his reasons for dismissing the possibility of it being a case of
* "Annals of Psychical Science," Vol. II, p. 273.
Describing the disappearance of the form, he writes:
Bien Boa tries, as it seems to me, to come among us, but he has a
limping, hesitating gait. I could not say whether he walks or glides. At
one moment he reels as though about to fall, limping with one leg, which
seems unable to support him (I give my own impression). Then he goes
towards the opening of the curtains. Then without, as far as I believe,
opening the curtains, he suddenly sinks down, disappears into the ground,
and at the same time a sound of "Clac! clac!" is heard like the noise of
a body thrown on to the ground.
While this was taking place the medium in the cabinet was plainly seen by
another sitter, Gabriel Delanne, editor of the Revue du Spiritisme.
A very little time afterwards (two, three or four minutes) at the very
feet of the General, in the opening of the curtains, we again see the
same white ball (his head?) on the ground; it mounts rapidly, quite
straight, rises to the height of a man, then suddenly sinks down to the
ground, with the same noise, "Clac! clac!" of a body falling on to the
ground. The General felt the shock of the limbs, which in falling struck
his leg with some violence.
The sudden appearance and disappearance of the figure so much resembled
action through a trap-door that next day Richet made a minute examination
of the stone-flagged floor, and also of the roof of the coach-house
underneath, without finding a trace of any trap-door. To allay absurd
rumours of its existence, he afterwards obtained a certificate from the
The interest of these records of the early manifestations is increased
from the fact that at this time the medium obtained complete
materializations, while at a later date in Paris these were extremely
rare at her seances.
A curious experiment with Bien Boa was in trying to get him to breathe
into a flask of baryta water to see if the breath would show carbon
dioxide. With difficulty the form did as he was asked, and the liquid
showed the expected reaction. During this experiment the forms of the
medium and a native girl who sat with her in the cabinet were clearly
Richet records an amusing incident during this experiment. When the
baryta water was turned white, the sitters shouted, "Bravo!" at which the
form of Bien Boa appeared three times at the opening of the curtain, and
bowed, like an actor in a theatre taking a call.
Richet and Delanne took many photographs of Bien Boa, and these Sir
Oliver Lodge described as the best of the kind he had seen. A striking
feature about them is that an arm of the medium presents a flat
appearance, pointing to the process of partial dematerialization so well
observed with another medium, Madame d'Esperance. Richet acutely
observes: * "I am not afraid of saying that the emptiness of this sleeve,
far from demonstrating the presence of fraud, establishes on the contrary
that there was no fraud; also that it seems to speak in favour of a sort
of material disaggregation of the medium which she herself was incapable
* "Annals of Psychical Science," Vol. II, p. 238.
In his last book, already referred to, Richet publishes for the first
time an account of a splendid materialization he saw at the Villa Carmen.
Almost as soon as the curtains were drawn, they were reopened, and
between them appeared the face of a young and beautiful woman with a kind
of gilt ribbon or diadem covering her fair hair and the crown of her
head. She was laughing heartily and seemed greatly amused; I can still
vividly recall her laugh and her pearly teeth. She appeared two or three
times showing her head and then hiding it, like a child playing bo-peep.
He was told to bring scissors the next day, when he would be permitted to
cut a lock of the hair of this Egyptian queen, as she was termed. He did
The Egyptian queen returned, but only showed the crown of her head with
very fair and very abundant hair; she was anxious to know if I had
brought the scissors.
I then took a handful of her long hair, but I could scarcely distinguish
the face that she kept concealed behind the curtain. As I was about to
cut a lock high up, a firm hand behind the curtain lowered mine so that I
cut only about six inches from the end. As I was rather slow about doing
this, she said in a low voice, "Quick! Quick!" and disappeared. I have
kept this lock; it is very fine, silky and undyed. Microscopical
examination shows it to be real hair; and I am informed that a wig of the
same would cost a thousand francs. Marthe's hair is very dark and she
wears her hair rather short.*
* "Thirty Years of Psychical Research," p. 508.
Reference may be made, in passing, to what Professor Richet calls
"ignoble newspaper tales" of an alleged confession of deceit by the
medium, and also to the assertion of an Arab coachman in the employ of
General Noel, who pretended that he had played the part of the ghost at
the Villa Carmen. As regards the latter, the man was never on any
occasion admitted into the seance room, while as to the former the medium
has herself publicly denied the charge. Richet observes that even if the
charge were true, psychic researchers were aware of what value to attach
to such revelations, which only showed the instability of mediums.
Richet sums up:
The materializations given by Marthe Beraud are of the highest
importance. They have presented numerous facts illustrating the general
processes of materializations, and have supplied metapsychic science with
entirely new and unforeseen data.
This is his final reasoned judgment.
The first prolonged systematic investigation of ectoplasm was undertaken
by a French lady, Madame Bisson, the widow of Adolphe Bisson, a
well-known public man. It is probable that Madame Bisson will take a
place beside her compatriot Madame Curie in the annals of science. Madame
Bisson acquired considerable personal influence over Eva, who had after
the Algiers experiments been subjected to the usual intolerant
persecution. She took her into her care and provided for her in all ways.
She then began a series of experiments which lasted for five years, and
which gave such solid results that not one, but several, sciences may in
the future take their origin from them. In these experiments she
associated herself with Dr. Schrenck Notzing, a German savant from
Munich, whose name will also be imperishably connected with the original
investigation of ectoplasm. Their studies were carried on between 1908
and 1913, and are recorded in her book "Les Phenomenes dits de
Materialisation" and in Schrenck Notzing's "Phenomena of
Materialisation," which has been translated into English.
Their method was to make Eva C. change all her garments under
supervision, and to dress her in a gown which had no buttons and was
fastened at the back. Only her hands and feet were free. She was then
taken into the experimental room, to which she had access at no other
time. At one end of this room was a small space shut in by curtains at
the back and sides and top, but open in front. This was called the
cabinet and the object of it was to concentrate the ectoplasmic vapour.
In describing their joint results the German savant says: "We have very
often been able to establish that by an unknown biological process there
comes from the body of the medium a material, at first semi-fluid, which
possesses some of the properties of a living substance, notably that of
the power of change, of movement, and of the assumption of definite
forms." He adds: "One might doubt the truth of these facts if they had
not been verified hundreds of times in the course of laborious tests
under varied and very strict conditions." Could there be, so far as this
substance is concerned, a more complete vindication of those early
Spiritualists who for two generations had borne with patience the
ridicule of the world? Schrenck Notzing ends his dignified preface by
exhorting his fellow-worker to take heart. "Do not allow yourself to be
discouraged in your efforts to open a new domain for science either by
foolish attacks, by cowardly calumnies, by the misrepresentation of
facts, by the violence of the malevolent, or by any sort of intimidation.
Advance always along the path that you have opened, thinking of the words
of Faraday, 'Nothing is too amazing to be true.'"
The results are among the most notable of any series of investigations of
which we have record. It was testified by numerous competent witnesses,
and confirmed by photographs, that there oozed from the medium's mouth,
ears, nose, eyes, and skin this extraordinary gelatinous material. The
pictures are strange and repulsive, but many of Nature's processes seem
so in our eyes. You can see this streaky, viscous stuff hanging like
icicles from the chin, dripping down on to the body, and forming a white
apron over the front, or projecting in shapeless lumps from the orifices
of the face. When touched, or when undue light came upon it, it writhed
back into the body as swiftly and stealthily as the tentacles of a hidden
octopus. If it was seized and pinched the medium cried aloud. It would
protrude through clothes and vanish again, leaving hardly any trace upon
them. With the assent of the medium, a small piece was amputated. It
dissolved in the box in which it was placed as snow would have done,
leaving moisture and some large cells which might have come from a
fungus. The microscope also disclosed epithelial cells from the mucous
membrane in which the stuff seemed to originate.
The production of this strange ectoplasm is enough in itself to make such
experiments revolutionary and epoch-making, but what follows is far
stranger, and will answer the question in every reader's mind, "What has
all this to do with spirits?" Utterly incredible as it may appear, this
substance after forming begins, in the case of some mediums-Eva being
one-to curdle into definite shapes, and those shapes are human limbs and
human faces, seen at first in two dimensions upon the flat, and then
moulding themselves at the edges until they become detached and complete.
Very many of the photographs exhibit these strange phantoms, which are
often much smaller than life. Some of these faces probably represent
thought-forms from the brain of Eva taking visible form, and a clear
resemblance has been traced between some of them and pictures which she
may have seen and stored in the memory. One, for example, looks like an
extremely rakish President Wilson with a moustache, while another
resembles a ferocious rendering of M. Poincare. One of them shows the
word "Miroir" printed over the head of the medium, which some critics
have claimed as showing that she had smuggled in the journal of that name
in order to exhibit it, though what the object of such a proceeding could
be has not been explained. Her own explanation was that the controlling
forces had in some way, possibly by "apport," brought in the legend in
order to convey the idea that these faces and figures are not their real
selves, but their selves as seen in a mirror.
Even now the reader may see no obvious connexion with Spiritualism, but
the next stage takes us all the way. When Eva is at her best, and it
occurs only at long intervals and at some cost to her own health, there
forms a complete figure; this figure is moulded to resemble some deceased
person, the cord which binds it to the medium is loosened, a personality
which either is or pretends to be that of the dead takes possession of
it, and the breath of life is breathed into the image so that it moves
and talks and expresses the emotions of the spirit within. The last word
of the Bisson record is: "Since these seances, and on numerous occasions,
the entire phantom has shown itself, it has come out of the cabinet, has
begun to speak, and has reached Mme. Bisson, whom it has embraced on the
cheek. The sound of the kiss was audible." Was there ever a stranger
finale of a scientific investigation? It may serve to illustrate how
impossible it is for even the cleverest of materialists to find any
explanation of such facts which is consistent with his theories. The only
one which Mr. Joseph McCabe, in his recent public debate, could put
forward was that it was a case of the regurgitation of food! He seemed to
be unaware that a close-meshed veil was worn over the medium's face in
some of the experiments, without in the least hampering the flow of the
These results, though checked in all possible ways, are none the less so
amazing that the inquirer had a right to suspend judgment until they were
confirmed. But this has now been fully done. Dr. Schrenck Notzing
returned to Munich, and there he was fortunate enough to find another
medium, a Polish lady, who possessed the faculty of materialization. With
her he conducted a series of experiments which he has recorded in the
book, already mentioned. Working with Stanislawa, the Polish medium, and
adopting the same strict methods as with Eva, he produced exactly the
same results. His book overlaps that of Mme. Bisson, since he gives an
account of the Paris experiments, but the most important part is the
corroboration furnished by his check experiments in the summer of 1912 in
Munich. The various photographs of the ectoplasm, so far as they go, are
hardly to be distinguished from those already taken, so that any theory
of elaborate fraud upon the part of Eva postulates the same fraud on the
part of Stanislawa. Many German observers checked the sittings.
In his thorough Teutonic fashion Schrenck Notzing goes deeper into the
matter than Mme. Bisson. He obtained hair from one of the materialized
forms and compared it microscopically with hair from Eva (this incident
occurred in the French series), showing by several tests that it could
not be from the same person. He gave also the chemical result of an
examination of a small portion of ectoplasm, which burned to an ash,
leaving a smell as of horn. Chloride of sodium (common salt) and
phosphate of calcium were amongst the constituents. Finally, he actually
obtained a cinematograph record of the ectoplasm pouring from the mouth
of the medium. Part of this is reproduced in his book.
It should be explained that though the medium was in a trance during
these experiments she was by no means inanimate. A separate personality
seemed to possess her, which might be explained as one of her own
secondary individualities, or as an actual obsession from outside. This
personality was in the habit of alluding with some severity to the
medium, telling Mme. Bisson that she needed discipline and had to be kept
up to her work. Occasionally this person showed signs of clairvoyance,
explaining correctly, for example, what was amiss with an electric
fitting when it failed to work. A running accompaniment of groans and
protests from Eva's body seems to have been a mere animal outcry apart
These results were corroborated once again by Dr. Gustave Geley, whose
name will live for ever in the annals of psychical research. Dr. Geley
was a general practitioner at Annecy, where he fulfilled the high
promises which had been given by his academic career at Lyons. He was
attracted by the dawning science, and was wisely appointed by M. Jean
Meyer as head of the Institut Metapsychique. His work and methods will be
an example for all time to his followers, and he soon showed that he was
not only an ingenious experimenter and a precise observer, but a deep
thinking philosopher. His great book, "From the Unconscious to the
Conscious," will probably stand the test of time. He was assailed by the
usual human mosquitoes who annoy the first pioneers who push through any
fresh jungle of thought, but he met them with bravery and good humour.
His death was sudden and tragic. He had been to Warsaw, and had obtained
some fresh ectoplasmic moulds from the medium Kluski. Unhappily, the
aeroplane in which he travelled crashed, and Geley was killed-an
irreparable loss to psychic science.
The committee of the Institut Metapsychique, which was recognized by the
French Government as being "of public utility," included Professor
Charles Richet, Professor Santoliquido, Minister of Public Health, Italy;
Count de Gramont, of the Institute of France; Dr. Calmette, Medical
Inspector-General; M. Camille Flammarion, M. Jules Roche, ex-Minister of
State; Dr. Treissier, Hospital of Lyons; with Dr. Gustave Geley himself
as Director. Among those added to the committee at a later date were Sir
Oliver Lodge, Professor Bozzano, and Professor Leclainche, member of the
Institute of France and Inspector-General of Sanitary Services
(Agriculture). The Institute is equipped with a good laboratory for
psychical research, and has also a library, reading-room, lecture and
reception rooms. Particulars of the work carried out are supplied in its
magazine, entitled La Revue Metapsychique.
An important side of the work of the Institute has been to invite public
men of eminence in science and literature to witness for themselves the
psychical investigations that are being carried on. Over a hundred such
men have been given first-hand evidence, and in 1923 thirty, including
eighteen medical men of distinction, signed and permitted the publication
of a statement of their full belief in the genuineness of the
manifestations they saw under conditions of rigid control.
Dr. Geley at one time held a series of sittings with Eva, summoning a
hundred men of science to witness one or other of them. So strict were
his tests that he winds up his account with the words: "I will not merely
say that there is no fraud. I will say that there has not been the
possibility of fraud." Again he walked the old path and found the same
results, save that the phantasms in his experiments took the form of
female faces, sometimes beautiful and, as he assured the author, unknown
to him. They may be thought-forms from Eva, for in none of his recorded
results did he get the absolute living spirit. There was enough, however,
to cause Dr. Geley to say: "What we have seen kills materialism. There is
no longer any room for it in the world." By this he means, of course, the
old-fashioned materialism of Victorian days, by which thought was a
result of matter. All the new evidence points to matter being the result
of thought. It is only when you ask "Whose thought?" that you get upon
Subsequent to his experiments with Eva, Dr. Geley got even more wonderful
results with Franek Kluski, a Polish gentleman, with whom the ectoplasmic
figures were so solid that he was able to take a mould of their hands in
paraffin. These paraffin gloves, which are exhibited in London,* are so
small at the wrist-opening that the hand could not possibly have been
withdrawn without breaking the brittle mould. It could only have been
done by dematerialization-no other way is possible. These experiments
were conducted by Geley, Richet, and Count de Gramont, three most
competent men. A fuller discussion of these and other moulds taken from
ectoplasmic figures will be found in Chapter XX. They are very important,
as being the most permanent and undeniable proofs of such structures that
have ever been advanced. No rational criticism of them has ever yet been
* Similar gloves are to be seen at the Psychic College, 59 Holland Park,
W., or at the Psychic Museum, Abbey House, Victoria Street, Westminster.
Another Polish medium, named Jean Guzik, has been tested at the Paris
Institute by Dr. Geley. The manifestations consisted of lights and
ectoplasmic hands and faces. Under conditions of the severest control,
thirty-four distinguished persons in Paris, most of whom were entirely
sceptical, affirmed, after long and minute investigation, their belief in
the genuineness of the phenomena observed with this medium. Among them
were members of the French Academy, of the Academy of Sciences, of the
Academy of Medicine, doctors of medicine and of law, and police experts.
Ectoplasm is a most protean substance, and can manifest itself in many
ways and with varying properties. This was demonstrated by Dr. W. J.
Crawford, Extra-Mural Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at Queen's
University, Belfast. He conducted an important series of experiments from
1914 to 1920 with the medium Miss Kathleen Goligher. He has furnished an
account of them in three books, "The Reality of Psychic Phenomena"
(1917), "Experiments in Psychical Science" (1919), and "The Psychic
Structures at the Goligher Circle" (1921). Dr. Crawford died in 1920, but
he left an imperishable memorial in those three books of original
experimental research which have probably done as much to place psychic
science on an assured footing as any other works on the subject.
To understand fully the conclusions he arrived at his books must be read,
but here we may say briefly that he demonstrated that levitations of the
table, raps on the floor of the room, and movements of objects in the
seance room were due to the action of "psychic rods," or, as he came to
call them in his last book, "psychic structures," emanating from the
medium's body. When the table is levitated these "rods" are operated in
two ways. If the table is a light one, the rod or structure does not
touch the floor, but is "a cantilever firmly fixed to the medium's body
at one end, and gripping the under surface or legs of the table with the
free or working end." In the case of a heavy table the reaction, instead
of being thrown on the medium, is applied to the floor of the room,
forming a kind of strut between the under surface of the levitated table
and the floor. The medium was placed in a weighing scale, and when the
table was levitated an increase in her weight was observed.
Dr. Crawford supplies this interesting hypothesis of the process at work
in the formation of ectoplasm at a circle. It is to be understood that by
"operators" he means the spirit operators controlling the phenomena:
Operators are acting on the brains of the sitters and thence on their
nervous systems. Small particles, it may even be molecules, are driven
off the nervous system, out through the bodies of sitters at wrists,
hands, fingers, or elsewhere. These small particles, now free, have a
considerable amount of latent energy inherent in them, an energy which
can react on any human nervous system with which they come into contact.
This stream of energized particles flows round the circle, probably
partly on the periphery of their bodies. The stream, by gradual
augmentation from the sitters, reaches the medium at high degree of
"tension," energizes her, receives increment from her, traverses the
circle again, and so on. Finally, when the "tension" is sufficiently
great, the circulating process ceases, and the energized particles
collect on or are attached to the nervous system of the medium, who has
henceforth a reservoir from which to draw. The operators having now a
good supply of the right kind of energy at their disposal, viz. nerve
energy, can act upon the body of the medium, who is so constituted that
gross matter from her body can, by means of the nervous tension applied
to it, be actually temporarily detached from its usual position and
projected into the seance room.*
* "The Reality of Psychic Phenomena," p. 243.
This is probably the first attempt at a clear explanation of what occurs
at a seance for physical phenomena, and it is possible that it describes
with fair accuracy what really takes place. In the following extract Dr.
Crawford makes an important comparison between the earlier and later
psychic manifestations, and also enunciates a bold comprehensive theory
for all psychic phenomena:
I have compared the whitish, cloud-like appearance of the matter in the
structure with photographs of materialization phenomena in all stages
obtained with many different mediums all over the world, and the
conclusion I have come to is that this material very closely resembles,
if it is not identical with, the material used in all such
materialization phenomena. In fact, it is not too much to say that this
whitish, translucent, nebulous matter is the basis of all psychic
phenomena of the physical order. Without it in some degree no physical
phenomena are possible. It is what gives consistence to the structures of
all kinds erected by the operators in the seance chamber; it is, when
properly manipulated and applied, that which enables the structures to
come into contact with the ordinary forms of matter with which we are
acquainted, whether such structures are ones similar to those with which
I am particularly dealing, or whether they are materializations of bodily
forms like hands or faces. Further, to me it appears likely that this
matter will be found eventually to be the basis of the structures
apparently erected for the manifestation of that peculiar form of
phenomena known as the Direct Voice, while the phenomena known as Spirit
Photography appear also to have it as a basis.*
* "The Psychic Structures at the Goligher Circle," p. 19.
Whilst Crawford was working at his ectoplasmic rods at Belfast, Dr. Geley
was checking the results obtained from Eva C. by a fresh series of
experiments. He thus summarizes his observations on the phenomena which
A substance emanates from the body of the medium, it externalizes itself,
and is amorphous or polymorphous in the first instance. This substance
takes various forms, but in general it shows more or less composite
organs. We may distinguish: (1) the substance as a substratum of
materialization; (2) its organized development. Its appearance is
generally announced by the presence of fluid, white and luminous flakes
of a size ranging from that of a pea to that of a five-franc piece, and
distributed here and there over the medium's black dress, principally on
the left side. The substance itself emanates from the whole body of the
medium, but especially from the natural orifices and the extremities,
from the top of the head, from the breasts, and the tips of the fingers.
The most usual origin, which is most easily observed, is that from the
mouth. The substance occurs in various forms, sometimes as ductile dough,
sometimes as a true protoplastic mass, sometimes in the form of numerous
thin threads, sometimes as cords of various thicknesses, or in the form
of narrow rigid rays, or as a broad band, as a membrane, as a fabric, or
as a woven material, with indefinite and irregular outlines. The most
curious appearance is presented by a widely expanded membrane, provided
with fringes and rucks, and resembling in appearance a net.
The amount of externalized matter varies within wide limits. In some
cases it completely envelops the medium as in a mantle. It may have three
different colours-white, black, or grey. The white colour is the most
frequent, perhaps, because it is the most easily observed. Sometimes the
three colours appear simultaneously. The visibility of the substance
varies a great deal, and it may slowly increase or decrease in
succession. To the touch it gives various impressions. Sometimes it is
moist and cold, sometimes viscous and sticky, more rarely dry and hard.
The substance is mobile. Sometimes it moves slowly up or down across the
medium, on her shoulders, on her breast, or on her knees, with a creeping
motion resembling a reptile. Sometimes the movements are sudden and
quick. The substance appears and disappears like lightning and is
extraordinarily sensitive. The substance is sensitive to light.
We have been able to give only a part of Dr. Geley's masterly analysis
and description. This final passage deals with an important aspect:
During the whole time of the materialization phenomenon the product
formed is in obvious physiological and psychical connexion with the
medium. The physiological connexion is sometimes perceptible in the form
of a thin cord joining the structure with the medium, which might be
compared with the umbilical cord joining the embryo to its parent. Even
if this cord is not visible, the physiological rapport is always close.
Every impression received through the ectoplasm reacts upon the medium
and vice versa. The sensation reflex of the structure coalesces with that
of the medium; in a word, everything proves that 'the ectoplasm is the
partly externalized medium herself.
If the details of this account: are compared with those given earlier in
this chapter, it will be seen at once how numerous are the points of
resemblance. Ectoplasm in its fundamentals has ever been the same. After
these confirmations it is not scepticism but pure ignorance which denies
the existence of this strange material.
Eva C. came to London, as already stated, and held thirty-eight seances
under the auspices 'of the Society for Psychical Research, but the
report* is a very conflicting and unsatisfactory document. Dr. Schrenck
Notzing was able to get yet another medium from whom he was able to
demonstrate ectoplasm, the results roughly corresponding with those
obtained in Paris. This was a lad of fourteen, Willie S. In the case of
Willie S., Dr. Schrenck Notzing showed this new substance to a hundred
picked observers, not one of whom was able to deny the evidence of his
own senses. Among those who signed an affirmative statement were
professors or ex-professors of Jena, Giessen, Heidelberg, Munich,
Tubingen, Upsala, Freiburg, Basle, and other universities, together with
a number of famous physicians, neurologists, and savants of every sort.
* S.P.R. Proceedings, Vol. XXXII, pp. 209-343.
We can say, then, that there is no doubt of its existence. It cannot,
however, be produced to order. It is a delicate operation which may fail.
Thus several experimenters, notably a small committee of the Sorbonne,
did fail. We have learned that it needs the right men and the right
conditions, which conditions are mental and spiritual, rather than
chemical. A harmonious atmosphere will help, while a carping,
antagonistic one will hinder or totally prevent its appearance. In this
it shows its spiritual affinities and that it differs from a purely
What is it? It takes shape. Who determines the shape? Is it the mind of
the entranced medium? Is it the mind of the observers? Is it some
independent mind? Among the experimenters we have a material school who
urge that we are finding some extraordinary latent property of the normal
body, and we have another school, to which the author belongs, who
believe that we have come upon a link which may be part of a chain
leading to some new order of life. It should be added that there is
nothing concerning it which has not been known to the old alchemists of
the Middle Ages. This very interesting fact was brought to light by Mr.
Foster Damon, of Harvard University, who gave a series of extracts from
the works of Vaughan, a philosopher who lived about 1650, where under the
name of the "First matter" or of "Mercury" a substance is described,
drawn from the body, which has all the characteristics of ectoplasm.
Those were the days when, between the Catholic Church on one side and the
witch-finders of the Puritans on the other, the ways of the psychic
researcher were hard. That is why the chemists of that day disguised
their knowledge under fantastic names, and why that knowledge in
consequence died out. When one realizes that by the Sun they meant the
operator, by the Moon the subject, by the Fire the mesmeric force, and by
Mercury the resulting ectoplasm, one has the key to some of their
The author has frequently seen ectoplasm in its vaporous, but only once
in its solid, forma That was at a sitting with Eva C. under the charge of
Madame Bisson. Upon that occasion this strange variable substance
appeared as a streak of material six inches long, not unlike a section of
the umbilical cord, embedded in the cloth of the dress in the region of
the lower stomach. It was visible in good light, and the author was
permitted to squeeze it between his fingers, when it gave the impression
of a living substance, thrilling and shrinking under his touch. There was
no possibility of deception upon this occasion.
* Save in the many instances when he has seen actual materialized faces
It is impossible to contemplate the facts known about ectoplasm without
seeing their bearing upon psychic photography. The pictures photographed
round Eva, with their hazy woolly fringe, are often exactly like the
photographs obtained by Mr. Hope and others. The most rational opinion
seems to be that ectoplasm once formed can be moulded by the mind, and
that this mind may, in the simpler cases, simply be the mind of the
unconscious medium. We forget sometimes that we are ourselves spirits,
and that a spirit in the body has presumably similar powers to a spirit
out of the body. In the more complex cases, and especially in psychic
photography, it is abundantly clear that it is not the spirit of the
medium which is at work, and that some more powerful and purposeful force
Personally, the author is of opinion that several different forms of
plasm with different activities will be discovered, the whole forming a
separate science of the future which may well be called Plasmology. He
believes also that all psychic phenomena external to the medium,
including clairvoyance, may be traced to this source. Thus a clairvoyant
medium may well be one who emits this or some analogous substance which
builds up round him or her a special atmosphere that enables the spirit
to manifest to those who have the power of perception. As the aerolite
passing into the atmosphere of the earth is for a moment visible between
two eternities of invisibility, so it may be that the spirit passing into
the psychic atmosphere of the ectoplasmic medium can for a short time
indicate its presence. Such speculations are beyond our present proofs,
but Tyndall has shown how such exploratory hypotheses may become the
spear-heads of truth. The reason why some people see a ghost and some do
not may be that some furnish sufficient ectoplasm for a manifestation,
and some do not, while the cold chill, the trembling, the subsequent
faint, may be due not merely to terror but partly to the sudden drain
upon the psychic supplies.
Apart from such speculations, the solid knowledge of ectoplasm, which we
have now acquired, gives us at last a firm material basis for psychic
research. When spirit descends into matter it needs such a material
basis, or it is unable to impress our material senses. As late as 1891
Stainton Moses, foremost psychic of his day, was forced to say, "I know
no more about the method or methods by which materialized forms are
produced than I did when I first saw them." Were he living now he could
hardly say the same.
This new precise knowledge has been useful in giving us some rational
explanation of those rapping sounds which were among the first phenomena
to attract attention. It would be premature to say that they can only be
produced in one way, but it may at least be stated that the usual method
of their production is by the extension of a rod of ectoplasm, which may
or may not be visible, and by its percussion on some solid object. It is
probable that these rods may be the conveyers of strength rather than
strong in themselves, as a small copper wire may carry the electric
discharge which will disintegrate a battleship. In one of Crawford's
admirable experiments, finding that the rods were coming from the chest
of his medium, he soaked her blouse with liquid carmine, and then asked
for raps upon the opposite wall. The wall was found to be studded with
spots of red, the ectoplasmic protrusion having carried with it in each
case some of the stain through which it passed. In the same way
table-tilting, when genuine, would appear to be due to an accumulation of
ectoplasm upon the surface, collected from the various sitters and
afterwards used by the presiding intelligence. Crawford surmised that the
extrusions must often possess suckers or claws at the end, so as to grip
or to raise, and the author subsequently collected several photographs of
these formations which show clearly a serrated edge at the end that would
fulfil such a purpose.
Crawford paid great attention also to the correspondence between the
weight of the ectoplasm emitted and the loss of weight in the medium. His
experiments seemed to show that everyone is a medium, that everyone loses
weight at a materializing seance, and that the chief medium only differs
from the others in that she is so constituted that she can put out a
larger ectoplasmic flow. If we ask why one human being should differ from
another in this respect, we reach that barren controversy why one should
have a fine ear for music and another be lost to all melody. We must take
these personal attributes as we find them. In Crawford's experiments it
was usual for the medium to lose as much as 10 or 15 lb. in a single
sitting-the weight being restored to her immediately the ectoplasm was
retracted. On one occasion the enormous loss of 52 lb. was recorded. One
would have thought that the scales were false upon this occasion were it
not that even greater losses have been registered in the case of other
mediums, as has already been recorded in the account of the experiments
of Olcott with the Eddys.
There are some other properties of ectoplasmic protrusions which should
be noted. Not only is light destructive to them unless they are gradually
acclimatized or specially prepared beforehand by the controls, but the
effect of a sudden flash is to drive the structure back into the medium
with the force of a snapped elastic band. This is by no means a false
claim in order to protect the medium from surprise, but it is a very real
fact which has been verified by many observers. Any tampering with
ectoplasm, unless its fraudulent production is a certainty, is to be
deprecated, and the forcible dragging at the trumpet, or at any other
object which is supported by the ectoplasmic rod, is nearly as dangerous
as the exhibition of a light. The author has in mind one case where an
ignorant sitter removed the trumpet, which was floating in front of him,
from the circle. It was done silently, but none the less the medium
complained of pain and sickness to those around her and was prostrated
for some days. Another medium exhibited a bruise from the breast to the
shoulder which was caused by the recoil of the hand when some would-be
exposer flashed an electric torch. When the ectoplasm flies back to a
mucoid surface the result may be severe hemorrhage, several instances of
which have come within the author's personal notice. In one case, that of
Susanna Harris, in Melbourne, the medium was confined to bed for a week
after such an experience.
It is vain in a single chapter of a work which covers a large subject to
give any detailed view of a section of that subject which might well have
a volume to itself. Our knowledge of this strange, elusive, protean,
all-pervading substance is likely to increase from year to year, and it
may be prophesied that if the last generation has been occupied with
protoplasm, the next will be engrossed with its psychic equivalent, which
will, it is to be hoped, retain Charles Richet's name of ectoplasm,
though various other words such as "plasm," "teleplasm," and "ideoplasm"
are unfortunately already in circulation. Since this chapter was prepared
fresh demonstrations of ectoplasm have occurred in various parts of the
world, the most noticeable being with "Margery," or Mrs. Crandon, of
Boston, whose powers have been fully treated in Mr. Malcolm Bird's volume
of that name.
The first authentic account of the production of what is called a spirit
photograph dates from 1861. This result was obtained by William H. Mumler
in Boston, U.S.A. In England in 1851 Richard Boursnell is said to have
had a similar experience, but no early photograph of this nature has been
preserved. The first example in England capable of being verified
occurred with the photographer Hudson, in 1872.
Like the rise of modern Spiritualism, this new development was predicted
from the Other Side. In 1856 Mr. Thomas Slater, an optician, residing at
136 Euston Road, London, was holding a seance with Lord Brougham and Mr.
Robert Owen, when it was rapped out that the time would come when Mr.
Slater would take spirit photographs. Mr. Owen remarked that if he were
in the spirit world when that time came he would appear on the plate. In
1872, when Mr. Slater was experimenting in spirit photography, he is said
to have obtained on a plate the face of Mr. Robert Owen and also that of
Lord Brougham.* Alfred Russel Wallace was shown these results by Mr.
Slater, and said:
* THE SPIRITUALIST, Nov. 1, 1873.
"Miracles and Modern Spiritualism," 1901, p. 198.
The first of his successes contained two heads by the side of a portrait
of his sister. One of these heads is unmistakably the late Lord
Brougham's; the other, much less distinct, is recognized by Mr. Slater as
that of Robert Owen, whom he knew intimately up to the time of his death.
After describing other spirit photographs obtained by Mr. Slater, Dr.
Wallace goes on:
Now whether these figures are correctly identified or not, is not the
essential point. The' fact that any figures, so clear and unmistakably
human in appearance as these, should appear on plates taken in his own
private studio by an experienced optician and amateur photographer, who
makes all his apparatus himself, and with no one present but the members
of his own family, is the real marvel. In one case a second figure
appeared on a plate with himself, taken by Mr. Slater when he was
absolutely alone, by the simple process of occupying the sitter's chair
after uncapping the camera.
