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Title:      The Edge of the Unknown (1930)
Author:     Arthur Conan Doyle
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Language:   English
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Title:      The Edge of the Unknown
Author:     Arthur Conan Doyle






PREFACE

There is a passage in that charming book _The Bridge of San Luis Rey_
which runs as follows: "She was one of these persons who have allowed
their lives to be gnawed away because they have fallen in love with an
idea several centuries before its appointed appearance in the history of
Civilization. She hurled herself against the obstinacy of her time." We
who believe in the psychic revelation, and who appreciate that a
perception of these things is of the utmost importance, certainly have
hurled ourselves against the obstinacy of our time. Possibly we have
allowed some of our lives to be gnawed away in what, for the moment,
seemed a vain and thankless quest. Only the future can show whether the
sacrifice was worth it. Personally I think that it was. Among the
various chords which are struck in this little book there may be some to
which the mind of the reader will respond, and which may entice him also
in the search for the Holy Grail.

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.

CROWBOROUGH. 1930.





CONTENTS


I THE RIDDLE OF HOUDINI

II THE SHADOWS ON THE SCREEN

III NOTES FROM A STRANGE MAIL BAG

IV THE GHOST OF THE MOAT

V THE LAW OF THE GHOST

VI ALLEGED POSTHUMOUS WRITINGS OF KNOWN AUTHORS

VII SOME CURIOUS PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

VIII DWELLERS ON THE BORDER

IX A STRANGE PROPHET

X A LONDON GHOST

XI THE HALF-WAY HOUSE OF MATTER

XII A REMARKABLE MAN

XIII THE RIFT IN THE VEIL

XIV A NEW LIGHT ON OLD CRIMES

XV SINGULAR RECORDS OF A CIRCLE





I

THE RIDDLE OF HOUDINI


Who was the greatest medium-baiter of modern times? Undoubtedly Houdini.
Who was the greatest physical medium of modern times? There are some who
would be inclined to give the same answer. I do not see how it can ever
now be finally and definitely proved, but circumstantial evidence may be
very strong, as Thoreau said when he found a trout in the milk jug. I
foresee that the subject will be debated for many years to come, so
perhaps my opinion, since I knew him well, and always entertained this
possibility in my mind, may be of interest. If others add their
experience in order to support or disprove my own surmises, then some
result may eventually be obtained.

I will first give some of my own personal impressions of Houdini. I will
then dwell on some phases of his career which show his singular
character, and I will then endeavour to give the argument as to the
source of his unique powers.

Let me say, in the first instance, that in a long life which has touched
every side of humanity, Houdini is far and away the most curious and
intriguing character whom I have ever encountered. I have met better
men, and I have certainly met very many worse ones, but I have never met
a man who had such strange contrasts in his nature, and whose actions
and motives it was more difficult to foresee or to reconcile.

I will first, as is only proper, dwell upon the great good which lay in
his nature. He had the essential masculine quality of courage to a
supreme degree. Nobody has ever done, and nobody in all human
probability will ever do, such reckless feats of daring. His whole life
was one long succession of them, and when I say that amongst them was
the leaping from one aeroplane to another, with handcuffed hands at the
height of three thousand feet, one can form an idea of the extraordinary
lengths that he would go. In this, however, as in much more that
concerned him, there was a certain psychic element which he was ready to
admit freely. He told me that a voice which was independent of his own
reason or judgment told him what to do and how to do it. So long as he
obeyed the voice he was assured of safety. "It all comes as easy as
stepping off a log," said he to me, "but I have to wait for the voice.
You stand there before a jump, swallowing the yellow stuff that every
man has in him. Then at last you hear the voice and you jump. Once I
jumped on my own and I nearly broke my neck." This was the nearest
admission that I ever had from him that I was right in thinking that
there was a psychic element which was essential to every one of his
feats.

Apart from his amazing courage, he was remarkable for his cheery
urbanity in every-day life. One could not wish a better companion so
long as one was with him, though he might do and say the most unexpected
things when one was absent. He was, like most Jews, estimable in his
family relationships. His love for his dead mother seemed to be the
ruling passion of his life, which he expressed on all sorts of public
occasions in a way which was, I am sure, sincere, but is strange to our
colder Western blood. There were many things in Houdini which were as
Oriental as there were in our own Disraeli. He was devoted also to his
wife, and with good reason, for she was as devoted to him, but again his
intimacy showed itself in unconventional ways. When in his examination
before the Senatorial Committee he was hard-pressed by some defender of
Spiritualism who impugned his motives in his violent and vindictive
campaign against mediums, his answer was to turn to his wife and to say,
"I have always been a good boy, have I not?"

Another favourable side of his character was his charity. I have heard,
and am quite prepared to believe, that he was the last refuge of the
down-and-outer, especially if he belonged to his own profession of
showman. This charity extended even beyond the grave, and if he heard of
any old magician whose tombstone needed repair he took it upon himself
at once to set the matter right. Willie Davenport in Australia, Bosco in
Germany, and many others of his profession were the objects of these
pious offices. Whatever he did was done upon a large scale. He had many
pensioners whom he did not know by sight. One man embraced him in the
street, and upon Houdini angrily demanding who the devil he was, he
answered, "Why, I am the man whose rent you have paid for the last ten
years." He was devoted to children, though he had none of his own. He
was never too busy to give a special free performance for the
youngsters. At Edinburgh he was so shocked at the bare feet of the
kiddies that he had them all into the theatre, and fitted them then and
there with five hundred pairs of boots. He was the greatest publicity
agent that ever lived, so that it is not ill-natured to surmise that the
local papers had been advised beforehand, and that the advertisement was
well worth it. There were other occasions, however, when his charity was
less ostentatious. Animals too were loved by him, and he had a peculiar
talent for taming them and teaching them tricks. All these ingredients
in one impulsive personality surely make up a very lovable man. It is
true that his generosity was curiously mixed with frugality, so that
even while he was giving away his earnings at a rate which alarmed his
wife, he would put an indignant comment in his diary because he had been
charged two shillings for the pressing of his clothes.

So much for his virtues--and most of us would be very glad to have as
goodly a list. But all he did was extreme, and there was something to be
placed in the other scale.

A prevailing feature of his character was a vanity which was so obvious
and childish that it became more amusing than offensive. I can remember,
for example, that when he introduced his brother to me, he did it by
saying, "This is the brother of the great Houdini." This without any
twinkle of humour and in a perfectly natural manner.

This enormous vanity was combined with a passion for publicity which
knew no bounds, and which must at all costs be gratified. There was no
consideration of any sort which would restrain him if he saw his way to
an advertisement. Even when he laid flowers upon the graves of the dead
it was in the prearranged presence of the local photographers.

It was this desire to play a constant public part which had a great deal
to do with his furious campaign against Spiritualism. He knew that the
public took a keen interest in the matter, and that there was unlimited
publicity to be had from it. He perpetually offered large sums to any
medium who would do this or that, knowing well that even in the unlikely
event of the thing being done he could always raise some objection and
get out of it. Sometimes his tactics were too obvious to be artistic. In
Boston he arrived by prearrangement before a great crowd at the City
Hall and walked solemnly up the steps with ten thousand dollars' worth
of stock in his hand, which represented one of his perennial stakes
against phenomena. This was in connection with his engagement on a tour
of the music-halls. His favourite argument, and that of many of his
fellow-conjurers, was this flourishing of dollar-wads. It is obviously
absurd, since the money will only be paid if you satisfy the challenger,
and since the challenger has to pay the money he naturally never will be
satisfied. The classical instance is that of the _Scientific American_
magazine, which offered a large sum for any well-attested psychic
phenomenon, but on being confronted with the Crandon phenomena, which
are perhaps the best attested in the whole annals of psychical research,
found reasons for withholding the money. I remember that when I arrived
in New York, Houdini offered some huge sum that he could do anything
which I had ever seen a medium do. I at once accepted his challenge, and
proposed as a test that he should materialize the face of my mother in
such a way that others besides myself who had known her in life could
recognize it. I heard no more of the matter after that, and yet in
England a medium had actually done this. I would have brought my
witnesses across the Atlantic had the test been accepted.

I am quite prepared to think that Houdini's campaign against mediums did
temporary good so far as false mediums goes, but it was so
indiscriminate and accompanied by so much which was intolerant and
offensive that it turned away the sympathy and help which Spiritualists,
who are anxious for the cleanliness of their own movement, would gladly
have given him. The unmasking of false mediums is our urgent duty, but
when we are told that, in spite of our own evidence and that of three
generations of mankind, there are no real ones we lose interest, for we
know that we are speaking to an ignorant man. At the same time, the
States, and in a lesser degree our own people, do need stern
supervision. I admit that I underrated the corruption in the States.
What first brought it home to me was that my friend Mrs. Crandon told me
that she had received price lists from some firm which manufactures
fraudulent instruments for performing tricks. If such a firm can make a
living, there must be some villainy about, and a more judicious Houdini
might well find a useful field of activity. It is these hyenas who
retard our progress. I have myself had a hand in exposing more than one
of them.

There was a particular Hall in Boston which Houdini used for his tirades
against the spirits. Some weeks after his campaign a curious and
disagreeable phenomenon broke out there. Showers of gravel or of small
pebbles fell continually among the audience, and several people suffered
minor injuries. A police watch was kept up for some time, and eventually
it was shown that a staid employee, whose record was an excellent one,
was in the habit, without rhyme or reason, of stealing up to the gallery
and throwing these missiles down into the stalls. When tried for the
offence he could only say that a senseless but overpowering impulse
caused him to do it. Many psychic students would be prepared to consider
that the incident would bear the interpretation of a poltergeist on the
one side and an obsession on the other.

There was another incident at Boston of a very much more serious kind,
and one which bears out my assertion that where there was an
advertisement to be gained Houdini was a dangerous man. The remarkable
psychic powers of Mrs. Crandon, the famous "Margery," were at that time
under examination by the committee of the _Scientific American_. Various
members of this committee had sat many times with the Crandons, and some
of them had been completely converted to the psychic explanation, while
others, though unable to give any rational explanation of the phenomena,
were in different stages of dissent. It would obviously be an enormous
feather in Houdini's cap if he could appear on the scene and at once
solve the mystery. What a glorious position to be in! Houdini laid his
plans and was so sure of success that before going to Boston he wrote a
letter, which I saw, to a mutual friend in London, announcing that he
was about to expose her. He would have done it, too, had it not been for
an interposition which was miraculous. I think well enough of Houdini to
hope that he would have held his hand if he could have realized the ruin
and disgrace which his success would have brought upon his victims. As
it was, the thought of the tremendous advertisement swallowed up his
scruples. All America was watching, and he could not resist the
temptation.

He had become familiar in advance with the procedure of the Crandon
circle, and with the types of phenomena. It was easy for him to lay his
plans. What he failed to take into account was that the presiding
spirit, Walter, the dead brother of Mrs. Crandon, was a very real and
live entity, who was by no means inclined to allow his innocent sister
to be made the laughingstock of the continent. It was the unseen Walter
who checkmated the carefully-laid plans of the magician. The account of
what occurred I take from the notes which were taken by the circle at
the time. The first phenomenon to be tested was the ringing of an
electric bell which could only be done by pressing down a flap of wood,
well out of the reach of the medium. The room was darkened, but the bell
did not ring. Suddenly the angry voice of Walter was heard.

"You have put something to stop the bell ringing, Houdini, you ----" he
cried.

Walter has a wealth of strong language and makes no pretence at all to
be a very elevated being. They all have their use over there. On this
occasion, at least, the use was evident, for when the light was turned
up, there was the rubber from the end of a pencil stuck into the angle
of the flap in such a way as to make it impossible that it could descend
and press the bell. Of course, Houdini professed complete ignorance as
to how it got there, but who else had the deft touch to do such a thing
in the dark, and why was it only in his presence that such a thing
occurred? It is clear that if he could say afterwards, when he had
quietly removed the rubber, that his arrival had made all further
trickery impossible, he would have scored the first trick in the game.

He should have taken warning and realized that he was up against powers
which were too strong for him, and which might prove dangerous if
provoked too far. But the letters he had written and boasts he had made
cut off his retreat. The second night landed him in a very much worse
mess than the first one. He had brought with him an absurd box which was
secured in front by no fewer than eight padlocks. One would have thought
that it was a gorilla rather than a particularly gentle lady who was
about to be confined within. The forces behind Margery showed what they
thought of this contraption by bursting the whole front open the moment
Margery was fastened into it. This very unexpected development Houdini
endeavoured to explain away, but he found it difficult to give a reason
why, if the box was so vulnerable, it was worth while to bring it with
so much pomp and ceremony, with eight padlocks and many other gadgets,
all the way from New York to Boston.

However, much worse was to come. The lady was put into the reconstituted
box, her arms protruding through holes on each side Houdini was observed
without any apparent reason to pass his hand along the lady's arm, and
so into the box. Presently, after some experiments, the lady's arms were
placed inside and the attempt was to be made to ring the bell-box while
only her head projected. Suddenly the terrible Walter intervened.

"Houdini, you ---- blackguard!" he thundered. "You have put a rule into
the cabinet. You ----! Remember, Houdini, you won't live for ever. Some
day you've got to die."

The lights were turned on, and, shocking to relate, a two-foot folding
rule was found lying in the box. It was a most deadly trick, for, of
course, if the bell had rung Houdini would have demanded a search of the
cabinet, the rule would have been found, it would, if held between the
teeth, have enabled the medium to have reached and pressed down the flap
of the bell-box, and all America would have resounded next day with the
astuteness of Houdini and the proven villainy of the Crandons. I do not
think that even the friends of the latter could have got over the patent
facts. It was the most dangerous moment of their career, and only Walter
saved them from ruin.

For the moment Houdini was completely overcome, and cowered, as well he
might, before the wrath of the unseen. His offence was so obvious that
no better excuse occurred to him, when he had rallied his senses, than
that the rule had been left there by accident by some subordinate. When
one considers, however, that no other tool upon earth, neither a hammer,
a chisel, nor a wrench, but only a folding two-foot rule, could have
sustained the charge, one realizes how hopeless was his position. But
one of Houdini's characteristics was that nothing in this world or the
next could permanently abash him. He could not suggest that they were
guilty considering that the Crandons had actually asked to have the
cabinet examined after she had entered, and Houdini had refused. Yet,
incredible as it may seem, he had his advertisement after all, for he
flooded America with a pamphlet to say that he had shown that the
Crandons were frauds, and that he had in some unspecified way exposed
them. Since the cabinet had become a delicate subject his chief
accusation was that Mrs. Crandon had in some way rung the bell-box by
stretching out her foot. He must have known, though his complaisant
audiences did not, that the bell-box was continually rung while some
sitter was permitted to hold it in his hands, and even to rise and to
walk about with it.

Speaking with a full knowledge, I say that this Boston incident was
never an exposure of Margery, but it was a very real exposure of
Houdini, and is a most serious blot upon his career.

To account for the phenomena he was prepared to assert that not only the
doctor, but that even members of the committee were in senseless
collaboration with the medium. The amazing part of the business was that
other members of the committee seemed to have been overawed by the
masterful conjurer, and even changed their very capable secretary, Mr.
Malcolm Bird, at his behest. Mr. Bird, it may be remarked, with a far
better brain than Houdini, and with a record of some fifty séances, had
by this time been entirely convinced of the truth of the phenomena.

It may seem unkind that I should dwell upon these matters now that
Houdini has gone to his account, but what I am writing now I also
published during his lifetime. I deal gently with the matter, but I have
to remember that its importance far transcends any worldly
consideration, and that the honour of the Crandons is still impugned in
many minds by the false charges which were not only circulated in print,
but were shouted by Houdini from the platforms of a score of music-halls
with a violence which browbeat and overbore every protest from the
friends of truth. Houdini did not yet realize the gravity of his own
actions, or the consequences which they entailed. The Crandons are
themselves the most patient and forgiving people in the world, treating
the most irritating opposition with a good-humoured and amused
tolerance. But there are other forces which are beyond human control,
and from that day the shadow lay heavy upon Houdini. His
anti-Spiritualist agitation became more and more unreasoning until it
bordered upon a mania which could only be explained in some quarters by
supposing that he was in the pay of certain clerical fanatics, an
accusation which I do not believe. It is true that in order to preserve
some show of reason he proclaimed that he wished only to attack
dishonest mediums, but as in the same breath he would assert that there
were no honest ones, his moderation was more apparent than real. If he
had consulted the reports of the National Association of American
Spiritualists he would have found that this representative body was far
more efficient in exposing those swindlers than he had ever been, for
they had the necessary experience by which the true can be separated
from the false.