Mr. Slater himself showed me all these pictures, and explained the
conditions under which they were produced. That they are not impostures
is certain, and as the first independent confirmations of what had been
previously obtained only through professional photographers, their value
From Mumler in 1861 to William Hope in our own day there have appeared
some twenty to thirty recognized mediums for psychic photography, and
between them they have produced thousands of those supernormal results
which have come to be known as "extras." The best known of these
sensitives, in addition to Hope and Mrs. Deane, are Hudson, Parkes,
Wyllie, Buguet, Boursnell and Duguid.
Mumler, who was employed as an engraver by a leading firm of jewellers in
Boston, was not a Spiritualist, nor a professional photographer. In an
idle hour, while trying to take a photograph of himself in a friend's
studio, he obtained on the plate the outline of another figure. The
method he adopted was to focus an empty chair, and after uncovering the
lens, spring into position by the chair and stand until the requisite
exposure was made. Upon the back of the photograph Mr. Mumler had
This photograph was taken of myself, by myself, on Sunday, when there was
not a living soul in the room beside me-so to speak. The form on my right
I recognize as my cousin, who passed away about twelve years since.
W. H. MUMLER.
The form is that of a young girl who appears to be sitting in the chair.
The chair is distinctly seen through the body and arms, also the table
upon which one arm rests. Below the waist, says a contemporary account,
the form (which is apparently clothed in a dress with low neck and short
sleeves) fades away into a dim mist, which simply clouds over the lower
part of the picture. It is interesting to note features in this first
spirit photograph which have been repeated many times in those obtained
by later operators.
News of what had happened to Mumler quickly became known, and he was
besieged with applications for sittings. He at first refused, but at last
had to yield, and when further "extras" were obtained and his fame
spread, he was compelled finally to give up his business and to devote
himself to this new work. As his experiences have been, in the main,
those of every psychic photographer who has succeeded him, we may glance
briefly at them.
Private sitters of good repute obtained thoroughly evidential and
recognizable pictures of friends and relatives, and were perfectly
satisfied that the results were genuine. Then came professional
photographers who were certain that there must be some trick, and that if
they were given the opportunity of testing under their own conditions
they would discover how it was done. They came one after another, in some
cases with their own plates, camera, and chemicals, but after directing
and supervising all the operations, were unable to discover any trickery.
Mumler also went to their photographic studios and allowed them to do all
the handling and developing of the plates, with the same result. Andrew
Jackson Davis, who was at that time the editor and publisher of the
HERALD OF PROGRESS in New York, sent a professional photographer, Mr.
William Guay, to make a thorough investigation. He reported that after he
had been allowed to control the whole of the photographic process, there
appeared on the plate a spirit picture. He experimented with this medium
on several other occasions, and was convinced of his genuineness.
Another photographer, Mr. Horace Weston, was sent to investigate by Mr.
Black, the famous portrait photographer of Boston. When he returned,
after having duly obtained a spirit picture, he said he could detect
nothing in the operations that differed from those employed in taking an
ordinary photograph. Then Black went himself and personally performed all
the manipulation of plates and development. As he watched one of the
plates developing and saw appearing on it another form besides his own,
and finally found it to be that of a man leaning his arm on his shoulder,
he exclaimed in his excitement, "My God, is it possible?"
Mumler had more applications for sittings than he could find time for,
and appointments were made for weeks ahead. These came from all
classes-ministers, doctors, lawyers, judges, mayors, professors, and
business men being mentioned as among those particularly interested. A
full account of the various evidential results obtained by Mumler will be
found in contemporary records.*
* THE SPIRITUAL MAGAZINE, 1862, p. 562; 1863, pp. 34-41.
In 1863 Mumler, like so many other photographic mediums since his day,
found on his plates "extras" of living persons. His strongest supporters
were unable to accept this new and startling phenomenon, and while
holding to their former belief in his powers, were convinced that he had
resorted to trickery. Dr. Gardner, in a letter to the BANNER OF LIGHT
(Boston, February 20, 1863), referring to this fresh development, writes:
While I am fully of the belief that genuine spirit likenesses have been
produced through his mediumship, evidence of deception in two cases, at
least, has been furnished me, which is perfectly conclusive. Mr. Mumler,
or some person connected with Mrs. Stuart's rooms, has been guilty of
deception in palming off as genuine spirit likenesses pictures of a
person who is now living in this city.
What made the case even more conclusive to the accusers was the fact that
the same "extra" of the living person appeared on two different plates.
This "exposure" set the tide of public opinion against him, and in 1868
Mumler departed for New York. Here his business prospered for a time
until he was arrested by order of the mayor of New York, at the instance
of a newspaper reporter who had received an unrecognized "extra." After a
lengthy trial he was discharged without a stain on his character. The
evidence of professional photographers who were not Spiritualists was
strongly in Mumler's favour.
Mr. Jeremiah Gurney testified:
I have been a photographer for twenty-eight years; I have witnessed
Mumler's process, and although I went prepared to scrutinize everything,
I could find nothing which savoured of fraud or trickerythe only thing
out of the usual routine being the fact that the operator kept his hand
on the camera.
Mumler, who died in poverty in 1884, has left an interesting and
convincing narrative of his career in his book, "Personal Experiences of
William H. Mumler in Spirit Photography,"* a copy of which is to be seen
at the British Museum.
* Boston, 1875.
"Chronicles of the Photographs of Spiritual Beings," etc., 1882, p. 2.
Hudson, who obtained the first spirit photograph in England of which we
have objective evidence, is said to have been about sixty years of age at
that time (March, 1872). The sitter was Miss Georgiana Houghton, who has
fully described the incident. There is abundant testimony to Hudson's
work. Mr. Thomas Slater) already quoted, took his own camera and plates,
and after minute observation reported that "collusion or trickery was
altogether out of the question." Mr. William Howitt, a stranger to the
medium, went unannounced and received a recognized "extra" of his two
deceased boys. He pronounced the photographs to be "perfect and
Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace secured a good picture of his mother.
Describing his visit he says*:
* "Miracles and Modern Spiritualism" (Revised Edition 1901), pp. 196-7.
I sat three times, always choosing my own position. Each time a second
figure appeared in the negative with me. The first was a male figure with
a short sword, the second a full-length figure, standing apparently a few
feet on one side and rather behind me, looking down at me and holding a
bunch of flowers. At the third sitting, after placing myself, and after
the prepared plate was in the camera, I asked that the figure would come
close to me. The third plate exhibited a female figure standing close in
front of me, so that the drapery covers the lower part of my body. I saw
all the plates developed, and in each case the additional figure started
out the moment the developing fluid was poured on, while my portrait did
not become visible till, perhaps, twenty seconds later. I recognized none
of these figures in the negatives; but the moment I got the proofs, the
first glance showed me that the third plate contained an unmistakable
portrait of my mother-like her both in features and expression; not such
a likeness as a portrait taken during life, but a somewhat pensive,
idealized likeness yet still, to me, an unmistakable likeness.
The second portrait, though indistinct, was also recognized by Dr.
Wallace as a picture of his mother. The first "extra" of a man was
Mr. J. Traill Taylor, who was then editor of the BRITISH JOURNAL OF
PHOTOGRAPHY, testified * that he secured supernormal results with this
medium, using his own plates, "and that at no time during the
preparation, exposure, or development of the pictures was Mr. Hudson
within ten feet of the camera or dark room." Surely this must be accepted
* BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY, August, 1873.
HUMAN NATURE, 1875, p. 152.
Mr. F. M. Parkes, living at Grove Road, Bow, in the East End of London,
was a natural psychic who had veridical visions from his childhood. He
knew nothing of Spiritualism until it was brought to his notice in 1871,
and early in the following year he experimented in photography with his
friend Mr. Reeves, the proprietor of a dining-room near King's Cross. He
was then in his thirty-ninth year. At first only irregular markings and
patches of light appeared on the plates, but after three months a
recognized spirit extra was obtained, the sitters being Dr. Sexton and
Dr. Clarke, of Edinburgh. Dr. Sexton invited Mr. Bowman, of Glasgow, an
experienced photographer, to make a thorough examination of the camera,
the dark room and all the appliances in use. This he did, and declared
imposition on the part of Parkes to be impossible. For some years this
medium took no remuneration for his services. Mr. Stainton Moses, who has
devoted a chapter to Mr. Parkes, writes:
On turning over Mr. Parkes's album, the most striking point is the
enormous variety of the designs; the next, perhaps, the utterly unlike
character of most of them, and their total dissimilarity to the
conventional ghost. Out of 110 that lie before me now, commencing from
April 1872, and with some intermissions extending down to present date,
there are not two that are alike-scarcely two that bear any similarity to
each other. Each design is peculiar to itself, and bears upon the face of
it marks of individuality.
He states that a considerable number of the photographs were recognized
by the sitters.
M. Ed. Buguet, the French spirit photographer, visited London in June,
1874, and at his studio at 33 Baker Street had many well-known sitters.
Mr. Harrison, editor of The Spiritualist, speaks of a test employed by
this photographer, namely, cutting off a corner of the glass plate and
fitting it to the negative after development. Mr. Stainton Moses
describes Buguet as a tall, thin man, with earnest face and clearly-cut
features, with an abundance of bushy black hair. During the exposure of a
plate he was said to be in partial trance. The psychic results he
obtained were of far higher artistic quality and distinctness than those
obtained by other mediums. Also a big percentage of the spirit forms were
recognized. A curious feature with Buguet was that he obtained a number
of portraits of the "double" of sitters, as well as of those living, but
not present, with him in the studio. Thus Stainton Moses, while lying in
a state of trance in London, had his picture appear on a plate in Paris
when Mr. Gledstanes was the sitter.*
* HUMAN NATURE, Vol. IX, p. 97.
In April, 1875, Buguet was arrested and charged by the French Government
with producing fraudulent spirit photographs. To save himself he
confessed that all his results had been obtained by trickery. He was
sentenced to a fine of five hundred francs and imprisonment for one year.
At the trial a number of well-known public men maintained their belief in
the genuineness of the "extras" they had obtained, in spite of the
production of dummy "ghosts" said to have been used by Buguet. The truth
of spirit photography does not rest with this medium, but those who are
interested enough to read the full account of his arrest and trial*
should be able to form their own conclusions. Writing after the trial,
Mr. Stainton Moses says: "I not only believe-I KNOW, as surely as I know
anything, that some of Budget's pictures were genuine."
* THE SPIRITUALIST, Vols. VI, VII (1875), and HUMAN NATURE, Vol. IX, p.
Coates says, however, that Buguet was a worthless fellow. Certainly the
position of a man who can only prove that he is not a rogue by admitting
that he made a false confession out of fear is a weak one. The case for
psychic photography would be stronger without him. As to his confession,
it was extracted from him by a criminal action which the Roman Catholic
Archbishop of Toulouse took against the REVUE SPIRITE, when Leymarie, the
editor, was tried and condemned. Buguet was told that his one chance was
to confess. Thus pressed, he did what so many victims of the Inquisition
had done before him, and made a forced confession, which did not save
him, however, from twelve months' imprisonment.
Richard Boursnell (1832-1909) occupied a prominent position in the middle
period of the history of spirit photography. He was in partnership with a
professional photographer in Fleet Street, and is said to have had
psychic markings, with occasional hands and faces, on his plates as early
as 1851. His partner accused him of not cleaning the plates properly
(those were the days of the wet collodion process), and after an angry
dispute Boursnell said he would have nothing more to do with that side of
the business. It was nearly forty years later before he again got
markings, and then extra forms, with his photographs, much to his
annoyance, because it meant injury to his business and the destruction of
many plates. With great difficulty Mr. W. T. Stead persuaded him to allow
him to have sittings. Under his own conditions, Mr. Stead obtained
repeatedly what the old photographer called "shadow pictures." At first
they were not recognized, but later on several that were thoroughly
identified were obtained. Mr. Stead gives particulars of precautions
observed in marking plates, etc., but says that he attaches little
importance to these, considering that the appearance on the plate of a
recognized likeness of an unknown relative of an unknown sitter a test
far superior to precautions which any expert conjurer or trick
photographer might evade. He says:
Again and again I sent friends to Mr. Boursnell giving him no information
as to who they were, or telling him anything as to the identity of the
person's deceased friend or relative whose portrait they wished to
secure, and time and again when the negative was developed, the portrait
would appear in the background, or sometimes in front of the sitter. This
occurred so frequently that I am quite convinced of the impossibility of
any fraud. One time it was a French editor, who, finding the portrait of
his deceased wife appear on the negative when developed, was so
transported with delight that he insisted on kissing the photographer,
Mr. B., much to the old man's embarrassment. On another occasion it was a
Lancashire engineer, himself a photographer, who took marked plates and
all possible precautions. He obtained portraits of two of his relatives
and another of an eminent personage with whom he had been in close
relations. Or again, it was a near neighbour who, going as a total
stranger to the studio, obtained the portrait of her deceased daughter.
In 1903 the Spiritualists of London presented this medium with a purse of
gold and a testimonial signed by over a hundred representative
Spiritualists. On this occasion the walls of the rooms of the
Psychological Society in George Street, Portman Square, were hung with
three hundred chosen spirit photographs taken by Boursnell.
With regard to Mr. Stead's point about the "recognized likeness," critics
declare that the sitter often imagines the likeness, and that at times
two sitters have claimed the same "extra" as a relative. In answer to
this it may be said that Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, for instance, ought
to be the best judge whether the picture was a likeness of his dead
mother. Dr. Cushman (of whom we shall speak later) submitted the "extra"
of his daughter Agnes to a number of his friends and relations, and all
were convinced of the likeness. But irrespective of any certainty about
the likeness, there is overwhelming evidence that these supernormal
portraits really do occur, and in thousands of cases they have been
Mr. Edward Wyllie (1848-1911) had genuine mediumistic gifts which were
tested by a number of qualified investigators. He was born in Calcutta,
his father, Colonel Robert Wyllie, having been military secretary to the
Government of India. Wyllie, who served as a captain in the Maori war in
New Zealand, afterwards took up photography there. He went to California
in 1886. After a time spots of light began to show on his negatives, and
as they increased threatened to destroy his business. He had never heard
of spirit photography until a lady sitter suggested this as a possible
explanation. Experimenting with her, faces appeared on the plate in the
spots of light. Thenceforth these faces came so often with other sitters
that he was compelled to give up his usual business and devote himself to
spirit photography. But here he encountered fresh trouble. He was accused
of obtaining his results by fraud, and this so wounded him that he tried
to earn his living in some other way, but he did not succeed, and had to
come back to work as a photo-medium, as he was called. On November 27,
1900, the committee of the Pasadena Society for Psychical Research
conducted an investigation with him at Los Angeles. The following
questions which were asked, and answered by Wyllie, are of historical
Q. Do you advertise or promise to get spirit faces, or something out of
the ordinary for your sitters?
A. Not at all. I neither guarantee nor promise anything. I have no
control over it. I merely charge for my time and material, as you see
stated on the card there against the wall. I charge one dollar for a
sitting; and if the first one is not satisfactory, I give a second trial
without extra charge.
Q. Do you sometimes fail to get anything extra?
A. Oh, yes, often. Last Saturday, working all afternoon, I gave five
sittings and didn't get a thing.
Q. About what proportion of such failures do you have?
A. I should say, with an ordinary day's business, they would average
three or four failures a day-some days more and some less.
Q. About what proportion of the extra faces that do appear do you
estimate are recognized by the sitter or friends?
A. For several months last year I kept a record on this point, and I
found that in about two-thirds of the sittings some one or more of the
extra faces appearing were recognized. Sometimes there would be only one
extra face, and sometimes five or six, or even eight at once, and I
couldn't keep a tally of them, but only of the total number of sittings,
as shown by my book account.
Q. When a sitting is made, do you know as a psychic whether there will be
any "extras" on the plate or not?
A. Sometimes I see lights about the sitter, and then I feel pretty sure
there will be something for him or her; but just what it will be I don't
know, any more than you do. I don't know what it is until I see it on the
negative after it is developed so I can hold it up to the light.
Q. If the sitter strongly desires some particular discarnate friend to
appear on the plate, is he more likely to get that result?
A. No. A wrought-up or tense state of mind or feeling, whether of desire
or anxiety or antagonism, makes it more difficult for the spirit forces
to use the sitter's magnetism towards producing their manifestations, so
it is less likely that anything extra will then come on the plate. An
easy, restful, passive condition is most favourable for good results.
Q. Do those who are Spiritualists get better results than disbelievers?
A. No. Some of the best test results I have ever had came when the
strongest sceptics were in the chair.
With this committee no "extras" were obtained. An earlier committee of
seven in 1899 submitted the medium to strict tests, and four plates out
of eight "showed results for which the committee are unable to account."
After a minute account of the precautions taken, the report concludes:
As a committee we have no theory, and testify only to "that which we do
know." Individually we differ as to probable causes, but unanimously
agree concerning the palpable facts. We will give twenty-five dollars to
any Los Angeles photographer who by trick or skill will produce similar
results under similar conditions.
(Signed)-Julian McCrae, P. C. Campbell, J. W. Mackie, W. N. Slocum, John
David Duguid (1832-1907), the well-known medium for automatic writing and
painting, had the benefit of careful investigation of his spirit photo
graphs by Mr. J. Traill Taylor, editor of the BRITISH JOURNAL OF
PHOTOGRAPHY, who in the course of a paper read by him before the London
and Provincial Photographic Association on March 9, 1893, gave an account
of recent test sittings with this medium. He says:
My conditions were exceedingly simple. They were, that I for the nonce
would assume them all to be tricksters, and to guard against fraud,
should use my own camera and unopened packages of dry plates purchased
from dealers of repute, and that I should be excused from allowing a
plate to go out of my own hand till after development, unless I felt
otherwise disposed; but that, as I was to treat them as under suspicion,
so they must treat me, and that every act I performed must be in the
presence of two witnesses, nay, that I would set a watch upon my own
camera in the guise of a duplicate one of the same focus-in other words,
I would use a binocular stereoscopic camera and dictate all the
conditions of operation.
After giving details of the procedure adopted, he records the appearance
on the plates of extra figures, and continues:
Some were in focus, others not so; some were lighted from the right,
while the sitter was so from the leftsome monopolized the major portion
of the plate, quite obliterating the material sitters; others were as if
an atrociously badly vignetted portrait, or one cut oval out of a
photograph by a can-opener, or equally badly clipped out, were held up
behind the sitter. But here is the point not one of these figures which
came out so strongly in the negative was visible in any form or shape to
me during the time of exposure in the camera, and I vouch in the
strongest manner for the fact that no one whatever had an opportunity of
tampering with any plate anterior to its being placed in the dark slide
or immediately preceding development. Pictorially they are vile, but how
came they there?
Other well-known sitters have described remarkable evidential results
obtained with Duguid.*
* James Coates, "Photographing the Invisible" (1921), and Andrew
Glendinning, "The Veil Lifted" (1894).
Mr. Stainton Moses, in the concluding chapter of his valuable series on
Spirit Photography, discusses the theory that the extra forms
photographed are moulded from ectoplasm (he speaks of it as the "fluidic
substance") by the invisible operators, and makes important comparisons
between the results obtained by different photographic mediums.
Mr. John Beattie's "valuable and conclusive experiments," as Dr. Alfred
Russel Wallace calls them, can only be referred to briefly. Mr. Beattie,
of Clifton, Bristol, who was a retired photographer of twenty years'
standing, felt very doubtful about the genuineness of many of the alleged
spirit photographs which had been shown to him, and determined to
investigate for himself. Without any professional medium, but in the
presence of an intimate friend who was a trance sensitive, he and his
friend Dr. G. S. Thomson, of Edinburgh, conducted a series of experiments
in 1872 and obtained on the plates first patches of light and, later on,
entire extra figures. They found that the extra forms and markings showed
up on the plate during development much in advance of the sitter a
peculiarity often observed by other operators. Mr. Beattie's thorough
honesty is vouched for by the editor of the BRITISH JOURNAL OF
PHOTOGRAPHY. Mr. Stainton Moses* and others supply details of the above
* HUMAN NATURE, Vols. VIII. and IX., 1874-5.
HUMAN NATURE, Vol. VIII., 1874, p. 390 ET SEQ.
The LONDON DAILY MAIL in 1908 appointed a Commission to make "an inquiry
into the genuineness or otherwise of what are called spirit photographs,"
but it came to naught. It was composed of three non-Spiritualists,
Messrs. R. Child Bayley, F. J. Mortimer, and E. Sanger-Shepherd, and
three supporters of spirit photography, Messrs. A. P. Sinnett, E. R.
Serocold Skeels, and Robert King. In the course of the report of the
latter three they state that they:
I can only agree to report that the Commission has failed to secure proof
that spirit photography is possible, not because evidence to that effect
is otherwise than very abundant, but by reason of the unfortunate and
unpractical attitude adopted by those members of the commission who had
no previous experience of the subject.
Particulars of the Commission will be found in LIGHT.* In recent years
the history of spirit photography has largely centred round what is known
as the Crewe Circle, which is now composed of Mr. William Hope and Mrs.
Buxton, both living at Crewe. The Circle was formed about 1905, but did
not attract attention until it was discovered by Archdeacon Colley in
1908. Mr. Hope, describing his first experiences, says that while working
in a factory near Manchester, he took a photograph one Saturday afternoon
of a fellow-workman whom he posed in front of a brick wall. When the
plate was developed there was to be seen, in addition to the photograph
of his friend, the form of a woman standing by his side, with the brick
wall showing through her. The man asked Hope how he had put the other
figure there, saying that he recognized it as that of his sister who had
been dead some years. Mr. Hope says:
* LIGHT, 1908, p. 526, and 1909, pp. 290, 307, 329.
I knew nothing at all about Spiritualism then. We took the photograph to
the works on Monday, and a Spiritualist there said it was what was called
a Spirit photograph. He suggested that we should try again on the
following Saturday at the same place with the same camera, which we did,
and not only the same lady came on the plate again, but a little child
with her. I thought this very strange, and it made me more interested,
and I went on with my experiments.
For a long time Hope destroyed all the negatives on which he obtained
spirit pictures, until Archdeacon Colley became acquainted with him and
told him he must preserve them.
Archdeacon Colley had his first sitting with the Crewe Circle on March
16, 1908. He brought his own camera (a Lancaster quarter-plate which Mr.
Hope still uses), his own diamond-marked plates and dark slides, and
developed plates with his own chemicals. All that Mr. Hope did was to
press the bulb for the exposure. On one of the plates were two spirit
Since that early day, Mr. Hope and Mrs. Buxton have taken thousands of
spirit photographs under every imaginable test, and they are proud to be
able to say that they have never charged a penny as professional fees,
only charging for the actual photographic materials used and for their
Mr. M. J. Vearncombe, a professional photographer in Bridgwater,
Somerset, had the same disturbing experience as Wyllie, Boursnell, and
others in finding unaccountable patches of light appear on his plates,
and, like them, he came to take spirit photographs.
In 1920 Mr. Fred Barlow, of Birmingham, a well-known investigator,
obtained with this medium extras of faces and written messages, under
test conditions, on plates that were not exposed in the camera.* Since
that date Mr. Vearncombe has secured many evidential results.
* See LIGHT 1920, p. 190.
March 1922, pp. 132-47.
Mrs. Deane's mediumship is of recent date (her first spirit photograph
was in June, 1920). She has obtained many recognized "extras" under test
conditions, and her work is sometimes equal to the best of her
predecessors in this branch. Recently she has achieved two very fine
results. Dr. Allerton Cushman, a well-known American scientist and
Director of the National Laboratories at Washington, paid an unexpected
visit to the British College of Psychic Science at Holland Park in July,
1921, and obtained through Mrs. Deane a beautiful and well-recognized
"extra" of his deceased daughter. Full details of this sitting will be
found recorded, with photographs, in the JOURNAL of the American Society
for Psychical Research. The other result was on November 11, 1922, on
the occasion of the Great Silence, on Armistice Day, in Whitehall, when
in a photograph of the immense concourse of people gathered in the
vicinity of the Cenotaph many spirit faces are discernible, and a number
of them were recognized. This was repeated on three successive years.
Modern researches have proved that these psychic results are not
obtained, in some instances at least, through the lens of the camera. On
many occasions, under test conditions, these supernormal pictures have
been secured from an unopened box of plates, held between the hands of
the sitter or sitters. Also, when the experiment has been tried of using
two cameras, if any "extra" appears, it is found in one camera, not in
both. A theory held is that the image is precipitated on the photographic
plate, or that a psychic screen is applied to the plate.
The author may perhaps say a few words upon his own personal experience,
which has been chiefly with the Crewe Circle and with Mrs. Deane. In the
case of the latter there have always been results, but in no case were
the "extras" recognized. The author is well aware of Mrs. Deane's psychic
power, which has been conspicuously shown during the long series of
experiments held by Mr. Warrick under every possible test condition, and
fully reported in PSYCHIC SCIENCE.* His own experiences have, however,
never been evidential, and if he relied only upon them he could not speak
with any certainty. He used Mrs. Deane's own plates, and he has a strong
feeling that the faces may be precipitated upon them during the days of
preparation when she carries the packet upon her person. She is under the
impression that she can facilitate her results in this way, but she is
probably quite mistaken, for the Cushman case was extempore. It is also
on record that a trick was once played upon her at the Psychic College,
her own packet being taken away and another substituted. In spite of this
"extras" were obtained. She would be well advised, therefore, if she
abandoned methods which make her results, however genuine, so vulnerable
* July, 1925.
It is otherwise with Mr. Hope. On the various occasions when the author
has sat with him he has always brought his own plates, has marked them in
the dark room, and has handled and developed them himself.
Since writing the above, the author has tested the medium with his own
plates, marked and developed by himself. He obtained six psychic results
in eight experiments. In nearly every case an "extra" has been obtained,
that "extra"-though there has never yet been a clear recognition-has
certainly been abnormal in its production. Mr. Hope has endured the usual
attacks from ignorance or malice to which every medium is exposed, but he
has emerged from them with his honour unblemished.
Some mention should be made of the remarkable results of Mr. Staveley
Bulford, a talented psychic student, who has produced most excellent
genuine psychic photographs. No one can look over his scrapbook and note
the gradual development of his gift from mere blotches of light to very
perfect faces without being convinced of the reality of the process.
The subject is still obscure, and all the author's personal experience
goes to support the view that in a certain number of cases nothing
external is ever built up, but the effect is produced by a sort of ray
carrying a picture upon it which can penetrate solids, such as the wall
of the dark slide, and imprint its effect upon the plate. The experiment,
already cited, where two cameras have been trained simultaneously, with
the medium midway between them, appears to be conclusive, since it showed
a result on one plate and not on the other. The author has obtained
results on plates which never left the dark slide, quite as vivid as any
which have been exposed to light. It is probable that if Hope never took
the cap off the lens his results would often be the same.
Whatever the eventual explanation, the only hypothesis which at present
covers the facts is that of a wise invisible Intelligence, presiding over
the operation and working in his own fashion, which shows different
results with different circles. So standardized are the methods of each
that the author would undertake to tell at a glance which photographer
had taken any print submitted to him. Supposing such an Intelligence to
have the powers claimed, we can then at once see why every normal
photographic law is violated, why shadows and lights no longer agree, and
why, in short, a whole series of traps are laid for the ordinary
conventional critic. We can understand also, since the picture is simply
built up by the Intelligence and shot on to the plate, why we find
results which are reproductions of old pictures and photographs, and why
it is as possible that the face of a living man may appear on the plate
as that of a disembodied spirit. In one instance, quoted by Dr. Henslow,
the reproduction of a rare Greek script from the British Museum appeared
in one of the plates from Hope, with a slight change in the Greek which
showed that it was not a copy.* Here apparently the Intelligence had
noted the inscription, had shot it on to the plate, but had made some
small slip of memory in the conveyance. This explanation has the
disconcerting corollary that the mere fact that we get the psychic
photograph of a dead friend is no proof at all that the friend is really
present. It is only when that fact is independently asserted in some
seance, before or after, that we get something in the nature of proof.
* "Proofs of the Truths of Spiritualism," p. 218. Henslow.
In his experiments with Hope the author has seemed to catch a glimpse of
the process by which the objective photographs are built up-so much so
that he has been able to arrange a series of slides which exhibit the
various stages. The first of these slides-taken with Mr. William Jeffrey,
of Glasgow, as a sitter-shows a sort of cocoon of thinly veined, filmy
material which we must call ectoplasm, since the various plasms have not
yet been subdivided. It is as tenuous as a great soap bubble and has
nothing within: This would appear to be the containing envelope within
which the process is carried on, force being collected there as in an
earthly medium's cabinet. In the next slide one sees that a face has
formed inside the cocoon, and that the cocoon is opening down the centre.
Various stages of this opening are seen. Finally, the face looks out with
the cocoon festooned back, and forming an arch over the face, and a
hanging veil on either side of it. This veil is highly characteristic of
Hope's pictures, and when it is wanting one may argue that there was no
objective presence and that the effect is really a psychograph. The veil
or mantilla effect in various forms may be traced back through the whole
series of previous photographs, and is especially noticeable in one taken
by an amateur on the West Coast of Africa, where the dark spirit has
thick folds over the head and down to the ground. When similar results
are obtained at Crewe and at Lagos, it is only common sense to agree that
a common law is at work.
In pointing out the evidence for the psychic cocoon, the author hopes
that he has made some small contribution to the better understanding of
the mechanism of psychic photography. It is a very true branch of psychic
science, as every earnest investigator will discover. We cannot deny,
however, that it has been occasionally made the tool of rogues, nor can
we confidently assert that, because some results of any medium are
genuine, we are therefore justified in accepting without question
whatever else may come.
VOICE MEDIUMSHIP AND MOULDS
It is impossible to devote separate chapters to each form of psychic
power, as the result would far transcend the limits of this work, but the
phenomena of voice production and also of moulds are so clear and
evidential that some fuller account of them may not be superfluous.
Many thousands of people can echo the words of job, "And I heard a
voice," meaning a voice coming from someone not living on earth. And they
can say this with the assurance of conviction, after a series of
exhaustive tests. "The Bible narrative abounds with instances of this
phenomenon,* and the psychic records of modern times show that here, as
in other supernormal manifestations, what happened at the dawn of the
world is happening still.
* See Usborne Moore's "The Voices" (1913), p. 433.
S.P.R. JOURNAL, Vol. III., 1887, p. 131.
Historic instances of voice messages are those of Socrates and Joan of
Arc, though it is not clear that in either case the voice was audible to
others. It is in the light of the fuller knowledge which has come to us
that we may conclude with some probability that the voices they heard
were of the same supernormal character as those with which we are
Mr. F. W. H. Myers would have us believe that the Daemon of Socrates was
"a profounder stratum of the sage himself," which was communicating with
"the superficial or conscious stratum." And in the same way he would
explain the voices which came to Joan. But in saying this he is not
explaining anything. What are we to think of the reports that ancient
statues spoke? The learned, anonymous author, said to have been Dr.
Leonard Marsh, of Vermont University, of that curious book
"Apocatastasis; or Progress Backwards," quotes Nonnus as saying:
Concerning this statue (of Apollo), where it stood, and how it spoke, I
have said nothing. It is to be understood, however, that there was a
statue at Delphi which emitted an inarticulate voice. For you must know
that spirits speak with inarticulate voices because they have no organs
by which they can speak articulately.
Dr. Marsh comments on this:
The author seems not to have been well informed in regard to the speaking
power of the spirits, since all ancient history declares that their voice
was often heard in the air, speaking articulately, and repeating the same
words in different places; and this was called, and universally known, by
the name of "Vox Divina."
He goes on to say that with the statue mentioned the spirit was evidently
experimenting with the perverse material of which it was made (probably
stone) to see if he could make it articulate, but could not succeed
because the statue had "no larynx or other organs of voice, as modern
mediums have." Dr. Marsh in his book set out to show that the
Spiritualistic phenomena at that time (1854) were crude and immature in
comparison with ancient spirit intercourse. The ancients, he says, spoke
of it as a science, and asserted that the knowledge obtained by it was
certain and reliable, "in spite of all fraudulent daemons." Granting that
the priest was a voice medium, the speaking oracle is easily explained.
It is worth noting that the Voice, which was one of the first forms of
mediumship associated with modern Spiritualism, is still prominent,
whereas many other aspects of earlier mediumship have become rare. As
there are a number of competent investigators who consider that voice
phenomena are among the most convincing of psychic manifestations, let us
glance at the records.
Jonathan Koons, the Ohio farmer, appears to have been the first of the
modern mediums with whom it appeared. In the log-hut already mentioned,
called his "Spirit Room," he had in 1852, and for some years after, a
number of surprising phenomena, included among which were spirit voices
speaking through a tin megaphone or "trumpet." Mr. Charles Partridge, a
well-known public man, who was an early investigator, thus describes
hearing the spirit known as John King speak at a seance at the Koons's in
At the close of the seance the spirit of King, as is his custom, took up
the trumpet and gave a short lecture through it-SPEAKING AUDIBLY AND
DISTINCTLY, presenting the benefits to be derived both in time and
eternity from intercourse with spirits, and exhorting us to be discreet
and bold in speech, diligent in our investigations, faithful to the
responsibilities which those privileges impose, charitable towards those
who are in ignorance or error, tempering our zeal with wisdom, etc.