I suppose that at that time Houdini was, from an insurance point of
view, so far as bodily health goes, the best life of his age in America.
He was in constant training, and he used neither alcohol nor tobacco.
Yet all over the land warnings of danger arose. He alluded in public to
the matter again and again. In my own home circle I had the message some
months before his death, "Houdini is doomed, doomed, doomed!" So
seriously did I take this warning that I would have written to him had I
the least hope that my words could have any effect. I knew, however, by
previous experience, that he always published my letters, even the most
private of them, and that it would only give him a fresh pretext for
ridiculing that which I regard as a sacred cause.

But as the months passed and fresh warnings came from independent
sources, both I and, as I believe, the Crandons, became seriously
alarmed for his safety. He was, on one side of his character, so fine a
fellow that even those who were attacked in this monstrous way were
unwilling that real harm should befall him. But he continued to rave,
and the shadow continued to thicken. I have an American friend who
writes in the press under the name of Samri Frikell. He is really Fulton
Oursler, the distinguished novelist, whose _Step-child of the Moon_ is,
in my judgment, one of the best of recent romances. Oursler was an
intimate friend of Houdini, and he has allowed me to quote some of his
experiences.

"You know him as well as I do," writes Oursler. "You knew the immense
vanity of the man. You know that he loved to be important. My experience
with him for the last three months of his life was most peculiar. He
would call me on the telephone at seven o'clock in the morning and he
would be in a quarrelsome mood. He would talk for an hour telling me how
important he was and what a great career he was making. In his voice
was a hysterical, almost feminine, note of rebellion, as if his hands
were beating against an immutable destiny.

"In all these cases Houdini portrayed to me a clear sense of impending
doom. This is not an impression which I have received subsequent to his
death. But I commented upon it at the time. I believe that Houdini
sensed the coming of his death, but did not know that it meant death. He
didn't know what it meant, but he hated it and his soul screamed out in
indignation."

Some time later he telephoned to the same friend in a way which showed
that his surmise had become more definite. "I am marked for death," said
he. "I mean that they are predicting my death in spirit circles all over
the country." At that time he was starting in perfect health upon that
tour of the Vaudevilles which was destined to be the last of his career.
Within a few weeks he was dead.

The details of that death were in many ways most singular. On October 
11th he had a painful but, as everyone thought, an unimportant accident,
when during his performance his ankle sustained an injury. The incident
was treated quite lightly by the Press, but was regarded more seriously
by those who had other sources of information. On October 13th, two days
after the accident, the gentleman already quoted had a letter from a
medium, Mrs. Wood.

"Three years ago," said this ill-omened epistle, "the spirit of Dr.
Hyslop said, 'The waters are black for Houdini', and he foretold that
disaster would befall him while performing before an audience in a
theatre. Dr. Hyslop now says that the injury is more serious than has
been reported, and that Houdini's days as a magician are over."

The sad prophecy proved to be only too true, though the injured leg was
only the prelude of worse disaster. It seemed indeed to be a sign that
the protective mantle which had been around him had for some reason been
withdrawn. The ankle continued to pain him, though he managed for some
weeks to give his accustomed show. At Montreal a member of the audience
rose to protest against the violence with which he raved against
Spiritualism, and very particularly against me. Such personal attacks
were not to be taken too seriously, for it was part of his perfervid
nature that anyone who had experiences which differed from his own was
either a dupe or a scoundrel. He bore up with great bravery against the
pain from which he must have continually suffered, but in less than a
fortnight, while on the stage at Detroit, he completely collapsed, and
was carried to that hospital from which he never emerged alive.

There were some remarkable points about his death. It seems that upon
Friday, October 22nd, he was lying in his dressing-room, reading his
letters. It was about five in the afternoon. He had lectured at McGill
University a few days before, and with his usual affability he allowed
some of the students to come in and see him. What followed may be taken
verbatim from the report of one of these young men.

"'Houdini,' he says, 'was facing us and lying down on a couch at the
time reading some mail, his right side nearest us.' This first-year
student engaged Houdini more or less continually in a conversation
whilst my friend Mr. Smilovitch continued to sketch Houdini. This
student was the first to raise the question of Houdini's strength. My
friend and I were not so much interested in his strength as we were in
his mental acuteness, his skill, his beliefs and his personal
experiences. Houdini stated that he had extraordinary muscles in his
forearms, in his shoulders and in his back, and he asked all of us
present to feel them, which we did.

"The first-year McGill student asked Houdini whether it was true that
punches in the stomach did not hurt him. Houdini remarked rather
unenthusiastically that his stomach could resist much, although he did
not speak of it in superlative terms. Thereupon he gave Houdini some
very hammer-like blows below the belt, first securing Houdini's
permission to strike him. Houdini was reclining at the time with his
right side nearest Whitehead, and the said student was more or less
bending over him. These blows fell on that part of the stomach to the
right of the navel, and were struck on the side nearest us, which was in
fact Houdini's right side; I do not remember exactly how many blows were
struck. I am certain, however, of at least four very hard and severe
body blows, because at the end of the second or third blow I verbally
protested against this sudden onslaught on the part of this first-year
student, using the words, 'Hey there. You must be crazy, what are you
doing?' or words to that effect, but Whitehead continued striking
Houdini with all his strength.

"Houdini stopped him suddenly in the midst of a punch, with a gesture
that he had had enough. At the time Whitehead was striking Houdini, the
latter looked as though he was in extreme pain and winced as each blow
was struck.

"Houdini immediately after stated that he had had no opportunity to
prepare himself against the blows, as he did not think that Whitehead
would strike him as suddenly as he did and with such force, and that he
would have been in a better position to prepare for the blows if he had
arisen from his couch for this purpose, but the injury to his foot
prevented him from getting about rapidly."

There is no doubt that the immediate cause of the death was ruptured
appendix, and it was certified as traumatic appendicitis by all three
doctors who attended him. It is, however, a very rare complaint, one of
the doctors asserting that he had never seen a case before. When one
considers how often boxers are struck violent blows in this region, one
can understand that it is not usually so vulnerable. From the time that
he reached hospital he seems to have known that he was doomed.

Even after death strange things continued to happen which seem to be
beyond the range of chance or coincidence. Some little time before
Houdini had ordered a very ornate coffin, which he proposed to use in
some sensational act. He paid no less than two thousand five hundred
dollars for it. The idea was, I believe, to have a glass face to it and
to exhibit the magician within it after it was hermetically sealed up,
for he had shown in a previous experiment an inexplicable capacity for
living without air. He carried this coffin about with him in one of the
very numerous crates in which all his apparatus was packed. After his
death all his goods were, I am told, sent on to New York. It was found,
however, that by some blunder one box had been left behind. On
examination this was found to contain the show coffin, which was
accordingly used for his burial. At that burial some curious and
suggestive words were used by the presiding rabbi, Barnard Drachman. He
said: "Houdini possessed a wondrous power that he never Understood, and
which he never revealed to anyone in life." Such an expression coming at
so solemn a moment from one who may have been in a special position to
know must show that my speculations are not extravagant or fantastic
when I deal with the real source of those powers. The rabbi's speech is
to be taken with Houdini's own remark, when he said to my wife: "There
are some of my feats which my own wife does not know the secret of." A
famous Chinese conjurer who saw him perform said, "This is not a trick,
it is a gift." He frequently said that his work would die with him, and
he has left no legacy of it so far as can be seen, though it would
clearly be a very valuable asset. What can cover all these facts, save
that there was some element in his power which was peculiar to himself,
and that could only point to a psychic element--in a word, that he was a
medium?

In the remarkable ceremony performed beside his coffin by his
brother-magicians, the spokesman broke a symbolic wand and said: "The
wand is broken. God touched him with a wondrous gift, and our brother
used it. Now the wand is broken." It may indeed have been not mere
trickery but a God-given gift which raised Houdini to such a height. And
why should he not use it, if it were indeed the gift of God? I see no
reason why the medium, like other God-endowed men--the painter, the
poet, or the romancer--should not earn money and renown by his gift. Let
him hesitate, however, before he makes rash attacks upon those who are
using the same gift, and for higher ends.

Other curious points, which may possibly come within the range of
coincidence, are connected with the death of Houdini. For example, there
was a Mr. Gysel, who had shared in Houdini's views as to Spiritualism.
He wrote thus to my friend:

"MR. FRIKELL,--"Something happened to me in my room on Sunday night,
October 24th, 1926, 10.58: Houdini had given me a picture of himself
which I had framed and hung on the wall. At the above time and date the
picture fell to the ground, breaking the glass. I now know that Houdini
will die. Maybe there is something in these psychic phenomena after
all."

To this Mr. "Frikell" adds:

"As I think back on my own experience I am inclined to agree maybe there
is indeed something to the psychic phenomena after all."

His admission is the more noteworthy as I remember the day when he was a
strong and intelligent opponent.



I will now turn to a consideration of the nature of Houdini's powers,
and in order to appreciate the argument one has to consider the nature
of some of the feats which he did actually perform. A list of these
would make a considerable pamphlet, but a few typical ones may be
selected. A general outline of his life, too, may not be out of place.

Houdini's real name was Eric Weiss, and he was born in 1874, in the
State of Wisconsin, in one of those small towns which seem to be the
real centres of American originality. He was the seventh son of a Jewish
rabbi, and he has left it on record that his mother did not even know
the English language. He has also left it on record that in his early
youth he had some connection with mediumship, though of a most doubtful
variety. He has not scrupled to confess that he eked out any powers he
may have had by the expedient of reading the names upon the graves in
the local cemeteries. It was a good deal later than this that he first
met a true medium in the shape of Ira Davenport, the only survivor of
the famous brothers whose powers amazed all England in the 'sixties, and
who, in spite of all the interested claims of Maskelyne and other
conjurers, were never exposed, nor even adequately imitated. I have
before me as I write a letter from Houdini himself, in which he tells
me:

"I was an intimate friend of Ira Erastus Davenport. I can make the
positive assertion that the Davenport Brothers never were exposed. I
know more about the Davenports than anyone living."

He then adds the very curious and notable sentence:

"I know for a fact that it was not necessary for them to remove their
bonds in order to obtain manifestations."

When one considers that these bonds were often handcuffs or twisted
copper wire, and that the manifestations occurred in many cases within a
few seconds of the closing of the cabinet, this admission by one, who
claims that he knows, is of very great importance. We will return to
this later, after we have enumerated a few of his results.

He could, and continually did, walk straight out of any prison cell in
which he might be confined. They placed him at Washington in the cell in
which Guiteau, the murderer of Garfield, had been locked, but he readily
emerged. In the letter from which I have already quoted, he says to me:

"I pledge my word of honour that I was never given any assistance, nor
was in collusion with anyone."

This was clearly the case, for he performed the feat many times in
different places, and was always searched to prove that he had no tools
in his possession. Sometimes the grinning warders had hardly got out of
the passage before their prisoner was at their heels. It takes some
credulity, I think, to say that this was, in the ordinary sense of the
word, a trick.

Handcuffs might have been made of jelly, so easily did his limbs pass
through them. He was heavily manacled at Scotland Yard, and placed
behind a screen from over which a shower of manacles began to fall until
he stepped out a free man. These things he could do in an instant. When
I was lecturing at the Carnegie Hall in New York, my wife and Houdini
walked down some side corridor after the lecture in order to rejoin me.
They came to a padlocked door, and my wife was about to turn back. To
her amazement, her companion put out his hand and picked off the locked
padlock as one picks a plum from a tree. Was that a trick, or are all
these talks about sleight of hand what Houdini himself would call "bunk"
or "hokum"?

When Houdini was in Holland, he got the local basketmakers to weave a
basket round him. Out of this he emerged. He was shut up later in a
sealed paper bag and came out, leaving it intact. A block of ice was
frozen round his body and he burst his way out. One who has attempted to
bring his feats within the range of normal explanations tells us that he
did this by "depressing his periphery as a prelude to dynamic
expansion"--whatever that may mean. He was also buried six feet deep in
California and emerged unhurt, though we are not told by what dynamic
expansion the feat was achieved.

In Leeds he was coopered up in a cask by the brewers, but he was soon
out. At Krupps' he defied the whole management, who constructed a
special set of fetters for his behoof. They had no better luck than the
others. He was put into the Siberian convict van at Moscow, but walked
straight out of it. On December 2nd, 1906, he leaped from the Old Belle
Isle Bridge at Detroit heavily handcuffed, and released himself under
icy water, which would paralyse any man's limbs, On August 26th, 1907,
he was thrown into San Francisco Bay with his hands tied behind his back
and seventy-five pounds of ball and chain attached to his body. He was
none the worse. He escaped from a padlocked United States mail-bag, as
many a parcel has done before him. Finally, he was manacled, tied up in
a box, and dropped into the East River at New York, but lived to tell
the tale.

Whatever may have been the true source of Houdini's powers--and I am not
prepared to be dogmatic upon the point--I am very sure that the
explanations of his fellow-conjurers do not always meet the case. Thus
we have Mr. Harry Kellock, to whose book I am indebted for much
supplementary information, talking persuasively about the magician's
skill with a pick-lock. He had told reporters that his method was to
have a small instrument which was concealed by surgeon's plaster upon
the sole of his foot. This would certainly seem to be very useful when
he was lowered in a coffin to the bottom of the sea!

Of course, I am aware that Houdini really was a very skilful conjurer.
All that could be known in that direction he knew. Thus he confused the
public mind by mixing up things which were dimly within their
comprehension with things which were beyond anyone's comprehension. I am
aware also that there is a box trick, and that there is a normal
handcuff and bag trick. But these are not in the same class with
Houdini's work. I will believe they are when I see one of these other
gentlemen thrown in a box off London Bridge. One poor man in America
actually believed these explanations, and on the strength of them jumped
in a weighted packing-case into a river in the Middle West; and one did
so in Germany. They are there yet!

To show the difference between Houdini's methods and those by which the
box trick is done by other conjurers, I will give a description of the
latter by one who has all normal tricks at his finger-ends. He says:

"While the air-holes are there for ventilation they are there for
another purpose, and that is that the man inside may get a catch or grip
of that particular board. The first thing that is done by the man inside
is to put his back up against the side next the audience and with his
feet force off the board with the air-holes in it. After freeing this
board, with a bit of string he lowers this board to the floor. If any
obstruction comes in the way in the shape of a nail which he cannot
force with his concealed lever and hammer, he cuts the nail with a fine
saw. Thus his escape. The ropes are only a blind, as quite sufficient
room can be got to get out between ropes. The procedure to close up
again is simple. The iron nails are placed back upon the holes from
which they were forced and squeezed in and knocked with a
leather-covered hammer."

Such is the usual technique as described by an expert. Does anyone
believe that all this could be done as I have seen Houdini do it in a
little over a minute, or could one imagine it being carried out at the
bottom of a river? I contend that Houdini's performance was on an
utterly different plane, and that it is an outrage against common sense
to think otherwise.

I will now take a single case of Houdini's powers, and of the sort of
thing that he would say, in order to show the reader what he is up
against if he means to maintain that these tricks had no abnormal
element. The description is by my friend, Captain Bartlett, himself a
man of many accomplishments, psychic and otherwise. In the course of
their conversation he said to his guest:

"'How about your box trick?'

"Instantly his expression changed. The sparkle left his eyes and his
face looked drawn and haggard. 'I cannot tell you,' he said, in a low,
tense voice. 'I don't know myself, and, what is more, I have always a
dread lest I should fail, and then I would not live. I have promised
Mrs. Houdini to give up the box trick at the end of the season, for she
makes herself ill with anxiety, and for myself I shall be relieved too.'

"He stooped to stroke our cats, and to our amazement they fled from the
room with their tails in the air, and for some minutes they dashed
wildly up and down stairs, scattering the mats in all directions.

"After this we had an earnest talk on psychic phenomena, and he told me
of strange happenings to himself, especially at the grave of his mother,
to whom he was deeply attached.

"The trunk-makers of Bristol had made a challenge box from which he was
billed to escape that evening. He begged me to be with him, explaining
that he liked the support of a sensitive, more especially as he was
feeling anxious.

"I willingly agreed, the more especially as he allowed me to bring a
very observant friend, a civil engineer of repute.

"The box was made of inch planking, tongued and grooved, with double
thickness at the ends. It was nailed herring-bone fashion, three-inch
nails, three inches apart. Several auger holes were made at one end to
admit air, and the whole thing was carefully and solidly finished. It
was, as I have said, a challenge box, yet we thoroughly overhauled it
and were satisfied that it contained no tricks.

"Houdini lay down in it, while the challengers climbed to the platform
and nailed down the heavy top again, using three-inch nails as before.
The box was then tightly roped, three men pulling on the cords.
Meanwhile, Houdini inside the box called out that it was very hot, and,
putting a finger through an air-hole, waggled it furiously.

"The box was then enclosed by a tent consisting of brass rods covered by
a silken canopy.

"In ninety-five seconds Houdini was standing before his audience,
breathless, and with his shirt in tatters. The box-makers, after careful
examination, in which we joined, declared that both box and roping were
intact.

"Now, was Houdini's statement that he never knew how he got out of the
box a mere blind, or did he employ supernormal forces and dematerialize?
If I put a beetle in a bottle, hermetically sealed, and that beetle
makes its escape, I, being only an ordinary human, and not a magician,
can only conclude that either the beetle has broken the laws of matter,
or that it possesses secrets that I should call supernormal."

I would also ask the reader to consider the following account by the
late Mr. Hewat Mackenzie, one of the most experienced psychical
researchers in the world. In his book, _Spirit Intercourse_ (p. 86), he
says:

"A small iron tank filled with water was deposited on the stage, and in
it Houdini was placed, the water completely covering his body. Over this
was placed an iron lid with three hasps and staples, and these were
securely locked. The body was then completely dematerialized within this
tank in one and a half minutes, while the author stood immediately over
it. Without disturbing any of the locks Houdini was transferred from the
tank direct to the back of the stage front, dripping with water and
attired in the blue jersey-suit in which he entered the tank. From the
time that he entered it to the time that he came to the front only one
and a half minutes had elapsed.

"While the author stood near the tank during the dematerialization
process a great loss of physical energy was felt by him, such as is
usually felt by sitters in materializing séances who have a good stock
of vital energy, as in such phenomena a large amount of energy is
required.... This startling manifestation of one of Nature's profoundest
miracles was probably regarded by most of the audience as a very clever
trick."

In other words, in Mr. Mackenzie's opinion the audience was successfully
bluffed by the commercialization of psychic power. It is remarkable and
most suggestive that in this case, as in the Bristol one already given,
Houdini was anxious that some psychic from whom he could draw strength
should stand near him.

Can any reasonable man read such an account as this and then dismiss the
possibility which I suggest as fantastic? It seems to me that the
fantasy lies in refusing its serious consideration.

A point which is worth considering is, that even if we grant that
enormous practice and natural advantages might conceivably give a man a
facility in one direction which might appear preternatural, these feats
of Houdini cover a larger range than could be accounted for by any one
aptitude. This consideration becomes stronger still when one sees that
his powers really covered the whole field of what we usually associate
with physical mediumship in its strongest form, and can be covered so
far as I can see by no other explanation whatever.

His friend Mr. Bernard Ernst, a well-known and very level-headed lawyer
of New York, told me that on one occasion upon the veranda of his own
country house at Long Island, Houdini proposed a séance. When hands were
laid upon the table it began to rise up in the air. As Mrs. Houdini was
present, Ernst took it for granted at first that the hands or feet were
used to produce the effect. On examination, however, in good light he
found that this was not so, and that there were no steel rods up the
sleeve, which is a fraudulent method occasionally used. The feat
appeared to him--and he is himself an experienced conjurer--to be
clearly preternatural. Houdini himself rebuked a tendency towards levity
upon the part of the company, and treated the matter with great gravity.

Now let us take the case of the séance which he gave to President
Roosevelt--a bogus séance according to Houdini. It was on board the
_Imperator_ in June 1920. It followed the lines of the usual slate
phenomenon as practised by many mediums, honest and otherwise. The
written question, folded and sealed, is placed between the folding
slates, and the answer is found upon one side of the slate when they are
opened. Roosevelt wrote the question, "Where was I last Christmas?"
folded, sealed in an envelope, and placed it between the slates with his
own hand. When the slates were opened a map of the South American
journey of Roosevelt was found to be drawn, with the legend "Near the
Andes." The President was naturally greatly amazed and Houdini refused
to give any explanation, though had it been a mere trick and there was
no reason for secrecy, it would have been most natural that he should
have explained it to so important a person, in order to show how easily
fraudulent mediums can operate.

Long afterwards he did give an explanation, which is so incredible that
I would take it as an extreme example of that contempt which Houdini had
for the public intelligence, taking it for granted that they would
swallow without question anything which he might put before them. To
condense a long story which the curious may find on pages 244-6 of
Kellock's very readable book, the "explanation" ran thus:

He knew that the President would be aboard and he received advance
information about the South American travels from friends on the _Daily
Telegraph,_ which he made note of in case there should be a séance on
board. So far we are on understandable ground. He suggested that such a
séance should be held, and had the slates prepared. This also we may
pass. He then asked for written questions from the passengers, and
himself wrote several, "Where did I spend last Christmas?" which he
placed upon the top of the pile. We are still on more or less solid
ground, presuming that the passengers were so dense as not to see the
change of slates from the one which they examined to the prepared one.
But now comes the fatal link in the chain. He claims that, "no telepathy
or thought-transference being involved," the President _by pure chance_
asked the very question for which these elaborate preparations had been
made. People will believe this, and yet accuse Spiritualists of
credulity. Can anyone who has the least conception of what is probable
or possible accept such an explanation? It is only in psychic and
preternatural (not supernatural) regions that such things really do
become commonplace.

Again, a friend reports:

"One day a sceptic called upon him. Houdini read the man's hand,
prognosticated his future, and pronounced his past from a mere reading
of his face, having only been told the day of his birth. This was done
with an accuracy and vividness which astonished the subject."

This sounds like possible clairvoyance, but is hardly in the repertoire
of the conjurer.

There were many indications that Houdini possessed that psychic
sensibility which is the groundwork of mediumship, though it really
indicates, in my opinion, an unusual degree of soul power in the subject
itself, without necessarily implying any outside assistance. All
thought-reading seems to come under this category. On one occasion
Pulitzer, the famous proprietor of the _New York World_, had been
interested in the telepathic results obtained by Professor Gilbert
Murray in England. Houdini dashed in, in his usual impetuous fashion,
and claimed that he could duplicate them. A committee assembled in his
own house, and put him to the test, they sitting on the ground floor,
and he being locked up in a room at the top of the house, with the door
guarded. Out of four tests he got three more or less correctly. When
asked for an explanation he refused to answer, save to say that it was
"scientific trickery." As usual he took it for granted that the Press
and public would readily accept his explanation, and experience showed
that he was right.

If once the mind is adjusted to the false assumption that psychic powers
do not exist, then all reasoning power seems to become atrophied, as is
the case in all bigoted religions. As an example it was said, and is
said, again and again, "How absurd for Doyle to attribute possible
psychic powers to a man who himself denies them!" Is it not perfectly
evident that if he did not deny them his occupation would have been gone
for ever? What would his brother-magicians have to say to a man who
admitted that half his tricks were done by what they would regard as
illicit powers? It would be "exit Houdini."

Now, having considered some of Houdini's inexplicable powers, let us
turn to his direct relations with Spiritualism.


PART II


In public, as is notorious, he posed as the uncompromising foe of
Spiritualism. It is useless to pretend that it was only the fake medium
that he was after. We are all out after that scoundrel, and ready to
accept any honest help in our search for him. Houdini wrote in the
_Christian Register_ of July, 1925:

"Tell the people that all I am trying to do is to save them from being
tricked in their grief and sorrows, and to persuade them to leave
Spiritualism alone and take up some genuine religion."

Thus his attack was a general one upon the whole cult.

But this was not in the least his attitude in private. I suppose that
there are few leaders of the movement, and few known mediums, who have
not letters of his taking the tone that he was a sympathetic inquirer
who needed but a little more to be convinced. His curious mentality
caused him to ignore absolutely the experiences of anyone else, but he
seemed to be enormously impressed if anything from an outside source
came in his own direction. On one occasion he showed me a photograph
which he had taken in California. "I believe it to be the only genuine
spirit photograph ever taken!" he cried. To my mind, it was a very
doubtful one, and one which no sane Spiritualist would have passed for a
moment. But, in any case, if his was, as he claimed, genuine, why should
he put down all others to fraud? He had another which he showed me with
some disgust, but which seemed to me to be capable of a real psychic
explanation, however unlikely. The sensitive film had been torn
lengthways right down the plate, just as a sharp nail would have done.
He assured me that he had put it into the carrier quite intact. It
might, of course, have been some singular accident, or it might
conceivably have been a sign of the same sort of disapproval, which was
a possible explanation of the gravel-throwing in the music-hall of
Boston.

His experience with decent mediums was exceedingly limited. He sat
several times with Eva during the abortive investigation by the London
Psychical Research Society. He wrote to me at the time, saying: "I found
it highly interesting." There was no question of any exposure, and he
admitted that he saw ectoplasm both come and go without being able to
explain it. I believe that he once--and only once--sat with that great
voice medium, Mrs. Wriedt, on which occasion nothing at all occurred, as
will happen with all honest mediums, but does not happen with conjurers.
There was certainly no talk of any exposure. He never sat with Miss
Besinnet, nor with Mrs. Pruden, nor with Jonson of Pasadena, nor with
Hope, nor with Mrs. Deane, nor with Evan Powell, nor Phoenix, nor
Sloane. He claimed to have exposed P.L.O. Keeler, a medium whom I have
heard quoted, but of whom I have no personal experience. Speaking
generally, it may be said that his practical experience, save with a
class of people whom a decent Spiritualist would neither use nor
recommend, was very limited. His theoretical knowledge of the subject
was also limited, for though he possessed an excellent library, it was,
when I inspected it, neither catalogued nor arranged. I am told that his
library was eventually put upon a more satisfactory basis, but I speak
of it as I saw it. His book, _A Magician among the Spirits_, is full of
errors of fact, and never for a moment did he show any appreciation of
the higher religious claims of the movement.

In spite of this very limited basis, he gave the public the impression
that his knowledge was profound. To one reporter he said that he had
attended ten thousand séances. I pointed out at the time that this would
mean one a day for thirty years. His accusations against Spiritualists
were equally wild. A man, named Frank Macdowell, committed a peculiarly
atrocious murder at Clearwater in Florida. Houdini broadcast the fact
that it was due to spirit teaching. Fortunately, a resolute
Spiritualist, Mr. Elliot Hammond, went into the matter, and showed
clearly that the murderer gave his complete disbelief in life after
death to have been at the root of his actions. Spiritualism would have
saved him.

I repeat that Houdini's attitude in private was quite different (to)
what it was in public. At one time we had him really converted without
the slightest intention of causing such a result. It was at Atlantic
City, in 1922. He had spoken in a touching manner of his mother, so my
wife, who has the great gift of inspired writing--that is, of writing
which appears to be quite disconnected from her own mentality--tried if
she could get any message for him. It was done at my suggestion, and I
well remember that my wife needed much persuasion. We had no sooner
assembled in our quiet sitting-room than the power came, and the medium
began to write with breathless and extraordinary speed, covering sheet
after sheet, which I tore off and threw across to Houdini at the other
side of the table. We gathered that it was a moving and impassioned
message to her son from the dead mother. He asked a mental question of
his mother without speech, and the medium's hand instantly wrote what he
admitted to be an answer. Houdini was deeply moved, and there is no
question that at the time he entirely accepted it.

When we met him two days later in New York, he said to us: "I have been
walking on air ever since." I published the incident in my _American
Adventure,_ so that he had to explain it away to fit it into his
anti-Spiritualistic campaign. The line of criticism which he took was
that it could not have been from his mother, since a cross was put upon
the top of the paper, and she was a Jewess. If he had cared to inquire
we could have shown him that the medium _always_ puts a cross on the top
of her paper, as being a holy symbol. We consider that such exercises
are, in the highest degree, religious. That is a complete answer to the
objection.

His second criticism was that the letter was in English. This was
plausible, but shows an ignorance of psychic methods. If a medium were
in complete trance, it might well be possible to get an unknown tongue
through her. Such cases are not very rare; but when the medium is not in
trance, but writing by inspiration, it is the flood of thought and of
emotion which strikes her, and has to be translated by her in her own
vocabulary as best she can. As an illustration, I have notes of a case
where two mediums in the same room both got an inspired message at the
same moment. They each wrote down the same sense, but the wording was
quite different. Thus the second criticism falls to the ground. In any
case, one would imagine that he would have nothing but respect and
gratitude for one who tried to help him, with no conceivable advantage
to herself. No sign of this appears. It is the same queer mental twist
which caused him first to take the name of the great Frenchman, and then
to write a whole book, _The Unmasking of Houdin_, to prove that he was a
fraud.

But there was another very curious and suggestive incident in connection
with that sitting at Atlantic City. As Houdini, much moved, rose from
the table, he took up the pencil, and, bending to the papers, he said:
"I wonder if I could do anything at this!" The pencil moved and he wrote
one word. Then he looked up at me and I was amazed, for I saw in his
eyes that look, impossible to imitate, which comes to the medium who is
under influence. The eyes look at you, and yet you feel that they are
not focused upon you. Then I took up the paper. He had written upon it
the one word, "Powell." My friend, Ellis Powell, had just died in
England, so the name had a meaning. "Why, Houdini," I cried, "Saul is
among the prophets! You are a medium." Houdini had a poker-face and gave
nothing away as a rule, but he seemed to me to be disconcerted by my
remark. He muttered something about knowing a man called "Powell" down
in Texas, though he failed to invent any reason why that particular man
should come back at that particular moment. Then, gathering up the
papers, he hurried from the room. It is probable that at that moment I
had surprised the master secret of his life--a secret which even those
who were nearest to him had never quite understood. Each fact alone may
be capable of explanation, but when a dozen facts all point in the same
direction, then surely there is a case to answer.

I have said that the Houdini mentality was the most obscure that I have
ever known. Consider this manifestation of it. My wife and I were, as I
have shown, endeavouring to help him, with no possible motive save to
give him such consolation as we could, since he was always saying that
he wished to get in touch with his mother. Such consolation has often
been given to others. Even if we suppose, for argument's sake, that we
were mistaken in our views, we were, as he often admits, in dead
earnest. Then, as we rose, he wrote down the name Powell, which meant
much to me. If it was not written under psychic influence, why should he
write anything at all, since no one asked him to do so? He saw the
difficulty when he had to explain it away, so in his book he says that
it was a "deliberate mystification" upon his part, and that he wrote it
entirely of his own volition. Thus by his own showing, while we were
honest with him, he was playing what I will charitably describe as a
practical joke upon us. Is it any wonder that we look back at the
incident with some bitterness? He does not attempt to explain how it was
that out of all his friends the name that he wrote was the very one
which might well have wished to come through to me. There is a limit to
coincidence.

It is a curious fact that neither my wife nor I knew what was in the
mother's letter until I read it in his book. It was written so swiftly
that the medium, in her half-unconscious state, could at best only have
a very vague idea of its purport, while I never even glanced at it. Now
that I read it, it seems to me to be a very beautiful letter, full of
love and of longing. As I have explained, the thoughts are given and are
largely translated by the medium. Therefore, there are some sentences in
which I can recognize my wife's style of expression, but the greater
part of it is far more fervid--one might almost say more Oriental--than
anything I have known my wife do. Here is a short extract:

"Oh, my darling, my darling, thank God at last I am through. I've tried,
oh, so often. Now I am happy. Of course, I want to talk to my boy, my
own beloved boy.... My only shadow has been that my beloved one has not
known how often I have been with him all the while.... I want him only
to know that--that--I have bridged the gulf--that is what I wanted--oh,
so much. Now I can rest in peace."

It was a long and very moving message and bore every internal sign of
being genuine. There is no question at all in my mind that Houdini was
greatly shaken at the time and for some days afterwards. His objections
were all afterthoughts in order to save the situation.