Professor Mapes, the well-known American chemist, said that in the
presence of the Davenports he conversed for half an hour with John King,
whose voice was loud and distinct. Mr. Robert Cooper, one of the
biographers of the Davenport Brothers, often heard King's voice in
daylight, and in the moonlight when walking in the street with the
At the present day we have come to have some idea of the process through
which the voices are produced at a seance. This knowledge, by the way,
has been corroborated by communications received from the spirits
It appears that ectoplasm coming chiefly from the medium, but also in a
lesser degree from the sitters, is used by the spirit operators to
fashion something resembling a human larynx. This they use in the
production of the voice.
In the explanation given to Koons by the spirits they spoke of using a
combination of the elements of the spiritual body, and what corresponds
to our modern ectoplasm, "a physical aura which emanates from the
medium." Compare this with the spirit explanation given through Mrs.
Bassett, a well-known English voice medium in the 'seventies: "They say
they take the emanations from the medium and other members of the circle,
wherewith they make speaking apparatus which they use to talk with."*
* THE SPIRITUAL MAGAZINE (London), 1872, p. 45.
Mrs. Mary Marshall (died 1875), who was the first English public medium,
was the channel for voices coming from John King and others. In London in
1869 Mr. W. H. Harrison, editor of THE SPIRITUALIST, conducted exhaustive
tests with her. As the early Spiritualists were supposed to be people who
were easily imposed upon, it is interesting to note his careful scrutiny.
He says,* speaking of Mrs. Mary Marshall:
* THE SPIRITUALIST (London), Vol. 1, p. 38.
Tables and chairs moved about in daylight, and sometimes rose from the
ground, whilst at the dark seances voices were heard, and luminous
manifestations seen; all these things purported to come from spirits. I
therefore resolved to be a constant visitor at the seances and to stick
at the work till I either discovered the assertions to be true, or
detected the imposture with sufficient accuracy and certainty to expose
it in the presence of witnesses, and to be able to publish the facts with
complete sectional drawings of the apparatus used.
The voice calling itself "John King" is backed by an intelligence
apparently entirely different in kind from that of Mr. or Mrs. Marshall.
However, I privately assumed that Mr. Marshall did the voice, and by
attending a few seances found that it was a common thing for Mr. Marshall
and John King to speak at the same time, so I was obliged to throw over
Next I assumed that Mrs. Marshall did it, till one evening I sat next
her; she was on my right-hand side, I had hold of her hand and arm, and
John King came and talked into my left ear, Mrs. Marshall being perfectly
motionless all the time, so over went the other theory. Next, I assumed
that a confederate among the visitors to the circle did John King's
voice, so had a seance with Mr. and Mrs. Marshall alone; John was there,
and talked for an hour.
Lastly, I assumed that a concealed confederate did the voice, so attended
two seances where Mrs. Marshall was present among strangers to her, in a
strange house, and again John King was as lively as ever.
Finally, on Thursday evening December 30th, 1869, John King came and
talked to eleven persons at Mrs. C. Berry's circle, in the absence of Mr.
and Mrs. Marshall, the medium being Mrs. Perrin.
While Mr. Harrison satisfied himself in this way that no human being
present produced the voices, he does not mention-what was the case-that
the voices often gave internal proofs of identity such as neither the
medium nor a confederate could have supplied. Signor Damiani, a
well-known investigator, in his evidence before the London Dialectical
Society, declared * that voices that had spoken to him in the presence of
unpaid mediums had subsequently conversed with him at private seances
with Mrs. Marshall, and had "there exhibited the same peculiarities as to
tone, expression, pitch, volume, and pronunciation, as upon the former
occasions." These voices also talked with him on matters of so private a
nature that no one else could have known of them. At times, too, they
foretold events which duly came to pass.
* Report of the London Dialectical Society (1871), p. 201.
S.P.R. JOURNAL, Vol. IV, p. 127.
It is natural that those who come in contact for the first time with
voice phenomena should suspect ventriloquism as a possible explanation.
D. D. Home, with whom these voices occurred often, was careful to meet
this objection. General Boldero, describing the seance when Home visited
him at Cupar, Fife, in 1870, writes:
Then voices were heard speaking together in the room, two different
persons judging from the intonation. We could not make out the words
spoken, as Home persisted in speaking to us all the time. We remonstrated
with him for speaking, and he replied, "I spoke purposely that you might
be convinced the voices were not due to any ventriloquism on my part, as
this is impossible when anyone is speaking in his natural voice." Home's
voice was quite unlike that of the voices heard in the air.
The author can corroborate this from his personal experience, having
repeatedly heard voices speaking at the same time. Examples are given in
the chapter on Some Great Modern Mediums.
Admiral Usborne Moore testifies to hearing three and four spirit voices
simultaneously with Mrs. Wriedt, of Detroit. In his book "The Voices"
(1913) he quotes the testimony of a well-known writer, Miss Edith K.
Harper, formerly private secretary to Mr. W. T. Stead. She writes*:
* "The Voices," pp. 324-5,
After considering a record of about two hundred sittings with Mrs. Etta
Wriedt during her three visits to England, of which the notes of the
general circles alone would fill a huge volume, were they written IN
EXTENSO, I will try to relate, in brief, a few of the most striking
experiences my mother and I were privileged to have through Mrs. Wriedt's
mediumship. Looking over my notes of her first visit in 1911 the
following details stand out as among the principal features of the
(1) Mrs Wriedt was never entranced, but conversed freely with the
sitters, and we have heard her talking to, even arguing with, some spirit
person with whose opinions she did not agree. I remember once Mr. Stead
shaking with laughter on hearing Mrs. Wriedt suddenly reprimand the late
editor of the Progressive Thinker for his attitude towards mediums, and
the evident confusion of Mr. Francis, who, after an attempted
explanation, dropped the trumpet, and apparently retired discomforted.
(2) Two, three, and even four spirit voices talking simultaneously to
(3) Messages given in foreign languages-French, German, Italian, Spanish,
Norwegian, Dutch, Arabic and others-with which the medium was quite
unacquainted. A Norwegian lady, well known in the world of literature and
politics, was addressed in Norwegian by a man's voice, claiming to be her
brother, and giving the name P-.
She conversed with him, and seemed overcome with joy at the correct
proofs he gave her of his identity. Another time a voice spoke in voluble
Spanish, addressing itself definitely to a lady in the circle whom none
of the sitters knew to be acquainted with that language; the lady
thereupon entered into a fluent conversation in Spanish with the Spirit,
to the evident satisfaction of the latter.
Mrs. Mary Hollis (afterwards Mrs. Hollis-Billing) was a remarkable
American medium who visited England in 1874, and again in 1880, when a
presentation and address were given her in London by representative
Spiritualists. A fine account of her varied mediumship is given by Dr. N.
B. Wolfe in his book, "Startling Facts in Modern Spiritualism." Mrs.
Hollis was a lady of refinement, and thousands obtained evidence and
consolation through her powers. Her two spirit guides, "James Nolan" and
an Indian named "Ski," talked freely in the Direct Voice. At one of her
seances, held at Mrs. Makdougall Gregory's house in Grosvenor Square on
January 21, 1880, a clergyman of the Church of England* "had the thread
of a conversation taken up by a spirit where it had been broken off seven
years before, and he professed himself perfectly satisfied with the
genuineness of the voice, which was very peculiar and distinctly audible
to those sitting on either side of the clergyman who was addressed."
* SPIRITUAL NOTES, Vol. I., p. 262, iv.
Mr. Edward C. Randall gives an account of another good American voice
medium, Mrs. Emily S. French, in his book "The Dead Have Never Died." She
died in her home in Rochester, New York, on June 24, 1912. Mr. Randall
investigated her powers for twenty years, and was convinced that her
mediumship was of a very high character.
Mrs. Mercia M. Swain, who died in 1900, was a voice medium through whose
instrumentality a Rescue Circle in California was able to reach and do
good to unprogressed souls in the beyond. An account of these
extraordinary sittings, which were under the control of Mr. Leander
Fisher, of Buffalo, New York, and lasted for twenty-five years, from 1875
to 1900, will be found in Admiral Usborne Moore's book, "Glimpses of the
Mrs. Everitt, a very fine non-professional medium, obtained voices in
England in 1867 and for many years after. Most of the great physical
mediums, especially the materializing mediums, produced voice phenomena.
They occurred, for instance, with Eglinton, Spriggs, Husk, Duguid, Herne,
Mrs. Guppy, and Florence Cook.
Mrs. Elizabeth Blake, of Ohio, who died in 1920, was one of the most
wonderful voice mediums of whom we have any record, and perhaps the most
evidential, because in her presence the voices were regularly produced in
broad daylight. She was a poor, illiterate woman living in the tiny
village of Bradrick on the shore of the Ohio River, on the opposite bank
of which was the town of Huntingdon, in West Virginia. She had been a
medium since childhood. She was strongly religious and belonged to the
Methodist Church, from which, however, like some others, she was expelled
on account of her mediumship.
Little has been written about her, the only detailed account being a
valuable monograph by Professor Hyslop.* She is said to have been
repeatedly tested by "scientists, physicians and others," and to have
submitted willingly to all their tests. As, however, these men were
unable to detect any fraud, they did not trouble to give their results to
the world. Hyslop had his attention drawn to her by hearing that a
well-known American conjurer, of many years' experience, had become
convinced of her genuineness, and in 1906 he travelled to Ohio to
investigate her mediumship.
* PROCEEDINGS of the American S.P.R., Vol. VII (1913), pp. 570-788.
Hyslop's voluminous report describes evidential communications that
He makes this not unusual confession of ignorance of ectoplasmic
processes in the production of voice phenomena. He says:
The loudness of the sounds in some cases excludes the supposition that
the voices are conveyed from the vocal cords to the trumpet. I have heard
the sounds twenty feet away, and could have heard them forty or fifty
feet away, and Mrs. Blake's lips did not move.
It still remains to get any clear hypothesis to explain this aspect of
the phenomena. Even to say "spirits" would not satisfy the ordinary
scientific man. He wants to know the mechanical processes involved, as we
explain ordinary speech.
It may be true that spirits are the first cause in the case, but there
are steps in the process which intervene between their initiative and the
ultimate result. It is that which creates the perplexity more than the
supposition that spirits are in some way back of it allthe scientific man
cannot see how spirits can institute a mechanical event without the use
of a mechanical instrument.
Nor can anyone else, for that matter, but the explanation has been given
again and again from the Other Side. Professor Hyslop's want of knowledge
of the link existing between the sounds and their source would be less
surprising were it not for the fact that the spirits themselves have
repeatedly supplied the answer to the questions he raises. Through many
mediums they have given almost identical explanations.
Dr. L. V. Guthrie, superintendent of the West Virginia Asylum at
Huntingdon, Mrs. Blake's medical adviser, was convinced of her powers. He
* OP. CIT., p. 581.
I have had sittings with her in my own office, also on the front porch in
the open air, and on one occasion in a carriage as we were driving along
the road. She has repeatedly offered to let me have a sitting and use a
lamp chimney instead of a tin horn, and I have frequently seen her
produce the voices with her hand resting on one end of the horn.
Dr. Guthrie gives the following two cases with Mrs. Blake where the
information supplied was not known to the sitters, and could not have
been known to the medium.
One of my employees, a young lady, whose brother had joined the army and
gone to the Philippines; was anxious to receive some word from him, and
had written letters to him repeatedly and addressed them in care of his
Company in the Philippines, but could receive no answer. She called on
Mrs. Blake and was told by the "spirit" of her mother, who had passed
away some several years, that if she would address a letter to this
brother at C-- she would get an answer. She did so and received a reply
from him in two or three days, as he had returned from the Philippines,
unknown to any of his family.
The next case is even more striking.
An acquaintance of mine, of prominent family in this end of the State,
whose grandfather had been found at the foot of a high bridge with his
skull smashed and life extinct, called on Mrs. Blake a few years ago and
was not thinking of her grandfather at the time. She was very much
surprised to have the "spirit" of her grandfather tell her that he had
not fallen off the bridge while intoxicated, as had been presumed at the
time, but that he had been murdered by two men who met him in a buggy and
had proceeded to sandbag him, relieve him of his valuables, and throw him
over the bridge. The "spirit" then proceeded to describe minutely the
appearance of the two men who had murdered him, and gave such other
information that led to the arrest and conviction of one or both of these
Numerous sitters with Mrs. Blake noted that while the medium was
speaking, spirit voices were heard at the same time, and further, that
the same spirits pre served the same personality and the same intonation
of voice through a course of years. Hyslop gives details of a case with
this medium where the voice communication gave the correct solution for
opening a combination lock to a safe, when it was unknown to the sitter.
Among modern voice mediums in England are Mrs. Roberts Johnson, Mrs.
Blanche Cooper, John C. Sloan, William Phoenix, the Misses Dunsmore, Evan
Powell the Welsh medium, and Mr. Potter.
Mr. H. Dennis Bradley has given a full account of the voice mediumship of
George Valiantine, the well-known American medium. Mr. Bradley was able
himself to secure voices in his own Home Circle, without any professional
medium. It is impossible to exaggerate the services which Mr. Bradley's
devoted and self-sacrificing work has rendered to psychic science. If our
whole knowledge depended upon the evidence given in these two books, it
would be ample for any reasonable man.*
* "Towards the Stars" and "The Wisdom of the Gods."
Some few pages may also be devoted to a summary of the very cogent
objective evidence which is offered by the casts that have been taken
from the bodies of ectoplasmic figures-in other words, of materialized
forms. The first who explored this line of research seems to have been
William Denton, the author of "Nature's Secrets," a book on psychometry,
published in 1863. In Boston (U. S. A.) in 1875, working with the medium
Mary M. Hardy, he employed methods which closely resemble those used by
Richet and Geley in their more recent experiments in Paris. Denton
actually gave a public demonstration in Paine Hall, when the cast of a
spirit face was said to have been produced in melted paraffin. Other
mediums with whom these casts were obtained were Mrs. Firman, Dr. Monck,
Miss Fairlamb (afterwards Mrs. Mellon), and William Eglinton. The fact
that these results were corroborated by the later Paris sittings is a
strong argument for their validity. Mr. William Oxley, of Manchester,
describes how on February 5, 1876, a beautiful mould of a lady's hand was
obtained, and how a subsequent mould of the hand of Mrs. Firman the
medium was found to be quite different. On this occasion Mrs. Firman was
confined in a lace net bag which went over her head and was fastened
round the waist, enclosing her hands and arms. This would seem to be
final as regards any fraud on the part of the medium, while it is also
recorded that the wax mould was warm, which shows that it could not have
been brought into the seance room. It is hard to see what further
precautions could have been taken to guarantee the result. On a second
occasion a mould of the foot as well as of the hand was obtained, the
openings of the wrist and ankle being in each case so narrow that the
limb could not have been withdrawn. There seems to have been no
explanation open save that the hand or foot had dematerialized.
Dr. Monck's results seem also to stand the test of criticism. Oxley
experimented with him in Manchester in 1876, and had the same success as
with Mrs. Firman. On this occasion different moulds from two separate
figures were obtained. Oxley says of these experiences, "The importance
and value of these spirit moulds cannot be overestimated, for while the
relation of spiritual phenomena to others of doubtful and sceptical turn
is valuable only on the ground of credibility, the casts of these hands
and feet are permanent and patent facts, and now demand from men of
science, artists, and scoffers a solution of the mystery of their
production." This demand is still made. A famous conjurer, Houdini, and a
great anatomist, Sir Arthur Keith, have both tried their hands, and the
results, laboriously produced, have only served to accentuate the unique
character of that which they tried to copy.
In the case of Eglinton it has been recorded by Dr. Nichols) the
biographer of the Davenports, that evidential casts of hands were
obtained, and that one lady present recognized a peculiarity-a slight
deformity-characteristic of the hand of her little daughter who had been
drowned in South Africa at the age of five years.
Perhaps the most final and convincing of all the moulds was that which
was obtained by Epes Sergeant from the medium Mrs. Hardy, already
mentioned in connexion with Denton's experiments. The conclusions are
worth quoting in full. The writer says-
"Our conclusions are:
"1. That the mould of a full-sized perfect hand was produced in a closed
box by some unknown power exercising intelligence and manual activity.
"2. That the conditions of the experiment were independent of all
reliance on the character and good faith of the medium, though the
genuineness of her mediumship has been fully vindicated by the result.
"3. That these conditions were so simple and so stringent as completely
to exclude all opportunities for fraud and all contrivances for illusion,
so that our realization of the conclusiveness of the test is perfect.
"4. That the fact, long known to investigators, that evanescent,
materialized hands, guided by intelligence and projected from an
invisible organism, can be made visible and tangible, receives
confirmation from this duplicated test.
"5. That the experiment of the mould, coupled with that of the so-called
spirit photograph, gives objective proof of the operation of an
intelligent force outside of any visible organism, and offers a fair
basis for scientific investigation.
"6. That the inquiry 'How was that mould produced within that box?' leads
to considerations that must have a most important bearing on the
philosophy of the future, as well as on problems of psychology and
physiology, and opens new views of the latent powers and high destiny of
Seven reputable witnesses sign the report.
If the reader is not satisfied by such various examples of the validity
of these tests by casts and moulds, he should read the conclusions which
were reached by that great investigator Geley, at the end of his
classical experiments with Kluski, already shortly alluded to.
Dr. Geley carried out with Kluski a number of remarkable experiments in
the formation of wax moulds of materialized hands. He has recorded* the
results of a series of eleven successful sittings for this purpose. In a
dim light the medium's right hand was held by Professor Richet and his
left hand by Count Potocki. A trough containing wax, kept at
melting-point by warm water, was placed two feet in front of Kluski, and
for the purpose of a test the wax was impregnated (unknown to the medium)
with the chemical cholesterin, this to prevent the possibility of
substitution. Dr. Geley writes:
* REVUE METAPSYCHIQUE, June, 1921.
The feeble light did not admit of the phenomena being actually seen; we
were aware of the moment of dipping, by the sound of splashing in the
liquid. The operation involved two or three immersions. The hand that was
acting was plunged in the trough, was withdrawn, and, covered with warm
paraffin, touched the hands of the controllers of the experiments, and
then was plunged again into the wax. After the operation the glove of
paraffin, still warm but solidified, was placed against the hand of one
of the controllers.
In this way nine moulds were taken: seven of hands, one of a foot, and
one of a chin and lips. The wax of which they were composed on being
tested gave the characteristic reaction of cholesterin. Dr. Geley shows
twenty-three photographs of the moulds and of plaster casts made from
them. It may be mentioned that the moulds exhibit the folds of the skin,
the nails and the veins, and these markings in nowise resemble those of
the medium. Efforts to make similar moulds from the hands of human beings
were only partially successful, and the difference from those obtained at
the sittings was obvious. Sculptors and moulders of repute have declared
that they know of no method of producing wax moulds such as those
obtained at the seances with Kluski.
Geley sums up the result thus:*
* "L'Ectoplasmie," etc., p. 278.
"We will now enumerate the proofs which we have given of the authenticity
of the moulds of materialized limbs in our experiments in Paris and
"We have shown that quite apart from the control of the medium, whose two
hands were held by us, all fraud was impossible.
"1. The theory of fraud by a rubber glove is inadmissible, for such an
attempt gives crude and absurd results which can be seen at a glance to
"2. It is not possible to produce such gloves of wax by using a rigid
mould already prepared. A trial of this shows at once how impossible it
"3. The use of a prepared mould in some fusible and soluble substance,
covered with a film of paraffin during the seance and then dissolved out
in a pail of water, will not fit in with the actual procedure. We had no
pail of water.
"4. The theory that a living hand was used (that of the medium or of an
assistant) is inadmissible. This could not have been done, for several
reasons, one being that gloves thus obtained are thick and solid, while
ours are fine and delicate, also that the position of the fingers in our
moulds makes it impossible that they could be withdrawn without breaking
the glove. Also that the gloves have been compared with the hands of the
medium and of the assistants, and that they are not alike. This is shown
also by anthropological measurements.
"Finally, there is the hypothesis that the gloves were brought by the
medium. This is disproved by the fact that we secretly introduced
chemicals into the melted wax, and that these were found in the gloves.
"The report of the expert modellers on the point is categorical and
Nothing is evidence to those who are so filled with prejudice that they
have no room for reason, but it is inconceivable that any normally
endowed man could read all the above, and doubt the possibility of taking
moulds from ectoplasmic figures.
FRENCH, GERMAN, AND ITALIAN SPIRITUALISM
Spiritualism in Trance and the Latin races centres round Allan Kardec,
who prefers for it the term Spiritism, and its predominant feature is a
belief in reincarnation.
M. Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail, who adopted the pseudonym "Allan
Kardec," was born in Lyons in 1804, where his father was a barrister. In
1850, when the American spirit manifestations were exciting attention in
Europe, Allan Kardec investigated the subject through the mediumship of
two daughters of a friend.
In the communications which were obtained he was informed that "Spirits
of a much higher order than those who habitually communicated through the
two young mediums, came expressly for him, and would continue to do so,
in order to enable him to fulfil an important religious mission."
He tested this by drawing up a series of questions relating to the
problems of human life, and submitting them to the supposed operating
intelligences, and by means of raps and writing through the planchette he
received the replies upon which he has founded his system of Spiritism.
After two years of these communications he found that his ideas and
convictions had become completely changed. He said:
"The instructions thus transmitted constitute an entirely new theory of
human life, duty and destiny, that appears to me to be perfectly rational
and coherent, admirably lucid and consoling, and intensely interesting."
The idea came to him to publish what he had got, and on submitting this
idea to the communicating intelligences, he was told that the teaching
had been expressly intended to be given to the world, and that he had a
mission confided to him by Providence. They also instructed him to call
the work LE LIVRE DES ESPRITS (The Spirits' Book).
The book thus produced in 1856 had a great success. Over twenty editions
have been published, and the "Revised Edition," issued in 1857, has
become the recognized text-book of spiritual philosophy in France. In
1861 he published "The Mediums' Book"; in 1864, "The Gospel as Explained
by Spirits"; in 1865, "Heaven and Hell"; and in 1867, "Genesis." In
addition to the above, which are his main works, he published two short
treatises entitled, "What is Spiritism?" and "Spiritism Reduced to its
Miss Anna Blackwell, who has translated Allan Kardec's works into
English, thus describes him:
In person, Allan Kardec was somewhat under middle height. Strongly built,
with a large, round, massive head, well-marked features, and clear, grey
eyes, he looked more like a German than a Frenchman. Energetic and
persevering, but of a temperament that was calm, cautious, and
unimaginative almost to coldness, incredulous by nature and by education,
a close, logical reasoner, and eminently practical in thought and deed;
he was equally free from mysticism and from enthusiasm. Grave, slow of
speech, unassuming in manner, yet not without a certain quiet dignity
resulting from the earnestness and single-mindedness which were the
distinguishing traits of his character; neither courting nor avoiding
discussion, but never volunteering any remark upon the subject to which
he had devoted his life, he received with affability the innumerable
visitors from every part of the world who came to converse with him in
regard to the views of which he was the recognized exponent, answering
questions and objections, explaining difficulties, and giving information
to all serious inquirers, with whom he talked with freedom and animation,
his face occasionally lighting up with a genial and pleasant smile,
though such was his habitual sobriety of demeanour that he was never
known to laugh. Among the thousands by whom he was thus visited were many
of high rank in the social, literary, artistic, and scientific worlds.
The Emperor Napoleon III, the fact of whose interest in spiritist
phenomena was no mystery, sent for him several times, and held long
conversations with him at the Tuileries upon the doctrines of "The
He founded the Society of Psychologie Studies, which met weekly at his
house for the purpose of getting communications through writing mediums.
He also established LA REVUE SPIRITE, a monthly journal still in
existence, which he edited until his death in 1869. Shortly before this
he drew up a plan of an organization to carry on his work. It was called
"The Joint Stock Company for the Continuation of the Works of Allan
Kardec," with power to buy and sell, receive donations and bequests, and
to continue the publication of LA REVUE SPIRITE. After his death his
plans were faithfully carried out.
Kardec considered that the words "spiritual," "spiritualist," and
"spiritualism" already had a definite meaning. Therefore he substituted
"spiritism" and "spiritist."
This Spiritist philosophy is distinguished by its belief that our
spiritual progression is effected through a series of incarnations.
Spirits having to pass through many incarnations, it follows that we have
all had many existences, and that we shall have others, more or less
perfect, either upon this earth or in other worlds.
The incarnation of spirits always takes place in the human race; it would
be an error to suppose that the soul or spirit could be incarnated in the
body of an animal.
A spirit's successive corporeal existences are always progressive, and
never retrograde; but the rapidity of our progress depends on the efforts
we make to arrive at perfection.
The qualities of the soul are those of the spirit incarnated in us; thus,
a good man is the incarnation of a good spirit, and a bad man is that of
an unpurified spirit.
The soul possessed its own individuality before its incarnation; it
preserves that individuality after its separation from the body.
On its re-entrance into the spirit world, the soul again finds there all
those whom it has known upon the earth, and all its former existences
eventually come back to its memory, with the remembrance of all the good
and of all the evil which it has done in them.
The incarnated spirit is under the influence of matter; the man who
surmounts this influence, through the elevation and purification of his
soul, raises himself nearer to the superior spirits, among whom he will
one day be classed. He who allows himself to be ruled by bad passions,
and places all his delight in the satisfaction of his gross animal
appetites, brings himself nearer to the impure spirits, by giving
preponderance to his animal nature.
Incarnated spirits inhabit the different globes of the universe.*
* Introduction to "The Spirits' Book."
Kardec conducted his investigations through the communicating
intelligences by means of question and answer, and in this way obtained
the material for his books. Much information was forthcoming on the
subject of reincarnation. To the question "What is the aim of the
incarnation of spirits?" the answer was:
It is a necessity imposed on them by God, as the means of attaining
perfection. For some of them it is an expiation; for others, a mission.
In order to attain perfection, it is necessary for them to undergo all
the vicissitudes of corporeal existence. It is the experience acquired by
expiation that constitutes its usefulness. Incarnation has also another
aim, viz. that of fitting the spirit to perform his share in the work of
creation; for which purpose he is made to assume a corporeal apparatus in
harmony with the material state of each world into which he is sent, and
by means of which he is enabled to accomplish the special work, in
connexion with that world, which has been appointed to him by the divine
ordering. He is thus made to contribute his quota towards the general
weal, while achieving his own advancement.
Spiritualists in England have come to no decision with regard to
reincarnation. Some believe in it, many do not, and the general attitude
may be taken to be that, as the doctrine cannot be proved, it had better
be omitted from the active politics of Spiritualism. Miss Anna Blackwell,
in explanation of this attitude, suggests that the continental mind being
more receptive of theories, has accepted Allan Kardec, while the English
mind "usually declines to consider any theory until it has assured itself
of the facts assumed by such theory."
Mr. Thomas Brevior (Shorter), one of the editors of THE SPIRITUAL
MAGAZINE, sums up the prevailing view of English Spiritualists of his
day. He writes:*
* THE SPIRITUAL MAGAZINE, 1876, p. 35.
When Reincarnation assumes a more scientific aspect, when it can offer a
body of demonstrable facts admitting of verification like those of Modern
Spiritualism, it will merit ample and careful discussion. Meanwhile, let
the architects of speculation amuse themselves if they will by building
castles in the air; life is too short, and there is too much to do in
this busy world to leave either leisure or inclination to occupy
ourselves in demolishing these airy structures, or in showing on what
slight foundations they are reared. It is far better to work out those
points in which we are agreed than to wrangle over those upon which we
appear so hopelessly to differ.
William Howitt, one of the stalwarts of early Spiritualism in England, is
still more emphatic in his condemnation of reincarnation. After quoting
Emma Hardinge Britten's remark that thousands in the Other World protest,
through distinguished mediums, that they have no knowledge or proofs of
reincarnation, he says*:
* THE SPIRITUAL MAGAZINE, 1876, p. 57.
THE SPIRITUALIST, Vol. VII., 1875, pp. 74-5.
The thing strikes at the root of all faith in the revelations of
Spiritualism. If we are brought to doubt the spirits communicating under
the most serious guise, under the most serious affirmations, where is
Spiritualism itself? If Reincarnation be true, pitiable and repellent as
it is, there must have been millions of spirits who, on entering the
other world, have sought in vain their kindred, children and friends. Has
even a whisper of such a woe ever reached us from the thousands and tens
of thousands of communicating spirits? Never. We may, therefore, on this
ground alone, pronounce the dogma of Reincarnation false as the hell from
which it sprung.
Mr. Howitt, however, in his vehemence, forgets that there may be a time
limit before the next incarnation takes place, and that also there may be
a voluntary element in the act.
The Hon. Alexander Aksakof, in an interesting article supplies the names
of the mediums at Allan Kardec's circle, with an account of them. He also
points out that a belief in the idea of reincarnation was strongly held
in France at that time, as can be seen from M. Pezzani's work, "The
Plurality of Existences," and others. Aksakof writes:
That the propagation of this doctrine by Kardec was a matter of strong
predilection is clear; from the beginning Reincarnation has not been
presented as an object of study, but as a dogma. To sustain it he has
always had recourse to writing mediums, who, it is well known, pass so
easily under the psychological influence of preconceived ideas; and
Spiritism has engendered such in profusion; whereas through physical
mediums the communications are not only more objective, but always
contrary to the doctrine of Reincarnation. Kardec adopted the plan of
always disparaging this kind of mediumship, alleging as a pretext its
moral inferiority. Thus the experimental method is altogether unknown in
Spiritism; for twenty years it has not made the slightest intrinsic
progress, and it has remained in total ignorance of Anglo-American
Spiritualism! The few French physical mediums who developed their powers
in spite of Kardec, were never mentioned by him in the "Revue"; they
remained almost unknown to Spiritists, and only because their spirits did
not support the doctrine of Reincarnation.
Aksakof adds that his remarks do not affect the question of reincarnation
in the abstract, but only have to do with its propagation under the name
D. D. Home, in commenting on Aksakof's article, has a thrust at a phase
of the belief in reincarnation. He says:
* THE SPIRITUALIST, Vol. VII., p. 165.
I meet many who are reincarnationists, and I have had the pleasure of
meeting at least twelve who were Marie Antoinette, six or seven Mary
Queen of Scots, a whole host of Louis and other kings, about twenty
Alexander the Greats, but it remains for me yet to meet a plain John
Smith, and I beg of you, if you meet one, to cage him as a curiosity.
Miss Anna Blackwell summarizes the contents of Kardec's chief books as
"The Spirits' Book" demonstrates the existence and attributes of the
Causal Power, and of the nature of the relation between that Power and
the universe, putting us in the track of the Divine operation.
"The Mediums' Book" describes the various methods of communication
between this world and the next.
"Heaven and Hell" vindicates the justice of the Divine government, by
explaining the nature of Evil as the result of ignorance, and showing the
process by which men shall become enlightened and purified.
"The Gospel as Explained by Spirits" is a comment on the moral precepts
of Christ, with an examination of His life and a comparison of its
incidents with present manifestations of spirit power.
"Genesis" shows the accordance of the Spiritist philosophy with the
discoveries of modern science, and with the general tenor of the Mosaic
record, as explained by spirits.
"These works," she says, "are regarded by the majority of Continental
Spiritualists as constituting the basis of the religious philosophy of
the future-a philosophy in harmony with the advance of scientific
discovery in the various other realms of human knowledge; promulgated by
the host of enlightened Spirits acting under the direction of Christ
On the whole, it seems to the author that the balance of evidence shows
that reincarnation is a fact, but not necessarily a universal one. As to
the ignorance of our spirit friends upon the point, it concerns their own
future, and if we are not clear as to our future, it is possible that
they have the same limitations. When the question is asked, "Where were
we before we were born?" we have a definite answer in the system of slow
development by incarnation, with long intervals of spirit rest between,
while otherwise we have no answer, though we must admit that it is
inconceivable that we have been born in time for eternity. Existence
afterwards seems to postulate existence before. As to the natural
question, "Why, then, do we not remember such existences?" we may point
out that such remembrance would enormously complicate our present life,
and that such existences may well form a cycle which is all clear to us
when we have come to the end of it, when perhaps we may see a whole
rosary of lives threaded upon the one personality. The convergence of so
many lines of theosophic and Eastern thought upon this one conclusion,
and the explanation which it affords in the supplementary doctrine of
Karma of the apparent injustice of any single life, are arguments in its
favour, and so perhaps are those vague recognitions and memories which
are occasionally too definite to be easily explained as atavistic
impressions. Certain hypnotic experiments, the most famous of which were
by the French investigator, Colonel de Rochas, seemed to afford some
definite evidence, the subject when in trance being pushed back for
several alleged incarnations, but the farther ones were hard to trace,
while the nearer came under the suspicion that they were influenced by
the normal knowledge of the medium. It may, at least, be conceded that
where some special task has to be completed, or where some fault has to
be remedied, the possibility of reincarnation may be one which would be
eagerly welcomed by the spirit concerned.
Before turning from the story of French Spiritualism one cannot but
remark upon the splendid group of writers who have adorned it. Apart from
Allan Kardec, and the scientific work on research lines of Geley,
Maxwell, Flammarion, and Richet, there have been pure Spiritists such as
Gabriel Delanne, Henri Regnault, and Leon Denis who have made their mark.
The last especially would have been deemed a great master of French
prose, whatever might have been his theme.
This work, which confines itself to the main stream of psychic history,
has hardly space in which it can follow its many meanderings in lesser
rivulets over every land upon the globe. Such manifestations were
invariably repetitions or close variants of those which have been already
described, and it may briefly be stated that the cult is catholic in the
fullest sense, for there is no land which is without it. From the
Argentine to Iceland the same results have sprung in the same manner from
the same causes. Such a history would require a volume in itself. Some
special pages should, however, be devoted to Germany.
Though slow to follow the organized movement, for it was not until 1865
that PSYCHE, a Spiritualistic paper, was established in that country, it
had above all other lands a tradition of mystic speculation and magical
experiment, which might be regarded as a preparation for the definite
revelation. Paracelsus, Cornelius Agrippa, van Helmont, and Jacob Boehme
are all among the pioneers of the spirit, feeling their way out of
matter, however vague the goal they may have reached. Something more
definite was attained by Mesmer, who did most of his work in Vienna in
the latter part of the eighteenth century. However mistaken in some of
his inferences, he was the prime mover in bringing the dissociation of
soul and body before the actual senses of mankind, and a native of
Strasbourg, M. de Puysegur carried his work one step farther and opened
up the wonders of clairvoyance. Jung Stilling and Dr. Justinus Kerner are
names which must always be associated with the development of human
knowledge along this mist-girt path. The actual announcement of spirit
communication was received with mingled interest and scepticism, and it
was long before any authoritative voices were raised in its defence.
Finally, the matter was brought prominently forward when Slade made his
historical visit in 1877. After viewing and testing his performances, he
obtained at Leipzig the endorsement of six professors as to their genuine
objective character. These were Zollner, Fechner and Scheibner of
Leipzig, Weber of Gottingen, Fichte of Stuttgart, and Ulrici of Halle. As
these testimonials were reinforced by an affidavit from Bellachini, the
chief conjurer of Germany, that there was no possibility of trickery, a
considerable effect was produced upon the public mind, which was
increased by the subsequent adhesion of two eminent Russians, Aksakof the
statesman, and Professor Butlerof of St. Petersburg University. The cult
does not appear, however, to have found a congenial soil in that
bureaucratic and military land. Save for the name of Carl du Prel, one
can recall none other which is associated with the higher phases of the
Baron Carl du Prel, of Munich, began his career as a student of
mysticism, and in his first work* he deals not with Spiritualism but
rather with the latent powers of man, the phenomena of dream, of trance,
and of the hypnotic sleep. In another treatise, however, "A Problem for
Conjurers," he gives a closely reasoned account of the steps which led
him to a full belief in the truth of Spiritualism. In this book, while
admitting that scientific men and philosophers may not be the best people
to detect trickery, he reminds the reader that Bosco, Houdin, Bellachini,
and other skilled conjurers have declared those mediums whom they have
investigated to be free from imposture. Du Prel was not content, as so
many are, to take second-hand evidence, but he had a number of sittings
with Eglinton, and later with Eusapia Palladino. He gave particular
attention to the phenomenon of psychography (slate writing) and he says
* "Philosophy of Mysticism," 2 Vols. (1889). Trans. by C. C. Massey.
One thing is clear, that is, that Psychography must be ascribed to a
transcendental origin. We shall find (1) that the hypothesis of prepared
slates is inadmissible. (2) The place on which the writing is found is
quite inaccessible to the hands of the medium. In some cases the double
slate is securely locked, leaving only room inside for the tiny morsel of
slate pencil. (3) That the writing is actually done at the time. (4) That
the medium is not writing. (5) The writing must be actually done with the
morsel of slate, or lead pencil. (6) The writing is done by an
intelligent being, since the answers are exactly pertinent to the
questions. (7) This being can read, write, and understand the language of
human beings, frequently such as is unknown to the medium.
(8) It strongly resembles a human being, as well in the degree of its
intelligence as in the mistakes sometimes made. These beings are,
therefore, although invisible, of human nature or species. It is no use
whatever to fight against this proposition. (9) If these beings speak,
they do so in human language. If they are asked who they are, they answer
that they are beings who have left this world. (10) Where these
appearances become partly visible, perhaps only their hands, the hands
seen are of human form. (11) When these things become entirely visible,
they show the human form and countenance. Spiritualism must be
investigated by science. I should look upon myself as a coward if I did
not openly express my convictions.
Du Prel emphasizes the fact that his convictions do not rest on results
obtained with professional mediums. He states that he knows three private
mediums "in whose presence direct writing not only takes place inside
double slates, but is done in inaccessible places."
"In these circumstances," he says dryly, "the question 'Medium or
Conjurer?' seems to me to stir up a great deal more dust than it
deserves," a remark some psychical researchers might take to heart.
It is interesting to note that du Prel proclaims the assertion that the
messages are only silly and trivial to be entirely unjustified by his
experience, while at the same time he asserts that he has found no traces
of superhuman intelligence, but of course, before pronouncing upon such a
point, one has to determine how a superhuman intelligence could be
distinguished and how far it would be intelligible to our brains.
Speaking of materialization, du Prel says:
When these things become entirely visible in the dark room, in which case
the medium himself sits among the chain formed by the circle, they show
the human form and countenance. It is very easily said that in this case
it is the medium himself who is masquerading. But when the medium speaks
from his seat; when his neighbours on either side declare that they have
hold of his hands, and at the same time I see a figure standing close to
me; when this figure illumines his face with the air exhausted glass tube
filled with quicksilver, lying on the table-the light produced by shaking
which not impeding the phenomena-so that I can see it distinctly, then
the collective evidence of the facts I have narrated proves to me the
necessity of the existence of a transcendental being, even if thereby all
the conclusions I have come to during twenty years of work and study
should be thrown overboard. Since, however, on the contrary, my views (as
set forth in my "Philosophy of Mysticism ") have taken quite another
course and are only further justified by these experiences, I find as
little subjective grounds for combating these facts as objective ones.
I now have the empirical experience of the existence of such
transcendental beings, which I am convinced of by the evidence of my
senses of sight, hearing, and feeling, as well as by their own
intelligent communications. Under these circumstances, being led by two
methods of inquiry to the self-same goal, I must indeed be abandoned of
the gods if I did not recognize the fact of the immortality-or rather let
us say, since the proofs do not extend farther-the continued existence of
man after death.
Carl du Prel died in 1899. His contribution to the subject is probably
the greatest yet made by any German. On the other hand, a formidable
opponent was found there in Eduard von Hartmann, author of "The
Philosophy of the Unconscious," who wrote a brochure in 1885 called
"Spiritism." Commenting upon this performance, C. C. Massey wrote*:
* LIGHT, 1885, p. 404. It should be noted that Charles Carlton Massey,
the barrister, and Gerald Massey, the poet, are separate people with
nothing in common save that both were Spiritualists.
Now for the first time, a man of commanding intellectual position has
dealt fairly by us as an opponent. He has taken the trouble to get up the
facts, if not quite thoroughly, at least to an extent that indisputably
qualifies him for critical examination. And while formally declining an
unreserved acceptance of the evidence, he has come to the conclusion that
the existence in the human organism of more forces and capacities than
exact science has investigated is sufficiently accredited by historical
and contemporary testimony. He even urges research by State-appointed and
paid commissions. He repudiates, with all the authority of a philosopher
and man of science, the supposition that the facts are a priori
incredible or "contrary to the laws of nature." He exposes the
irrelevance of "exposures," and blows to the winds the stupid parallel
between mediums and conjurers. And if his application of the psychology
of somnambulism to the phenomena results, in his view, in "ruling out"
spirits altogether, on the other hand it contains information to the
public which is highly important for the protection of mediums.
Massey says further that from the standpoint of von Hartmann's philosophy
the agency of spirits is inadmissible, and personal immortality is a
delusion. "The issue of psychological philosophy is now between his
school and that of du Prel and Hellenbach."
Alexander Aksakof replied to von Hartmann in his monthly journal
Aksakof points out that Hartmann had no practical experience whatever,
that he bestowed insufficient attention to phenomena which did not fit
into his mode of explanation, and that there were many phenomena which
were quite unknown to him. Hartmann, for instance, did not believe in the
objectivity of materialization phenomena. Aksakof ably sets out with full
details a number of cases which decidedly negative Hartmann's
Aksakof refers to Baron Lazar Hellenbach, a Spiritualist, as the first
philosophical investigator of the phenomena in Germany, and says:
"Zollner's ad mission of the reality of the mediumistic phenomena
produced in Germany an immense sensation." In many ways it would appear
that von Hartmann wrote with an imperfect knowledge of the subject.
Germany has produced few great mediums, unless Frau Anna Rothe can be
classed as such. It is possible that this woman resorted to fraud when
her psychic powers failed her, but that she had such powers in a high
degree is clearly shown by the evidence at the trial after her alleged
"exposure" in 1902.
The medium, after being kept in prison for twelve months and three weeks
before being brought to trial, was sentenced to eighteen months
imprisonment and a fine of five hundred marks. At the trial many people
of standing gave evidence in her favour, among whom were Herr Stocker,
former Court Chaplain, and Judge Sulzers, president of the High Court of
Appeal, Zurich. The judge stated on oath that Frau Rothe put him in
communication with the spirits of his wife and father, who said things to
him which the medium could not possibly have invented, because they dealt
with matters unknown to any mortal. He also declared that flowers of the
rarest kind were produced out of the air in a room flooded with light.
His evidence caused a sensation.
It is clear that the result of the trial was a foregone conclusion. It
was a repetition of the position of the magistrate, Mr. Flowers, in the
Slade case. The German legal luminary in his preliminary address said:
The Court cannot allow itself to criticize the Spiritistic theory, for it
must be acknowledged that science, with the generality of men of culture,
declares supernatural manifestations to be impossible.
In the face of that no evidence could have any weight.
Of recent years two names stand out in connexion with the subject. The
one is Dr. Schrenck Notzing, of Munich, whose fine laboratory work has
been already treated in the chapter on Ectoplasm. The other is the famous
Dr. Hans Driesch, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Leipzig.
He has recently declared that "the actuality of psychical phenomena is
doubted to-day only by the incorrigible dogmatist." He made this
statement in the course of a lecture at the London University in 1924,
afterwards published in The Quest.* He went on to say:
* July, 1924.
These phenomena have had, however, a hard struggle to gain recognition;
and the chief reason why they have had to fight so strenuously, is
because they utterly refused to dovetail with orthodox psychology and
natural science, such as these both were, up to the end of last century,
at any rate.
Professor Driesch points out that natural science and psychology have
undergone a radical change since the beginning of the present century,
and proceeds to show how psychical phenomena link up with "normal"
natural sciences. He remarks that if the latter refused to recognize
their kinship with the former, it would make no difference to the truth
of psychical phenomena. He shows, with various biological illustrations,
how the mechanistic theory is overthrown. He expounds his vitalistic
theory "to establish a closer contact between the phenomena of normal
biology and the physical phenomena in the domain of psychical research."
Italy has, in some ways, been superior to all other European states in
its treatment of Spiritualism-and this in spite of the constant
opposition of the Roman Catholic Church, which has most illogically
stigmatized as diabolism in others that which it has claimed as a special
mark of sanctity in itself. The Acta Sanctorum are one long chronicle of
psychic phenomena with levitations, apports, prophecy, and all the other
signs of mediumistic power. This Church has, however, always persecuted
Spiritualism. Powerful as it is, it will find in time that it has
encountered something stronger than itself.
Of modern Italians the great Mazzini was a Spiritualist in days when
Spiritualism had hardly formulated itself, and his associate Garibaldi
was president of a psychic society. In a letter to a friend in 1849,
Mazzini sketched his religio-philosophical system which curiously
foreshadowed the more recent Spiritualistic view. He substituted a
temporary purgatory for an eternal hell, postulated a bond of union
between this world and the next, defined a hierarchy of spiritual beings,
and foresaw a continual progression towards supreme perfection.
Italy has been very rich in mediums, but she has been even more fortunate
in having men of science who were wise enough to follow facts wherever
they might lead. Among these numerous investigators, all of whom were
convinced of the reality of psychic phenomena, though it cannot be
claimed that all accepted the Spiritualistic view, there are to be found
such names as Ermacora, Schiaparelli, Lombroso, Bozzano, Morselli,
Chiaia, Pictet, Foa, Porro, Brofferio, Bottazzi, and many others. They
have had the advantage of a wonderful subject in Eusapia Palladino, as
has already been described, but there have been a succession of other
powerful mediums, including such names as Politi, Carancini, Zuccarini,
Lucia Sordi, and especially Linda Gazzera. Here as elsewhere, however,
the first impulse came from the English-speaking countries. It was the
visit of D. D. Home to Florence in 1855, and the subsequent visit of Mrs.
Guppy in 1868 which opened the furrow. Signor Damiani was the first great
investigator, and it was he who in 1872 discovered the powers of
Damiani's mantle fell upon Dr. G. B. Ermacora, who was founder and
co-editor with Dr. Finzi of the RIVISTA DI STUDI PSICHICI. He died at
Rovigo in his fortieth year at the hand of a homicide-a very great loss
to the cause. His adhesion to it, and his enthusiasm, drew in others of
equal standing. Thus Porro, in his glowing obituary, wrote:
Lombroso found himself at Milan with three young physicists, entirely
devoid of all prejudice, Ermacora, Finzi and Gerosa, with two profound
thinkers who had already exhausted the philosophical side of the
question, the German du Prel and the Russian Aksakof, with another
philosopher of acute mind and vast learning, Brofferio; and lastly, with
a great astronomer, Schiaparelli, and with an able physiologist, Richet.
It would be difficult to collect a better assortment of learned men
giving the necessary guarantees of seriousness, of varied competence, of
technical ability in experimenting, of sagacity and prudence in corning
While Brofferio, by his weighty book "Per to Spiritismo" (Milan, 1892),
demolished one by one the arguments of the opposite side, collecting,
co-ordinating, and classifying with incomparable dialectical skill the
proofs in favour of his thesis, Ermacora applied to its demonstration all
the resources of a robust mind trained to the use of the experimental
method; and he took so much pleasure in this new and fertile study, that
he entirely abandoned those researches in electricity which had already
caused him to be looked upon as a successor to Faraday and Maxwell.
Dr. Ercole Chiaia, who died in 1905, was also an ardent worker and
propagandist to whom many distinguished men of European reputation owed
their first knowledge of psychical phenomena, among others, Lombroso,
Professor Bianchi of the University of Naples, Schiaparelli, Flournoy,
Professor Porro of the University of Genoa, and Colonel de Rochas.
Lombroso wrote of him:
You are right to honour highly the memory of Ercole Chiaia. In a country
where there is such a horror of what is new, it required great courage
and a noble soul to become the apostle of theories which have met with
ridicule, and to do so with that tenacity, that energy, which always
characterized Chiaia. It is to him that many owe-myself among others-the
privilege of seeing a new world open out to psychical investigation-and
this by the only way which exists to convince men of culture, that is to
say, by direct observation.
Sardou, Richet, and Morselli also paid tributes to the work of Chiaia.*
* "Annals of Psychical Science," Vol, II. (1905), pp. 261-262.
Chiaia did an important work in leading Lombroso, the eminent alienist,
to investigate the subject. After his first experiments with Eusapia
Palladino, in March, 1891, Lombroso wrote:
I am quite ashamed and grieved at having opposed with so much tenacity
the possibility of the so-called Spiritistic facts.
At first he only gave his assent to the facts, while still opposed to the
theory associated with them. But even this partial admission caused a
sensation in Italy and throughout the world. Aksakof wrote to Dr. Chiaia:
"Glory to M. Lombroso for his noble words! Glory to you for your
Lombroso affords a good example of the conversion of an utter
materialist, after a long and careful examination of the facts. In 1900
he wrote to Professor Falcomer:
I am like a little pebble on the beach. As yet I am uncovered, but I feel
that each tide draws me a little closer to the sea.
He ended, as we know, by becoming a complete believer, a convinced
Spiritualist, and published his celebrated book, "After Death-What?"
Ernesto Bozzano, who was born in Genoa in 1862, has devoted thirty years
to psychical research, embodying his conclusions in thirty long
monographs. He will be remembered for his incisive criticism* of Mr.
Podmore's slighting references to Mr. Stainton Moses. It is entitled, "A
Defence of William Stainton Moses." Bozzano, in company with Professors
Morselli and Porro, had a long series of experiments with Eusapia
Palladino. After consideration of the subjective and objective phenomena,
he was led "logically and of necessity" to give full adherence to the
* "Annals of Psychical Science," Vol. I. (1905), pp. 75-129.
Enrico Morselli, Professor of Psychiatry at Genoa, was for many years, as
he himself says, a bitter sceptic with regard to the objective reality of
psychic phenomena. From 1901 onwards he had thirty sittings with Eusapia
Palladino, and became completely convinced of the facts, if not of the
spirit theory. He published his observations in a book which Professor
Richet describes as "a model of erudition" ("Psicologia e Spiritismo," 2
Vols., Turin, 1908). Lombroso, is a very generous review* of this book,
refers to the author's scepticism regarding certain phenomena he
* "Annals of Psychical Science," Vol. VII. (1908), p. 376.
Helene Smith, the medium in Flournoy's book, "From India to the Planet
Yes. Morselli commits the same fault as Flournoy with Miss Smith, of
torturing his own strong ingenuity to find not true and not credible the
things which he himself declares that he saw, and which really occurred.
For instance, during the first few days after the apparition of his own
mother, he admitted to me that he had seen her and had quite a
conversation in gestures with her, in which she pointed almost with
bitterness to his spectacles and his partially bald head, and made him
remember how long ago she had left him a fine, bold young man.
When Morselli asked his mother for a proof of identity, she touched his
forehead with her hand, seeking for a wart there, but because she first
touched the right side and then the left, on which the wart really was,
Morselli would not accept this as evidence of his mother's presence.
Lombroso, with more experience, points out to him the awkwardness of
spirits using the instrumentality of a medium for the first time. The
truth was that Morselli had, strangely enough, the utmost repugnance to
the appearance of his mother through a medium against his will. Lombroso
cannot understand this feeling. He says:
I confess that I not only do not share it, but, on the contrary, when I
saw my mother again, I felt one of the most pleasing inward excitements
of my life, a pleasure that was almost a spasm, which aroused a sense,
not of resentment, but of gratitude to the medium who threw my mother
again into my arms after so many years, and this great event caused me to
forget, not once, but many times, the humble position of Eusapia, who had
done for me, even were it purely automatically, that which no giant in
power and thought could ever have done.
Morselli is in much the same position as Professor Richet with regard to
psychical research, but, like the latter distinguished scientist, he has
been the means of powerfully influencing public opinion to a more
enlightened view of the subject.
Morselli speaks strongly about the neglect of science. Writing in 1907,
The question of Spiritism has been discussed for over fifty years; and
although no one can at present foresee when it will be settled, all are
now agreed in assigning to it great importance among the problems left as
a legacy by the nineteenth century to the twentieth. Meanwhile, no one
can fail to recognize that Spiritism is a strong current or tendency in
contemporary thought. If for many years academic science has depreciated
the whole category of facts which Spiritism has, for good or ill, rightly
or wrongly, absorbed and assimilated, to form the elements of its
doctrinal system, so much the worse for science! And worse still for the
scientists who have remained deaf and blind before all the affirmations,
not of credulous sectarians, but of serious and worthy observers such as
Crookes, Lodge and Richet. I am not ashamed to say that I myself, as far
as my modest power went, have contributed to this obstinate scepticism,
up to the day on which I was enabled to break the chains in which my
absolutist preconceptions had bound my judgment.*
* "Annals of Psychical Science," Vol. V. (1907), p. 322.
It is to be noted that the majority of the Italian professors, while
giving adherence to psychical facts, decline to follow the conclusions of
those they call the Spiritists. De Vesme makes this clear when he says:
It is most important to point out that the revival of interest in these
questions, which has been displayed by the public in Italy, would not
have been produced so easily if the scientific men who have just
proclaimed the objective authenticity of these mediumistic phenomena had
not been careful to add that the recognition of the facts does not by any
means imply the acceptance of the Spiritistic hypothesis.
There was, however, a strong minority who saw the full meaning of the
SOME GREAT MODERN MEDIUMS
There is always a certain monotony in writing about physical signs of
external intelligence, because they take stereotyped forms limited in
their nature. They are amply sufficient for their purpose, which is to
demonstrate the presence of invisible powers unknown to material science,
but both their methods of production and the results lead to endless
reiteration. This manifestation in itself, occurring as it does in every
country on the globe, should convince anyone who thinks seriously upon
the subject that he is in the presence of fixed laws, and that it is not
a sporadic succession of miracles, but a real science which is being
developed. It is in their ignorant and arrogant contempt of this fact
that opponents have sinned. "ILS NE COMPRENNENT PAS QU'IL Y A RTES LOIS,"
wrote Madame Bisson, after some fatuous attempt on the part of the
doctors of the Sorbonne to produce ectoplasm under conditions which
negatived their own experiment. As will be seen by what has gone before,
a great physical medium can produce the Direct Voice apart from his own
vocal organs, telekenesis, or movement of objects at a distance, raps, or
percussions of ectoplasm, levitations, apports, or the bringing of
objects from a distance, materializations, either of faces, limbs, or of
complete figures, trance talkings and writings, writings within closed
slates, and luminous phenomena, which take many forms. All of these
manifestations the author has many times seen, and as they have been
exhibited to him by the leading mediums of his day, he ventures to vary
the form of this history by speaking of the more recent sensitives from
his own personal knowledge and observation.
It is understood that some cultivate one gift and some another, while
those who can exhibit all round forms of power are not usually so
proficient in any one as the man or woman who specializes upon it. You
have so much psychic power upon which to draw, and you may turn it all
into one deep channel or disperse it over several superficial ones. Now
and then some wonder-man appears like D. D. Home, who carries with him
the whole range of mediumship-but it is rare.
The greatest trance medium with whom the author is acquainted is Mrs.
Osborne Leonard. The outstanding merit of her gift is that it is, as a
rule, continuous. It is not broken up by long pauses or irrelevant
intervals, but it flows on exactly as if the person alleged to be
speaking were actually present. The usual procedure is that Mrs. Leonard,
a pleasant, gentle, middle-aged, ladylike woman, sinks into slumber, upon
which her voice changes entirely, and what comes through purports to be
from her little control, Feda. The control talks in rather broken English
in a high voice, with many little intimacies and pleasantries which give
the impression of a sweet, amiable and intelligent child. She acts as
spokesman for the waiting spirit, but the spirit occasionally breaks in
also, which leads to sudden changes from the first person singular to the
third, such as: "I am here, Father. He says he wants to speak. I am so
well and so happy. He says he finds it so wonderful to be able to talk to
you" and so on.
At her best, it is a wonderful experience. Upon one occasion the author
had received a long series of messages purporting to deal with the future
fate of the world, through his wife's hand and voice in his own Home
Circle. When he visited Mrs. Leonard, he said no word of this, nor had he
at that time spoken of the matter in any public way. Yet he had hardly
sat down and arranged the writing-pad upon which he proposed to take
notes of what came through, when his son announced his presence, and
spoke with hardly a break for an hour. During this long monologue he
showed an intimate knowledge of all that had come through in the Home
Circle, and also of small details of family life, utterly foreign to the
medium. In the whole interview he made no mistake as to fact, and yet
many facts were mentioned. A short section of the less personal part of
it may be quoted here as a sample
There is so much false progress of material mechanical kind. That is not
progress. If you build a car to go one thousand miles this year, then you
build one to go two thousand miles next year. No one is the better for
that. We want real progress-to understand the power of mind and spirit
and to realize the fact that there is a spirit world.
So much help could be given from our side if only people on the earth
would fit themselves to take it, but we cannot force our help on those
who are not prepared for it. That is your work, to prepare people for us.
Some of them are so hopelessly ignorant, but sow the seed, even if you do
not see it coming up.
The clergy are so limited in their ideas and so bound by a system which
should be an obsolete one. It is like serving up last week's dinner
instead of having a new one. We want fresh spiritual food, not a hash of
the old food. We know how wonderful Christ is. We realize His love and
His power. He can help both us and you. But He will do so by kindling
fresh fires, not by raking always in the old ashes.
That is what we want-the fire of enthusiasm on the two altars of
imagination and knowledge. Some people would do away with the
imagination, but it is often the gateway to knowledge. The Churches have
had the right teaching, but they have not put it to practical use. One
must be able to demonstrate one's spiritual knowledge in a practical
form. The plane on which you live is a practical one in which you are
expected to put your knowledge and belief into action. On our plane
knowledge and faith are action-one thinks a thing and at once puts it
into practice, but on earth there are so many who say a thing is right,
but never do it. The Church teaches, but does not demonstrate its own
teaching. The blackboard is useful at times, you know. That is what you
need. You should teach, and then demonstrate upon the blackboard. Thus
physical phenomena are really most important. There will be some in this
upheaval. It is difficult for us to manifest physically now because the
greater bulk of collective thought is against and not for us. But when
the upheaval comes, people will be shaken out of their pig-headed,
ignorant, antagonistic attitude to us, which will immediately open the
way to a fuller demonstration than we have hitherto been able to give.
It is like a wall now that we have to batter against, and we lose ninety
per cent of our power in the battering and trying to find a weak spot in
this wall of ignorance through which we can creep to you. But many of you
are chiselling and hammering from your side to let us through. You have
not built the wall, and you are helping us to penetrate it. In a little
while you will have so weakened it that it will crumble, and instead of
creeping through with difficulty we shall all emerge together in a
glorious band. That will be the climax-the meeting of spirit and matter.
If the truth of Spiritualism depended upon Mrs. Leonard's powers alone,
the case would be an overwhelming one, since she has seen many hundreds
of clients and seldom failed to give complete satisfaction. There are,
however, many clairvoyants whose powers are little inferior to those of
Mrs. Leonard, and who would perhaps equal her if they showed the same
restraint in their use. No fee will ever tempt Mrs. Leonard to take more
than two clients in the day, and it is to this, no doubt, that the
sustained excellence of her results are due.
Among London clairvoyants whom the author has used, Mr. Vout Peters is
entitled to a high place. On one occasion a very remarkable piece of
evidence came through him, as is narrated elsewhere.* Another excellent
medium upon her day is Mrs. Annie Brittain. The author was in the habit
of sending mourners to this medium during the wartime, and filed the
letters in which they narrated their experience. The result is a very
remarkable one. Out of the first hundred cases eighty were quite
successful in establishing touch with the object of their inquiry. In
some cases the result was overpoweringly evidential, and the amount of
comfort given to the inquirers can hardly be exaggerated. The revulsion
of feeling when the mourner suddenly finds that death is not silent, but
that a still small voice, speaking in very happy accents, can still come
back is an overpowering one. One lady wrote that she had fully determined
to take her own life, so bleak and empty was existence, but that she left
Mrs. Brittain's parlour with renewed hope in her heart. When one hears
that such a medium has been dragged up to a police-court, sworn down by
ignorant policemen, and condemned by a still more ignorant magistrate,
one feels that one is indeed living in the dark ages of the world's
* "The New Revelation," p. 53.
Like Mrs. Leonard, Mrs. Brittain has a kindly little child familiar named
Belle. In his extensive researches the author has made the acquaintance
of many of these little creatures in different parts of the world,
finding the same character, the same voice and the same pleasant ways in
all. This similarity would in itself show any reasoning being that some
general law was at work. Feda, Belle, Iris, Harmony, and many more,
prattle in their high falsetto voices, and the world is the better for
their presence and ministrations.
Miss McCreadie is another notable London clairvoyante belonging to the
older school, and bringing with her an atmosphere of religion which is
sometimes wanting. There are many others, but no notice would be complete
without an allusion to the remarkable higher teaching which comes from
Johannes and the other controls of Mrs. Hester Dowden, the daughter of
the famous Shakespearean scholar. A reference should be made also to
Captain Bartlett, whose wonderful writings and drawings enabled Mr. Bligh
Bond to expose ruins of two chapels at Glastonbury which were so buried
that only the clairvoyant sense could have defined their exact position.
Readers of "The Gate of Remembrance" will understand the full force of
this remarkable episode.
Direct Voice phenomena are different from mere clairvoyance and
trance-speaking in that the sounds do not appear to come from the medium
but externalise themselves often to a distance of several yards, continue
to sound when the mouth is filled with water, and even break into two or
three voices simultaneously. On these occasions an aluminium trumpet is
used to magnify the voice, and also, as some suppose, to form a small
dark chamber in which the actual vocal cords used by the spirit can
become materialised. It is an interesting fact, and one which has caused
much misgiving to those whose experience is limited, that the first
sounds usually resemble the voice of the medium. This very soon passes
away and the voice either becomes neutral or may closely resemble that of
the deceased. It is possible that the reason of this phenomenon is that
the ectoplasm from which the phenomena are produced is drawn from him or
her, and carries with it some of his or her peculiarities until such time
as the outside force gains command. It is well that the sceptic should be
patient and await developments, for I have known an ignorant and
self-opinionated investigator take for granted that there was fraud
through noting the resemblance of voices, and then wreck the whole seance
by foolish horseplay, whereas had he waited his doubts would soon have
The author has had the experience with Mrs. Wriedt of hearing the Direct
Voice, accompanied by raps on the trumpet, in broad daylight, with the
medium seated some yards away. This disposes of the idea that the medium
in the dark can change her position. It is not uncommon to have two or
three spirit voices speaking or singing at the same moment, which is in
turn fatal to the theory of ventriloquism. The trumpet, too, which is
often decorated with a small spot of luminous paint, may be seen darting
about far out of reach of the medium's hands. On one occasion at the
house of Mr. Dennis Bradley, the author saw the illuminated trumpet
whirling round and tapping on the ceiling as a moth might have done. The
medium (Valiantine) was afterwards asked to stand upon his chair, and it
was found that with the trumpet in his extended arm he was unable to
touch the ceiling. This was witnessed by a circle of eight.
Mrs. Wriedt was born in Detroit some fifty years ago, and is perhaps
better known in England than any American medium. The reality of her
powers may best be judged by a short description of results. On the
occasion of a visit to the author's house in the country she sat with the
author, his wife, and his secretary, in a well-lighted room. A hymn was
sung, and before the first verse was ended a fifth voice of excellent
quality joined in and continued to the end. All three observers were
ready to depose that Mrs. Wriedt herself was singing all the time. At the
evening sitting a succession of friends came through with every possible,
sign of their identity. One sitter was approached by her father, recently
dead, who began by the hard, dry cough which had appeared in his last
illness. He discussed the question of some legacy in a perfectly rational
manner. A friend of the author's, a rather irritable Anglo-Indian,
manifested, so far as a voice could do so, reproducing exactly the
fashion of speech, giving the name, and alluding to facts of his
lifetime. Another sitter had a visit from one who claimed to be his
grand-aunt. The relationship was denied, but on inquiry at home it was
found that he had actually had an aunt of that name who died in his
childhood. Telepathy has to be strained very far to cover such cases.
Altogether the author has experimented with at least twenty producers of
the Direct Voice, and has been much struck by the difference in the
volume of the sound with different mediums. Often it is so faint that it
is only with some difficulty that one can distinguish the message. There
are few experiences more tensely painful than to strain one's ears and to
hear in the darkness the panting, labouring, broken accents beside one,
which might mean so much if one could but distinguish them. On the other
hand, the author has known what it was to be considerably embarrassed
when in the bedroom of a crowded Chicago hotel a voice has broken forth
which could only be compared with the roaring of a lion. The medium upon
that occasion was a slim young American lad, who could not possibly have
produced such a sound with his normal organs. Between these two extremes
every gradation of volume and vibration may be encountered.
George Valiantine, who has already been mentioned, would perhaps come
second if the author had to make a list of the great Direct Voice mediums
with whom he has experimented. He was examined by the committee of the
Scientific American and turned down on the excuse that an electric
apparatus showed that he left his chair whenever the voice sounded. The
instance already given by the author, where the trumpet circled outside
the reach of the medium, is proof positive that his results certainly do
not depend upon his leaving his chair, and their effect depends not only
on how the voice is produced, but even more on what the voice says. Those
who have read Dennis Bradley's "Towards the Stars" and his subsequent
book narrating the long series of sittings held at Kingston Vale, will
realize that no possible explanation will cover Valiantine's mediumship
save the plain fact that he has exceptional psychic powers. They vary
very much with the conditions, but at their best they stand very high.
Like Mrs. Wriedt, he does not go into trance, and yet his condition
cannot be called normal. There are semi-trance conditions which await the
investigations of the student of the future.
Mr. Valiantine is by profession a manufacturer in a small town in
Pennsylvania. He is a quiet, gentle, kindly man, and as he is in the
prime of life, a very useful career should still lie before him.
As a materialization medium, Jonson, of Toledo, who afterwards resided in
Los Angeles, stands alone, so far as the author's experience carries him.
Possibly his wife's name should be bracketed with his, since they work
together. The peculiarity of Jonson's work is that he is in full view of
the circle, sitting outside the cabinet, while his wife stands near the
cabinet and superintends the proceedings. Anyone who desires a very
complete account of a Jonson seance will find it in the author's "Our
Second American Adventure," and his mediumship is also treated very
thoroughly by Admiral Usborne Moore.* The admiral, who was among the
greatest of psychic researchers, sat many times with Jonson, and obtained
the co-operation of an ex-chief of the United States Secret Service, who
established a watch and found nothing against the medium. When it is
remembered that Toledo was at that time a limited town, and that
sometimes as many as twenty different personalities manifested in a
single sitting, it will be realized that personification presents
insuperable difficulties. Upon the occasion of the sitting at which the
author was present, a long succession of figures came, one at a time,
from a small cabinet. They were old and young, men, women, and children.