In the account of the matter which Houdini gave, he lays stress upon the
fact that Mrs. Houdini had spoken to my wife the night before as to
Houdini's affairs, with many details as to his habits when with his
mother. Now if the message had really come from my wife's subconscious
self I think it is certain that some of this information would have come
through. I have known this to happen in the case of perfectly honest
mediums and for this reason it is better never to tell a medium anything
at all before a séance. A blank slate is the best to write upon. In the
long message, however, which my wife gave there was no trace at all of
the knowledge which she had normally gained, and which could have been
used so effectively if anyone had been so wicked as to play a trick.
This is, I think, a very clear sign that the message was not
subconscious but did really come from the source it claimed. Houdini's
objection that the mother made no mention of the fact that it was her
own birthday has no relevancy. What are birthdays on the other side? It
is the death day which is the real birthday. In her rush of joy and
emotion why should she pause to mention such a fact? The method in which
Houdini tried to explain away, minimize and contort our attempt at
consolation, which was given entirely at his own urgent request and
against my wife's desire, has left a deplorable shadow in my mind which
made some alteration in my feelings towards him. Conscious as I was of
his many excellent and wonderful qualities, such incidents took the edge
off my sympathies, and put a strain upon our friendship.

When my friend, the late Miss Scatcherd, was in New York, some years
ago, she saw a good deal of Houdini, and got, I fancy, as nearly into
his complete confidence as anyone could do. To her, as to me, he showed
no animosity to psychic things, but, on the contrary, he was eager to
show her the one and only true medium whom he had discovered in America.
Miss Scatcherd was not, I gather, much impressed by his find, having
known many better ones. She did not fail, however, to point out to him
that in admitting the one medium he had really given away his whole
case, and agreed that the Spiritualists had a solid foundation for their
cult. She then accused him of being a powerful medium himself, for she
was a strong sensitive, and all her psychic powers told her that he was
the same. She also scolded him in her charming, good-natured way for
having behaved shamefully in the "Margery" case, which he did not deny.
The climax came, however, when, far out on the Atlantic, she received
the following wireless message:

"From a sensitive to a sensitive. Wishing you a pleasant
voyage.--Houdini."

A sensitive is a medium, and what is the logic of denouncing all mediums
as frauds from the public platforms, and at the same time declaring in a
telegram that you are one yourself?

Let us now follow a fresh line of thought. There can be no question at
all, to anyone who has really weighed the facts, that Ira Davenport was
a true medium. Apart from the evidence of thousands of witnesses, it is
self-evident that he could at any time, by announcing himself and his
brother as conjurers, and doing his unique performances as tricks, have
won fame and fortune. This would seem a dreadful thing to do from the
point of view of a good Spiritualist, and the Davenports went to the
last possible limit by leaving the source of their powers to the
audience to determine. Houdini has endeavoured to take advantage of this
and to make out that Ira admitted in his old age that his feats were
tricks. To clear away such an idea, I append the following letter,
written by Ira in 1868 to _The Banner of Light:_

"It is singular that any individual, sceptic or Spiritualist, could
believe such statements after fourteen years of the most bitter
persecution, 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, all because we would not renounce
Spiritualism and declare ourselves jugglers when threatened by the mob
and urged to do so. In conclusion, we denounce all such statements as
base falsehoods."

We happen to be particularly well informed about the Davenports, for,
apart from long statements from many well-known people who examined
them, there are three books by people who knew them well, and who could
not possibly have been deceived had they been swindlers. The smaller
book, by Orrin Abbott, covers the early days, and the author tells how
he was intimate with the brothers when they were little boys, and how at
that time he had every opportunity of observing and testing their
wonderful powers. These seem, as is often the case with mediums, to have
been stronger in childhood than in later life, the power of levitation
being one which Abbott witnessed, but which is not recorded of them
elsewhere. The second and fullest is Dr. Nicol's biography, while the
third and most valuable is found in the _Supramundane Facts_ of the Rev.
J.B. Ferguson. Ferguson was a man of very high character, with a notable
record behind him, and he travelled with the Davenports during their
tour in England. He was with them at all hours of the day and night, and
he has left it on record that their experiences when in private were
quite as wonderful as anything that the public ever saw. It is notable
that these well-attested feats included not only the instant freedom
from ropes, however carefully fastened and sealed by the spectators, but
also, on occasion, the freedom from handcuffs or twisted wire, and the
power of opening locked doors. In a word, the Davenport powers were the
Houdini powers, save that the latter had physical strength and agility
which may have helped him to extend them.

My argument now begins to emerge. If it be true that the Davenports were
real mediums (and let the inquirer really read their record before he
denies it),[Footnote: It will be found epitomized in my _History of
Spiritualism_ (Cassell) ] and if Houdini produced exactly similar
results, which have in each case been inexplicable to their
contemporaries, then is it conceivable that they were produced in
entirely different ways? If Ira Davenport was a medium, then there is a
strong primâ facie case that Houdini was a medium too. Now we come upon
some explanation of the cryptic saying of the rabbi by the graveside:
"He possessed a wondrous power that he never understood, and which he
never revealed to anyone in life." What could that power be, save what
we have called the power of the medium?

A singular incident is narrated by Mrs. Houdini and is incorporated in
Mr. Kellock's biography. Shortly after his marriage, Houdini took his
girl wife and his brother to a lonely place, where he halted them upon a
bridge at midnight. When the hour came he made them both raise their
hands in the air and said to them, "Beatrice, Dash, raise your hands to
heaven and swear that both of you will be true to me. Never betray me in
any way, so help you God!" I would not put too much stress upon this
incident. It may have been the considered act of one who already had
some strange and secret knowledge which he foresaw might be used in the
future and might be surprised by those around him.

I would not, in probing this difficult problem, pass too lightly over
the considered words of the rabbi, that he had a wondrous power and did
not himself understand it. This phrase fits very exactly into what has
been stated to me by those who were nearest to him in life. "If it was
so, he did not know it," they have answered when I hinted at my
conclusions. It seems hard to comprehend, and yet there may be something
in this view. He was not a clear thinker, and he had no logical process
in his mind. That surely is evident when in the same breath he denies
all mediumship and claims to have discovered the greatest medium in
America; or when he scoffs at spirit pictures but brings me a very
indifferent one which he had taken himself. Imagine that such a man
finds himself one minute inside a box; there is an interval of
semi-trance during which his mind is filled with a vague feeling of
confused effort, and then he finds himself outside the box. There is no
obvious intervention of spirits, or of any outside force, but it just
happens so. He has the same power in emerging from fetters, but he has
no sort of philosophy by which he can explain such things. If we could
imagine such a very strange and unlikely state of things as that, it
would, at least, have the merit that it would give some sort of honest
and rational explanation of a good deal which at present is dark. It is
no unusual thing for a medium to fail to understand his own results, but
it would certainly seem almost incredible that anyone could have such
results for many years and never correlate them with the experience of
others. I, as his former friend, would welcome such an explanation if it
could be sustained.

But how does the good rabbi know that he did not understand it? Only one
man could say with authority, but he has passed away with closed lips,
leaving, however, many signs behind for those who have the wit to follow
them. There is one thing certain, and that is that the fate of the
Davenports must have been a perpetual warning to Houdirii. They had been
ruined and hunted off the stage because it was thought that their claim
was psychic. If his powers were to be drawn from that source, and if he
were to avoid a similar fate, then his first and fundamental law must be
that it be camouflaged in every possible way, and that no one at all
should know his secret. If this be granted, a great many disconnected
points become at once a connected whole. We see what he meant when he
said that his own wife did not know how he produced his effects. We
understand the voice of which he spoke. We comprehend dimly the unknown
power of the rabbi. We can even imagine that a campaign against mediums,
fortified by the knowledge that false mediums do exist, would be an
excellent smoke-screen, though probably he had never thought out what
view the unseen powers might take of suctfa transaction, any more than
he calculated upon the interposition of Walter in the case of the
conspiracy against the Crandons. I cannot say that all this is certain.
I can only say that it covers the facts as I know them.

Of course, I know that he had a trick-box. I know also who constructed
it, and the large amount that he paid for it. When I know also that he
could do his escapes equally well in any local box, I am not inclined to
attach much importance to the matter. He was a very astute man, and what
he did he would do thoroughly, but he became too careless in his methods
as he found he could do them with impunity.

Houdini is curiously contradictory in his account of the methods of
Davenport. In his book _A Magician among the Spirits_, he says:

"Their method of releasing themselves was simple. When one extended his
feet the other drew his in, thus securing slack enough in the wrist rope
to permit working their hands out of the loops. The second brother was
released by reversing the action,"

But, as I have shown, in a letter to me he said:

"I know for a positive fact that it was not essential for them to
release the bonds in order to obtain manifestations."

So the previous explanation would seem to have been a fake in order to
conceal the real one.

In another letter he says:

"I am afraid I cannot say that all of their work was accomplished by
spirits."

The "all" is suggestive. I would be the last to suggest that all of
Davenport's or indeed that all of Houdini's work could be due to
spirits. For that matter, we have to remember that we are ourselves
spirits here and now, and that a man may very well be producing psychic
effects without going beyond his own organism. It is in this sense that
I suspect the Houdini results as being psychic, and I do not at all
insist upon the interposition of outside forces.. The two things are not
far apart, however, and very easily slide into each other. There is, I
hold, the medium's use of his own power, there is a vague borderland,
and there is a wide world beyond where his power is used by forces
outside himself. I am convinced, for example, that raps may be produced
voluntarily by a medium by a psychic effort, and I am equally convinced
that at another stage these same raps may be used for purposes quite
beyond his knowledge or control.

Is it possible for a man to be a very powerful medium all his life, to
use that power continually, and yet never to realize that the gifts he
is using are those which the world calls mediumship? If that be indeed
possible, then we have a solution of the Houdini enigma. One who knew
him well and worked with him often wrote to me as follows:

"Often he would get a difficult lock. I would stand by the cabinet and
hear him say: 'This is beyond me.' After many minutes, when the audience
became restless, I would say, 'If there is anything in this belief in
Spiritism why don't you call on them to assist you?' And before many
minutes had passed Houdini had mastered the lock. He never attributed
this to psychic help. He just knew that that particular instrument was
the one to open that lock, and so he did all his tricks."

It is only fair to state, however, that this correspondent, who was in a
good position to know, would not admit the mediumship. And yet if "that
particular instrument" was, as stated, an appeal to spirits, it seems
difficult to claim that the result was natural.

I would not limit my hypothesis to the idea that it was only when he met
the Davenports that he first developed these strange powers. He seems
only to have met Ira in 1909, and he had certainly done many marvellous
feats himself before then. But the history and object-lesson of the
Davenports must have been well known to him, and have shown him what to
avoid.

In putting forward such a view as I have here expressed it is natural
that a critic should demand that I should show that similar results to
those of Houdini have actually been produced by psychic power. Of this
there can be no possible doubt upon the part of anyone who has studied
the subject. I have already mentioned the case of the Davenports who
were so badly treated by the English mob, and so maligned by Maskelyne
and other English conjurers who produced a feeble imitation of their
results and called it an exposure. They freed themselves with the
greatest ease from metal bands as well as from the tightest ligatures.
Such results can only be obtained by the passage of matter through
matter--of the wrist for example through the metal--and though such a
thing may seem inconceivable to the prosaic scientist of to-day, he
would have pronounced wireless or flying to be equally impossible a
generation or so in the past. We seem to need no spirit intervention
here, but to be within the region of the latent powers of the human
organism in peculiarly constituted individuals. There is, I believe, a
constructive and a destructive power in thought alone which is akin to
that "faith which moves mountains." What sort of a vibration it can be
which is shot out from the human brain and separates for a moment the
molecules of that solid object towards which it is directed I do not
know, but the results are clear and perhaps in the near future the cause
may become equally so. From personal observation I have assured myself
that mediums in sealed bonds can cast those bonds, walk about the room,
and be found later with the sealed bonds as before. If they could get
out by a trick I see no way in which they could get back. I am forced,
therefore, to predicate the existence of such a dematerializing and
reconstructing force, which would amply cover most of the phenomena both
of the Davenports and of Houdini. Such a force was demonstrated also in
the experiments which were made with Slade by Zöllner and three other
German professors, and described by him in his _Transcendental Physics_.
In this book many instances, closely observed, of the passage of matter
through matter were recorded, accompanied by the interesting observation
that the phenomenon was accompanied often by heat and a strong smell of
burning.[Footnote: _Transcendental Physics_, by Prof. Zöllner (English
translation) p.113 ] Bellachini, the Court conjurer, deposed that the
results he saw were out of the region of conjuring altogether.[Footnote:
_Vide_ appendix of the above book.] But suppose that Slade had gone
round the world doing such things and allowing people to believe that
they were tricks, while confusing the public by mixing them up with real
tricks, would not his position have been very close to that of Houdini?
We come, however, upon a more advanced class of phenomenon when we
consider the case of the passage of a human body through a solid
obstacle and its reassembly on the other side. If I can show that such
cases have upon most unquestionable evidence occurred then I shall have
got a possible line upon Houdini's performance. In the April number of
_Psychic Science_ there is the report by an American lady, Mrs. Hack, of
the phenomena at a circle sitting in the Castle Millesimo, which is near
Genoa. Mrs. Hack was herself present, as were the well-known Professor
Bozzano, and other first-class witnesses. The Marquis Centurione Scotto,
the owner of the castle, was one of the company. Suddenly in the midst
of the proceedings he vanished from his chair. His friends were
horrified. They searched the room and the castle, but he was gone.
Finally, after hours of agitation he was found in a deep trance in an
outhouse, which was separated by several locked doors from the main
building. He was led back; and had no recollection how he had got there.
Such in a few words is the gist of a case which was closely observed and
fully reported. In it a human body is passed through several solid
obstacles and reassembled on the other side. How does this differ from
the passage of Houdini's body through wooden planks, brick walls, paper
bags, glass tanks, or whatever else was used to confine him?[Footnote:
These remarkable experiences are more fully described in Mrs. Hack's
_Modern Psychic Mysteries_ (Rider). ]

In Mr. Campbell Holms' book, _The Facts of Psychic Science_, which is,
and will be always, a most exact and valuable book of reference, there
are a number of cases given where people have been transported through
solid objects. Inexperienced and foolish people may jeer, but they will
find it easier to do so than to refute the evidence. For example, upon
June 3rd, 1871, Mrs. Guppy was floated from her own house in Highbury,
and appeared upon the table of a room at 61 Lambs Conduit Street, where
a séance was being held behind locked doors. A document was signed by
the eleven sitters to testify to the fact and they had no possible
object in perjuring themselves about the matter. Mrs. Guppy said that
the last thing she could remember was sitting with her friend Miss
Neyland. That lady deposed that Mrs. Guppy had suddenly vanished from
her sight. Four of the sitters accompanied Mrs. Guppy home and heard
what her friend had to say. It is difficult to find any flaw in such
evidence and it would certainly have been conclusive in a court of law
had it been a criminal case. But surely such a transposition is more
remarkable than any of Houdini's, and had she done similar things in
public her reputation would have been similar to his own.

In another case, that of Mr. Henderson, a photographer, quoted by Mr.
Campbell Holms and described in the _Spiritual Magazine_ of 1874 (p.
22), no less than ten persons saw him vanish from a room, while nine
others deposed to his arrival almost instantaneously at a point more
than a mile distant. The idea that these nineteen witnesses can be
disregarded is surely an impossible one, and yet here again we have
evidence of the possibility by psychic means of passing a human body
through solid obstacles by a process of dematerialisation and
reassembly. I could quote a number of other cases, but the sum of it all
is that Houdini's exploits, which are inexplicable in any other way,
come into line at once if we compare them with other well-attested
examples of psychic power. When one adds this evidence to the various
other indications of similar powers which I have assembled here, the
case seems to me to be greatly strengthened.

That Houdini's performances were on a different level from those of
other magicians is shown by the fact that men who took a pride in
fathoming such problems, and who were usually successful, were utterly
foiled in their attempts to explain them in any reasonable way. Thus Mr.
H. L. Adam, an English journalist who is an expert in such matters,
writes to me that he could understand much that was done by Maskelyne
and others, but

"I have never been able to discover anything about Houdini's tricks.
Why? I have stood quite near him on the stage during the performances of
many of his tricks, but it was like looking at a brick wall, so
impenetrable were they. I remember on one occasion, while Houdini was
waiting at the side of the stage ready for his 'turn,' he sat in a
chair, threw his head back, closed his eyes, and appeared plunged in the
profoundest meditations. A few moments before he had been talking
confidentially to me. After the lapse of perhaps ten minutes, he 'came
to' and continued his conversation with me as though nothing had
intervened."