The light from a red lamp was sufficient to enable a sitter to see the
figures clearly but not to distinguish the details of the features. Some
of the figures remained out for not less than twenty minutes and
conversed freely with the circle, answering all questions put to them. No
man can give another a blank cheque for honesty and certify that he not
only is honest but always will be. The author can only say that on that
particular occasion he was perfectly convinced of the genuine nature of
the phenomena, and that he has no reason to doubt it on any other
* "Glimpses of the Next State," pp. 195, 322.
Jonson is a powerfully built man, and though he is now verging upon old
age his psychic powers are still unimpaired. He is the centre of a circle
at Pasadena, near Los Angeles, who meet every week to profit by his
remarkable powers. The late Professor Larkin, the astronomer, was a
habitue of the circle, and assured the author of his complete belief in
the honesty of the mediumship.
Materialization may have been more common in the past than in the
present. Those who read such books as Brackett's "Materialised
Apparitions," or Miss Marryat's "There Is No Death," would say so. But in
these days complete materialization is very rare. The author was present
at an alleged materialization by one Thompson, in New York, but the
proceedings carried no conviction, and the man was shortly afterwards
arrested for trickery under circumstances which left no doubt as to his
There are certain mediums who, without specializing in any particular
way, can exhibit a wide range of preternatural manifestations. Of all
whom the author has encountered he would give precedence for variety and
consistency to Miss Ada Besinnet, of Toledo, in America, and to Evan
Powell, formerly of Merthyr Tydvil, in Wales. Both are admirable mediums
and kindly, good people who are worthy of the wonderful gifts which have
been entrusted to them. In the case of Miss Besinnet the manifestations
include the Direct Voice, two or more often sounding at the same time.
One masculine control, named Dan, has a remarkable male baritone voice,
and anyone who has heard it can certainly never doubt that it is
independent of the lady's organism. A female voice occasionally joins
with Dan to make a most tuneful duet. Remarkable whistling, in which
there seems to be no pause for the intake of breath, is another feature
of this mediumship. So also is the production of very brilliant lights.
These appear to be small solid luminous objects, for the author had on
one occasion the curious experience of having one upon his moustache. Had
a large firefly settled there the effect would have been much the same.
The Direct Voices of Miss Besinnet when they take the form of messages-as
apart from the work of the controls-are not strong and are often hardly
audible. The most remarkable, however, of all her powers is the
appearance of phantom faces which appear in an illuminated patch in front
of the sitter. They would seem to be mere masks, as there is no
appearance of depth to them. In most cases they represent dim faces,
which occasionally bear a resemblance to that of the medium when the
health of the lady or the power of the circle is low. When the conditions
are good they are utterly dissimilar. Upon two occasions the author has
seen faces to which he could absolutely swear, the one being his mother
and the other his nephew, Oscar Hornung, a young officer killed in the
war. They were as clear-cut and visible as ever in life. On the other
hand, there have been evenings when no clear recognition could be
obtained, though among the faces were some which could only be described
as angelic in their beauty and purity.*
* Various estimates and experiences of this mediumship will be found in
the author's "Our American Adventure," pp. 124-132; Admiral Moore's
"Glimpses of the Next State," pp. 226, 312; and finally Mr. Hewat
McKenzie's report, PSYCHIC SCIENCE, April, 1922.
On a level with Miss Besinnet is Mr. Evan Powell, with the same variety
but not always the same type of powers. Powell's luminous phenomena are
equally good. His voice production is better. The author has heard the
spirit voices as loud as those of ordinary human talk, and recalls one
occasion when three of them were talking simultaneously, one to Lady
Cowan, one to Sir James Marchant, and one to Sir Robert McAlpine.
Movements of objects are common in the Powell seances, and on one
occasion a stand weighing 60 lb. was suspended for some time over the
author's head. Evan Powell always insists upon being very securely tied
during his seances, which is done, he claims, for his own protection,
since he cannot be responsible for his own movements when he is in a
trance. This throws an interesting sidelight upon the possible nature of
some exposures. There is a good deal of evidence, not only that the
medium may unconsciously, or under the influence of suggestion from the
audience, put himself into a false position, but that evil forces which
are either mischievous or are actively opposed to the good work done by
Spiritualism, may obsess the entranced body and cause it to do suspicious
things so as to discredit the medium. Some sensible remarks upon this
subject, founded upon personal experience, have been made by Professor
Haraldur Nielsson, of Iceland, when commenting upon a case where one of
the circle committed a perfectly senseless fraud, and a spirit afterwards
admitted that it was done by its agency and instigation.* On the whole,
Evan Powell may be said to have the widest endowment of spiritual gifts
of any medium at present in England. He preaches the doctrines of
Spiritualism both in his own person and while under control, and he can
in himself exhibit nearly the whole range of phenomena. It is a pity that
his business as a coal merchant in Devonshire prevents his constant
presence in London.
* PSYCHIC SCIENCE, July, 1925.
Slate-writing mediumship is a remarkable manifestation. It is possessed
in a high degree by Mrs. Pruden, of Cincinnati, who has recently visited
Great Britain and exhibited her wonderful powers to a number of people.
The author has sat with her several times, and has explained the methods
in detail. As the passage is a short one and may make the matter clear to
the unitiated, it is here transcribed:
It was our good fortune now to come once again into contact with a really
great medium in Mrs. Pruden of Cincinnati, who had come to Chicago for my
lectures. We had a sitting in the Blackstone Hotel, through the courtesy
of her host, Mr. Holmyard, and the results were splendid. She is an
elderly, kindly woman with a motherly manner. Her particular gift was
slate-writing which I had never examined before.
I had heard that there were trick slates, but she was anxious to use mine
and allowed me carefully to examine hers. She makes a dark cabinet by
draping the table, and holds the slate under it, while you may hold the
other corner of it. Her other hand is free and visible. The slate is
double with a little bit of pencil put in between.
After a delay of half an hour the writing began. It was the strangest
feeling to hold the slate and to feel the thrill and vibration of the
pencil as it worked away inside. We had each written a question on a bit
of paper and cast it down, carefully folded, on the ground in the shadow
of the drapery, that psychic forces might have correct conditions for
their work, which is always interfered with by light.
Presently each of us got an answer to our question upon the slate, and
were allowed to pick up our folded papers and see that they had not been
opened. The room, I may say, was full of daylight and the medium could
not stoop without our seeing it.
I had some business this morning of a partly spiritual, partly material
nature with a Dr. Gelbert, a French inventor. I asked in my question if
this were wise. The answer on the slate was-"Trust Dr. Gelbert.
Kingsley." I had not mentioned Dr. Gelbert's name in my question, nor did
Mrs. Pruden know anything of the matter.
My wife got a long message from a dear friend, signed with her name. The
name was a true signature. Altogether it was a most utterly convincing
demonstration. Sharp, clear raps upon the table joined continually in our
* "Our American Adventure," pp. 144-5.
The general method and result is the same as that used by Mr. Pierre
Keeler, of the United States. The author has not been able to arrange a
sitting with this medium, but a friend who did so had results which put
the truth of the phenomena beyond all question. In his case he received
answers to questions placed inside sealed envelopes, so that the
favourite explanation, that the medium in some way sees the slips of
paper, is ruled out. Anyone who has sat with Mrs. Pruden will know,
however, that she never stoops, and that the slips of paper lie at the
feet of the sitter.
A remarkable form of mediumship is crystal gazing, where the pictures are
actually visible to the eye of the sitter. The author has only once
encountered this, under the mediumship of a lady from Yorkshire. The
pictures were clear-cut and definite, and succeeded each other with an
interval of fog. They did not appear to be relevant to any past or future
event, but consisted of small views, dim faces, and other subjects of the
Such are a few of the varied forms of spirit power which have been given
to us as an antidote to materialism. The highest forms of all are not
physical but are to be found in the inspired writings of such men as
Davis, Stainton Moses, or Vale Owen. It cannot be too often repeated that
the mere fact that a message comes to us in preternatural fashion is no
guarantee that it is either high or true. The self-deluded, pompous
person, the shallow reasoner, and the deliberate deceiver all exist upon
the invisible side of life, and all may get their worthless
communications transmitted through uncritical agents. Each must be
scanned and weighed, and much must be neglected, while the residue is
worthy of our most respectful attention. But even the best can never be
final and is often amended, as in the case of Stainton Moses, when he had
reached the Other Side. That great teacher admitted through Mrs. Piper
that there were points upon which he had been ill-informed.
The mediums mentioned have been chosen as types of their various classes,
but there are many others who deserve to be recorded in detail if there
were space. The author has sat several times with Sloan and with Phoenix,
of Glasgow, both of whom have remarkable powers which cover almost the
whole range of the spiritual gifts, and both are, or were, most unworldly
men with a saintly disregard of the things of this life. Mrs. Falconer,
of Edinburgh, is also a trance medium of considerable power. Of the
earlier generation, the author has experienced the mediumship of Husk and
of Craddock, both of whom had their strong hours and their weak ones.
Mrs. Susanna Harris has also afforded good evidence upon physical lines,
as has Mrs. Wagner, of Los Angeles, while among amateurs John Ticknor, of
New York, and Mr. Nugent, of Belfast, are in the very first flight of
In connexion with John Ticknor the author may quote an experiment which
he made and reported in the "Proceedings" of the American Society for
Psychical Research, a body which has been held back in the past by
non-conductors almost as much as its parent in England. In this instance
the author took a careful record of the pulse-beat when Mr. Ticknor was
normal, when he was controlled by Colonel Lee, one of his spirit guides,
and when he was under the influence of Black Hawk, a Red Indian control.
The respective figures were 82, 100 and 118.
Mrs. Roberts Johnson is another medium who is unequal in her results, but
who has at her best a very remarkable power with the Direct Voice. The
religious element is wanting at her sittings, and the jocose North
Country youths who come through create an atmosphere which amuses the
sitters, but which may repel those who approach the subject with feelings
of solemnity. The deep Scottish voice of the Glasgow control, David
Duguid, a famous medium himself in his lifetime, is beyond all imitation
by the throat of a woman, and his remarks are full of dignity and wisdom.
The Rev. Dr. Lamond has assured me that Duguid at one of these sittings
reminded him of an incident which had occurred between them in life-a
sufficient proof of the reality of the individual.
There is no more curious and dramatic phase of psychic phenomenon than
the apport. It is so startling that it is difficult to persuade the
sceptic as to its possibility, and even the Spiritualist can hardly
credit it until examples actually come his way. The author's first
introduction to occult knowledge was due largely to the late General
Drayson, who at that time-nearly forty years ago-was receiving through an
amateur medium a constant succession of apports of the most curious
description-Indian lamps, amulets, fresh fruit, and other things. So
amazing a phenomenon, and one so easily simulated, was too much for a
beginner, and it retarded rather than helped progress. Since then,
however, the author has met the editor of a well-known paper who used the
same medium after General Drayson's death, and he continued, under rigid
conditions, to get similar apports. The author has been forced,
therefore, to reconsider his view and to believe that he has underrated
both the honesty of the medium and the intelligence of her sitter.
Mr. Bailey, of Melbourne, appears to be a very remarkable apport medium,
and the author has no confidence in his alleged exposure at Grenoble.
Bailey's own account is that he was the victim of a religious conspiracy,
and in view of his long record of success it is more probable than that
he should, in some mysterious way, have smuggled a live bird into a
seance room in which he knew that he would be stripped and examined. The
explanation of the Psychic Researchers, that the bird was concealed in
his intestines, is a supreme example of the absurdities which incredulity
can produce. The author had one experience of an apport with Bailey which
it is surely impossible to explain away. It was thus described.
We then placed Mr. Bailey in the corner of the room, lowered the lights
without turning them out, and waited. Almost at once he breathed very
heavily, as one in a trance, and soon said something in a foreign tongue
which was unintelligible to me. One of our friends, Mr. Cochrane,
recognized it as Indian, and at once answered, a few sentences being
interchanged. In English the voice then said that he was a Hindoo control
who was used to bring apports for the medium, and that he would, he
hoped, be able to bring one for us. "Here it is," he said, a moment
later, and the medium's hand was extended with something in it. The light
was turned full on and we found it was a very perfect bird's nest,
beautifully constructed of some very fine fibre mixed with moss. It stood
about two inches high and had no sign of any flattening which would have
come with concealment. The size would be nearly three inches across. In
it lay a small egg, white, with tiny brown speckles. The medium, or
rather the Hindoo control acting through the medium, placed the egg on
his palm and broke it, some fine albumen squirting out. There was no
trace of yolk. "We are not allowed to interfere with life," said he. "If
it had been fertilized we could not have taken it." These words were said
before he broke it, so that he was aware of the condition of the egg,
which certainly seems remarkable.
"Where did it come from?" I asked. "From India."
"What bird is it?"
"They call it the Jungle Sparrow."
The nest remained in my possession and I spent a morning with Mr. Chubb,
of the local museum, to ascertain if it was really the nest of such a
bird. It seemed too small for an Indian Sparrow, and yet we could not
match either nest or egg among the Australian types. Some of Mr. Bailey's
other nests and eggs have been actually identified.
Surely it is a fair argument that while it is conceivable that such birds
might be imported and purchased here, it is really an insult to one's
reason to suppose that nests with fresh eggs in them could also be in the
market. Therefore, I can only support the far more extended experience
and elaborate tests of Dr. MacCarthy of Sydney, and affirm that I believe
Mr. Charles Bailey to be upon occasion a true medium, with a very
remarkable gift for apports.
It is only right to state that when I returned to London I took one of
Bailey's Assyrian tablets to the British Museum, and that it was
pronounced to be a forgery. Upon further inquiry it proved that these
forgeries are made by certain Jews in a suburb of Bagdad-and, so far as
is known, only there. Therefore the matter is not much farther advanced.
To the transporting agency it is at least possible that the forgery,
steeped in recent human magnetism, is more capable of being handled than
the original taken from a mound. Bailey has produced at least a hundred
of these things, and no Custom House officer has deposed how they could
have entered the country. On the other hand, Bailey told me clearly that
the tablets had been passed by the British Museum, so that I fear I
cannot acquit him of tampering with truth-and just there lies the great
difficulty of deciding upon his case. But one has always to remember that
physical mediumship has no connexion one way or the other with personal
character, any more than the gift of poetry.*
* "The Wanderings of a Spiritualist," pp. 103-5.
"Annals of Psychical Science,' Vol. IX.
It is forgotten by those critics who are continually quoting Bailey's
exposure, that immediately before the Grenoble experience he had
undergone a long series of tests at Milan, in the course of which the
investigators took the extreme and unjustifiable course of watching the
medium secretly when in his own bedroom. The committee, which consisted
of nine business men and doctors, could find no flaw in seventeen
sittings, even when the medium was put in a sack. These sittings lasted
from February to April in 1904, and have been fully reported by Professor
Marzorati. In view of their success, far too much has been made of the
subsequent accusation in France. If the same analysis and scepticism were
shown towards "exposures" as towards phenomena, public opinion would be
more justly directed.
The phenomenon of apports seems so incomprehensible to our minds, that
the author on one occasion asked a spirit control whether he could say
anything which would throw a light upon it. The answer was:
"It involves some factors which are beyond your human science and which
could not be made clear to you. At the same time you may take as a rough
analogy the case of water which is turned into steam. Then this steam,
which is invisible, may be conducted elsewhere to be reassembled as
visible water." This is, as stated, an analogy rather than an
explanation, but it seems very apt none the less. It should be added, as
mentioned in the quotation, that not only Mr. Stanford, of Melbourne, but
also Dr. MacCarthy, one of the leading medical men of Sydney, carried out
a long series of experiments with Bailey, and were convinced of his
The mediums quoted by no means exhaust the list of those with whom the
author has had opportunities of experimenting, and he cannot leave the
subject without alluding to the ectoplasm of Eva, which he has held
between his fingers, or the brilliant luminosities of Frau Silbert which
he has seen shooting like a dazzling crown out of her head. Enough has
been said, he hopes, to show that the succession of great mediums is not
extinct for anyone who is earnest in his search, and also to assure the
reader that these pages are written by one who has spared no pains to
gain practical knowledge of that which he studies. As to the charge of
credulity which is invariably directed by the unreceptive against anyone
who forms a positive opinion upon this subject, the author can solemnly
aver that in the course of his long career as an investigator he cannot
recall one single case where it was clearly shown that he had been
mistaken upon any serious point, or had given a certificate of honesty to
a performance which was afterwards clearly proved to be dishonest. A man
who is credulous does not take twenty years of reading and experiment
before he comes to his fixed conclusions.
No account of physical mediumship would be complete which did not allude
to the remarkable results obtained by "Margery," the name adopted for
public purposes by Mrs. Crandon, the beautiful and gifted wife of one of
the first surgeons in Boston. This lady showed psychic powers some years
ago, and the author was instrumental in calling the attention of the
Scientiflc Zmerican Committee to her case. By doing so he most
unwillingly exposed her to much trouble and worry, which were borne with
extraordinary patience by her husband and herself. It was difficult to
say which was the more annoying: Houdini the conjurer, with his
preposterous and ignorant theories of fraud, or such "scientific" sitters
as Professor McDougall, of Harvard, who, after fifty sittings and signing
as many papers at the end of each sitting to endorse the wonders
recorded, was still unable to give any definite judgment, and contented
himself with vague innuendoes. The matter was not mended by the
interposition of Mr. E. J. Dingwall of the London S.P.R., who proclaimed
the truth of the mediumship in enthusiastic private letters, but denied
his conviction at public meetings. These so-called" experts" cache out of
the matter with little credit, but more than two hundred common-sense
sitters had wit enough and honesty enough to testify truly as to that
which occurred before their eyes. The author may add that he has himself
sat with Mrs. Crandon and has satisfied himself, so far as one sitting
could do so, as to the truth and range of her powers.
The control in this instance professes to be Walter, the lady's dead
brother, and he exhibits a very marked individuality with a strong sense
of humour and considerable command of racy vernacular. The voice
production is direct, in a male voice, which seems to operate some few
inches in front of the medium's forehead. The powers have been
progressive, their range continually widening, until now they have
reached almost the full compass of mediumship. The ringing of electric
bells without contact has been done ad nauseam, until one would imagine
that no one, save a stone-deaf man or a scientific expert, could have any
doubt about it. Movement of objects at a distance, spirit lights, raising
of tables, apports, and finally the clear production of ectoplasm in a
good red light, have succeeded each other. The patient work of Dr. and
Mrs. Crandon will surely be rewarded, and their names will live in the
history of psychic science, and so in a very different category will
those of their traducers.
Of all forms of mediumship the highest and most valuable, when it can be
relied upon, is that which is called automatic writing, since in this, if
the form be pure, we seem to have found a direct method of obtaining
teaching from the Beyond. Unhappily, it is a method which lends itself
very readily to self-deception, since it is certain that the subconscious
mind of man has many powers with which we are as yet imperfectly
acquainted. It is impossible ever to accept any automatic script
whole-heartedly as a hundred per cent statement of truth from the Beyond.
The stained glass will still tint the light which passes through it, and
our human organism will never be crystal clear. The verity of any
particular specimen of such writing must depend not upon mere assertion,
but upon corroborative details and the general dissimilarity from the
mind of the writer, and similarity to that of the alleged inspirer. When,
for example, in the case of the late Oscar Wilde, you get long
communications which are not only characteristic of his style, but which
contain constant allusions to obscure episodes in his own life and which
finally are written in his own handwriting, it must be admitted that the
evidence is overpoweringly strong. There is a great outpouring of such
scripts at present in all the English-speaking countries. They are good,
bad, and indifferent, but the good contain much matter which bears every
trace of inspiration. The Christian or the Jew may well ask himself why
parts of the Old Testament should admittedly have been written in this
fashion, and yet its modern examples be treated with contempt. "And there
came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying," etc. (2
Chronicles xxi. 12) is one of several allusions which show the ancient
use of this particular form of spirit communion.
Of all the examples of recent years there is none which can compare in
fullness and dignity with the writings of the Rev. George Vale Owen,
whose great script, "The Life Beyond the Veil," may be as permanent an
influence as that of Swedenborg. It is an interesting point, elaborated
by Dr. A. J. Wood, that even in most subtle and complex points there is a
close resemblance between the work of these two seers, and yet it is
certain that Vale Owen is very slightly acquainted with the writings of
the great Swedish teacher. George Vale Owen is so outstanding a figure in
the history of modern Spiritualism that some short note upon him may not
be out of place. He was born in Birmingham in 1869 and was educated at
the Midland Institute and Queen's College, Birmingham. After curacies at
Seaforth, Fairfield, and the low Scotland Road division of Liverpool,
where he had a large experience among the poor, he became vicar of
Orford, near Warrington, where his energy has been instrumental in
erecting a new church. Here he remained for twenty years working in his
parish which deeply appreciated his ministrations. Some psychic
manifestations came his way, and finally he found himself impelled to
exercise his own latent power of inspired writing, the script purporting
to come in the first instance from his mother, but being continued by
certain high spirits or angels who had come in her train. The whole
constitutes an account of life after death, and a body of philosophy and
advice from unseen sources, which seems to the author to bear every
internal sign of a high origin. The narrative is dignified and lofty,
expressed in slightly archaic English which gives it a curious flavour of
Some extracts from this script appeared in various papers, attracting the
more notice as being from the pen of a vicar of the Established Church.
The manuscript was finally brought to the notice of the late Lord
Northcliffe, who was much impressed by it and also by the self-denial of
the writer, who refused to take any emuneration for its publication. This
followed weekly in Lord Northcliffe's Sunday paper, the Weekly Dispatch,
and nothing has ever occurred which has brought the highest teachings of
Spiritualism so directly to the masses. It was shown incidentally that
the policy of the Press in the past had been not only ignorant and
unjust, but actually mistaken from the low point of view of
self-interest, for the circulation of the Dispatch increased greatly
during the year that it published the script. Such doings were, however,
highly offensive to a very conservative bishop, and Mr. Vale Owen found
himself, like all religious reformers, an object of dislike, and suffered
veiled persecution from his Church superiors. With this force pushing
him, and the pull in front of the whole Spiritualist community, he
bravely abandoned his living and cast himself and his family on the mercy
of whatever Providence might please to direct, his brave wife entirely
sympathizing with him in a step which was no light matter for a couple
who were no longer young. After a short lecturing tour in America and
another in England, Mr. Vale Owen is at present presiding over a
Spiritualist congregation in London, where the magnetism of his presence
draws considerable audiences. In an excellent pen-portrait, Mr. David Gow
has said of Vale Owen:
The tall, thin figure of the minister, his pale, ascetic face lit by
large eyes, luminous with tenderness and humour, his modest bearing, his
quiet words charged with the magnetism of sympathy, all these revealed in
full measure what manner of man he is. They disclosed a soul of rare
devotion kept sane and sweet by a kindly, humorous sense and a practical
outlook on the world. He seemed to be charged more with the spirit of
Erasmus or of Melanchthon than of the bluff Luther. Perhaps the Church
needs no Luthers to-day.
If the author has included this short notice under the head of personal
experience, it is because he has been honoured by the close friendship of
Mr. Vale Owen for some years, and has been in a position to study and
endorse the reality of his psychic powers. The author would add that he
has succeeded in getting the independent Direct Voice sitting alone with
his wife. The voice was a deep, male one, coming some feet above our
heads, and uttering only a short but very audible greeting. It is hoped
that with further development consistent results may be obtained. For
years the author has, in his own domestic circle, obtained inspired
messages through the hand and voice of his wife, which have been of the
most lofty and often of the most evidential nature. These are, however,
too personal and intimate to be discussed in a general survey of the
SPIRITUALISM AND THE WAR
Many people had never heard of Spiritualism until the period that began
in 1914, when into so many homes the Angel of Death entered suddenly. The
opponents of Spiritualism have found it convenient to regard this world
upheaval as being the chief cause of the widening interest in psychical
research. It has been said, too, by these unscrupulous opponents that the
author's advocacy of the subject, as well as that of his distinguished
friend, Sir Oliver Lodge, was due to the fact that each of them had a son
killed in the war, the inference being that grief had lessened their
critical faculties and made them believe what in more normal times they
would not have believed. The author has many times refuted this clumsy
lie, and pointed out the fact that his investigation dates back as far as
1886. Sir Oliver Lodge, for his part, says*
* "Raymond," p. 374.
It must not be supposed that my outlook has changed appreciably since the
event, and the particular experiences related in the foregoing pages; my
conclusion has been gradually forming itself for years, though,
undoubtedly, it is based on experience of the same sort of thing. But
this event has strengthened and liberated my testimony. It can now be
associated with a private experience of my own, instead of with the
private experiences of others. So long as one was dependent on evidence
connected, even indirectly connected, with the bereavement of others, one
had to be reticent and cautious, and in some cases silent. Only by
special permission could any portion of the facts be reproduced; and that
permission might in important cases be withheld. My own deductions were
the same then as they are now, but the facts are now my own.
While it is true that Spiritualism counted its believers in millions
before the war, there is no doubt that the subject was not understood by
the world at large, and hardly recognized as having an existence. The war
changed all that. The deaths occurring in almost every family in the land
brought a sudden and concentrated interest in the life after death.
People not only asked the question, "If a man die shall he live again?"
but they eagerly sought to know if communication was possible with the
dear ones they had lost. They sought for "the touch of a vanished hand,
and the sound of a voice that is still." Not only did thousands
investigate for themselves, but, as in the early history of the movement,
the first opening was often made by those who had passed on. The
newspaper Press was not able to resist the pressure of public opinion,
and much publicity was given to stories of soldiers' return, and
generally to the life after death.
In this chapter only brief reference can be made to the different ways in
which the spiritual world intermingled with the various phases of the
war. The conflict itself was predicted over and over again; dead soldiers
showed themselves in their old homes, and also gave warnings of danger to
their comrades on the battlefield; they impressed their images on the
photographic plate; solitary figures and legendary hosts, not of this
world, were seen in the war area; indeed, over the whole scene there was
from time to time a strong atmosphere of other-world presence and
If for a moment the author may strike a personal note he would say that,
while his own loss had no effect upon his views, the sight of a world
which was distraught with sorrow, and which was eagerly asking for help
and knowledge, did certainly affect his mind and cause him to understand
that these psychic studies, which he had so long pursued, were of immense
practical importance and could no longer be regarded as a mere
intellectual hobby or fascinating pursuit of a novel research. Evidence
of the presence of the dead appeared in his own household, and the relief
afforded by posthumous messages taught him how great a solace it would be
to a tortured world if it could share in the knowledge which had become
clear to himself. It was this realization which, from early in 1916,
caused him and his wife to devote themselves largely to this subject, to
lecture upon it in many countries, and to travel to Australia, New
Zealand, America, and Canada upon missions of instruction. Indeed, this
history of the subject may be said to derive from the same impulse which
first caused him to throw himself wholeheartedly into the cause.
This work may well fill a very small space in any general history, but it
becomes apposite in a chapter dealing with the war, since it was the
atmosphere of war in which it was engendered and grew.
Prophecy is one of the spiritual gifts, and any clear proof of its
existence points to psychic powers outside our usual knowledge. In the
case of the war, many could, of course, by normal means and the use of
their own reason, foresee that the situation in the world had become so
top-heavy with militarism that equilibrium could not be sustained. But
some of the prophecies appear to be so distinct and detailed that they
are beyond the power of mere reason and foresight.*
* Reference to some of these will be found in the following publications;
"Prophecies and Omens of the Great War," by Ralph Shirley, "The War and
the Prophets," by Herbert Thurston, and "War Prophecies," by F. C. S.
Schiller (S.P.R. JOURNAL, June, 1916).
"Angelic Revelations," Vol. V, pp. 170-1.
The general fact of a great world catastrophe, and England's share in it,
is thus spoken of in a spirit communication received by the Oxley Circle
in Manchester and published in 1885:
For twice seven years-from the period already noted to you-the influences
that are brought to bear against the British Nation will be successful;
and after that time comes a fearful contest, a mighty struggle, a
terrible bloodshed-according to human modes of expression, a dethronement
of kings, an overthrow of Powers, great riot and disturbance; and still
greater commotion amongst the masses concerning wealth and its
possession. In using these words I speak according to human apprehension.
The most important question is-shall Britain for ever be lost? We see the
prophecies of many, and the attitude of many Representatives upon the
outer plane, and we see more clearly than many upon the Earth give us
credit for, that amongst the latter-named there are those who are lovers
of gold more than the interior principle which that gold represents.
Unless at the coming crisis the Great Power intervenes, that is, the
Grand Operating Power of which I have spoken before, and in calm dignity
flows forth and issues the mandate--Peace, be still!--the prophecy of
some, that England shall sink in the depths for ever, will be fulfilled.
Like the specific atoms of life who compose the State called England, who
must sink for a time in order that they may rise again, even so must the
Nation sink, and that to a great depth for a season; because she is
immersed in the love of what is false, and has not yet acquired the
intelligence that will act as a powerful lever to raise her up to her own
dignity. Will she, like a drowning man going down for the third and last
time, go down and be lost for ever? Once in the grand whole of the Mighty
One, so she must continue an integral part. There is a kindly hand that
will be stretched forth to save her, and bear her up from the billows of
the self-hood that would otherwise engulf her. With an energy that is
irrepressible, that power says-England once, England forever! But not in
the same state will that continuance be. She must and will sink the
lower, in order that she may rise the higher. The how, why, and in what
manner, and by what treatment we shall use to bring about her safety and
serenity, I shall speak of further on; but, here I affirm, that in order
to save her, England must be drained of her best blood.
For particulars of M. Sonrel's famous prophecy in 1868 of the war of
1870, and his less direct prophecy of that of 1914, readers are referred
to Professor Richet's book, "Thirty Years of Psychical Research" (pp.
387-9). The essential part of the latter prophecy is expressed as
Wait now, waityears pass. It is a vast war. What bloodshed! God! What
bloodshed! Oh, France, oh, my country, thou art saved! Thou art on the
The prophecy was uttered in 1868, but was not put on record by Dr.
Tardieu until April, 1914.
The author has previously referred * to the prophecy given in Sydney,
Australia, by the well-known medium, Mrs. Foster Turner, but it will bear
repeating. At a Sunday meeting in February, 1914., at the Little Theatre,
Castlereagh Street, before an audience of nearly a thousand people, in a
trance-address in which Mr. W. T. Stead purported to be the influence,
she said, as reported in notes taken on the occasion of her address:
* "The Wanderings of a Spiritualist," (1921), p. 260.
Now, although there is not at present a whisper of a great European War
at hand, yet I want to warn you that before this year 1914 has run its
course, Europe will be deluged in blood. Great Britain, our beloved
nation, will be drawn into the most awful war the world has ever known.
Germany will be the great antagonist, and will draw other nations in her
train. Austria will totter to its ruin. Kings and kingdoms will fall.
Millions of precious lives will be slaughtered, but Britain will finally
triumph and emerge victorious.
The date of the ending of the Great War was given correctly in "Private
Dowding," by W. T. P. (Major W. Tudor Pole), who calls his book "A Plain
Record of the After-Death Experiences of a Soldier killed in Battle." In
this book, which was first published in London in 1917, we find (p. 99) a
communication which reads:
Messenger: In Europe there will be three great federations of states.
These federations will come to birth naturally and without bloodshed, but
Armageddon must first be fought out.
Tom. T. P.: How long will this take?
Messenger: I am not a very high being, and to me are not revealed details
of all these wonderful happenings. So far as I am allowed to see, peace
will be re-established during 1919, and world-federations will come into
being during the following seven years. Although actual fighting may end
in 1918, it will take many years to bring poise and peace into actual and
In the list of prophecies, that of Mrs. Piper, the famous trance-medium
of Boston, U.S.A., deserves a place, though it may be considered by some
to have an element of vagueness. It occurred about 1898 at a sitting with
Dr. Richard Hodgson, who was so prominently associated with the English
and American Societies for Psychical Research.
Never since the days of Melchizedek has the earthly world been so
susceptible to the influence of spirit. It will in the next century be
astonishingly perceptible to the minds of men. I will also make a
statement which you will surely see verified. Before the clear revelation
of spirit communication, there will be a terrible war in different parts
of the world. This will precede much clear communication. The entire
world must be purified and cleansed before mortal man can see, through
his spiritual vision, his friends on this side, and it will take just
this line of action to bring about a state of perfection. Friend, kindly
think on this.*
* Quoted in LIGHT, 1914, p. 349.
Mr. J. G. Piddington, in the "Proceedings" of the Society for Psychical
Research,* speaks at length of the war predictions contained in various
automatic scripts, particularly in those of Mrs. Alfred Lyttelton. In his
summing up he says:
* PROCEEDINGS S.P.R., Vol. XXXIII. (March, 1923).
The scripts in general terms predicted the War; so did many people. Some
half-dozen scripts written between July 9 and 21, 1914, predicted that
the War was close at hand; so also, and earlier, had Sir Cecil
Spring-Rice. The scripts predict that the War will eventually lead to a
great improvement in international relations and social conditions; so,
too, tens of thousands of ordinary citizens throughout the British Empire
believed or hoped that the Great War was, as the phrase went, "a war to
But this last parallel between the predictions in the scripts and the
beliefs or aspirations that declared themselves with such strange
ubiquity and intensity when war broke out, is in truth only a superficial
parallel; for whereas the wave of idealism that swept over the Empire
followed, or at best synchronized with, the beginning of the War, for
many years before August, 1914, the scripts had repeatedly combined
predictions of a Utopia with predictions of war, and had combined them in
such a manner as to imply that the one is to be the outcome of the other.