"Houdini once suggested to me that he should, by way of advertisement,
profess to 'give away' his handcuff trick, which I was to publish. But
it struck me that the volunteered so-called explanation, which included
a hidden key, was too feeble to be convincing, and it was never
developed. This was the nearest approach he ever came to discussing any
of his secrets with me."

Here again in that trance-like condition before a performance we seem to
get a glimpse of some psychic influence.

Houdini continually admitted that there were psychic things which he
could not understand. I would say in parenthesis that one may be a
strong medium oneself and yet have very small understanding of other
people's phenomena. That was conspicuous in the case of D. D. Home. Here
is a Houdini story told by Don Ryan[Footnote: _New York American_,
February 11th, 1928.]:

"Houdini had gone in a spiritualist church in Los Angeles, taking a
camera-man, who carried a camera concealed. They made themselves
inconspicuous till the witching hour at which the ghost was accustomed
to walk. The hour came and with it the spirit. The leader of the group
was holding conversation with the invisible spirit when the camera was
trained on the spot without the knowledge of anybody save Houdini and
his photographer.

"The developed plate which Houdini showed me revealed a well-defined
transparent human figure draped in white.

"'I can't explain it and I don't know what to think of it,' said Houdini
that day, and I could see that the thing had made a decided impression
on him.

"'It's no more astonishing than your staying under water for an hour and
a half in a lead-lined coffin,' I told him.

"'Ah,' replied Houdini,' but I know how that is done.'"

The attempts upon the part of his brother-magicians to give some sort of
explanation of Houdini's feats only serve to deepen the mystery. Mr.
Howard Thurston, for whose opinion I have respect, for he seemed to me
to be the only American conjurer who had some real accurate knowledge of
psychic matters, says that his feats all come within the power of
advanced conjuring. I know that feats with the same name do so, but I
venture to express the opinion that such feats as Houdini did have never
been explained and are in an altogether different class. So too, Mr.
Will Goldston, who is well known and respected as an authority on
conjuring, has actually described in a book how they are done. Here
again he seems to me to be describing the accepted method, which by no
means covers Houdini's results. To show the inadequacy of Mr. Goldston's
"explanations"[Footnote: _Sunday Express_, November 7th, 1926. ] he says
in talking of the escape under water, "Without giving away his secrets I
may say that he was always practically out of the box before it reached
the water." Considering that the screwed and corded box was in full
sight of hundreds of spectators as it sank beneath the waves, it is
difficult to accept such a solution as this. I admit that I am at a
disadvantage when opposed to the technical knowledge of such men as
Goldston and Thurston, but on the other hand I have my own technical and
expert knowledge of psychic possibilities, and I put up a case for
consideration and discussion.

He had, as already stated, a sitting with the medium Eva, and under the
stringent and very deterrent conditions imposed by the London Psychical
Research Society, which will be found described in their unsatisfactory
and self-contradictory report, he did seem to have made acquaintance
with ectoplasm in its very humblest form. He says in a letter to me
written the next morning (June 22nd, 1920):

"They made Eva drink a cup of coffee and eat some cake (I presume to
fill her up with some food-stuff), and after she had been sewn into the
tights, and a net over her face, she manifested.

1. "Some froth-like substance, inside of net, 'twas long, about five
inches, she said it was elevated, but none of us four watchers saw it
'elevate.'

2. "A white plaster-looking affair over her right eye.

3. "Something that looked like a small face, say four inches in
circumference. Was terra-cotta coloured, and Dingwall, who held her
hands, had the best look at the 'object.'

4. "Some substance, froth-like, exuding from her nose, and Baggeley and
Fielding say it protrudes from her nose, but Dingwall and I are positive
that it was inside of net and was not extending from her nose, as I had
the best view from two different places I deliberately took advantage to
see just what it was.

5. "Medium asked permission to remove something in her mouth, show her
hands empty, and took out what appeared to be a rubberish substance,
which she disengaged, showed us plainly, we held the electric torch, all
saw it plainly, when presto! it vanished. It was a surprise effect
indeed! The séance started at 7.30 and lasted past midnight.

"We went over the notes, and no doubt you will get a full report. I
found it highly interesting."

It will be found from these extracts that when faced with facts his
attitude was very different from what his public utterances would lead
one to expect.

Be his mystery what it may, Houdini was one of the most remarkable men
of whom we have any record, and he will live in history with such
personalities as Cagliostro, the Chevalier D'Eon, and other strange
characters. He had many outstanding qualities, and the world is the
poorer for his loss. As matters stand, no one can say positively and
finally that his powers were abnormal, but the reader will, I hope,
agree with me that there is a case to be answered.




II

THE SHADOWS ON THE SCREEN


There is nothing more wonderful, more incredible, and at the same time,
as it seems to me, more certain, than that past events may leave a
record upon our surroundings which is capable of making itself felt,
heard, or seen for a long time afterwards. I have put the impressions in
the order of their frequency, for it is more common to feel the past
than to hear it and more common to hear it than to see it. Houses which
are haunted by vague noises are more common than those which possess
apparitions, and families have been persecuted for years by poltergeists
who have never once caught a glimpse of their tormentors.

A sensitive mind is easily affected in any place where there has been
recent trouble. A lady of my acquaintance called recently upon the
matron of a hospital and found that she was not in her room. "Mrs.
Dodson has gone out," said the nurse. "Has she had bad news?" "Yes, she
has just had a wire that her husband is very ill." How did my friend
know that there had been bad news? She felt it by a sinking of her own
heart as she entered the room, before the nurse had arrived.
"Telepathy!" says the parrot. Well, if telepathy can be stretched to
mean that a thought or emotion can not only be flashed from brain to
brain, but that it can remain stationary for an hour and then impress
itself upon any sensitive who approached it, then I will not quarrel
with the word. But if for an hour why not for a year, and if for a year
why not for a century? There is a record on the etheric screen so that
it may retain indefinitely some intimate and lasting change which marks
and can even faintly reproduce the emotion which a human being has
endured within it.

I had a friend who lived in a century-old house. His wife, who was
sensitive, was continually aware of a distinct push when she came down
the stairs, always occurring upon the same step. Afterwards it was
discovered that an old lady who had formerly lived in the house received
a playful push from some frolicsome child, and lost her balance, falling
down the stairs. It is not necessary to believe that some hobgoblin
lingered upon that stair continually repeating the fatal action. The
probable explanation seems to be that the startled mind of the old woman
as she felt herself falling left some permanent effect behind it which
could still be discerned in this strange fashion.

But on what could an impression be left? An impression of such a nature
becomes a material thing and implies a material nexus, however subtle.
So far as we know there are only two things there, the air and the
ether. The air is a mobile thing and could not carry a permanent
impression. But is the ether a mobile thing? It is pictured as a most
delicate medium with vibrating currents flowing in it, but it seems to
me that a most tenuous jelly with quivers and thrills would be a closer
analogy. We could conceive the whole material universe embedded in and
interpenetrated by this subtle material, which would not necessarily
change its position since it is too fine for wind or any coarser
material to influence it. I feel that I am rushing in where even Lodges
fear to tread, but if it should prove to be as I suggest then we should
have that permanent screen on which shadows are thrown. The block of
ether upon the stairs is the same that it always was, and so conveys the
impression from the past.

Invisible air records of this sort would explain many things which are
now inexplicable. Men of strong nerve have been known to be terrified in
certain localities without being able to give any reason. Some horror of
the past, unseen by their eyes, may still have impressed their senses.
One does not need to be very psychic to get the same result upon an old
battlefield. I am by no means psychic myself, and yet I am conscious,
quite apart from imagination, of a curious effect, almost a darkening of
the landscape with a marked sense of heaviness, when I am on an old
battlefield. I have been particularly conscious of it on the scenes of
Hastings and Culloden, two fights where great causes were finally
destroyed and where extreme bitterness may well have filled the hearts
of the conquered. The shadow still remains. A more familiar example of
the same faculty is the gloom which gathers over the mind of even an
average person upon entering certain houses. The most rabid agitator
need not envy our nobility their stately old castles, for it is happier
to spend one's life in the simplest cottage, uncontaminated by psychic
disturbance, than to live in the grandest mansion which still preserves
the gloomy taints that hang about rooms once perhaps the scene of
cruelty or other vices.

If a sensitive is able to feel some record of a past event, then there
is evidence that by an extension of this process one who is still more
sensitive would actually see the person who left the impression. That it
is the actual person in spirit is in most cases utterly incredible to
me. That the victim of some century-old villainy should still in her
ancient garments frequent in person the scene of her former martyrdom
is, indeed, hard to believe. It is more credible, little as we
understand the details, that some thought-form is shed and remains
visible, at the spot where great mental agony has been endured. "How"
and "why" are questions which will be solved by our descendants. If we
could conceive that we have form within form like the skins of an onion,
that the outer skin should peel off under the influence of emotion and
continue a mechanical existence at that spot while the rest of the
organism passed on and never even missed it, such a supposition,
farcical as it appears, would match the recorded facts better than
anything else I know. Each fresh discarded skin of the onion would be a
fresh thought-form, and our track through life would be marked in its
more emotional crises by a long trail of such forms. Grotesque as the
idea may seem, I can confidently say that the true explanation when it
arrives will prove to be not less so.

Let us now take some definite examples where this thought-form of the
past has manifested itself. I do not know a better case than that which
is recorded by the late Miss Goodrich-Freer, a lady who combined a
steady nerve and cool judgment with a temperament which was conservative
to the point of incredulity. She slept in a room in Hampton Court Palace
which had a record of haunting, and she tells us very clearly what
occurred. No unprejudiced person could possibly read the original
narrative without being absolutely convinced that the facts were even as
stated.

It was a small bedroom without curtains, with one door close by the bed.
It is characteristic of the lady that she spent her vigil--she had come
in the hope of seeing the apparition--by reading Lord Farrer's article,
"Shall we degrade our standard of value?" In spite of the reading, or
possibly on account of it, she fell asleep, and was awakened some hours
later by sounds of movement. It was quite dark, and some detaining force
seemed to prevent her from reaching for the matches. A question received
no reply. Suddenly there appeared a soft point of light in the gloom,
which glowed and spread, until it became the figure of a tall, slight
woman, moving slowly across the room. She stopped at the farther side
and the observer was able to get a clear view of her profile. "Her face
was insipidly pretty, that of a woman from thirty to thirty-five years
of age, her figure slight, her dress of a dark soft material, having a
full skirt and broad sash or waistband tied high up, a crossed or draped
kerchief over the shoulders, sleeves which I noticed fitted very tight
below the elbow, and hair which was dressed so as not to lie flat on the
head." A second question addressed to this figure produced no effect.
She raised her thin white hands, sank upon her knees, buried her face in
the palms, and appeared to pray. Then the light went out and the scene
was over. The impression left upon the observer's mind by the action and
attitude was that of reproach, and yet of gentle resignation. Her own
nerves were so entirely unaffected by the incident that she has left it
on record that she spent part of the remainder of the night in reading
Myers' _Drift of Psychical Research_. Such an experience, and it is one
of a very numerous class, can hardly be explained rationally upon any
spiritual or upon any physical basis. Granting the fact, and there is no
sane alternative but to grant it, we cannot conceive that this
unfortunate woman has really for a century or more occupied herself in
walking across a room in which some great trouble may have befallen her
in her earth-life. From her appearance one would judge that she was more
sinned against than sinning. Why, then, should any just dispensation
condemn her to so strange, monotonous, and useless a fate? If we can
conceive, however, that it is some shadow of herself which was detached
in old days of trouble, and still lingers, then certainly the matter
becomes more clear, if she herself is happy elsewhere. Such a shadow,
like most psychic phenomena, might well seem luminous to one who, like
Miss Goodrich-Freer, had herself some clairvoyant gifts. If you ask,
however, why such a thought-form should only come at certain hours, I am
compelled to answer that I do not know.

A similar first-hand example may be drawn from Mrs. Tweedale's book,
_Ghosts I Have Seen_, which, under its popular title, contains a most
extraordinary record of actual first-hand psychic experiences. Mrs.
Tweedale is an admirable witness, for she, like Miss Goodrich-Freer, is
herself clairvoyante, and yet retains a very sane and critical judgment,
while her personal reputation and position give us every confidence in
her statements. Materialists will never fairly face the obvious
alternative that such first-hand accounts either mean that a person of
honour has suddenly burst into a perfect orgy of objectless lying, or
else that the statements are true. When a clairvoyante can clearly
describe her own experiences the book becomes of great value, and I
would only name Turvey's _Beginnings of Seership_ among the more recent
works as equalling Mrs. Tweedale's in personal knowledge.

The writer at one time lived in an old house in the West End of London.
It was a winter night, and she was lying half asleep when she heard a
sound as of the crackling of parchment, and opening her eyes she saw a
man seated in a chair in front of the fire. He was dressed in a uniform
reminiscent of Nelson's days, with brass buttons, wore powdered hair
with a black bow, and was staring rigidly into the glow, while he held
crumpled up in his right hand some sort of document. He was a stately
and handsome figure. For some hours he sat there, the fire gleaming,
when it spurted up, upon the buckles and buttons of his dress. Finally,
in the small hours of the morning he vanished gradually away. Several
times later the lady saw the same apparition, and it might well be
argued that it was constantly there, but that its perception depended
upon the condition of the clairvoyante. Finally some religious exorcism
was performed in the room and the vision was not seen again.

This case clearly fits itself into the hypothesis advanced here, of a
form-picture being thrown out at a time of emotion. The parchment
document suggests a will or some other paper of importance which the
officer has prepared or received, but which in either case may have
caused him so much mental stress as he brooded over it in front of the
fire that he threw this permanent record upon the screen of time. The
accompaniment of appropriate sound is very general in such cases.
Difficult as my hypothesis may seem, we have to remember that the only
conceivable other explanations would be either that the man's self was
there in front of the fire after a century of spirit-life, or that his
thoughts in the spirit-world concerning an episode in his earth-life
were so constant and vivid that they conjured up a picture in the room.
The latter explanation might be accepted for a single episode, but when
it is a constant matter, and when one remembers how many other
reminiscences of earth-life such a man must have had, it is difficult to
consider it seriously.

An experience which comes under the same heading is narrated by Lady
Reay in the same enthralling volume. She was sleeping in an ancient
dwelling with a somewhat sinister reputation, so we may admit that her
mind was prepared to see a ghost. The actual form of the phantom was so
definite, and so exactly similar to that seen by independent witnesses
at different times in the same room, that it could hardly be a figment
of the brain. She was awakened by moaning. The room was in total
darkness, but at one side was a circle of light, like that thrown by a
magic lantern. This seems to be the psychic illumination, as seen by
Miss Goodrich-Freer in the case already quoted. Several clairvoyants who
habitually see it describe it as being of a metallic yellow. In this
circle of radiance was seen a woman dressed as in the Tudor period,
walking round the apartment, throwing herself occasionally against the
wall, like a desperate bird in a cage, and moaning terribly. There was
no record, so far as I know, as to who this unhappy lady may have been,
but she was seen independently before Lady Reay saw her, but without
Lady Reay's knowledge, by Captain Eric Streatfield when he was a little
boy. I do not understand how one can disregard such testimony as this.
Such incredulity may be described as scientific caution, but to those
who are really aware of the weight of evidence now existing, it must
appear mere obstinacy and obtuseness. When one thinks of the importance
of psychic knowledge, and compares it with that of the bending of the
light from the Hyades as it passes the sun, one can but marvel at the
want of proportion which exalts the physical while it neglects the
spiritual.

An adventure which occurred to a friend of mine seems to come under this
heading. His family had rented an old country house in which Nell Gwynne
had been kept when she was the mistress of Charles II. One evening, as
he descended the stairs, he saw cross the hall a figure which was very
like a family nurse, whom we will call "Nannie." He cried out "Nannie!"
in surprise and followed her, but could find no trace. Inquiry proved
that the servant was not in the house or in the neighbourhood. My friend
amused himself by fitting up the house with as many old prints of Nell
Gwynne as he could collect. One day his sister visited him, and after
inspecting these pictures she exclaimed: "Have you ever observed how
like Nell Gwynne is to our Nannie?" There is, of course, a chance of
coincidence here, but at least there is a strong suggestion that poor
Nell, wearied and miserable, with her heart aching for the bustle of
town, cast off some thought-form as a permanent record of her emotion.

In all these cases there has been only one figure thrown upon the
screen, but the matter becomes more complex when there is a group. This
group consists in many cases of the wronger and the wronged, but as each
may have been at the same pitch of emotion at the time of the deed, the
theory of thought-forms being shed at such a time is not
invalidated--and is, at any rate, more reasonable than to imagine that
the guilty murderer and the innocent victim are involved in one common
fate, which consists of an endless repetition of the tragedy which they
once enacted. Such an idea seems to me a monstrous and unthinkable one.

I would choose as a good example of the composite thought-form one which
was recorded some years ago in the _Wide World Magazine_, which I have
every reason to believe is founded on fact, though the name given, Grace
Dundas, is a pseudonym, and the events occurred twenty years ago. In
this very dramatic case a lady with her children occupied a lonely house
upon the Cornish coast, and was much disturbed by a ghostly visitor who
passed with a heavy tread up the stairs at a certain hour of the night,
disappearing into a panel in the landing. The lady had the courage to
lie in wait for him, and perceived him to be a small, aged man in a
shabby tweed suit, carrying his boots in his hand. He emitted "a sort of
yellow luminous light." This creature ascended at 1 a.m., and emerged
again at 4.30, descending the stair with the same audible tread. The
lady kept the matter to herself, but a nurse who was brought to tend one
of the children came screaming in the middle of the night to say that
there was "a dreadful old man" in the house. She had descended to the
dining-room to get some water for her patient, and had seen him seated
in a chair and taking off his boots. He was seen by his own light, for
she had not had time to strike a match. The lady's brother and her
husband both corroborated the phenomena, and the latter went very
thoroughly into the matter. He found that under the house was a cellar
which opened into a cave, up which the water came at full tide. It was
an ideal situation for a smuggler. That night the husband and wife kept
watch in the cellar, where they saw a very terrible spectacle. In a
light resembling that of the moon they were aware of two elderly men
engaged in a terrific struggle. One got the other down and killed him,
bundling the body through the door into the cave beyond. He then buried
the knife with which the deed was done, though curiously enough this
detail was only observed by the husband, who actually unearthed a knife
afterwards at the spot. Both witnesses then saw the murderer pass them,
and they followed him into the dining-room, where he drank some brandy,
though this action was seen by the wife and not the husband. He then
took off his boots, exactly as the nurse had already described. With his
boots in his hand he ascended the stairs and passed through the panel as
he had done so often before, the inference being that on each previous
occasion the scene in the cellar had preceded his advent.

Inquiry now showed that many years ago the house had been inhabited by
two brothers who amassed considerable wealth by smuggling. They had
hoarded their money in partnership, but one of them finally announced
his intention of getting married, which involved his drawing his share
of the treasure. Soon afterwards this brother disappeared, and it was
rumoured that he had gone to sea upon a long voyage. So far as I
remember, for I write with only notes of the episode before me, the
other brother went mad, and the affair was never cleared up in his
lifetime. It should be added that the panel into which the vision
disappeared concealed a large cupboard, which might well have been the
treasure-house of the establishment. The graphic touch of the boots
carried in the hand suggests that there was some housekeeper or other
resident who might be disturbed by the sound of the murderer's
footsteps.

In this case one can certainly imagine that in so fratricidal a strife
there would be a peculiar intensity of emotion on the part of both the
actors, which would leave a marked record if anything could do so. That
the record was indeed very marked is shown by the fact that the sight
was not reserved for people with psychic qualities, like the first two
instances here recorded, but that everyone, the husband, the wife, and
the nurse all saw the apparition, which must therefore have been
particularly solid even after the lapse of so many years. It might, I
think, be put forward as a hypothesis supplementary to that of
thought-forms thrown off in times of crisis, that the permanency and
solidity of the form depend upon the extremity of the emotion.

A second illustration may be drawn from Mrs. Tweedale's reminiscences. I
am taking my cases from a limited number of books, for the sake of
convenience in reference, but they are typical of very many others. The
most absurd of the many absurd charges against Spiritualism is that it
has no literature. It has actually a literature with which no other
religion could attempt to compare, and it may safely be said that if an
assiduous reader were to devour nothing else for fifty years he would be
very far from having got to the end of it. Its quality is not on a par
with its quantity, but even there I would undertake to name fifty books
on the scientific and religious sides of Spiritualism which would
outweigh in interest, dignity, and brain-power an equal list from any
other philosophy. Yet the public is kept absolutely ignorant of the
greater part of these remarkable works, many of which will one day be
world-famous. The people who acted and wrote in the Apostolic epoch of
the Christian Church little thought how their actions would appear two
thousand years later, and certainly the supercilious philosophers and
scandalized high priests would have been much astounded to know of the
changed values which time has created.

To return, however, to the further illustration, it concerns the doings
in a shooting-lodge in Argyllshire, inhabited in 1901 by Major and Mrs.
Stewart, the latter being the sister of Mrs. Tweedale. The
starting-point of this haunting had been a situation which would form a
grim theme for a novelist. An elderly farmer, who was a widower with a
grown-up son, married a young girl. His son soon learned to love his
stepmother, and the love may have been passionately returned. The result
was a struggle in which the son was killed by the father. It is not to
be wondered at that so horrible an event should leave a great psychic
disturbance behind it, and the lodge was found to be a storm-centre of
the unknown forces. The phenomena, which seem to have occurred every
night, took the form of loud thuds and crashes, especially in a certain
room upon the upper floor, which had probably been a bedroom. Footsteps
resounded down the stairs, and upon one occasion the whole terrible
fight was enacted in the passage, with all the blows and curses of the
infuriated men. The tragedy may well have commenced upstairs, the guilty
son have fled to the door, and been overtaken by his father in the hall
below. The impressions seem to have been entirely auditory, though a
clairvoyant would no doubt have seen the scene even as it occurred. This
case closely resembles the last, in that the most furious human passions
must have been aroused, so that every condition existed for a permanent
psychic record. It should be added that in this latter instance four
Pomeranian dogs in the house were reduced to abject terror, showing that
there was no hallucination upon the part of the human observers.

In discussing reasons for these and similar phenomena we must not make
the mistake of supposing that one single explanation can cover all the
range of the facts. To do so would be to court disaster, for someone
could at once produce a case which could not be so covered. These
instances which have been quoted have all sprung from scenes of emotion,
and all represent, as I venture to suggest, mere shadow-forms detached
from the real personality. There is another class of case, however,
which produces much the same result, since haunting forms are seen, but
which differs utterly: in its nature, in that the forms appear to be the
actual materialized spirits of the dead held fast by their thoughts and
desires to some spot which they have loved upon earth. Such a bondage
would probably seem by no means unpleasant to them, and might only mean
that in the interval of such duties as they might find awaiting them in
a new life they loved to return to the old happy scene of their
earth-memories. Thus, Brother John, in _The Gate of Remembrance_, was an
entirely good and happy spirit, and no doubt had his duties elsewhere,
yet his great love for Glastonbury Abbey brought him down whenever the
interests of the old ruins demanded it. All accounts of the wandering of
dead misers and others round the scene of their earthly ambitions would
probably come in a lower and less happy degree under the same head. One
excellent and typical example of what I mean was the case of the old
Kent manor-house as detailed by Mr. Dale Owen.

The narrative concerns Ramhurst Manor House, near Leigh, in Kent, and
was compiled in 1857. The house was inhabited by the family of a British
general, who were much disturbed by noises at night and other
happenings. A clairvoyante young lady, who came as a visitor, was able
to give them some information, her experience bearing out the rule
already stated, that psychic hearing is easier and more common than
psychic sight. She could see where the others could only hear. The
ghosts who presented themselves were an elderly couple, dressed as in a
bygone age, who actually stood upon the threshold to welcome her. After
meeting them several times they spoke to her, and this marks a
difference from all the shadow-forms already described, none of which
show any sign of individual thought and speech. These old people
explained that they had once lived in the Manor House, and that their
name on earth was Children. They declared that they had idolized their
property, that its improvement was the centre of their thoughts, and
that they were now grieved to see that it had passed away to strangers.
It was a case where total absorption in an earthly thing, however
innocent, had become a fatal bar to spiritual advancement--a danger
against which we must all earnestly guard. Their voices as they spoke
seemed normal to the young lady, while the point lace upon the
beautifully-brocaded dress was imprinted in her memory. The living lady
of the house was able soon afterwards to confirm the statement of her
clairvoyante friend, for she also saw the female vision with the name,
"Dame Children," written above her in letters of phosphoric fire,
together with a statement that she was "earth-bound." For some time
diligent inquiry could not find any trace of a family of this unusual
name having ever occupied the house, but finally a very old woman was
found who in her youth had met an aged man who said that in his boyhood
he had helped in the kennels of the Children family. Mr. Dale Owen was
so interested in the case that he personally investigated it and
cross-examined all the witnesses. On asking the young lady whether the
ghost had said anything else of an evidential nature, she remembered
that Richard was given as the name of the man, and that the date 1753
was associated with his death. Following up his researches, Mr. Dale
Owen discovered some account of the Manor House, which concluded with
the words: "Richard Children, Esqre., resided here and died possessed of
it in 1753, aged eighty-three years. He was succeeded in it by ...
George Children who is the present possessor."

This narrative must carry conviction with it to any reasonable mind,
though I must refer the reader to Dale Owen's _Footfalls_ for the
smaller details which mean so much. It suggests that the whole range of
hauntings of this nature spring from undue preoccupation and want of
spiritual effort. One such case seems to carry more warning than all the
sermons that ever were spoken. At the same time, Providence is not
cruel, and, as I have said, the bondage which is formed by
earth-thoughts need not really be an unhappy one to those who are held
by it.

When separated into the mere shadows or thought-forms on one side, and
actual earth-bound spirits on the other, it is not difficult to analyse
and understand a large proportion of preternatural happenings. The
division is admittedly a temporary hypothesis, but it serves to keep
some sort of order in a subject which has until recently been a mad
chaos of inexplicable effects without rational cause. Cases will still
obtrude themselves, however, which disturb the tidiness of the most
well-ordered theories, and I do not know a more baffling one than that
which is treated by two English school-mistresses, and admirably
described in their little book called _An Adventure_.

This adventure, shortly told, consisted in the fact that during a visit
to Paris they entered the gardens of Versailles in order to see the
Grand Trianon, and that while in those gardens they had a most
extraordinary experience, which in the case of one of the ladies was
repeated with variations upon the occasion of a second visit. They
suddenly appeared to be in the gardens as they were a century before, at
the time of the French Revolution, and to see, and in some cases
actually speak with, gardeners, messengers, and others who were there in
the days of Marie Antoinette. So natural was it all, beginning and
ending with normal life, that the ladies hardly understood what had
happened to them until they began to compare notes, and realized that
some of the buildings and garden arrangements which they had seen had
not existed within the memory of man. Both ladies carried away a clear
remembrance of dignified officials in grey-green coats and small
three-cornered hats, of an intensely still landscape, of trees that
looked like tapestry, of cloaked, large-hatted figures, of a running
messenger who shouted instructions to them, of a long-waisted,
full-skirted lady with a pale-green fichu, of a jaunty young footman,
and other quite definite details--all this at four o'clock of a summer
afternoon. A second visit by one lady alone, some four months later,
produced similar effects, differing in detail but not in general
character from the first.

Such an experience is so very unlike the vast majority of psychic cases
that one is inclined to push it aside. If one cannot get a document into
a pigeon-hole, one is too ready with a waste-paper basket, and it is
this human tendency which has retarded our advance in this new science.
Anyone who carefully reads the narrative of these ladies, and notices
the points of resemblance and also the very interesting points of
divergence in their stories, cannot fail to take them seriously. It was
not imagination or suggestion or, so far as one can judge,
hallucination. But what it was, and why by some strange psychic
refraction this mirage of the past should be thrown down upon the
present, is an insoluble problem. It must at least teach us that,
however much our tiny brains may endeavour to comprehend and classify
these extraordinary phenomena, there still remain so many unknown causes
and unexplained conditions that for many a long year to come our best
efforts can only be regarded as well-meant approximations to the truth.





III

NOTES FROM A STRANGE MAIL-BAG


THE DREAMERS


For many years I have been the recipient of as strange a shower of
letters as one could imagine. They come from all sorts of folk who have
had all sorts of psychic experiences. They demand sympathy, advice and
explanation. The former I can give, but the latter are not always so
easy. The handling of this correspondence has added a burden to my
already over-weighted days, but it is not work which I can hand to a
delegate, since very often fine points of knowledge are involved, and
the letters are exceedingly confidential and personal. I am glad to
think that I have left few unanswered, but it has been at the expense of
much energy and time which might, perhaps, have been better employed in
some more general fashion. And yet some good end might be attained if I
could use them discreetly in order to ventilate in public the various
matters discussed.

If the reader likes to treat the cases as instances of delusion or of
peculiar mental aberration that is for his own judgment to decide. I
only put forward the letters as being very real facts to those who wrote
them. The rest is a matter of individual opinion. From my cabinet of
tabulated drawers I take down the one which is labelled "Dreams," and I
pick a few of the contents almost at haphazard.

Here is a very vivid letter from a lady who is herself a musical
composer. She dreamed that she was in the presence of a great celestial
choir. Her account is an arresting one, and none can doubt that some
tremendous impact had been made upon her mind.

"The orchestra was of vast size--something like the seating capacity of
the Albert Hall. The conductor and the singers were on my right, but
after they started playing I realized that they were all round me, and
there was a great bank of strings on my left. They were playing what
seemed like the end of a classical symphony and the speed they took it
at far exceeded any tempo I've heard here. It was like a sea of bows
flashing up and down. As I watched them a curious thing happened. It
seemed as if the senses of sight and sound merged into one faculty, and
that I could _see_ the vibrations from those violins. You remember the
spray mist which hangs over Niagara Falls. Just such a shimmering haze
seemed to float above the players. The other thing that struck me was
the ideal beauty of the ensemble. That mighty host of players were like
one thought and action. It so far exceeded anything I have heard here as
to be almost overpowering. My own sense of perfection could hardly
stretch to it. It was marvellous. Of course, my thoughts are continually
on music and rehearsals, so that itself would not convey much, but this
idea of seeing sound vibrations had never entered my conscious thoughts,
and that is the most vivid impression of the dream."

Though the lady did not know it, the idea of the close connexion between
colour and sound is one which has frequently come to us in what
purported to be descriptions of life in the Beyond. I could very readily
find a dozen illustrations of the fact among those posthumous accounts
which profess to describe the experiences which await us. The general
idea of concerted music is also very familiar. "I play in an orchestra
and I enjoy it so much." Such was a message which I received myself
recently from a friend who was fond of music. Lester Coltman the
Guardsman, in what is asserted to be his after-death experience, says:

"Orchestration is my great hobby here," and adds: "For some time after I
passed over I was undecided as to whether music or science should 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."

It may be said generally that the evidence of psychic research agrees
with the vague Christian tradition that music plays a large part in the
higher spheres.

The next letter which I pick up deals with a very much less elevated
impression. This is an American writing from San José, California, who
dreams names.

"If I can identify the name with some race-horse, I have found that the
horse has, nine times out of ten, won the race. I am not interested in
horse-racing, and have not been on a track for twenty years."

The next letter is also about horse-racing, from a retired Captain in
Ireland. In his case he claims to get a picture, not a name. He is not a
betting man and makes no use of his information, which is just as well
for the bookies. Going over his results, I find that he seldom got a
winner, but that his horses were invariably placed. It was a curious
dumb-crambo system of conveying names, when supplied by vision, but
occasionally they came in an audible voice at the moment of waking from
sleep. What are we to make of such an experience? Is it imagination
followed by coincidence? Or is it of some humble psychic origin? We have
to place on the other side the many cases where such dreams have
betrayed us. Only last year I had the experience of backing the dream of
a friend for the Derby, and being five pounds poorer as a consequence.

The next letter takes us back into the black days of the War. It is from
an English lady living in Finland. Her younger brother was killed at the
front in one of the final battles in a dawn attack. At that hour the
lady went through his whole experience, visualized the battlefield,
heard the guns, and saw an elderly and moustached German who threw
something--presumably a bomb--which struck her down. Some nights later
she had a second equally vivid dream in which a radiant spirit led her
along a poplar-lined French road and halted at last at the spot where
the dead body of her brother was lying. She declares that she had every
reason at the time to think that her brother was at a depot and not in
the firing-line. It was after the Armistice that official news was given
of his death. This is one of a class of cases which has been so common
that no reasonable man can deny them. To explain them is another matter,
for even if one accepts the full faith of Spiritualism there is a good
deal which is inexplicable.