I know of no parallel to that. The writers, the soldiers, the
diplomatists, and the politicians who forewarned us of the War, preached
its dangers and its horrors, but they did not tell us that this perilous
and horrible tragedy would yet prove to be the birth-throes of a happier
world. Nor did the propagandists of Hague Conferences and other schemes
for allaying international rivalries warn us that a world-war must
precede the attainment of their desires. All alike predicted or feared a
coming chaos; the scripts alone, so far as I know, spoke a hope for the
world in the coming wars, and hailed the approaching chaos as the prelude
to a new kosmos.
The predictions of the War in the scripts cannot be separated from the
predictions of an eventual Utopia. The scripts do not say, "There will be
a war," stop there, and then start afresh and say, "There will be a
Utopia." They clearly imply that the Utopia will result from the War. Yet
it cannot be said that the two component parts of the whole prophecy
stand or fall together, because the predictions of war have been
fulfilled; but the fulfilment or the failure of the Utopian predictions
must eventually influence opinion as to the source of the war
predictions. Should the Utopia foreshadowed in the scripts be translated
into fact, it would be very difficult to attribute the prediction of it
as an outcome of the War to ordinary human prescience, and a strong case
would arise for admitting the claim made in the scripts, and for giving
the credit of the prediction to discarnate beings. And if the Utopian
predictions were held to be the work of discarnate minds, in all
probability the predictions of the War, which are so closely bound up
with them, would be assigned to the same source.
There are very many other prophecies which have been more or less
successful. A perusal of them, however, cannot fail to impress the
student with the conviction that the sense of time is the least accurate
of spiritual details. Very often where the facts are right the dates are
hopelessly at fault.
The most exact of all the prophecies concerning the War seems to have
been that of Sophie, a Greek young woman who, having been hypnotized by
Dr. Antoniou of Athens, delivered her oracles vocally in a state of
trance. The date was June 6, 1914. She not only predicted the Great War
and who the parties would be, but gave a great deal of detail such as the
neutrality of Italy at the beginning, her subsequent alliance with the
Entente, the action of Greece, the place of the final battle on the
Vardar, and so forth. It is interesting, however, to note that she made
certain errors which tend to show that the position of the Fatalist is
not secure, and that there is at least a broad margin which can be
affected by human will and energy.*
* REVUE METAPHSYCHIQUE, December, 1925, pp. 380, 390.
PEARSON'S MAGAZINE, August, 1919, pp. 190-1.
There is much testimony regarding the occurrence of what may be called
spirit intervention during the war. Captain W. E. Newcome has related the
It was in September, 1916, that the 2nd Suffolks left Loos to go up into
the northern sector of Albert. I accompanied them, and whilst in the
front line trenches of that sector I, with others, witnessed one of the
most remarkable occurrences of the war.
About the end of October, up to November 5th, we were actually holding
that part of the line with very few troops. On November 1st the Germans
made a very determined attack, doing their utmost to break through. I had
occasion to go down to the reserve line, and during my absence the German
I hurried back to my company with all speed, and arrived in time to give
a helping hand in throwing the enemy back to his own line. He never
gained a footing in our trenches. The assault was sharp and short, and we
had settled down to watch and wait again for his next attack.
We had not long to wait, for we soon saw Germans again coming over No
Man's Land in massed waves; but before they reached our wire a white,
spiritual figure of a soldier rose from a shell-hole, or out of the
ground about one hundred yards on our left, just in front of our wire and
between the first line of Germans and ourselves. The spectral figure then
slowly walked along our front for a distance of about one thousand yards.
Its outline suggested to my mind that of an old pre-war officer, for it
appeared to be in a shell coat, with field-service cap on its head. It
looked, first, across at the oncoming Germans, then turned its head away
and commenced to walk slowly outside our wire along the sector that we
Our SOS signal had been answered by our artillery. Shells and bullets
were whistling across No Man's Land,but none in anyway impeded the
spectre's progress. It steadily marched from the left of us till it got
to the extreme right of the sector, then it turned its face right full on
to us. It seemed to look up and down our trench, and as each Verey light
rose it stood out more prominently.
After a brief survey of us it turned sharply to the right and made a
bee-line for the German trenches. The Germans scattered backand no more
was seen of them that night.
The Angels of Mons seemed to be the first thought of the men; then some
said it looked like Lord Kitchener, and others said its face, when turned
full on to us, was not unlike Lord Roberts. I know that it gave me
personally a great shock, and for some time it was the talk of the
Its appearance can be vouched for by sergeants and men of my section.
In the same article in Pearson's Magazine the story is told of Mr.
William M. Speight, who had lost a brother officer, and his best friend,
in the Ypres salient in December, 1915, seeing this officer come to his
dug-out the same night. The next evening Mr. Speight invited another
officer to come to the dugout in order to confirm him should the vision
reappear. The dead officer came once more and, after pointing to a spot
on the floor of the dug-out, vanished. A hole was dug at the indicated
spot, and at a depth of three feet there was discovered a narrow tunnel
excavated by the Germans, with fuses and mines timed to explode thirteen
hours later. By the discovery of this mine the lives of a number of men
Mrs. E. A. Cannock, a well-known London clairvoyant, described * at a
Spiritualist meeting how a number of deceased soldiers adopted a novel
and convincing method of making known their identity. The soldiers (as
seen in her clairvoyant vision) advanced in single file up the aisle, led
by a young lieutenant. Each man bore on his chest what appeared to be a
large placard on which was written his name and the place where he had
lived on earth. Mrs. Cannock was able to read these names and
descriptions, and they were all identified by various members of the
audience. A curious feature was that as each name was recognized the
spirit form faded away, thus making way for the one who was following.
* LIGHT, 1919, p. 215.
As a type of other reports of a similar nature we may quote a case of
what is described as "Telepathy from the Battle-front." On November 4,
1914, Mrs. Fussey, of Wimbledon, whose son "Tab" was serving in France
with the 9th Lancers, was sitting at home when she felt in her arm the
sharp sting of a wound. She jumped up and cried out, "How it smarts!" and
rubbed the place. Her husband also attended to her arm, but could find no
trace of anything wrong with it. Mrs. Fussey continued to suffer pain and
exclaimed: "Tab is wounded in the arm. I know it." The following Monday a
letter arrived from Private Fussey, saying that he had been shot in the
arm and was in hospital,* The case coincides with the recorded
experiences of many psychics who by some unknown law of sympathy have
suffered shocks simultaneously with accidents occurring to friends, and
sometimes strangers, at a distance.
* LIGHT, 1914, p. 595.
In a number of cases dead soldiers have manifested themselves through
psychic photography. One of the most remarkable instances occurred in
London on Armistice Day, November 11, 1922, when the medium, Mrs. Deane,
in the presence of Miss Estelle Stead, took a photograph of the crowd in
Whitehall, in the neighbourhood of the Cenotaph. It was during the Two
Minutes Silence, and on the photograph there is to be seen a broad circle
of light, in the midst of which are two or three dozen heads, many of
them those of soldiers, who were subsequently recognized. These
photographs have been repeated on each succeeding year, and though the
usual reckless and malicious attacks have been made upon the medium and
her work, those who had the best opportunity of checking it have no doubt
of the supernormal character of these pictures.
We must content ourselves with one more case as typical of many hundreds
of results. Mr. R. S. Hipwood, 174, Cleveland Road, Sunderland, writes*:
* "The Case for Spirit Photography," by Sir A. Conan Doyle, p. 108.
LIGHT, December 20, 1919, p. 407.
We lost our only son in France, August 27, 1918. Being a good amateur
photographer I was curious about the photos that had been taken by the
Crewe Circle. We took our own plate with us, and I put the plate in the
dark slide myself and put my name on it. We exposed two plates in the
camera and got a well-recognized photo. Even my nine-year-old grandson
could tell who the extra was, without anyone saying anything to him.
Having a thorough knowledge of photography, I can vouch for the veracity
of the photograph in every particular. I claim the print which I send you
to be an ordinary photograph of myself and Mrs. Hipwood, with the extra
of my son, R. S. Hipwood, 13th Welsh Regiment, killed in France in the
great advance in August, 1918. I tender to our friends at Crewe our
unbounded confidence in their work.
Of the many cases recorded of the return of dead soldiers, the following
stands out because the particulars were received from two independent
sources. It is related by Mr. W. T. Waters, of Tunbridge Wells, who says
that he is only a novice in the study of Spiritualism:
In July last I had a sitting with Mr. J. J. Vango, in the course of which
the control suddenly told me that there was standing by me a young
soldier who was most anxious that I should take a message to his mother
and sister who live in this town. I replied that I did not know any
soldier near to me who had passed over. However, the lad would not be put
off, and as my own friends seemed to stand aside to enable him to speak,
I promised to endeavour to carry out his wishes.
At once came an exact description which enabled me instantly to recognize
in this soldier lad the son of an acquaintance of my family. He told me
certain things by which I was made doubly certain that it was he and no
other, and he then gave me his message of comfort and assurance to his
mother and sister (his father had died when he was a baby), who, for over
two years, had been uncertain as to his fate, as he had been posted as
"missing." He described how he had been badly wounded and captured by the
Germans in a retreat, and that he had died about a week afterwards, and
he implored me to tell his dear ones that he was often with them, and
that the only bar to his complete happiness was the witnessing of his
mother's great grief and his inability to make himself known.
I fully intended to keep my promise, but knowing that the lad's people
favoured the High Church party and would most likely be absolutely
sceptical, I was puzzled how to convey the message, as I felt they would
only think that my own loss had affected my brain. I ventured to approach
his aunt, but what I told her only called forth the remark: "It cannot
be," and I therefore decided to await an opportunity of speaking to his
Before this looked-for opportunity came, a young lady of this town,
having lost her mother about two years ago, and hearing from my daughter
that I was investigating these matters, called to see me, and I lent her
my books. One of these books is "Rupert Lives," with which she was
particularly struck, and she eventually arranged a sitting with Miss
McCreadie, through whom she received such convincing testimony that she
is now a firm believer. During this sitting, the soldier boy who came to
me came to her also. He repeated the same description that I had
received, mentioned in addition his name-Charlie-and begged her to give a
message to his mother and sister-the selfsame message which I had failed
to give. So anxious was he in the matter, that at the close of the
sitting he came again and implored her not to fail him.
Now, these events happened at different dates-July and September-the same
message exactly being given through different mediums to different
persons, and yet people tell us it is all a myth and that mediums simply
read our thoughts.
When my friend told me of her experience I at once asked her to go with
me to the lad's mother, and I am pleased to state that this double
message convinced both his mother and his sister, and that his aunt is
almost brought to the truth if not quite.
Sir William Barrett* records this evidential communication which was
obtained in Dublin through the ouija board, with Mrs. Travers Smith, the
daughter of the late Professor Edward Dowden. Her friend, Miss C, who is
mentioned, was the daughter of a medical man. Sir William calls it "The
Pearl Tie-pin Case."
* "On The Threshold of the Unseen," p. 184.
Miss C., the sitter, had a cousin an officer with our Army in France, who
was killed in battle a month previously to the sitting: this she knew.
One day after the name of her cousin had unexpectedly been spelt out on
the ouija board, and her name given in answer to her query: "Do you know
who I am?" the following message came:
"Tell mother to give my pearl tie-pin to the girl I was going to marry. I
think she ought to have it." When asked what was the name and address of
the lady both were given; the name spelt out included the full Christian
and surname, the latter being a very unusual one and quite unknown to
both the sitters. The address given in London was either fictitious or
taken down incorrectly, as a letter sent there was returned and the whole
message was thought to be fictitious.
Six months later, however, it was discovered that the officer had been
engaged, shortly before he left for the Front, to the very lady whose
name was given; he had, however, told no one. Neither his cousin nor any
of his own family in Ireland were aware of the fact, and had never seen
the lady nor heard her name until the War Office sent over the deceased
officer's effects. Then they found that he had put this lady's name in
his will as his next-of-kin, both Christian and surname being precisely
the same as given through the automatist; and what is equally remarkable,
a pearl tie pin was found in his effects.
Both the ladies have signed a document they sent me, affirming the
accuracy of the above statement. The message was recorded at the time,
and not written from memory after verification had been obtained. Here
there could be no explanation of the facts by subliminal memory, or
telepathy or collusion, and the evidence points unmistakably to a
telepathic message from the deceased officer.
The Rev. G. Vale Owen describes * the return of George Leaf, one of his
Bible Class lads in Orford, Warrington, who joined the R.F.A. and was
killed in the Great War.
* "Facts and the Future Life" (1922), pp. 53-4.
Some weeks later his mother was tidying up the hearth in the
sitting-room. She was on her knees before the grate when she felt an
impulse to turn round and look at the door which opened into the entrance
hall. She did so, and saw her son clad in his working clothes, just as he
used to come home every evening when he was alive. He took off his coat
and hung it upon the door, an old familiar habit of his. Then he turned
to her, nodded and smiled, and walked through to the back kitchen where
he had been in the habit of washing before sitting down to his evening
meal. It was all quite natural and lifelike. She knew that it was her
dead boy who had come to show her that he was alive in the spirit land
and living a natural life, well, happy and content. Also that smile of
love told her that his heart was still with the old folks at home. She is
a sensible woman and I did not doubt her story for a moment. As a matter
of fact, since his death he had been seen in Orford Church, which he used
to attend, and has been seen in various places since.
There are many instances of visions of soldiers coinciding with death. In
Rosa Stuart's "Dreams and Visions of the War" this case is given:
A very touching story was told me by a Bournemouth wife. Her husband, a
sergeant in the Devons, went to France on July 25th, 1915. She had
received letters regularly from him, all of which were very happy and
cheerful, and so she began to be quite reassured in her mind about him,
feeling certain that whatsoever danger he had to face he would come
On the evening of September 25th, 1915, at about ten o'clock, she was
sitting on her bed in her room talking to another girl, who was sharing
it with her. The light was full on, and neither of them had as yet
thought of getting into bed, so deep were they in their chat about the
events of the day and the war.
And then suddenly there came a silence. The wife had broken off sharply
in the middle of a sentence and sat there staring into space.
For, standing there before her in uniform, was her husband l For two or
three minutes she remained there looking at him, and she was struck by
the expression of sadness in his eyes. Getting up quickly she advanced to
the spot where he was standing, but by the time she had reached it the
vision had disappeared.
Though only that morning the wife had had a letter saying her husband was
safe and well, she felt sure that the vision foreboded evil. She was
right. Soon afterwards she received a letter from the War Office, saying
that he had been killed in the Battle of Loos on September 25th, 1915,
the very date she had seemed to see him stand beside her bed.
A deeper mystical side of the visions of the Great War centres round the
"Angels of Mons." Mr. Arthur Machen, the well-known London journalist,
wrote a story telling how English bowmen from the field of Agincourt
intervened during the terrible retreat from Mons. But he stated
afterwards that he had invented the incident. But here, as so often
before, truth proved fiction to be a fact, or at least facts of a like
character were reported by a number of credible witnesses. Mr. Harold
Begbie published a little book," On the Side of the Angels," giving much
evidence, and Mr. Ralph Shirley, editor of the OCCULT REVIEW (London),
followed with "The Angel Warriors at Mons," in which he added to Mr.
A British officer, replying to Mr. Machen in the London EVENING NEWS
(September 14, 1915), mentions that he was fighting at Le Cateau on
August 26, 1914, and that his division retired and marched throughout the
night of the 26th and during the 27th. He says:
On the night of the 27th I was riding along in the column with two other
officers. We had been talking and doing our best to keep from falling
asleep on our horses.
As we rode along I became conscious of the fact that, in the fields on
both sides of the road along which we were marching, I could see a very
large body of horsemen. These horsemen had the appearance of squadrons of
cavalry, and they seemed to be riding across the fields and going in the
same direction as we were going, and keeping level with us.
The night was not very dark, and I fancied that I could see the squadron
of these cavalrymen quite distinctly.
I did not say a word about it at first, but I watched them for about
twenty minutes. The other two officers had stopped talking.
At last one of them asked me if I saw anything in the fields. I then told
him what I had seen. The third officer then confessed that he, too, had
been watching these horsemen for the past twenty minutes.
So convinced were we that they were really cavalry that, at the next
halt, one of the officers took a party of men out to reconnoitre, and
found no one there. The night then grew darker, and we saw no more.
The same phenomenon was seen by many men in our column. Of course, we
were all dog-tired and overtaxed, but it is an extraordinary thing that
the same phenomenon should be witnessed by so many people.
I myself am absolutely convinced that I saw these horsemen; and I feel
sure that they did not exist only in my imagination. I do not attempt to
explain the mystery-I only state facts.
This evidence sounds good, and yet it must be admitted that in the stress
and tension of the great retreat men's minds were not in the best
condition to weigh evidence. On the other hand, it is at such times of
hardship that the psychic powers of man are usually most alive.
A profound aspect of the World War is involved in the consideration that
the war on earth is but one aspect of unseen battles on higher planes
where the powers of Good and Evil are engaged. The late Mr. A. P.
Sinnett, a prominent Theosophist, deals with this question in an article
entitled "Super-Physical Aspects of the War." *
* THE OCCULT REVIEW, December 1914, p. 346.
We cannot enter into the subject here, except to say that there are
evidences from many sources to indicate that what Mr. Sinnett speaks of
has a basis of fact.
A considerable number of books, and a very much larger number of
manuscripts, record the alleged experiences of those who passed over in
the war, which differ, of course, in no way from those who pass over at
any other time, but are rendered more dramatic by the historical
occasion. The greatest of these books is "Raymond." Sir Oliver Lodge is
so famous a scientist and so profound a thinker that his brave and frank
avowal produced a great impression upon the public. The book appeared
later in a condensed form, and it is likely to remain for many years a
classic of the subject. Other books of the same class, all of them
corroborative in their main details, are "The Case of Lester Coltman,"
"Claude's Book," "Rupert Lives," "Grenadier Rolf," "Private Dowding," and
others. All of them depict the sort of after-life existence which is
described in a subsequent chapter.
THE RELIGIOUS ASPECT OF SPIRITUALISM
Spiritualism is a system of thought and knowledge which can be reconciled
with any religion. The basic facts are the continuity of personality and
the power of communication after death. These two basic facts are of as
great importance to a Brahmin, a Mohammedan, or a Parsee as to a
Christian. Therefore Spiritualism makes a universal appeal. There is only
one school of thought to which it is absolutely irreconcilable: that is
the school of materialism, which holds the world in its grip at present
and is the root cause of all our misfortunes. Therefore the comprehension
and acceptance of Spiritualism are essential things for the salvation of
mankind, which is otherwise destined to descend lower and lower into a
purely utilitarian and selfish view of the universe. The typical
materialistic state was prewar Germany, but every other modern state is
of the same type if not of the same degree.
It may be asked, why should not the old religions be strong enough to
rescue the world from its spiritual degradation? The answer is that they
have all been tried and all have failed. The Churches which represent
them have themselves become to the last degree formal and worldly and
material. They have lost all contact with the living facts of the spirit,
and are content to refer everything back to ancient days, and to pay a
lip service and an external reverence to an outworn system which has been
so tangled up with incredible theologies that the honest mind is
nauseated at the thought of it. No class has shown itself so sceptical
and incredulous of modern Spiritual manifestations as those very clergy
who profess complete belief in similar occurrences in bygone ages, and
their utter refusal to accept them now is a measure of the sincerity of
their professions. Faith has been abused until it has become impossible
to many earnest minds, and there is a call for proof and for knowledge.
It is this which Spiritualism supplies. It founds our belief in life
after death and in the existence of invisible worlds, not upon ancient
tradition or upon vague intuitions, but upon proven facts, so that a
science of religion may be built up, and man given a sure pathway amid
the quagmire of the creeds.
When one asserts that Spiritualism may be reconciled with any religion,
one does not mean that all religions are of the same value, or that the
teaching of Spiritualism alone may not be better than Spiritualism mixed
with any other creed. Personally, the author thinks that Spiritualism
alone supplies all that man needs, but he has found many men of high soul
who have been unable to cast off the convictions of a lifetime, and yet
have been able to accept the new truth without discarding the old belief.
But if a man had Spiritualism alone as his guide, he would not find
himself in a position which was opposed to essential Christianity, but
rather in one which was explanatory. Both systems preach life after
death. Both recognize that the after-life is influenced in its progress
and happiness by conduct here. Both profess to believe in the existence
of a world of spirits, good and evil, whom the Christian calls angels and
devils, and the Spiritualist guides, controls, and undeveloped spirits.
Both believe in the main that the same virtues, unselfishness, kindness,
purity, and honesty, are necessary for a high character. Bigotry,
however, is looked upon as a serious offence by Spiritualists, while it
is commended by most Christian sects. To Spiritualists every path upwards
is commendable, and they fully recognize that in all creeds there are
sainted, highly developed souls who have received by intuition all that
the Spiritualist can give by special knowledge. The mission of the
Spiritualist does not lie with these. His mission lies with those who
openly declare themselves to be agnostic, or those more dangerous ones
who profess some form of creed and yet are either thoughtless or agnostic
From the author's point of view the man who has received the full benefit
of the new revelation is the man who has earnestly tried the gamut of the
creeds and has found them all equally wanting. He then finds himself in a
valley of gloom with Death waiting at the end, and nothing but plain,
obvious duty as his acting religion. Such a condition produces many fine
men of the Stoic breed, but it is not conducive to personal happiness.
Then comes the positive proof of independent existence, sometimes
suddenly, sometimes by slow conviction. The cloud has gone from the end
of his prospect. He is no longer in a valley but upon the ridge beyond,
with a vista of successive ridges each more beautiful than the last in
front of him. All is brightness where once gloom girt him round. The day
of this revelation has become the crowning day of his life.
Looking up at the lofty hierarchy of spiritual beings above him, the
Spiritualist realizes that one or another great archangel may from time
to time visit mankind with some mission of teaching and hope. Even humble
Katie King, with her message of immortality given to a great scientist,
was an angel from on high. Francis d'Assisi, Joan of Arc, Luther,
Mahomet, Bab-ed-Din, and every real religious leader of history are among
these evangels. But above all, according to our Western judgment, was
Jesus the son of a Jewish artisan, Whom we call "The Christ." It is not
for our mosquito brains to say what degree of divinity was in Him, but we
can truly say that He was certainly nearer the Divine than we are, and
that His teaching, upon which the world has not yet acted, is the most
unselfish, merciful, and beautiful of which we have any cognizance,
unless it be that of his fellow saint Buddha, who also was a messenger
from God, but whose creed was rather for the Oriental than for the
When, however, we hark back to the message of our inspired Teacher, we
find that there is little relation between His precepts and the dogmas or
actions of His present-day disciples. We see also that a great deal of
what He taught has obviously been lost, and that to find this lost
portion, which was unexpressed in the Gospels, we have to examine the
practice of the early Church who were guided by those who had been in
immediate touch with Him. Such an examination shows that all which we
call Modern Spiritualism seems to have been familiar to the Christ
circle, that the gifts of the spirit extolled by St. Paul are exactly
those gifts which our mediums exhibit, and that those wonders which
brought a conviction of other-world reality to the folk of those days can
now be exhibited and should have a similar effect now, when men once
again ask for assurance upon this vital matter. This subject is treated
at large in other books, and can here be simply summed up by saying that,
far from having wandered from orthodoxy, there is good reason to believe
that the humble, undogmatic Spiritualist, with his direct spirit message,
his communion of saints, and his association with that high teaching
which has been called the Holy Ghost, is nearer to primitive Christianity
than any other existing sect.
It is quite amazing when we read the early documents of the Church, and
especially the writings of the so-called "Fathers," to find out the
psychic knowledge and the psychic practice which were in vogue in those
days. The early Christians lived in close and familiar touch with the
unseen, and their absolute faith and constancy were founded upon the
positive personal knowledge which each of them had acquired. They were
aware, not as a speculation but as an absolute fact, that death meant no
more than a translation to a wider life, and might more properly be
called birth. Therefore they feared it not at all, and regarded it rather
as Dr. Hodgson did when he cried, "Oh, I can hardly bear to wait!" Such
an attitude did not affect their industry and value in this world, which
have been attested even by their enemies. If converts in far-off lands
have in these days been shown to deteriorate when they become Christians,
it is because the Christianity which they have embraced has lost all the
direct compelling power which existed of old.
Apart from the early Fathers, we have evidence of early Christian
sentiment in the inscriptions of the Catacombs. An interesting book on
early Christian remains in Rome, by the Rev. Spence Jones, Dean of
Gloucester, deals in part with these strange and pathetic records. These
inscriptions have the advantage over all our documentary evidence that
they have certainly not been forged, and that there has been no
possibility of interpolation.
Dr. Jones, after having read many hundreds of them, says: "The early
Christians speak of the dead as though they were still living. They talk
to their dead." That is the point of view of the present-day
Spiritualists-one which the Churches have so long lost. The early
Christian graves present a strange contrast to those of the heathen which
surround them. The latter always refer to death as a final, terrible and
irrevocable thing. "Fuisti Vale" sums up their sentiment. The Christians,
on the other hand, dwelt always upon the happy continuance of life.
"Agape, thou shalt live for ever," "Victorina is in peace and in Christ,"
"May God refresh thy spirit," "Mayest thou live in God." These
inscriptions alone are enough to show that a new and infinitely consoling
view of death had come to the human race.
The Catacombs, also, it may be remarked, are a proof of the simplicity of
early Christianity before it became barnacled over with all sorts of
complex definitions and abstractions, which sprang from the Grecian or
Byzantine mind, and have caused infinite evil in the world. The one
symbol which predominates in the Catacombs is that of the Good
Shepherd-the tender idea of a man carrying a poor helpless lamb. One may
search the Catacombs of the first centuries, and in all those thousands
of devices you will find nothing of a blood sacrifice, nothing of a
virgin birth. You will find the Kind Shepherd, the anchor of hope, the
palm of the martyr, and the fish which was the pun or rebus upon the name
of Jesus. Everything points to a simple religion. Christianity was at its
best when it was in the hands of the humblest. It was the rich, the
powerful, and the learned who degraded, complicated, and ruined it.
It is not possible, however, to draw any psychic inferences from the
inscriptions or drawings in the Catacombs. For these we must turn to the
pre-Nicene Fathers, and there we find so many references that a small
book which would contain nothing else might easily be compiled. We have,
however, to tune-in our thoughts and phrases to theirs in order to get
the full meaning. Prophecy, for example, we now call mediumship, and an
Angel has become a high spirit or a Guide. Let us take a few typical
quotations at random.
Saint Augustine, in his "De cura pro Mortuis," says: "The spirits of the
dead can be sent to the living and can unveil to them the future which
they them selves have learned either from other spirits or from angels"
(i.e. spiritual guides) "or by divine revelation." This is pure
Spiritualism exactly as we know and define it. Augustine would not have
spoken so surely of it and with such an accuracy of definition if he had
not been quite familiar with it. There is no hint of its being illicit.
He comes back to the subject in his "The City of God," where he refers to
practices which enable the ethereal body of a person to communicate with
the spirits and higher guides and to receive visions. These persons were,
of course, mediums-the name simply meaning the intermediate between the
carnate and discarnate organism.
Saint Clement of Alexandria makes similar allusions, and so does Saint
Jerome in his controversy with Vigilantius the Gaul. This, however, is,
of course, at a later date-after the Council of Nicaea.
Hermas, a somewhat shadowy person, who was said to have been a friend of
St. Paul's, and to have been the direct disciple of the Apostles, is
credited with being the author of a book "The Pastor." Whether this
authorship is apocryphal or not, the book is certainly written by someone
in the early centuries of Christianity, and it therefore represents the
ideas which then prevailed. He says: "The spirit does not answer all who
question nor any particular person, for the spirit that comes from God
does not speak to man when man wills but when God permits. Therefore,
when a man who has a spirit from God" (i.e. a control) "comes into an
assembly of the faithful, and when prayer has been offered, the spirit
fills this man who speaks as God wills."
This exactly describes our own psychic experience, when seances are
properly conducted. We do not invoke spirits, as ignorant critics
continually assert, and we do not know what is coming. But we pray-using
the "Our Father," as a rule-and we await events. Then such spirit as is
chosen and permitted comes to us and speaks or writes through the medium.
Hermas, like Augustine, would not have spoken so accurately had he not
had personal experience of the procedure.
Origen has many allusions to psychic knowledge. It is curious to compare
the crass ignorance of our present spiritual chiefs with the wisdom of
the ancients. Very many quotations could be given, but a short one may be
taken from his controversy with Celsus.
Many people have embraced the Christian faith in spite of themselves,
their hearts having been suddenly changed by some spirit, either in an
apparition or in a dream.
In exactly this way leaders among the materialists, from Dr. Elliotson
onwards, have been brought back to a belief in the life to come and its
relation to this life by the study of psychic evidence.
It is the earlier Fathers who are the most definite upon this matter, for
they were nearer to the great psychic source. Thus Irenams and
Tertullian, who lived about the end of the second century, are full of
allusions to psychic signs, while Eusebius, writing later, mourns their
scarcity and complains that the Church had become unworthy of them.
Irenaeus wrote: "We hear of many brethren in the Church possessing
prophetic" (i.e. mediumistic) "gifts, and speaking through the spirit in
all kinds of tongues and bringing to light for the general advantage the
hidden things of men, and setting forth the mysteries of God." No passage
could better describe the functions of a high-class medium.
When Tertullian had his great controversy with Marcion, he made the
Spiritualistic gifts the test of truth between the two parties. He
claimed that these were forthcoming in greater profusion upon his own
side, and includes among them trance-utterance, prophecy, and revelation
of secret things. Thus the things, which are now sneered at or condemned
by so many clergymen, were in the year 200 the actual touchstones of
Christianity. Tertullian also in his "DE ANIMA" says: "We have to-day
among us a sister who has received gifts on the nature of revelations
which she undergoes in spirit in the church amid the rites of the Lord's
Day, falling into ecstasy. She converses with angels"-that is, high
spirits-"sees and hears mysteries, and reads the hearts of certain people
and brings healings to those who ask. 'Among other things,' she said, 'a
soul was shown to me in bodily form, and it seemed to be a spirit, but
not empty nor a thing of vacuity. On the contrary, it seemed as if it
might be touched, soft, lucid, of the colour of air, and of the human
form in every detail.'"
One mine of information as to the views of the primitive Christians is to
be found in the "Apostolic Constitutions." It is true that they are not
Apostolic, but Whiston, Krabbe and Bunsen are all agreed that at least
seven out of the eight books are genuine ante-Nicene documents, probably
of the early third century. A study of them reveals some curious facts.
Incense and burning lamps were used at their services, so far justifying
present-day Catholic practices. On the other hand, bishops and priests
were married men. There was an elaborate system of boycott for anyone who
transgressed the Church rules. If any clergyman bought a living he was
cut off, and so was any man who obtained his ecclesiastical post by
worldly patronage. There is no question of a supreme Bishop or Pope.
Vegetarianism and total abstinence from wine were both forbidden and
punished. This latter amazing law was probably a reaction against some
heresy which enjoined both. A clergyman caught in a tavern was suspended.
The clergy must eat bloodless meat after the modern Jewish fashion.
Fasting was frequent and rigorous-one day a week (Thursday, apparently)
and forty days at Lent.
It is, however, in discussing the "gifts," or varied forms of mediumship,
that these ancient documents throw a light upon psychic subjects. Then,
as now, mediumship took different forms, the gift of tongues, of healing,
of prophecy and the like. Harnack says that in each early Christian
Church there were three discreet women, one for healing and two for
prophecy. The whole subject is freely discussed in the "Constitutions."
It appears that those who had gifts became conceited over them, and they
are earnestly adjured to remember that a man may have gifts and yet have
no great virtue, so that he is really the spiritual inferior of many who
have no gifts.
The object of phenomena is shown, as in Modern Spiritualism, to be the
conversion of the unbeliever, rather than the entertainment of the
orthodox. They are "not for the advantage of those who perform them, but
for the conviction of the unbelievers, that those whom the word did not
persuade the power of signs might put to shame, for signs are not for us
who believe, but for the unbelievers, both Jews and Gentiles"
(Constitutions, Book VIII, Sec. I).
Later the various gifts, which roughly correspond with our different
forms of mediumship, are given as follows. "Let not therefore anyone that
works signs and wonders judge anyone of the faithful who is not
vouchsafed the same. For the gifts of God which are bestowed through
Christ are various, and one man receives one gift and another another.
For perhaps one has the word of wisdom" (trance-speaking), "and another
the word of knowledge" (inspiration), "another discerning of spirits"
(clairvoyance), "another foreknowledge of things to come, another the
word of teaching" (spirit addresses), "another long-suffering,"-all our
mediums need that gift.
One may well ask oneself where, outside the ranks of the Spiritualists,
are these gifts or these observances to be found in any of those Churches
which profess to be the branches of this early root?
The high spiritual presences are continually recognized. Thus in the
"Ordination of the Bishops" we find, "The Holy Ghost being also present,
as well as all the holy and ministering spirits." On the whole, however,
I should judge that we have now a far fuller grasp of psychic facts than
the authors of the "Constitutions," and that these documents probably
represent a declension from that intimate "Communion of Saints" which
existed in the first century. There is reason to believe that psychic
power is not a fixed thing, but that it comes in waves, which ebb and
flow. At present we are on a rising tide, but we have no assurance that
it will last.
It may reasonably be said that, since our knowledge of the events
connected with early Church history is very limited, it should be
possible to get into touch with some high Intelligence who took part in
those events and so supplement our scanty sources of information. This
has actually been done in several inspired scripts, and even as the
proofs of this book were being corrected there has been an interesting
development which must make it clear to all the world how close may be
the connexion between other-world communication and religion. Two long
scripts have recently appeared which have been written by the hand of the
semi-conscious medium, Miss Cummins, the writing coming through at the
extraordinary pace of 2,000 words per hour. The first purports to be an
account of Christ's mission from Philip the Evangelist, and the second is
a supplement to the Acts of the Apostles, which claims to be from
Cleophas, who supped with the risen Christ at Emmaus. The first of these
has now been published,* and the second will soon be available for the
* "The Gospel of Philip the Evangelist." (Beddow, 46 Anerley Station
So far as the author is aware, no critical examination has been made of
the Philip script, but a careful reading of it has convinced him that in
dignity and power it is worthy to be that which it claims, and that it
explains in a clear, adequate way many points which have puzzled the
commentators. The case of the Cleophas script is, however, still more
remarkable, and the author is inclined to accept this as the highest
intellectual document, and the one with the most evident signs of
supernormal origin, in the whole history of the movement. It has been
submitted to Dr. Oesterley, Examining Chaplain of the Bishop of London,
who is one of the foremost authorities upon Church history and tradition.
He has declared that it bears every sign of being from the hand of one
who lived in those days, and who was intimately connected with the
Apostolic circle. Very many fine points of scholarship are noticed, such
as the use of the Hebrew Hanan as the name of the High Priest, whereas he
is only known to English-speaking readers by the Greek equivalent Annas.
This is one of a great number of corroborations quite beyond the possible
powers of any forger. Among other interesting points, Cleophas describes
the Pentecost meeting, and declares that the Apostles sat round in a
circle, with hands clasped, as the Master had taught them. It would,
indeed, be a wonderful thing if the true inner meaning of Christianity,
so long lost, should now be uncovered once more by the ridiculed and
persecuted cult whose history is here recorded.
These two scripts represent, in the opinion of the author, two of the
most cogent proofs of spirit communication which have ever been afforded
upon the mental side. It would seem to be impossible to explain them
The Spiritualists, both of Great Britain and of other countries, may be
divided into those who still remain in their respective Churches, and
those who have formed a Church of their own. The latter have in Great
Britain some four hundred meeting-places under the general direction of
the Spiritualists' National Union. There is great elasticity of dogma,
and while most of the Churches are Unitarian, an important minority are
on Christian lines. They may be said to be roughly united upon seven
central principles. These are:
1. The Fatherhood of God.
2. The Brotherhood of Man.
3. The Communion of Saints and Ministry of Angels.
4. Human survival of physical death.
5. Personal Responsibility.
6. Compensation or retribution for good or evil deeds.
7. Eternal progress open to every soul.
It will be seen that all of these are compatible with ordinary
Christianity, with the exception perhaps of the fifth. The Spiritualists
look upon Christ's earth life and death as an example rather than a
redemption. Every man answers for his own sins, and none can shuffle out
of that atonement by an appeal to some vicarious sacrifice. It is not
possible for the tyrant or the debauchee, by some spiritual trick of
so-called repentance, to escape his just deserts. A true repentance may
help him, but he pays his bill all the same. At the same time, God's
mercy is greater than man has ever conceived, and every possible
alleviatory circumstance of temptation, heredity and environment is given
full weight before punishment is meted out. Such in brief is the general
position of the Spiritualistic churches.
In another place * the author has pointed out that though psychical
research in itself may be quite distinct from religion, the deductions
which we may draw from it and the lessons we may learn, "Teach us of the
continued life of the soul, of the nature of that life, and of how it is
influenced by our conduct here. If this is distinct from religion, I must
confess that I do not understand the distinction. To me it IS
religion-the very essence of it." The author also spoke of Spiritualism
as a great unifying force, the one provable thing connected with every
religion, Christian or non-Christian. While its teachings would deeply
modify conventional Christianity, the modifications would be rather in
the direction of explanation and development than of contradiction. He
also referred to the new revelation as absolutely fatal to materialism.
* "The New Revelation," pp. 67-9.
JOURNAL, American S.P.R., January, 1923.
In this material age it may be said that, without a belief in man's
survival after death, the message of Christianity falls to a great extent
on deaf ears. Dr. McDougall in his presidential address to the American
Society for Psychical Research points out the connexion between the decay
of religion and the spread of materialism. He says:
Unless Psychical Researchcan discover facts incompatible with
materialism, materialism will continue to spread. No other power can stop
it; revealed religion and metaphysical philosophy are equally helpless
before the advancing tide. And if that tide continues to rise and to
advance as it is doing now, all the signs point to the view that it will
be a destroying tide, that it will sweep away all the hard-won gains of
humanity, all the moral traditions built up by the efforts of countless
generations for the increase of truth, justice and charity.
It is important, therefore, to endeavour to see to what degree
Spiritualism and psychical research tend to induce or to strengthen
In the first place, we have many testimonies to the conversion of
materialists, through Spiritualism, to a belief in a hereafter, as, for
instance, Professor Robert Hare and Professor Mapes in America, with Dr.
Alfred Russel Wallace, Dr. Elliotson, Dr. Sexton, Robert Blatchford, John
Ruskin, and Robert Owen in England. Many others might be mentioned.
If Spiritualism were understood properly there should be little question
of its harmony with religion. The definition of Spiritualism that is
printed in each issue of the London Spiritualist weekly journal Light is
"A belief in the existence and life of the spirit apart from and
independent of the material organism, and in the reality and value of
intelligent intercourse between spirits embodied and spirits discarnate."
Both the beliefs therein expressed are articles of the Christian faith.
If there is one class beyond all others who should be able to talk with
authority on the religious tendencies of Spiritualism, it is the clergy.
Scores of the more progressive have expressed their views on this subject
in no uncertain terms. Let us look at their utterances.
The Rev. H. R. Haweis, M.A., in an address delivered before the London
Spiritualist Alliance on April 20, 1900, said he had come there to say
that he did not see anything in what he believed to be true Spiritualism
in the least degree contrary to what he believed to be true Christianity.
Indeed, Spiritualism fitted very nicely into Christianity; it seemed to
be a legitimate development, not a contradiction-not an antagonist. The
indebtedness of the clergy-if they knew their business-to Spiritualism
was really very great. In the first place, Spiritualism had rehabilitated
the Bible. It could not for a moment be denied that faith in and
reverence for the Bible were dying out, in consequence of the growing
doubts of people regarding the miraculous parts of the Bible. Apologists
were thrown entirely on the beauty of the Christian doctrine-but they
could not swallow the miraculous element in the Old Testament or the New.
They were asked to believe in Bible miracles, and at the same time taught
that, outside of the Bible records, nothing supernatural ever happened.
But now the whole thing had been reversed. People now believed in the
Bible because of Spiritualism; they did not believe in Spiritualism
because of the Bible. He went on to say that when he began his ministry
he tried to get rid of the miracles out of the Bible by explaining them
away. But later on he found that he could not explain away the researches
of Crookes, Flaimnarion, and Alfred Russel Wallace.
The Rev. Arthur Chambers, formerly vicar of Brockenhurst, Hants, has done
valuable work by drawing men's minds to a consideration of their
spiritual life here and their existence hereafter. His book, "Our Life
after Death," has run through over one hundred and twenty editions. In an
address on "Spiritualism and the Light it casts on Christian Truth," he
Spiritualism, by its persistent investigation of psychic phenomena, by
its openly-proclaimed insistence that intercommunication between the two
worlds is a present-day fact, has brought great masses of our fellow
beings to realize that "There are more things in heaven and earth" than
had been previously "dreamed of in their philosophy," and have made many
of them, as Christian men and women, understand a mighty truth interwoven
with religion-a truth fundamental to a right understanding of our place
in a great universe-a truth which mankind in all ages has clung to, in
spite of the incredulous frowns and disapproval of the teachers of
religion. There comes to my mind, in conclusion, the thought of a
particular way in which the teachings of Spiritualism have uplifted the
religious ideas of the present age. It has helped us to form a truer and
grander notion of God and His purpose.
In another fine passage he says:
Yes, Spiritualism has done much, very much, towards the better
understanding of those grand basal facts which are inseparable from the
Gospel of Jesus. It has helped men and women to see with clearer vision
the Great Spirit Father-God, in whom we live, move and have our being,
and that vast spirit universe of which we now are, and ever must be, a
constituted part. As a Christian Spiritualist, I have one great hope-one
great conviction of what will be-viz., that Spiritualism, which has done
so much for Christian teaching and for the world at large, in scaring
away the bugbear of death, and in helping us better to realize that which
a magnificent Christ really taught, will recognize fully what that Christ
is in the light of spiritual verities.
Mr. Chambers further added that he had received many hundreds of letters
from all parts of the world from writers who expressed the relief and
comfort, as well as the fuller trust in God, which had come to them from
reading his own book, "Our Life After Death."
The Rev. F. Fielding-Ould, M.A., vicar of Christ Church, Regent's Park,
London, is another of those who boldly proclaim the good work to be done
by Spiritualism. In an address (April 21, 1921) on "The Relation of
Spiritualism to Christianity," he said:
The world needs the teaching of Spiritualism. The number of irreligious
people in London to-day is astonishing in the last degree. There are an
immense number of people in every class of society (and I am speaking
from my own experience) who are totally without any religion whatever.
They do not pray, they never attend any church for common worship, in
their consciousness and habit of thought death stands at the end. There
is nothing beyond but a thick, white mist into which their imagination is
sternly forbidden ever to wander. They may call themselves of the Church
of England, Roman Catholics, or Jews, but they are like empty bottles in
a cellar still marked with the labels of famous vintages.
It is no unusual thing for struggling and distressed souls to be HELPED
THROUGH SPIRITUALISM. Do we not all know people who had given up all
religion and who have been brought back by its means? Agnostics who had
lost all hope of God and immortality, to whom religion seemed mere
formality and dry bones, and who at last turned upon it and reviled it in
all its manifestations. Then Spiritualism came to them like the dawn to a
man who has tossed all night fevered and sleepless. At first they were
astonished and incredulous, but their attention was arrested, and
presently they were touched to the heart. God had come back into their
lives and nothing could express their joy and gratitude.
The Rev. Charles Tweedale, vicar of Weston, Yorkshire, a man who has
laboured bravely in this cause, refers to the consideration of
Spiritualism by the Bishops' Conference held at Lambeth Palace from July
5 to August 7, 1920, and, speaking of modern psychical research, says:*
* LIGHT, October 30, 1920.
While the world at large has been filled with an eager awakening
interest, the Church, which claims to be the custodian of religious and
spiritual truth, has, strange to say, until quite recently, turned a deaf
ear to all modern evidences bearing upon the reality of that spiritual
world to which it is the main object of her existence to testify, and
even now is only just showing faint signs that she realizes how important
this matter is becoming for her. A recent sign of the times was the
discussion of psychic phenomena at the Lambeth Conference, and the
placing by the secretary of my brochure "Present Day Spirit Phenomena and
the Churches" in the hands of all the Bishops present, with the
Archbishops' consent. Another significant sign of the times is the choice
of Sir William Barrett to address the Church Congress on psychical
The Report of the Proceedings of the Lambeth Conference, already referred
to, alludes as follows to psychic research:
It is possible that we may be on the threshold of a new science, which
will, by another method of approach, confirm us in the assurance of a
world behind and beyond the world we see, and of something within us by
which we are in contact with it. We could never presume to set a limit to
means which God may use to bring man to the realization of spiritual
Having made this precautionary utterance, the report flies to safety with
the added proviso:
But there is nothing in the cult erected on this science which enhances,
there is, indeed, much which obscures, the meaning of that other world
and our relation to it as unfolded in the Gospel of Christ and the
teaching of the Church, and which depreciates the means given to us of
attaining and abiding in fellowship with that world.
Under the heading "Spiritualism," the Report says:
While recognizing that the results of investigation have encouraged many
people to find a spiritual meaning and purpose in human life, and led
them to believe in survival after death, grave dangers are seen in the
tendency to make a religion of Spiritualism. The practice of Spiritualism
as a cult involves the subordination of the intelligence and the will to
unknown forces or personalities and, to that extent, an abdication of
A well-known contributor to LIGHT, who takes the pseudonym of "Gerson,"
thus comments on the above:
There is undoubted danger in "the subordination of the intelligence and
the will to unknown forces or personalities," but the practice of spirit
communication does not, as the Bishops appear to think, necessarily
involve such subordination. Another danger, in their view, is "the
tendency to make a religion of Spiritualism." Light, and those who
associate themselves with its attitude, have never felt any inclination
to do this. The possibility of spirit communication is simply a fact in
Nature, and we do not approve of exalting any fact in Nature into a
religion. At the same time a lofty form of religion may be associated
with a fact in Nature. The recognition of the beauty and order of the
universe does not in itself constitute religion, but in so far as it
inspires reverence for the Source of that beauty and order it is a help
to the religious spirit.
At the English Church Congress in 1920 the Rev. M. A. Bayfield read a
paper on "Psychic Science an Ally of Christianity," and in the course of
it he said:
Many of the clergy regard psychic science with suspicion, and some with
positive antagonism and alarm. Under its popular name, Spiritualism, it
had even been denounced as anti-Christian. He would endeavour to show
that this branch of study was altogether an ally of our faith. Everyone
was a Spiritualist who was not a materialist, and Christianity itself was
essentially a Spiritualistic religion.
He went on to refer to the service Spiritualism had rendered to
Christianity by making possible a belief in the miraculous element in the
Dr. Elwood Worcester, in a sermon entitled "The Allies of Religion," *
delivered at St. Stephen's Church, Philadelphia, on February 25, 1923,
spoke of psychical research as the true friend of religion and a
spiritual ally of man. He said:
* JOURNAL, American S.P.R., June, 1923, p. 323.
It also illuminates many an important event in the life of the Lord, and
it helps us to understand and accept occurrences which otherwise we
should reject. I think, particularly, of the phenomena attending the
baptism of Jesus, His appearance on the Sea of Galilee, His
transfiguration, above all His resurrection appearance to His disciples.
Moreover, this is our only real hope of solving the problem of death.
From no other source is any new solution of this eternal mystery likely
to come to us.
The Rev. G. Vale Owen reminds us that though there are Spiritualists who
are distinctly Christian Spiritualists, Spiritualism is not confined to
Christianity. There is, for instance, a Jewish Spiritualist Society in
London. The Church at first regarded Evolution as an adversary, but
finally came to accept it as in accordance with Christian faith. So he
Just as the acceptance of Evolution gave to Christianity a broader and
more worthy conception of Creation and its Creator, so the acceptance of
the great truths for which psychic science stands should turn an agnostic
into a believer in God, should make a Jew a better Jew, a Mohammedan a
better Mohammedan, a Christian a better Christian, and certainly a
happier and more cheerful one.*
* "Facts and the Future Life" (1922), p. 170.
It is clear from the foregoing extracts that many clergymen of the Church
of England and other Churches are agreed upon the good influence
Spiritualism has upon religion.
There is another important source of information for opinions respecting
the religious tendencies of Spiritualism. That is from the spirit world
itself. There is a wealth of material to draw from, but we must be
content with a few extracts. The first is from that well-known book,
"Spirit Teachings," given through the mediumship of Stainton Moses:
Friend, when others seek from you as to the usefulness of our message,
and the benefit which it can confer on those to whom the Father sends it,
tell them that it is a gospel which will reveal a God of tenderness and
pity and love, instead of a fabled creation of harshness, cruelty and
Tell them that it will lead them to know Intelligences, whose whole life
is one of love and mercy and pity and helpful aid to man, combined with
adoration of the Supreme.
Or this from the same source:
Man has gradually built around the teachings of Jesus a wall of deduction
and speculation and material comment similar to that with which the
Pharisee had surrounded the Mosaic law. The tendency has been
increasingly to do this in proportion as man has lost sight of the
spiritual world. And so it has come to pass that we find hard, cold
materialism deduced from teachings which were intended to breathe
spirituality and to do away with sensuous ritual.
It is our task to do for Christianity what Jesus did for Judaism. We
would take the old forms and spiritualize their meaning, and infuse into
them new life. Resurrection rather than abolition is what we desire. We
say again that we do not abolish one jot or one tittle of the teaching
which the Christ gave to the world. We do but wipe away man's material
glosses, and show you the hidden spiritual meaning which he has missed.
Our mission is the continuation of that old teaching which man has so
strangely altered; its source identical; its course parallel; its end the
And this from W. T. Stead's "Letters from Julia":
You have had teaching as to the communion of saints; you say, and sing
all manner of things as to the saints above and below being one army of
the Living God, but when any one of us on the Other Side tries to make
any practical effort to enable you to realize the oneness, and to make
you feel that you are encompassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses,
then there is an outcry. It is against the will of God! It is tampering
It is conjuring up evil spirits! Oh, my friend, my friend, be not
deceived by these specious outcries! Am I a demon? Am I a familiar
spirit? Am I doing what is contrary to the will of God when I constantly,
constantly try to inspire you with more faith in Him, more love for Him
and all His creatures, and, in short, try to bring you nearer and closer
to God? You know I do all this. It is my joy and the law of my being.
And, finally, this extract from "Messages from Meslom ".
Any teaching which helps humanity to believe that there is another life
and that the soul is strengthened by trials bravely met and weaknesses
conquered is good, for it has that much fundamental truth. When, in
addition, it reveals a God of love, it is better; and if humanity could
comprehend this Divine love, all suffering, even on earth, would cease.
These passages are lofty in tone and certainly tend to draw men's minds
to higher things and to the understanding of the deeper purposes of life.
F. W. H. Myers's lost faith in Christianity was restored through
Spiritualism. In his book "Fragments of Prose and Poetry," in the chapter
entitled "The Final Faith," he says:
I cannot, in any deep sense, contrast my present creed with Christianity.
Rather I regard it as a scientific development of the attitude and
teaching of Christ.
You ask me what is the moral tendency of all these teachings-the reply is
unexpectedly simple and concise. The tendency is, one may say, what it
must inevitably be-what the tendency of all vital moral teaching has
always been-the earliest, truest tendency of Christianity itself. It is a
reassertion-weighed now with new evidence of Christ's own insistence on
inwardness, on reality; of His proclamation that the letter killeth but
the spirit giveth life, of His summation of all righteousness in sheer
love to God and man.
Many writers have spoken of the light thrown on the Bible narrative by
modern psychical research, but the finest expression of this view is to
be found in F. W. H. Myers's "Human Personality ":
I venture now on a bold saying; for I predict that, in consequence of the
new evidence, all reasonable men, a century hence, will believe the
Resurrection of Christ, whereas, in default of the new evidence, no
reasonable men, a century hence, would have believed it. And especially
as to that central claim, of the soul's life manifested after the body's
death, it is plain that this can less and less be supported by remote
tradition alone; that it must more and more be tested by modern
experience and inquiry. Suppose, for instance, that we collect many such
histories, recorded on first-hand evidence in our critical age; and
suppose that all these narratives break down on analysis; that they can
all be traced to hallucination, misdescription, and other persistent
sources of error; can we then expect reasonable men to believe that this
marvellous phenomenon, always vanishing into nothingness when closely
scrutinized in a modern English scene, must yet compel adoring credence
when alleged to have occurred in an Oriental country, and in a remote and
superstitious age? Had the results (in short) of "Psychical Research"
been purely negative, would not Christian evidence-I do not say Christian
emotion, but Christian evidence-have received an overwhelming blow?
Many testimonies from eminent public men might be cited. Sir Oliver Lodge
Although it is not by my religious faith that I have been led to my
present position, yet everything that I have learned tends to increase my
love and reverence for the personality of the central figure in the
Lady Grey of Fallodon* pays an eloquent tribute to Spiritualism,
describing it as something that has vitalized religion and brought
comfort to thousands. Speaking of Spiritualists, she says:
* FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW, October, 1922.
As a body of workers they are closer to the spirit of the New Testament
than many Church folk would be ready to believe. The Church of England
should look upon Spiritualism as a valuable ally. It makes a central
attack upon Materialism, and it not only identifies the material with the
spiritual universe, but it has a store of useful knowledge and advice.
I find in it a vitalizing current that brings the living breath to old
beliefs. The Word that we are wont to associate with Holy Writ is, in
essence, identical with the message that is coming to us in these later
scripts. Those of us who have the New Revelation at heart, know that
Spiritualism gives a modern reading of the Bible, and this is why-if the
Churches would but see it-it should be considered religion's great ally.
These are brave words and true.
Dr. Eugene Crowell* shows that the Roman Catholic Church holds that
spiritual manifestations are constantly occurring under the divine
authority of the Church; but the Protestant Churches, while professing to
believe in the spiritual manifestations occurring with Jesus and His
disciples, repudiate all similar happenings at the present day. He says:
* "The Identity of Primitive Christianity and Modern Spiritualism." (2
Vols., 2nd Edition, New York, 1875.)
Thus the Protestant Church, when approached by the spiritually
starved-and millions are in this condition-from the depths of whose
natures arises an overpowering demand for spiritual aliment, has nothing
to offer-or at best nothing but husks.
Protestantism to-day finds itself pressed between the upper and nether
millstones of materialism and Catholicism Each of these powers is bearing
upon it with increasing force, and it must assimilate and incorporate
within itself one or other of these, or itself be ground to powder. In
its present condition it lacks the necessary strength and vitality to
resist the action of these forces, and its only hope is in the fresh
blood which Spiritualism alone is able to infuse into its exhausted
veins. That it is part of the mission of Spiritualism to accomplish this
task, I fully believe, and this belief is founded upon the palpable needs
of Protestantism, and a clear conception of the adaptability of
Spiritualism to the task, and its ability to perform it.
Dr. Crowell declares that the diffusion of knowledge has not made modern
men less regardful of questions concerning their spiritual life and
future existence, but to-day they demand proof of what was formerly
accepted upon faith alone. Theology is unable to furnish this proof, and
millions of earnest minds, he says, stand aloof waiting for satisfactory
evidence. Spiritualism, he contends, has been sent to furnish this
evidence, and from no other source can it be supplied.
Some reference should be made to the views of the Unitarian
Spiritualists. Their very able and wholehearted leader is Ernest W.
Oaten, Editor of The Two Worlds. Mr. Oaten's view, which is shared by all
save a small body of extremists, is rather a reconstruction than a
destruction of the Christian ideal. After a very reverent account of the
life of Christ as explained by our psychic knowledge, he continues:
Men tell me I despise Jesus of Nazareth. I will trust His judgment rather
than theirs, but I think I know His life more intimately than any
Christian can. There is no soul in history that I hold in higher esteem.
I hate the false and misleading place in which He has been put by folks
who are no more able to understand Him than they are to read Egyptian
hieroglyphics, but I love the man. I owe Him much, and He has much to
teach the world which the world can never learn until they take Him from
the pedestal of worship and idolatry, and walk with Him in the garden.
It may be said that my reading of His life is "naturalistic." I am
content that it should be so. There is nothing more divine than the laws
which govern life. The God who laid down such laws made them sufficient
for all His purposes and has no need to supersede them.
The God who controls earthly processes is the same as He who controls the
processes of spiritual life.*
* "The Relation of Modern Spiritualism to Christianity," p. 23.
There the matter may be left. This history has endeavoured to show how
special material signs have been granted by the invisible rulers of earth
to satisfy the demand for material proofs which come from the increasing
mentality of man. It has shown also how these material signs have been
accompanied by spiritual messages, and how these messages get back to the
great primitive religious forces of the world, the central fire of
inspiration which has been ashed over by the dead cinders of what once
were burning creeds. Man had lost touch with the vast forces which lie
around him, and his knowledge and aspirations had become bounded by the
pitiful vibrations which make up his spectrum and the trivial octaves
which limit his range of hearing. Spiritualism, the greatest movement for
2,000 years, rescues him from this condition, bursts the thin mists which
have enshrouded him, and shows him new powers and unlimited vistas which
lie beyond and around him, Already the mountain peaks are bright. Soon
even in the valleys the sun of truth will shine.
THE AFTER-LIFE AS SEEN BY SPIRITUALISTS
The Spiritualist has one great advantage over those of the older
dispensations. When he establishes communication with intelligences upon
the Other Side who once inhabited earthly bodies, he naturally questions
them eagerly as to their present conditions, and as to the effect which
their doings here have had upon their subsequent fate. The answers to the
latter query do in the main justify the views already held by most
religions, and show that the path of virtue is also the road to ultimate
happiness. A definite system is presented, however, for our consideration
which greatly elucidates the vague cosmogonies of former ages. This
system has been set forth in many books which recount the experience of
those who have led the new life. It is to be remembered that these books
are not written by professional penmen. On this side is the so-called
"automatic" writer who receives the inspiration, on the other is the
intelligence which transmits it; but neither may have been gifted by
Nature with the least literary power, or have had any previous experience
in putting together a narrative. It has also to be borne in mind that
whatever comes through is the result of a cumbrous process, which must in
most cases be irksome for the composer. If we could imagine an earthly
writer who has to use a long-distance telephone instead of a pen, one
would have some rough analogy to the difficulties of the operator. And
yet in spite of these grave disabilities, the narratives are in many
cases clear, dramatic, and intensely interesting. They can hardly fail to
be the latter, since the pathway which they describe to-day is that which
we shall follow to-morrow.
It has been said that these narratives vary greatly and are
contradictory. The author has not found them so. In a long course of
reading in which he has perused many volumes of alleged posthumous
experiences, and also a great number of scripts obtained privately in
families and reserved from the public, he has been struck by their
general agreement. Here and there one comes upon some story which bears
self-deception written plainly across it, and occasionally there is a
lapse into sensationalism, but in the main the descriptions are sober,
reasonable, and agree in general type with each other, even when they
differ in details. Descriptions of our own life would certainly differ in
details, and a critic from Mars who was presented with accounts from a
Hindu peasant, an Eskimo hunter, and an Oxford professor, might well
refuse to believe that such divergent experiences were to be found upon
the same planet. This difficulty does not arise upon the Other Side, and
there are, so far as we know, no such extreme contrasts upon the same
sphere of life-indeed, it might be said that the characteristic of this
present life is the mingling of various types or degrees of experience,
while that of the next is a subdivision and separation of the human
elements. Heaven there is distinct from hell. In this world at present
man might, and sometimes for a short time does, make it a heaven, but
there are large tracts of it which are very tolerable imitations of hell,
while purgatory may well be called the normal condition.
The conditions upon the Other Side may roughly be divided into three.
There are the earth-bound who have exchanged their mortal for their
etheric bodies, but are held on or near the surface of this world by the
grossness of their nature or by the intensity of their worldly interests.
So coarse may be the texture of their other-world form, that they may
even bring themselves within the cognizance of those who have no special
gift of clairvoyance. In this unhappy wandering class lies the
explanation of all those ghosts, spectres, apparitions, and haunted
houses which have engaged the attention of mankind at every epoch of
history. These people have, so far as we can understand the situation,
not even commenced their spiritual life either for good or evil. It is
only when the strong earth ties are broken that the new existence begins.
Those who have really begun that existence find themselves in that
stratum of life which corresponds to their own spiritual condition. It is
the punishment of the cruel, the selfish, the bigoted and the frivolous,
that they find themselves in the company of their like, and in worlds the
illumination of which, varying from mist to darkness, typifies their own
spiritual development. Such an environment is not a permanent one. Those
who will not make an upward effort may, however, remain in it an
indefinite time, while others who turn an ear to the ministrations of
helpful spirits, even of rescue circles upon earth, soon learn to
struggle upwards into brighter zones. In the author's own family
communion, he has known what it was to come in contact with these beings
from the outer darkness, and to have the satisfaction of receiving
their thanks for having given them a clearer view of their position, its
causes and its cure.*
* Dr. Wickland's "Thirty Years among the Dead," and the Appendix to
Admiral Usborne Moore's "Glimpses of the Next State," give the fullest
account of earth-bound conditions.
Such spirits would seem to be a constant menace to mankind, for if the
protective aura of the individual should be in any way defective, they
may become parasitic, establishing themselves within it and influencing
the actions of their host. It is possible that the science of the future
may trace many cases of inexplicable mania, senseless violence, or sudden
surrender to bad habits to this cause, and it forms an argument against
capital punishment, since the result might be to give enlarged powers of
mischief to the criminal. It must be admitted that the subject is still
obscure, that it is complicated by the existence of thought forms and
memory forms, and that in any case all earth-bound spirits are not
necessarily evil. It would appear, for example, that the devoted monks of
some venerable Glastonbury might be held to their old haunts by the pure
force of their devotion.
If our knowledge of the exact condition of the earth-bound is defective,
that of the punitive circles is even more so. There is a somewhat
sensational account in Mr. Ward's "Gone West"; there is a more temperate
and credible one in the Rev. Vale Owen's "Life Beyond the Veil," and
there are corroborative ones in Swedenborg's visions, in Judge Edmonds's
"Spiritualism," and in other volumes. Our lack of clear first-hand
information is due to the fact that we are not Hamlets, and that we do
not get into direct touch with those who live in these lower spheres. We
hear of them indirectly through those higher spirits who do missionary
work among them, work which seems to be attended with such difficulties
and dangers as might surround the man who tried to evangelize the darker
races of earth. We read of the descent of high spirits into the lower
spheres, of their combats with the forces of evil, of high princes of
evil who are formidable in their own realms, and of a whole great cloaca
of souls into which the psychic sewage of the world incessantly pours.
Everything, however, has to be regarded from the remedial rather than
from the penal point of view. These spheres are grey
waiting-rooms-hospitals for diseased souls-where the chastening
experience is intended to bring the sufferer back to health and to
Our information is fuller when we turn to the happier regions which seem
to be graduated in joy and beauty in accordance with the spiritual
development of the inmates. It makes the matter clearer if one puts
kindliness and unselfishness for "spiritual development," for in that
direction all soul growth is to be found. It is certainly a matter which
is quite apart from intellect, though the union of intellect with
spiritual qualities would naturally produce the more perfect being.
The conditions of life in the normal beyond-and it would be a reflection
upon the justice and mercy of the Central Intelligence if the normal
beyond was not also the happy beyond-are depicted as being
extraordinarily joyous. The air, the views, the homes, the surroundings,
the occupations, have all been described with great detail, and usually
with the comment that no words could do justice to their glorious
reality. It may be that there is some degree of parable or analogy in
these descriptions, but the author is inclined to take them on their face
value, and to believe that "the Summerland," as Davis has named it, is
quite as real and objective to its inmates as our world is to us. It is
easy to raise the objection: "Why, then, do we not see it?" But we must
realize that an etheric life is expressed in etheric terms, and that just
as we, with five material senses, are attuned to the material world, so
they with their etheric bodies are attuned to the sights and sounds of an
etheric world. The word "ether" is, of course, only used for convenience
to express something far more subtle than our atmosphere. We have no
proof at all that the ether of the physicist is also the medium of the
spirit world. There may be other fine essences which are as much more
delicate than ether as ether is when compared with air.
The spiritual heavens, then, would appear to be sublimated and ethereal
reproductions of earth and of earth life under higher and better
conditions. "As below-so above," said Paracelsus, and struck the keynote
of the Universe as he said it. The body carries on, with its spiritual or
intellectual qualities unchanged by the transition from one room of the
great universal mansion to the next one. It is unaltered also in form,
save that the young and the old tend towards the normal full-grown mature
expression. Granting that this is so, we must admit the reasonableness of
the deduction that all else must be the same, and that the occupations
and general system of life must be such as to afford scope for the
particular talents of the individual. The artist without art or the
musician without music would indeed be a tragic figure, and what applies
to extreme types may be extended to the whole human race. There is, in
fact, a very complex society in which each person finds that work to do
which he is best fitted for, and which gives him satisfaction in the
doing. Sometimes there is a choice. Thus in "The Case of Lester Coltman"
the dead student writes: "For some time after I had passed over I was
undecided as to whether music or science would be my work. After much
serious thought I determined that music should be my hobby, and my more
earnest intent should be directed upon science in every form."
After such a declaration one would naturally wish some details as to what
scientific work was done and under what conditions. Lester Coltman is
clear upon each point.
The laboratory over which I have control is primarily concerned with the
study of the vapours and fluids forming the barrier which, we feel, by
dint of profound study and experiment we may be able to pierce. The
outcome of this research, we believe, will prove the Open Sesame to the
door of communing between earth and these spheres.*
* "Case of Lester Coltman," by Lilian Walbrook, p. 34.
Ibid., pp. 32-3.
Lester Coltman gives a further description of his work and surroundings,
which may well be quoted as being typical of many more. He says:
The interest evinced by earth beings as to the character of our homes and
the establishments where our work is carried on, is natural, of course,
but description is not too easy to convey in earth terms. My state of
being will serve as an example from which you may deduce others' modes of
life, according to temperament and type of mind.