The next item is from the West of America. The writer has three times
during ten years had an extraordinary and very vivid dream which has
always been the same. He was in each case commanding the bodyguard of an
Oriental Sultan and had to defend a palace attacked by rebels. On each
occasion he was killed and found himself after death looking down upon a
litter of dead bodies. The country in which these incidents occurred
gradually revealed itself to him as being Oman upon the east coast of
Arabia, and the dreamer actually opened a correspondence with the Sultan
of Muscat, a letter from whom he enclosed to me as a proof of good
faith. The Sultan took a lively interest in the matter and was anxious
that the dreamer should visit him, but the coming of the War intervened.
The American protests that he is still planning to go to Muscat, though
one would have thought that it is the one place which he would have
carefully avoided. No sequel has yet been reported, though the letter is
two years old.

I pick up a letter now which is of a most interesting type. It is from a
lady in Chicago. She lay at the point of death with a temperature of
105°. She was insensible but dreaming vividly. She seemed to hear music
of unearthly beauty, and to be surrounded by the faces of many loved
ones who had passed on. The only sensation was one of delicious languor.

"It was the most vivid and beautiful dream I ever experienced. When I
came to myself I thought that if death was like that I should not mind
going at any time. Is it then possible for the soul to leave the body
for a short while and then to return again?"

My answer was that I had numerous similar cases which seemed to show
that it _was_ possible, and that such knowledge did indeed remove all
fear of death.

The next letter is also from an American lady and is not very dissimilar
in its subject. It was not the weakness of disease but it was the
emotion produced by music which, in her case, seems to have effected a
temporary dissociation between soul and body. The opera was "Manon
Lescaut" and Caruso the singer.

"At the grand climax," she writes, "I seemed to float away upward, quite
overwhelmed. After the curtain fell I was still away. The live part of
me had separated from my body and it was with the greatest difficulty
that I forced myself together. With a look of consternation the lady
next me observed my condition."

Reduced to common speech all this simply means that the lady was on the
point of fainting, and yet it may make us ask ourselves what we mean
exactly when we use the phrase.

The dream which duplicates an actual occurrence is hard to explain, but
an even tougher problem is presented by the prophetic dream which gives
a picture of the future. My next letter is from a man in Liverpool who
found himself in his sleep standing by a railway station and looking up
a sloping road with another road at right angles at the top. There was a
bridge above him, and over the bridge came a tramcar on which was
painted some strange place names of which he had never heard. Some
months later he visited Wrexham for the first time and there he found
the station, the road, the slope, the bridge and the tram, which had
Welsh names on the outside. Nothing arose from the incident, and there
seemed no possible reason why it should have been shot into the
sleeper's mind months beforehand. In the case of this and similar
incidents which are both trivial and psychic, one can only suppose that
an attempt is made--we cannot say by whom--to awaken the interest of the
recipient in spiritual matters by showing him things which are outside
the ken of material science. It certainly has such an effect, for the
man who has had such an experience is far more open afterwards to
psychic knowledge. An alternative explanation would be that in one of
those nocturnal rambles which our souls or etheric bodies do seem to
take, the dreamer had visited Wrexham--possibly drawn by the fact that
he had relatives living there--and that he chanced to carry back some
memory of its appearance. The tram might well be running in the early
morning.

A second experience by the same gentleman rather supports the latter
explanation. He dreamed that he saw a lady friend working at some pink
material. On inquiry she said, "Yes, I stayed up late last night making
a crêpe de Chine blouse of pink stuff, which I particularly wished to
finish." Since she was late it is probable that his dream saw that which
was actually occurring at the moment, and that it was an instance of
what has been called "travelling clairvoyance" where the etheric body
brings back information--surprisingly trivial information at times--to
the unconscious material brain.

The next item is less complex. It comes from Battersea. A Mrs. Arbuthnot
dreamed that her life was threatened by a friend whom we will call Mrs.
Burton. When she told the dream she was not aware that Mrs. Burton had
at that time a maniacal attack in which she imagined she had some deadly
grievance against her friend. This would appear to be a clear case of
telepathy. I may add that telepathy, which is constantly given as an
explanation of other psychic happenings, is, in my opinion, among the
less common phenomena, and is by no means so clearly established as some
of the physical manifestations.

To return to prophetic dreams: they are occasionally of a very helpful
character, as the next example will show. The writer is a Manchester man
fresh from Cambridge. During a visit to Switzerland he dreamed that he
was in a tropical land, sandy, with a shimmering heat and an intensely
blue sky. Suddenly, a huge man appeared before him holding a triangular
dagger of peculiar shape, with which he made the motion of striking. He
then vanished. Next day the youth explored a disused tunnel.

"I went in and found magnificent icicles hanging from the roof. All at
once I saw one very large one. It was triangular and came to a sharp
point. I thought of my dream, and recognized the triangular dagger. I
stopped, and at that moment the whole thing fell with a crash. It must
have weighed at least two hundred pounds and would perhaps have killed
me."

What are we to make of this? Is it not beyond coincidence? And how are
we to explain the tropical scene? I would only suggest--but with all
reserve--that many of us believe that we have guides or guardian angels.
These guides would appear to be often drawn from the Oriental races.
Supposing that this youth's guide was an Egyptian he might, in warning
his pupil, have brought back with him some impression of his native
land. The student remarked that the dagger was of a shape which was once
used in Ancient Egypt. Such an explanation may stand until a better one
is found.

A number of these dreams are concerned with objects which have been lost
and found again by revelation. There is always the consideration that
such finds may have been the result of some subconscious train of
thought, as occurs so often in our everyday experience, when the
solution of some problem wells suddenly up from the unknown depths of
our mentality. But in some cases this would seem to be impossible. Here,
for example, is a letter from Bath. The writer was a solicitor in a
South African city. He had a client to whose father in early days a
grant of land had been made on the outskirts of the city. At the time it
was of no value, but as the city spread it became so, but very many
years had passed and the grant was lost. One night the client dreamed
where it was. Next day, accompanied by a resident who knew the town
well, he walked to the place of his dream, identified a certain cottage,
had his knock answered by a lady whom he had seen in his sleep, walked
through to an outhouse, opened an old box and plucked out the grant
which had been stuffed into an envelope tacked to the inside of the lid.
It is sad to relate that after all this trouble the grant was not
admitted by the new generation of officials. But the story told as it is
by the solicitor concerned, seems to be incontrovertible. What are we to
make of it? Here, again, we seem to be balanced between the
possibilities of the wandering soul and those of external intelligence.
In any case, such incidents deserve our best consideration, and our men
of Science may well turn their minds from the insects and the stones in
order to unravel problems so intimately related to our own nature and
fate.

The next letter happens to be from the same quarter and on a similar
subject. It tells the tale of a _Muizenberg_ lady who lost her box and
had successive dreams of it for several months during its various and
devious wanderings, until she at last saw it in her sleep reposing upon
the shelf of the lost property office, whence she duly reclaimed it next
morning. When one reads such an account one feels a certain sense of
injury as we survey our own losses, and we wonder why we also should not
all have such help. Here we must admit that we are on the edge of the
unknown. The wireless message comes sharp and clear when we tune in to
the exact vibration. A fraction above or below and it is gone. Here,
too, there may be unconscious tuning-in of the receiver. But what is the
transmitter? That is the next great problem which faces humanity.

It is clear that to find the right receiver is difficult, otherwise
messages would not be sent in so indirect a fashion. The next example
illustrates what I mean. A London lady gets a message, or rather a
vision, which assures her that an unknown woman, who is embracing two
children, is about to "go on her last journey--her last, long, strange
journey." The actual message and the name, Mrs. Lorimer, came audibly.
On inquiry the dreamer found that there was such a woman, that she had
two children, and subsequently that she died. We may well deduce that if
the receptive power were a common one the message would certainly have
been given more directly and not in a way which was so distant that it
might well have miscarried.

I have spoken of the night travels of the etheric body. I come now to a
very remarkable example of it--unique, so far as I know, because the
return to the material body was slow and clearly remembered. The
gentleman who writes to me--a Manchester man--fell asleep before his
fire. He woke up still seated in a chair in the early morning and
glanced at the clock. It marked 12.15 but--it was not _his_ clock.

With amazed eyes he looked along the mantelpiece. Everything was
strange. There were two big bronzes of equestrian figures. The
mantelpiece itself was of heavy red marble. The fire-irons were of
massive brass. He was so petrified that it was a long time before he
could bring himself to look round. When at last he cautiously turned his
head he found himself in a very large room lined with books. There was a
reading-lamp on a long central table, and a man was seated at it. My
correspondent was filled with the idea that he had wandered into some
stranger's house, so with an effort he rose and addressed the man at the
table. Getting no answer he touched him. As the man took no notice and
remained very still the writer was speculating whether he was dead, when
he suddenly turned the page and went on reading. At this instant the
walls of the room seemed to whirl round and my correspondent found
himself in his own chair, facing his own clock, and with the time
registered as 12.25. He winds up his narrative with the words, "I give
you my most solemn word of honour that I have told you what I consider
to be the truth."

Accepting this final statement we have to find a rational explanation.
The most rational surely is that the process of travelling clairvoyance
and the return from the dream journey were done slowly and consciously,
instead of coming in a flash. Had the latter been the case the dreamer
would simply have had a vague recollection of some large room with books
in it, and it would in no way have differed from a normal dream
impression. But, for some reason, the process was carried out slowly and
in stages. The etheric body came to conscious life--a life which could
be registered on the material brain--while making itself very
comfortable in front of the fire of what would appear to have been a
Club library with one belated member therein. The insubstantial etheric
body was unable to impress the material senses of the reader, but it is
possible that if the latter had looked up from his book he might have
had a wonderful ghost story to tell for the rest of his life. Then came
the belated return, when, like a homing pigeon, the wandering soul
shoots swiftly and unerringly back to its body. Should it lose its way,
then one more mortal has died in his sleep.

There is some evidence that it is more easy for these dream messages to
be conveyed to us by pictures and symbols than by words, though
sometimes the picture comes first and then the explanatory message. At
the time, early in the War, when there was alarm about the fate of
Maurice Hewlett's son, a lady in Scotland had a clear vision of a man
being rescued from a seaplane, and an audible message came, "That is
Maurice Hewlett's son. He is rescued." This was put on record at the
time; a fact which I have tested, for I have before me a document.

"We, the undersigned, declare that the account of this dream was given
to us, as written, _before_ the announcement of the rescue appeared."

This is signed by two witnesses. One could hardly wish for a clearer
case than this, but it may have been the travelling soul of the dreamer
which carried back both the picture and the message. Again, I have an
account from a French lady whose husband managed the household affairs
in an unsatisfactory way. She saw her dead father, who handed her a
large key. This key opened a door which led to a room which was
exceedingly untidy, but became all right again when the lady entered.
She took the dream to mean that she was to be mistress in her own house,
and acted accordingly, with the best results. Here the appearance of the
father certainly gives an other-world flavour to the transaction.

Such dreams are useful, but occasionally I read of one which is so
useless that one is hard put to it when one tries to weave it into any
philosophy. Thus one correspondent dreamed that a child was born to him,
which was so discoloured in the body that it would appear to have been
scorched. A policeman was mixed up with the dream. Next morning a
policeman entered his shop with a summons to a jury for an inquest. The
case proved to be that of a poor tramp who had been badly scorched by
his straw bed taking fire. Such an incident is not entirely beyond
coincidence, and in no case does it seem to have served any purpose.

Sometimes one can see no object in the communication, and yet the
psychic evidence is very strong and is calculated to turn the mind of
the recipient to spiritual interpretations of life. Thus in the case of
a Mrs. Lofty, she writes to say that she lost her son, Grantham Lofty,
in a flying mishap.

"One day I felt like ending everything, when it was suggested to me in
the most clear way that I should think of my dream."

It seems that two years before the lady and a friend had both dreamed
the same dream on the same night. The dream included a message that
James Lofty was dying or dead in No. 7 Ward.

"I wrote out the dream at once and sent it to my sister."

Immediately after the tragedy occurred, two years after the dream, the
lady visited Haslar Hospital, and found that the ward in which her son
died was No. 7, and that by some error his name on the hospital books
had been entered as James. This certainly is a complex and remarkable
case, but it seems to have assured the mother of his continued existence
and consoled her in the hour of need.

One very common dream impression which may well be connected with those
soul wanderings which come, in my opinion, well within the category of
things proven, is the feeling of flying. It often occurs to dreamers,
but more to some than to others in proportion as their switch-off is
absolute or partial. Thus a dreamer writes from South Carolina.

"One dream comes to me over and over again. At least one thousand times
I have dreamed that I was exercising a power of transporting my body
through the air in defiance of gravitation. Usually I just lift my feet
from the ground and will myself to float in the desired direction
without any physical effort. At other times, when I wish to reach a
higher level, I work my arms as if they were wings. I seem in my dreams
to call the attention of ordinary mortals to what I am doing, but if
they possess the power to see it they never make any comment on it."

They would, of course, no more see it than the man in the Club library
saw the etheric body which touched him on the shoulder.

Several of these letters--and perhaps the most important--allude to the
perceptions which the dreamers carry back of some wonderful land which
some of us think is actually the etheric world, suited for etheric life,
and which others may try to explain as a glimpse of our own tropics, or
as some imaginative scene which has no actual existence. It is as real
to the dreamer, as was that clock in the Club library upon which the
sleeper read the time, and equally real seem those figures with whom
they hold converse.

Here is the sort of thing from a correspondent: 

"I have twice in sleep crossed over into the spirit world. The radiance 
and wonderful beauty of the country was what struck me more than anything.
I felt, above all, that this was a land of extraordinary happiness. On 
the first occasion I met and spoke with my brother. On the second I saw 
no one, but was deeply impressed by the beauty of the lake and hills 
among which I found myself. The colours were indeed different from those 
on earth. They had an exceeding glory."

This matches very closely a large number of other descriptions. I am
aware of all the difficulties connected with such a view of the Beyond.
We are faced with the obvious reflection that hills and valleys are the
result of geological action, of rain and age-long denudation, so that
their existence, from our point of view, would seem to imply similar
actions in their formation. It is a legitimate and cogent objection. And
yet, the positive agreement of a great number of witnesses cannot be
easily set aside. Some have thought that this old earth may have its own
etheric body, even as its inhabitants have. Certainly, if we are to cut
out all effects of earthly elemental action, heaven would become a flat
and waterless expanse, which would seem more logical than attractive.

In discussing dream appearances of the other spheres, I may perhaps be
permitted to give an experience of my own--though I may quote with all
reverence, "Whether in the body or out of it, I know not." I had been
told at a séance that I should visit in my sleep some other sphere, upon
which I earnestly begged that I might carry back the memory. There
followed an eventful night, some of which is quite as clear to me as any
adventure I have had upon the earth's surface.

My first impression was that of a row of rather dilapidated stone
villas, such as one would see in the suburbs of Edinburgh. They looked
well in front but were only half-finished within, though I observed
pictures upon the walls--frescoes rather, since they seemed to be part
of the wall. There was waste ground around, untidy and weed-covered. I
saw no dwellers in these uncomfortable buildings, but I was aware all
through that I had a companion at my side, whose face I never saw. This
invisibility did not seem to worry me at the time, and I made no attempt
to get past it.

Then, with no consciousness of an intervening journey, I was in another
place. It was a large hall or assembly place. Once again there were
coloured frescoes on the wall, but I carried away no impression of the
subjects. There were pillars and an ornamental ceiling. Close to me was
standing a man dressed in Elizabethan dress. He had a plum-coloured
doublet and trunk hose. We eyed each other and I was so completely
myself that I smiled and said, "Well, if you fellows are going to dress
like that we poor moderns have no chance." He made no answer, and his
face was quite unresponsive. I could recognize the man now if I saw him,
ruddy-faced, about thirty-five years of age, short, crisp, black hair
and a black moustache, well-built and vigorous. He was sullen and
sinister in his expression. I was conscious of someone else approaching
with a black Spanish cloak. Then it all disappeared.