My work is continued here as it began on earth, in scientific channels,
and, in order to pursue my studies, I visit frequently a laboratory
possessing extraordinarily complete facilities for the carrying on of
experiments. I have a home of my own, delightful in the extreme, complete
with library filled with books of reference-historical, scientific,
medical-and, in fact, with every type of literature. To us these books
are as substantial as those used on earth are to you. I have a music-room
containing every mode of sound-expression. I have pictures of rare beauty
and furnishings of exquisite design. I am living here alone at present,
but friends frequently visit me as I do them in their homes, and if a
faint sadness at times takes possession of me, I visit those I loved most
From my windows undulating country of great beauty is seen, and at a
short distance away a house of community exists, where many good souls
working in my laboratory live in happy concord. A dear old Chinaman, my
chief assistant, of great help in chemical analysis, is director, as it
were, of this community. He is an admirable soul, of huge sympathy and
endowed with a great philosophy.
Here is another description which deals with this matter*:
* Thought Lectures, from "The Spiritualists' Reader," p. 53.
It is very difficult to tell you about work in the spirit world. It is
allotted to each one his portion, according to how he has progressed. If
a soul has come direct from earth, or any material world, he must then be
taught all he has neglected in the former existence, in order to make his
character grow to perfection. As he has made those on earth suffer, so he
himself suffers. If he has a great talent, that he brings to perfection
here; for if you have beautiful music, or any other talent, we have them
here much more. Music is one of the great moving forces of our world; but
although arts and talents are carried to their fullest, it is the great
work of all souls to perfect themselves for the Eternal Life.
There are great schools to teach the spirit children. Besides learning
all about the universe and other worlds, about other kingdoms under God's
rule, they are taught lessons of unselfishness and truth and honour.
Those who have learned first as spirit-children, if they should come into
your world, make the finer characters.
Those who have spent all their material existence in merely physical
labours, have to learn everything when they come here. Work is a
wonderful life, and those who become teachers of souls learn so much
themselves. Literary souls become great orators, and speak and teach in
eloquent language. There are books, but of quite a different kind from
yours. One who has studied your earth-laws would go into the
spirit-school as a teacher of justice. A soldier, when he himself has
learned the lessons of truth and honour, will guide and help souls, in
any sphere or world, to fight for the right faith in God.
In the author's Home Circle an intimate spirit spoke of her life in the
beyond in answer to the question, "What do you do?"
"Music and children, loving and mothering and lots of other things
besides. Far, far more here than on the old grey earth. Nothing in the
people round ever jars. That makes everything happier and more complete."
"Tell us about your dwelling."
"It is lovely. I never saw any house on earth to compare with it. So many
flowers!-a blaze of colour in all directions and they have such wonderful
scents, each one different, but all blending so deliciously."
"Can you see other houses?"
"No, it would spoil the peace if you could. One wants nature only at
times. Every home is an oasis, as it were. Beyond is wonderful scenery
and other sweet homes full of dear, sweet, bright people full of laughter
and joy from the mere fact of living in such wonderful surroundings. Yes,
it is beautiful. No earth mind can conceive the light and wonder of it
all. The colours are so much daintier, and the whole scheme of the home
life is so much more radiant." Another extract from the author's Home
Circle may, perhaps, be excused, since these messages have been mixed
with so much evidential matter that they inspire complete confidence in
those who have been in touch with the facts:
"For God's sake, strike at these people, these dolts who will not
believe. The world so needs this know ledge. If I had only known this on
earth it would have so altered my life-the sun would have shone on my
grey path had I known what lay before me.
"Nothing jars over here. There are no crosscurrents. I am interested in
many things, mostly human, the progress of human development, above all
the regeneration of the earth-plane. I am one of those who are working
for the cause on this side hand-and-glove with you.
"Never fear; the light will be the greater for the darkness you have
passed through. It will come very soon, as God wills it. Nothing can
stand against that. No powers of darkness can stand for one minute
His light. All the crowd working against it will be swept away. Lean more
on us, for our power to help is very great.
[Where are you?]
"It is so difficult to explain to you the conditions over here. I am
where I would most wish to be, that is, with my loved ones, where I can
keep in close touch with you all on the earth-plane.
[Have you food?]
"Not in your sense, but much nicer. Such lovely essences and wonderful
fruits and other things besides, which you don't have on earth.
"Much awaits you which will very much surprise you, all beautiful and
high, and so sweet and sunny. Life was a preparation for this sphere.
Without that training I could not have been able to enter this glorious,
wonderful world. The earth is where we learn our lessons, and this world
is our great reward, our true and real home and life-the sunshine after
The subject is so enormous that it can only be touched upon in general
terms in a single chapter. The reader is referred to the wonderful
literature which has grown up, hardly noticed by the world, around the
subject. Such books as Lodge's "Raymond," Vale Owen's "Life Beyond the
Veil," Mrs. Platts's "The Witness," Miss Walbrook's "Case of Lester
Coltman," and many other volumes give clear and consistent
representations of the life beyond.
In reading the numerous accounts of life in the hereafter, one naturally
asks oneself how far they are to be trusted. It is reassuring to find how
greatly they are in agreement, which is surely an argument for their
truth. It might be contended that this agreement is due to their all
being derived, consciously or not, from some common source, but this is
an untenable supposition. Many of them come from people who could by no
means have learned the views of others, and yet they agree even in small
and rather unlikely details. In Australia, for example, the author
examined such accounts written by men living in remote places who were
honestly amazed at what they had themselves written. One of the most
striking cases is that of Mr. Hubert Wales.* This gentleman, who had
been, and possibly is, a sceptic, read an account by the author of
after-life conditions, and then hunted up a script which he had himself
written years before and had been received by him with amused
incredulity. He wrote: "After reading your article I was struck, almost
startled, by the circumstance that the statements which had purported to
be made to me regarding conditions after death coincided-I think almost
to the smallest detail-with those you set out as the result of your
collation of material obtained from many sources." The remainder of Mr.
Wales's conclusions will be found in the Appendix.
* "The New Revelation," p. 146.
Had this philosophy all turned upon the great white throne and perpetual
adoration around it, it might be set down as some reflection of that
which we have all been taught in our childhood. But it is very
different-and surely very much more reasonable. An open field is
predicated for the development of all those capacities with which we have
been endowed. Orthodoxy has permitted the continued existence of thrones,
crowns, harps, and other celestial objects. Is it not more sensible to
suppose that if some things can survive, all things can survive, in such
form as suits the environment? As we survey all the speculations of
mankind, perhaps the Elysian fields of the ancients and the happy
hunting-grounds of the Red Indians are nearer the actual facts than any
fantastic presentation of heaven and hell which the ecstatic vision of
theologians has conjured up.
So workaday and homely a heaven may seem material to many minds, but we
must remember that evolution has been very slow upon the physical plane,
and it is slow also upon the spiritual one. In our present lowly
condition we cannot expect at one bound to pass all intermediate
conditions and attain to what is celestial. This will be the work of
centuries-possibly of moons. We are not fit yet for a purely spiritual
life. But as we ourselves become finer, so will our environment become
finer, and we shall evolve from heaven to heaven until the destiny of the
human soul is lost in a blaze of glory whither the eye of imagination may
NOTES TO CHAPTER IV
EVIDENCE OF THE HAUNTING OF THE HYDESVILLE HOUSE BEFORE THE FOX FAMILY
MRS. ANN PULVER certifies:
I was acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Bell (who occupied the house in 1844).
I used to call on them frequently. My warping bars were in their chamber,
and I used to go there to do my work. One morning when I went there Mrs.
Bell told me that she felt very bad; that she had not slept much, if any,
the night before. When I asked her what the matter was, she said she
didn't know but what it was the fidgets; but she thought she heard
somebody walking about from one room to another, and that she had Mr.
Bell get up and fasten down all the windows. She said she felt more safe
after that. I asked her what she thought it was. She said it might be
rats. I heard her speak about hearing noises after that, which she could
not account for.
Miss Lucretia Pulver gave testimony:
I lived in this house all one winter, in the family of Mr. Bell. I worked
for them part of the time, and part of the time I boarded and went to
school. I lived there about three months. During the latter part of the
time that I was there I heard this knocking frequently in the bedroom,
under the foot of the bed. I heard it a number of nights, as I slept in
the bedroom all the time that I staid there. One night I thought I heard
a man walking in the buttery. This buttery is near the bedroom, with a
stairway between. Miss Aurelia Losey staid with me on that night; she
also heard the noise, and we were both much frightened, and got up and
fastened down the windows and fastened the door. It sounded as if a
person walked through the buttery, down cellar, and part way across the
cellar-bottom, and there the noise would cease. There was no one else in
the house at this time, except my little brother, who was asleep in the
same room with us. This was about twelve o'clock, I should think. We did
not go to bed until after eleven, and had not been asleep when we heard
the noise. Mr. and Mrs. Bell had gone to Loch Berlin, to be gone until
the next day.
Thus it is proved that strange sounds were heard in the house in 1844.
Another family named Weekman lived there in 1846-7, and they had a
STATEMENT OF MRS. HANNAH WEEKMAN
I have heard about the mysterious noises that have been heard in the
house now occupied by Mr. Fox. We used to live in the same house; we
lived there about a year and a half and moved from there to the house we
now occupy. About a year ago, while we were living there, we heard
someone, as we supposed, rapping on the outside door. I had just got into
bed, but my husband had not. He went and opened it, and said that there
was no one there. He came back, and was about getting into bed when we
heard the rapping on the door again. He then went to the door and opened
it, and said that he could see no one, although he stepped out a little
way. He then came back and got into bed. He was quite angry; he thought
'twas some of the neighbouring boys trying to disturb us, and said that
"They might knock away, but they would not fool him," or something of
that kind. The knocking was heard again, and after a while he got up and
went to the door and went out. I told him not to go outdoors, for perhaps
somebody wanted to get him out and hurt him. He came back, and said he
could see nothing. We heard a good deal of noise during the night; we
could hardly tell where it was: it sounded sometimes as if someone was
walking in the cellar. But the house was old, and we thought it might be
the rattling of loose boards, or something of that kind.
A few nights afterwards, one of our little girls, who slept in the
bedroom where the noises are now heard, woke us all up by screaming very
loud. My husband and I, and our hired girl, got up immediately to see
what was the matter. She sat up in bed, crying and screaming, and it was
some time before we could find out what the matter was. She said that
something had been moving about, over her head and face-that it was cold,
and she did not know what it was. She said that she felt it all over her,
but she was most alarmed at feeling it on her face. She was very much
frightened. This was between twelve and one o'clock at night. She got up
and got into bed with us, and it was a long time before she could go to
sleep. It was several days before we could get her to sleep in that room
again. She was eight years old at that time.
Nothing else happened to me during the time that we lived there; but my
husband told me that one night he heard someone call him by name,
somewhere in the house-he did not know where-but could never find out
where or what it was that night. I was not at home that night. I was
sitting up with a sick person. We did not think the house was haunted at
APRIL 11, 1848.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL WEEKMAN
I am the husband of Hannah Weekman. We used to live in the house now
occupied by Mr. Fox, in which they say strange noises are heard. We lived
there about a year and a half. One evening, about bedtime, I heard the
rapping. I supposed it was someone knocking at the door who wanted to
come in. I did not bid him "Come in," as I usually do, but went to the
door. I did not find anyone there, but went back, and just as I was
getting into bed I heard the rapping again and opened the door quick, but
could see no one there. I stepped out a step or two, but could see no one
about there. I then went back and got into bed. I thought someone was
making game of me. After a few minutes I heard the knocking again, and
after waiting a few minutes and still hearing it, I got up and went to
the door. This time I went clear out and looked around the house, but
could find no one. I then stepped back and shut the door, and held on to
the latch, thinking that if there was anyone there I would catch them at
it. In a minute or two I heard the rapping again. My hand was on the
door, and the knocking appeared to be on the door. I could feel it jar
with the raps. I instantly opened the door and sprang out, but there was
no one in sight. I then went round the house again, but could find no
one, as before. My wife told me I had better not go out of doors, as it
might be someone that wanted to hurt me. I did not know what to think of
it, it seemed so strange and unaccountable.
He here relates the case of the little girl being frightened, as given
One night after this, about midnight, I was awake, and heard my name
called. It sounded as if it was on the south side of the room.
I sat up in bed and listened, but did not hear it again. I did not get
out of bed, but waited to see if it would be repeated. My wife was not at
home that night. I told her of it afterwards, and she said she guessed I
had been dreaming. My wife used to be frightened quite often by hearing
strange noises in and about the house.
I have heard so much from men in whom I place confidence about these
noises that are now heard, that, taken in connexion with what I heard, I
cannot account for it, unless it is a supernatural appearance. I am
willing to make affidavit to the above facts if necessary.
(Signed) MICHAEL WEEKMAN.
APRIL 11, 1848.
EXTRACT FROM HORACE, GREELEY'S ARTICLE IN THE NEW YORK TRIBUNE GIVING HIS
OPINION OF THE FOX SISTERS AND THEIR MEDIUMSHIP*
* Capron, "Modern Spiritualism," pp. 179-181.
THE MYSTERIOUS RAPPINGS
Mrs. Fox and her three daughters left our city yesterday on their return
to Rochester, after a stay here of some weeks, during which they have
subjected the mysterious influence, by which they seem to be accompanied,
to every reasonable test, and to the keen and critical scrutiny of
hundreds who have chosen to visit them, or whom they have been invited to
visit. The rooms which they occupied at the hotel have been repeatedly
searched and scrutinized; they have been taken without an hour's notice
into houses they had never before entered; they have been all
unconsciously placed on a glass surface concealed under the carpet in
order to interrupt electrical vibrations; they have been disrobed by a
committee of ladies appointed without notice, and insisting that neither
of them should leave the room until the investigation has been made,
etc., etc., yet we believe no one, to this moment, pretends that he has
detected either of them in producing or causing the "rappings," nor do we
think any of their contemners has invented a plausible theory to account
for the production of these sounds, nor the singular intelligence which
(certainly at times) has seemed to be manifest through them.
Some ten or twelve days since they gave up their rooms at the hotel and
devoted the remainder of their sojourn here to visiting several families,
to which they had been invited by persons interested in the subject, and
subjecting the singular influence to a closer, calmer examination than
could be given to it at a hotel, and before casual companies of
strangers, drawn together by vague curiosity more than rational interest,
or predetermined and invincible hostility. Our own dwelling was among
those they thus visited; not only submitting to, but courting, the
fullest and keenest inquiry with regard to the alleged "manifestations"
from the spirit-world, by which they were attended.
We devoted what time we could spare from our duties out of three days to
this subject, and it would be the basest cowardice not to say that we are
convinced beyond a doubt of their perfect integrity and good faith in the
premises. Whatever may be the origin or cause of the "rappings," the
ladies in whose presence they occur do not make them. We tested this
thoroughly and to our entire satisfaction. Their conduct and bearing is
as unlike that of deceivers as possible, and we think no one acquainted
with them could believe them at all capable of engaging in so daring,
impious, and shameful a juggle as this would be if they caused the
sounds. And it is not possible that such a juggle should have been so
long perpetrated in public. A juggler performs one feat quickly and
hurries on to another; he does not devote weeks after weeks to the same
thing over and over, deliberately, in full view of hundreds who sit
beside or confronting him in broad daylight, not to enjoy but to detect
his trick. A deceiver naturally avoids conversation on the subject of his
knavery, but these ladies converse freely and fully with regard to the
origin of these "rappings" in their dwellings years ago, the various
sensations they caused, the neighbourhood excitement created, the
progress of the developments--what they have seen, heard and experienced
from first to last. If all were false, they could not fail to have
involved themselves ere this in a labyrinth of blasting contradictions,
as each separately gives accounts of the most astonishing developments at
this or that time. Persons foolish enough so to commit themselves without
reserve or caution could not have deferred a thorough self-exposure for a
Of course, a variety of opinions of so strange a matter would naturally
be formed by the various persons who have visited them, and we presume
that those who have merely run into their room for an hour or so, and
listened, among a huddle of strangers, to a medley of questions-not all
admitting of very profitable answers-put to certain invisible
intelligences, and answered by "rappings," or singular noises on the
floor, table, etc., as the alphabet was called over, or otherwise, would
naturally go away, perhaps puzzled, probably disgusted, rarely convinced.
It is hardly possible that a matter, ostensibly so grave, could be
presented under circumstances less favourable to conviction. But of those
who have enjoyed proper opportunities for a full investigation, we
believe that fully three-fourths are convinced, as we are, that these
singular sounds and seeming manifestations are not produced by Mrs. Fox
and her daughters, nor by any human being connected with them.
How they are caused, and whence they proceed, are questions which open a
much wider field of inquiry, with whose way-marks we do not profess to be
familiar. He must be well acquainted with the arcana of the universe, who
shall presume dogmatically to decide that these manifestations are
natural or supernatural. The ladies say that they are informed that this
is but the beginning of a new era, or economy, in which spirits clothed
in the flesh are to be more closely palpably connected with those who
have put on immortality; that manifestations have already appeared in
many other families and destined to be diffused and rendered clearer,
until all who will may communicate freely with their friends who have
"shuffled off this mortal coil." Of all this we know nothing, and shall
guess nothing. But if we were simply to print (which we shall not) the
questions asked and answers we received, during a two-hours'
uninterrupted conference with the "rappers," we should at once be accused
of having done so expressly to sustain the theory which regards these
manifestations as the utterances of departed spirits. H. G.
NOTE TO CHAPTER VI
PEN-PICTURE OF LAKE HARRIS BY LAURENCE OLIPHANT
There was a remarkable alternation of vivacity and deliberation about the
movements of Mr. Masollam. His voice seemed pitched in two different
keys, the effect of which was, when he changed them, to make one seem a
distant echo of the other-a species of ventriloquistic phenomenon which
was calculated to impart a sudden and not altogether pleasant shock to
the nerves of the listeners. When he talked with what I may term his
"near" voice, he was generally rapid and vivacious; when he exchanged it
for his "far off" one, he was solemn and impressive. His hair, which had
once been raven black, was now streaked with grey, but it was still thick
and fell in a massive wave over his ears, and nearly to his shoulders,
giving him something of a leonine aspect. His brow was overhanging and
bushy, and his eyes were like revolving lights in two dark caverns, so
fitfully did they seem to emit flashes and then lose all expression. Like
his voice, they too had a near and a far-off expression, which could be
adjusted to the required focus like a telescope, growing smaller and
smaller as though in an effort to project the sight beyond the limits of
natural vision. At such times they would be so entirely devoid of all
appreciation of outward objects as to produce almost the impression of
blindness, when suddenly the focus would change, the pupils expand, and
rays flash from them like lightning from a thundercloud, giving an
unexpected and extraordinary brilliancy to a face which seemed promptly
to respond to the summons. The general cast of countenance, the upper
part of which, were it not for the depth of the eye-sockets, would have
been strikingly handsome, was decidedly Semitic; and in repose the
general effect was almost statuesque in its calm fixedness. The mouth was
partially concealed by a heavy moustache and long iron-grey beard; but
the transition from repose to animation revealed an extraordinary
flexibility in those muscles which had a moment before appeared so rigid,
and the whole character of the countenance was altered as suddenly as the
expression of the eye. It would perhaps be prying too much into the
secrets of Nature, or, at all events, into the secrets of Mr. Masollam's
nature, to inquire whether this lightening and darkening of the
countenance was voluntary or not. In a lesser degree it is a common
phenomenon with us all: the effect of one class of emotions is, vulgarly
speaking, to make a man look black, and of another to make him look
bright. The peculiarity of Mr. Masollam was that he could look so much
blacker and brighter than most people, and made the change of expression
with such extraordinary rapidity and intensity that it seemed a sort of
facial legerdemain, and suggested the suspicion that it might be an
acquired faculty. There was, moreover, another change which he apparently
had the power of working on his countenance, which affects other people
involuntarily, and which generally, especially in the case of the fair
sex, does so very much against their will. Mr. Masollam had the faculty
of looking very much older one hour than he did the next. "There were
moments when a careful study of his wrinkles and of his dull,
faded-looking eyes would lead you to put him down at eighty if he was a
day; and there were others when his flashing glance, expanding nostril,
broad, smooth brow and mobile mouth would make a rejuvenating combination
that would for a moment convince you that you had been at least
five-and-twenty years out in your first estimate. These rapid contrasts
were calculated to arrest the attention of the most casual observer, and
to produce a sensation which was not altogether pleasant when first one
made his acquaintance. It was not exactly mistrust-for both manners were
perfectly frank and natural-so much as perplexity. He seemed to be two
opposite characters rolled into one, and to be presenting undesigningly a
curious moral and physiological problem for solution, which had a
disagreeable sort of attractiveness about it, for you almost immediately
felt it to be insoluble, and yet it would not let you rest. He might be
the best or the worst of men."
NOTES TO CHAPTER VII
ADDITIONAL TESTIMONY OF PROFESSOR AND MRS. DE MORGAN
PROFESSOR DE MORGAN says:
I gave an account of all this to a friend who was then alive, a man of
ologies and ometers both, who was not at all disposed to think it
anything but a clever imposture. "But," said he, "what you tell me is
very singular: I shall go myself to Mrs. Hayden; I shall go alone and not
give my name. I don't think I shall hear anything from anybody, but if I
do I shall find out the trick. Depend upon it,
I shall find it out." He went accordingly, and came to me to report
progress. He told me that he had gone a step beyond me, for he had
insisted on taking his alphabet behind a large folding screen and asking
his questions by the alphabet and a pencil, as well as receiving the
answers. No persons except himself and Mrs. Hayden were in the room. The
"spirit" who came to him was one whose unfortunate death was fully
detailed in the usual way. My friend told me that he was "awestruck," and
had nearly forgotten all his precautions.
The things which I have narrated were the beginning of a long series of
experiences, many as remarkable as what I have given; many of a minor
character, separately worth little, but jointly of weight when considered
in connexion with the more decisive proofs of reality. Many of a
confirmatory tendency as mere facts, but of a character not sustentive of
the gravity and dignity of the spiritual world. The celebrated apparition
of Giles Scroggins is a serious personage compared to some which have
fallen in my way, and a logical one, too. If these things be spirits,
they show that pretenders, coxcombs and liars are to be found on the
other side of the grave as well as on this; and what for no? as Meg Dods
The whole question may receive such persevering attention as shall worm
out the real truth; or it may die away, obtaining only casual notice,
until a new outburst of phenomena recalls its history of this clay. But
this subsidence does not seem to begin. It is now twelve or thirteen
years since the matter began to be everywhere talked about, during which
time there have been many announcements of the total extinction of the
"spirit-mania." But in several cases, as in Tom Moore's fable, the
extinguishers have caught fire. Were it the absurdity it is often said to
be, it would do much good by calling attention to the "manifestations" of
another absurdity, the philosophy of possibilities and impossibilities,
the philosophy of the fourth court. Extremes meet, but the "meeting" is
often for the purpose of mutual exposure, like that of silly gentlemen in
the day of pop-and-paragraph duels. This on the supposition that
Spiritualism is all either imposture or delusion; it cannot be more
certainly one or the other than is the philosophy opposed to it. I have
no acquaintance either with P or Q. But I feel sure that the decided
conviction of all who can see both sides of the shield must be, that it
is more likely that P has seen a ghost than that Q knows he cannot have
seen one. I know that Q says he knows it.
In this connexion the following from the Publishers' Circular on the
appearance of Mrs. De Morgan's book shows a contemporary estimate of
Professor De Morgan's critical faculty:
Mere LITTERATEURS and writers of fiction may be pardoned for a little
tendency to the visionary and unreal, but the fact that the well-known
author of the standard works on Formal Logic, the Differential Calculus,
and the Theory of Probabilities, should figure with his lady in the
characters of believers in spirit-rapping and table-turning, will
probably take most people by surprise. There is perhaps no contributor to
our reviews who is more at home in demolishing a fallacy, or in
good-humouredly disposing of an ignorant pretender in science than Mr. De
Morgan. His clear, logical, witty and whimsical style is readily traced
by literary readers in many a striking article in our critical journals.
He is probably the last man whom the sceptical in such mysteries would
expect to find on the side of Mr. Home and Mrs. Newton Crosland. Yet we
must record the fact that Mr. De Morgan declares himself " perfectly
convinced that he has both seen and heard, in a manner which should make
unbelief impossible, things called spiritual which cannot be taken by a
rational being to be capable of explanation by imposture, coincidence, or
Let us add to the foregoing Mrs. De Morgan's testimony:
It is now ten years since I began attentively to observe the phenomena of
"Spiritualism." My first experience occurred in the presence of Mrs.
Hayden from New York. I never heard a word which could shake my strong
conviction of Mrs. Hayden's honesty; indeed, the result of our first
interview, when my name was quite unknown to her, was sufficient to prove
that I was not on that occasion the victim of her imposture, or my own
After describing the visit to Mrs. Hayden, to whom none of the names of
those present was mentioned, she says:
We sat for at least a quarter of an hour and were beginning to apprehend
a failure, when a very small throbbing or patting sound was heard,
apparently in the centre of the table. Great was our pleasure when Mrs.
Hayden, who had before seemed rather anxious, said, "They are coming."
Who were coming? Neither she nor we could tell. As the sounds gathered
strength, which they seemed to do with our necessary conviction of their
genuineness, whatever might be their origin, Mrs. Hayden said, "There is
a spirit who wishes to speak with someone here, but as I do not know the
names of the gentlemen and ladies, I must point to each in turn, and,
when I come to the right one, beg that the spirit will rap." This was
agreed to by our invisible companion, who rapped in assent. Mrs. Hayden
then pointed to each of the party in turn. To my surprise, and even
annoyance (for I did not wish this, and many of my friends did), no
sounds were heard until she indicated myself, the last in the circle. I
was seated at her right hand; she had gone round from the left. I was
then directed to point to the letters of a large type alphabet, and I may
add that, having no wish to obtain the name of any dear friend or
relation, I certainly did not rest, as it has been surmised is often
done, on any letter. However, to my astonishment, the not common name of
a dear relation who had left this world seventeen years before, and whose
surname was that of my father's, not my husband's, family was spelt. Then
this sentence, "I am happy, and with F. and G." (names at length). I then
received a promise of future communication with all three spirits; the
two last had left the world twenty and twelve years before. Other persons
present then received communications by rapping; of these some were as
singularly truthful and satisfactory as that to myself, while others were
false and even mischievous.
Mrs. De Morgan observes that after the seances with Mrs. Hayden she and
her friends experimented in private, "and it was found that a number of
persons, both in and out of my own family, possessed the faculty of
mediumship in a greater or less degree."
NOTE TO CHAPTER X
WERE THE DAVENPORTS JUGGLERS OR SPIRITUALISTS?
As Mr. Houdini has seemed to question whether the Davenports themselves
ever asserted that they were Spiritualists, it may clear the matter up
finally to quote the following from a letter written by them in 1868 to
the Banner of Light, the leading Spiritualist journal in the United
States. Dealing with the report that they were not Spiritualists, they
It is singular that any individual, sceptic or Spiritualist, could
believe such statements after fourteen years of the most bitter
persecution and violent opposition, culminating in the riots of
Liverpool, Huddersfield, and Leeds, where our lives were placed in
imminent peril by the fury of brutal mobs, our property destroyed, and
where we suffered a loss of seventy-five thousand dollars, and all
because we would not renounce Spiritualism, and declare ourselves
jugglers, when threatened by the mob, and urged to do so. In conclusion,
we have only to say that we denounce all such statements as base
NOTE TO CHAPTER II
THE MEDIUMSHIP OF THE REV. W. STAINTON MOSES
DESCRIBING an experience of levitation, Stainton Moses writes:
As I was seated in the corner of 'he inner room my chair was drawn back
into the corner and then raised off the floor about a foot, as I judged,
and then al owed to drop to the floor whilst I was carried up in the
corner. I described my apparent movement to Dr. and Mrs. S., and took
from my pocket a lead pencil with which, when I became stationary, I made
a mark on the wall opposite to my chest. This mark is as near as may be
six feet from the floor. I do not think my posture was changed, and I was
lowered very gently until I found myself in my chair again. My sensation
was that of being lighter than the air. No pressure on any part of the
body; no un consciousness or entrancement. From the position of the mark
on the wall it is clear that my head must have been close to the ceiling.
My voice, Dr. S. told me afterwards, sounded oddly away up in the corner,
as if my head were turned from the table, as it was according to my
observation and the mark I made. The ascent, of which I was perfectly
conscious, was very gradual and steady, not unlike that of being in a
lift, but without any perceptible sensation of motion other than that of
feeling lighter than the atmosphere. My position, as I have said, was
unchanged. I was simply levitated and lowered to my old place.
Of the passage of matter through matter we have this instance related:
On August 28 (1872) seven objects from different rooms were brought into
the seance-room; on the 30th, four, and amongst them a little bell from
the adjoining dining-room. We always left gas brightly burning in that
room and in the hall outside, so that if the doors were opened even for a
moment a blaze of light would have been let into the dark room in which
we sat. As this never happened, we have full assurance from what Dr.
Carpenter considers the best authority, Common Sense, that the doors
remained closed. In the dining-room there was a little bell. We heard it
commence to ring, and could trace it by its sound as it approached the
door which separated us from it. What was our astonishment when we found
that in spite of the closed door the sound drew nearer to its! It was
evidently within the room in which we sat, for the bell was carried round
the room, ringing loudly the whole time. After completing the circuit of
the room, it was brought down, passed under the table, coming up close to
my elbow. It rang under my very nose, and went round about my head, then
passed round the circle, ringing close to the faces of all. It was
finally placed upon the table. I do not wish to theorize, but this seems
to the to dispose of arguments which would put forward the theory of our
being psychologized, or of the object coming down the chimney, as an
explanation of this difficult subject.
Dr. Speer thus describes the appearance of a spirit light and a
materialized hand on August 10, 1873:
A large globe of light rose from the side of the table opposite to me,
and sailed up to the level of our faces, and then vanished. It was
followed by several more, all of which rose up from the side opposite to
me, and sometimes to the right and sometimes to the left of the medium.
At request the next light was placed slowly in the centre of the table.
It was apparently as large as a shaddock, and was surrounded with
drapery. At this time the medium was entranced, and the controlling
spirit informed me that he would endeavour to place the light in the
medium's hand. Failing in this, he said he would knock on the table in
front of me. Almost immediately a light came and stood on the table close
to me. "You see; now listen-I will knock." Very slowly the light rose up
and struck three distinct blows on the table. "Now I will show you my
hand." A large, very bright light then came up, and inside of it appeared
the materialized hand of the spirit. He moved the fingers about close to
my face. The appearance was as distinct as can be conceived.
An example of strong physical force is thus recorded by Stainton Moses:
We had ventured on one occasion, contrary to direction, to add to our
circle a strange member. Some trivial phenomena occurred, but the usual
controlling spirit did not appear. When next we sat, he came, and
probably none of us will easily forget the sledge-hammer blows with which
he smote the table. The noise was distinctly audible in the room below
and gave one the idea that the table would be broken to pieces. In vain
we withdrew from the table, hoping to diminish the power. The heavy blows
increased in intensity, and the whole room shook with their force. The
direst penalties were threatened if we again interfered with the
development by bringing in new sitters. We have not ventured to do so
again; and I do not think we shall easily be persuaded to risk another
NOTES TO CHAPTER XI
MR. WALES's AUTOMATIC WRITING
MR. WALES writes to the author:
I cannot think there was anything in my antecedent reading to account for
this coincidence. I had certainly read nothing you had published on the
subject, I had purposely avoided "Raymond" and books like it, in order
not to vitiate my own results, and the "Proceedings" of the S.P.R. which
I had read at that time, do not touch, as you know, upon after-death
conditions. At any rate I obtained, at various times, statements (as my
contemporary notes show) to the effect that, in this persisting state of
existence, they have bodies which, though imperceptible by our senses,
are as solid to them as ours to us, that these bodies are based on the
general characteristics of our present bodies but beautified; that they
have no age, no pain, no rich and poor; that they wear clothes and take
nourishment; that they do not sleep (though they spoke of passing
occasionally into a semiconscious state which they called "lying
asleep"-a condition, it just occurs to me) which seems to correspond
roughly with the "hypnoidal" state); that, after a period which is
usually shorter than the average lifetime here, they pass to some further
state of existence; that people of similar thoughts, tastes, and feelings
gravitate together; that married couples do not necessarily reunite, but
that the love of man and woman continues and is freed of elements which
with us often militate against its perfect realization; that immediately
after death people pass into a semi-conscious rest-state lasting various
periods, that they are unable to experience bodily pain, but are
susceptible at times to some mental anxiety; that a painful death is
"absolutely unknown," that religious beliefs make no difference whatever
in the after-state, and that their life altogether is intensely happy,
and no one having ever realized it could wish to return here. I got no
reference to "work" by that word, but much to the various interests that
were said to occupy them. That is probably only another way of saying the
same thing. "Work" with us has come usually to mean "work to live," and
that, I was emphatically informed, was not the case with them-that all
the requirements of life were somehow mysteriously "provided." Neither
did I get any reference to a definite "temporary penal state," but I
gathered that people begin there at the point of intellectual and moral
development where they leave off here; and since their state of happiness
was based mainly upon sympathy, those who came over in a low moral
condition failed at first for various lengths of time to have the
capacity to appreciate and enjoy it.
BY ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, M.D., LL.D.
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