I was now in a vehicle of some sort--I have no impression of a horse,
but I was more conscious than before of my companion. There was a vague
feeling of hurry--we had to be at a certain place by a certain time. The
road was broad and curving, with a hill-side upon the left with some
ancient ruins built right into it. At the top of the hill we stopped. A
wonderful panorama of a city lay before me. It was built upon low hills
and it undulated away to the horizon. The sky and atmosphere were grey,
but not more so than London on a winter day. I have never seen so great
a city. High buildings and towers stretched as far as I could see, but I
saw no spires. Then all faded away, and I awoke.

It was a very intense experience and I give the explanation which I
received next day from psychic sources for what the reader may think it
is worth. It came in reply to questions.

"It was a probationary city. Those pictures were instructive to people
in that stage. You did not see your guide because it would have taken
from the power. The power was running low, so we had to hurry in the
end. You were taken to a grey city because that side of spirit life has
always excited your sympathy and curiosity."

Such was my most vivid nocturnal experience.

Dreaming true is the only psychic power which I have hitherto developed
outside healing. Before we went to Australia I got the name "Naldern"
imprinted on my mind in sleep and wrote it down on waking. We sailed in
the "Naldera," though we had intended another ship and had never
consciously heard of the former. Again, I have put it on record before
the event how I dreamed that the Piave would be the turning-point of the
War, many months before the Italians were driven back sixty miles to
that position, where they won their decisive victory. In literature I
have had little help from dreams. Once I woke with a line ringing in my
head. It was, "She walked alone on the Hills of Fate." I wrote a poem
called "Victrix" round it, and it marks my highest point, perhaps, on
the foothills of Parnassus.

I may conclude these notes by stating my opinion as to the exact nature
of dreams, as I have already done in my _New Revelation_. There seem to
me to be two forms, and only two: one, the experiences of the released
spirit, and the other, the confused action of the lower faculties which
remain in the body when the spirit is absent. The former is rare and
beautiful, but the memory of it fails us. The latter is common and
varied, but usually fantastic or ignoble. By noting what is absent in
the lower dreams one can tell what the missing qualities are, and so
judge what part of us goes to make up the spirit. Thus in these dreams
humour is wanting, since we see things which strike us afterwards as
ludicrous, and are not amused. The sense of proportion and of judgment
are all gone. In short, the higher is palpably gone, and the lower, the
sense of fear, of sensual impression, of self-preservation, are
functioning all the more vividly because they are relieved from the
higher control.




IV THE GHOST OF THE MOAT


If anyone craves for adventure, he will find it in psychic work. I have
myself encountered many incidents in actual fact which I could hardly
beat if I gave free play to my imagination.

Some mention of Dr. and Mrs. Wickland of Los Angeles have occasionally
found their way into the Press. He is a deep student of psychic
phenomena believing, as I do myself, that a great deal of mania and
crime is due to direct obsession, and that a recognition of the fact
would be the first necessary step for dealing with it.

She is a medium who is very sensitive to spirit presences, and is ready,
with great bravery, to allow them to control her so long as she thinks a
good purpose can be served. She is, in my opinion, one of the heroines
of the world. Such were the couple, gentle, elderly folk, who drove out
with us to see something of rural Sussex.

I took them to the old moated grange of Groombridge, which is mentioned
by Evelyn in his Diary. As we stood looking at the lichened brick walls,
a door which gave upon the deep moat opened and a woman looked out. Then
it closed again. We passed on, and I thought no more of the matter.

As we walked through the meadow which led to the high road Mrs. Wickland
kept glancing back. Presently she said:

"There is such a strange old man walking beside us."

"What is he like?"

"He is old. His face is sunk forward. His back is hunched. He is
earth-bound."

"How is he dressed?"

"He has knee-breeches, a striped vest, and quite a short coat."

"Whence did he come?"

"He came through that door that opened."

"Then how did he cross the moat?"

"I don't know, and I don't know what he wants, but he is at our heels."

I took my guests to the old Crown Inn in the village, where we had tea.
Mrs. Wickland kept glancing at a chair in the corner beside her.

"He is there." Presently she began to laugh.

"I did not in the least want that second cup of tea, and the extra
slice," she said, "but he was close to me, and would have taken
possession and helped himself if I had not done so."

We had driven home, and were seated among the roses on my veranda, the
Wicklands, my wife, and myself. We were talking of other things when the
Seer suddenly gave a start.

"He's here."

Then came the amazing moment. Before our eyes she changed in an instant
into a heavy-faced, sullen old man, with bent back and loose, senile
lips. The whole expression was utterly different. She choked and
spluttered in an effort to express the thoughts of the control.

Dr. Wickland, with the quiet assurance of long practice, massaged the
throat.

"All right, friend, give yourself time."

The new-comer shook off his hand angrily.

"Leave me alone. What do you want to touch me for?" he croaked.

From that time the dialogue was as follows, sometimes one and sometimes
another asking the questions, and with ocasional gaspings and chokings
as interruption.

"Who are you?"

"I am from Groombridge. My name? Well, I don't feel clear in my mind.
Yes, yes, I remember. It is David. And Fletcher. That is it, David
Fletcher. Yes, I have been in service there. Horses. Yes, it was the
horses I looked to. What year is it? I don't know. My mind ain't clear.
Is it 1808 or is it 1809? What d'ye say, 1927? Well, well, that's a good
'un."

"Dead, why, I am here talkin' to you. How can I be dead? I'd be with God
if I was dead." (Suddenly started.) "Look at my hand? Why there are
rings on it. They look like my lady's rings. No, I don't know how they
came to be there."

"I don't understand a lot of things. I don't know who them folk are in
the house. They have no call to be there. Me and the others try to put
them out." ("The others," Dr. Wickland explained, "were probably other
earth-bound spirits in the old house.")

"Yes, master was a good master, but he died, and the others came in. The
house was sold. We wasn't well treated after that. What could I do? No,
I couldn't go away. Where was I to go out in the wide world, and me with
a hump on my back? I belonged to the house. I had to do the best I
could."

"What have I done? I don't rightly understand it. I've slept always in
the same old corner. It seems a long, long time."

"Now tell us, David, don't you remember being very ill?"

"Me ill? No, I was never ill. But I'll tell you what happened. He pushed
me into the water."

"Into the moat?"

"Yes, into the water."

"Who was he?"

"It was Sam." (Many chuckles.) "But I held on to him, I did. He came in
the water, too." (Dr. Wickland remarked that the man was probably
drowned on that occasion.)

"Is there no one who loved you among the dead? Was your mother dead?"

"Mother was dead. No one ever loved me, except mother. She loved me,
mother did. No one could love me, because I looked queer. They laughed."
(He burst into noisy sobbing.) "Mother loved me. Nobody else. They said
it wasn't right that I wait upon the ladies, and me with a hump."

"Cheer up, David; we will soon get the hump off you. How came you to
follow us?"

"I don't know. I think I was told. Then I got bread and tea. I have not
had tea since I can remember. I would like more. I am always hungry. But
what was that wagon? That was the devil's wagon, I think. I got in, but
it went that fast that I was afeared to get out again." (This was my
motor.)

"It's as well for you that you did not, for we are going to do you good,
David. First of all you have got to realize that you are dead. You were
drowned that time you fell into the moat."

"Well I never. That's a queer idea."

"Now understand this." (It is Dr. Wickland, who is talking in cool,
gentle, assured tones.) "You can do anything now by the power of
thought, if you know how to use it. This hump of yours. Take it off.
Take it off, I say. Your back is as straight as mine." (The bent figure
began to straighten up and to sit erect in the chair. Suddenly both
hands were thrown forward.)

"Mother, mother." (His face had become younger, more intelligent and was
shining with ecstacy.) "I see her and it's mother, but she looks younger
than I can remember."

"She will take charge of you now. You have been brought here by higher
powers for a purpose--to save you. Do you want to go back to the old
house?"

"No, no, I want to go to mother. Oh you good kind people"--the rest was
just incoherent gratitude.

And so it was that the earth-bound ostler found his mother at last among
the rambler roses of my balcony. Have I not said truly that the actual
experiences of the Spiritualist, of which this is one in a hundred, are
stranger far than what I should dare to invent?

Is it all a fairy-tale? How about the change in the medium? How about
the ostler's dress so accurately described? How about the cases where
the actual names and addresses have been verified by the Wicklands?

It is not a fairy-tale, but it is a new realm of knowledge which the
human race has now to explore and to conquer.




V THE LAW OF THE GHOST


It is safe to say that for some centuries to come the human race will be
very actively engaged in defining the laws which regulate psychic
affairs, and it is fortunately a line of study which has the peculiar
advantage to those who indulge in it that they can pursue it just as
well, and probably better, from the other side of the veil. At present
there is work lying to hand for a hundred investigators. The innumerable
records which exist in various forms, and which are scattered throughout
papers, magazines, reports of learned societies, family traditions,
etc., are like masses of ore which have been extracted from the ground
but are still lying in dumps waiting to be separated into precious
ingots on the one side and slag-heap on the other. They have to be
examined, collected into classes, reviewed in the light of our
ever-increasing psychic knowledge, and an endeavour made to find
underlying principles running through this vague collection of matter,
so that at last we may touch solid ground by getting hold of some
elementary laws. The first thing is that we should have authentic cases
so that the foundation of our reasoning may be sound. The second is to
compare these authentic cases together and see what common
characteristics they possess, shirking nothing and following the facts
wherever they lead without any preliminary prejudice. This is, of
course, the true scientific fashion, but it is unfortunately one which
has been neglected by most scientific men in approaching this new
subject which would not fit in with their preconceived ideas. Let us
hunt among these fascinating problems for shards and splinters out of
which a noble mosaic will one day be constructed, and let us see whether
here and there we may not find two or three pieces which fit together,
and give some idea of a permanent pattern, even though it be a fantastic
one. I will begin by telling three stories which seem to be absolutely
authentic, and then we shall endeavour to trace some underlying
connection.

For full particulars of the first case the reader is referred to _West
Indian Tales_, by Algernon Aspinall, with the explanation that the word
"Tales" is not used in the sense of inventions, and that the facts are
authentic, as is proved by numerous references in the narrative. These
facts relate to the singular series of events which happened in
connection with the vault at Christ-church, near the village of Oistin,
on the south coast of Barbados. In the old slave days when rum and sugar
were the foundations of many a goodly fortune, things were done on a
large scale in the West Indies, and this burial vault was a very fine
one. It was made of great blocks of coral and cement, partly sunk into
the earth, for the graveyard was on an exposed hill, and terrific storms
sweep over these latitudes. The entrance was covered by a huge slab of
marble. Within, the dimensions of the vault were twelve feet by six and
a half. So Cyclopean was the masonry and so remote the site that one
would imagine an inmate was almost as secure as a king of Egypt in the
heart of his pyramid. A contractor and a gang of skilled workmen would
be needed to effect an entrance into so solid a construction. Little did
those who erected it imagine that the whole island would be convulsed by
the repeated proofs of its insecurity.

In July, 1807, a Mrs. Goddard was buried therein, and her coffin was
found undisturbed in February, 1808, when a child named Mary Chase was
laid in a leaden casket beside her. For four years the vault was closed,
but in July, 1812, it was opened to admit a Miss Dorcas Chase. The
horrified workmen found the coffin of the infant standing on its head in
a corner. It was supposed that some mischievous and sacrilegious wretch
had been guilty of a senseless outrage, so after the coffin was
rearranged the great marble slab was once again placed in position, to
be opened next month when a Mr. Chase joined the family group within.
During the month there seems to have been no disturbance.

In September, 1816, four years having again elapsed, the vault was
opened once more to admit an infant, Samuel Arnes Once again all was in
horrible confusion, and the coffins littered across one another. The
affair was now becoming a scandal and the talk of the whole settlement,
the whites putting it down to vandalism and the negroes to ghosts. Once
again the vault was closed, and once again, two months later, it was
opened to admit Samuel Brewster. Crowds followed the coffin and gathered
round the vault when the great slab was pushed aside. In the short
interval everything had again been disarranged, the coffins being
abominably mishandled. Mrs. Goddard's coffin, which seems to have been
of wood, was broken, but this may have been natural decay. The leaden
coffins were scattered at all angles. Once again they were reverently
collected, the wooden coffin was tied up, and the vault secured.

Three years later, on July 7th, 1819, Miss Clarke was to be buried in
the vault. So great was the public excitement that the governor, Lord
Combermere, of Peninsula fame, attended the ceremony with his staff and
aides-de-camp. Things were as bad as ever. The wooden coffin was intact,
but the others were scattered in all directions. Lord Combermere was so
interested that he had the whole structure searched and sounded, but
there was no hidden approach or underground passage. It was an insoluble
mystery. The coffins were rearranged and the floor carefully sanded so
that footsteps would be revealed. The door was cemented up, which seems
to have been done on each occasion, but this time the Governor affixed
his own particular seal. The British Government had officially entered
the lists against the powers of darkness.

It is humiliating to add that the powers of darkness seemed not in the
least abashed either by the Governor or by the Empire which he
represented. Next year, in April 1820, it was determined that an
official inspection should be made without waiting for a fresh
interment. Lord Combermere with a formidable official party and a strong
ally in the Rev. T. Orderson, rector of the parish, repaired to the
vault, where the seals were found intact and all in apparent order.

The cement was then broken and the slab removed by the exertions of ten
negroes, who had the utmost difficulty in forcing an entrance. On
exposing the interior it was found to the horror and amazement of the
party that the difficulty in opening the vault had been caused by the
fact that a leaden coffin within, so heavy that several men could hardly
move it, had been jammed upside down against the slab. There was great
confusion within but no marks upon the sand which covered the floor. So
horrified was everyone by this final test that the bodies were now
removed, and buried elsewhere. The empty vault remains, and is likely
for many centuries to remain, as a refuge for snakes or centipedes, upon
the lonely headland which overlooks the Atlantic.

What is one to make of such a story as that? The facts seem to be beyond
question. Are there any points which are particularly to be noted from a
psychic point of view, in the hope that the germs of law may lie within?
One is that the antipathy of those unseen forces was aroused apparently
by the _leaden_ coffins. When the wooden coffin was alone it was not
molested. Its decay seems to have been natural, and when it was tied up
it was not again disturbed. If it ever received any injury it may well
have been from the weight of the ponderous leaden coffins which were
dashed about around it. That is one possible point. A second and more
important one is that all psychic phenomena seem to show that the
disembodied have no power of their own, but that it is always derived
from the emanations of the living, which we call animal magnetism or
other names. Now this vault with its absolutely air-tight walls was
particularly adapted for holding in such forces--being an exaggerated
form of that cabinet which is used for that very purpose by a genuine
medium. If the walls of cloth of a cabinet can contain these emanations
and condense them, how much more the solid walls of this vault. To bring
in these weighty leaden coffins the space must have been crowded with
over-heated negroes, and when the slab was at once hermetically sealed,
these effluvia were enclosed and remained behind, furnishing a possible
source of that material power which is needful for material effects.
These are two points worth noting before we pass on to see if any other
such cases may fall into line with this one.

We have not far to seek, for one is quoted in the very book under
discussion, with a reference to the _European Magazine_ for September,
1815, under the heading "The Curious vault at Stanton in Suffolk." In
the magazine account it says:

On opening the vault some years since, several leaden coffins with
wooden cases that had been fixed on biers, were found displaced to the
great astonishment of many. The coffins were placed as before, when some
time ago, another of the family dying, they were a second time found
displaced. Two years after they were found not only all off the biers,
but one coffin as heavy as to require eight men to raise it was found on
the fourth step that leads into the vault.

There unhappily the information ends. It tallies very closely with the
West Indian case so far as it goes, but is far weaker as regards the
evidence and the details. I have made inquiry from the present vicar of
the parish but have been unable to improve either the one or the other.
The statement that the phenomenon occurred twice and the precise
information as to the situation of the coffin upon the fourth step of
the stairs, seem to remove the story from vague rumour and to show that
it was based upon some actual fact.

The next case, however, is fuller and more circumstantial. It comes from
the Livonian village of Ahrensburg in the Baltic, and remote as the
scene is, the evidence is well attested.

There is a considerable cemetery in the village, which is dotted with
small private chapels, each of them with a family burial vault beneath
it. The finest of these belonged to a family named Buxhoewden which
faced the public high road, and contained certain posts to which the
horses of the farmers used to be haltered when the owners were occupied
in the town. The first signs of anything peculiar lay in the behaviour
of these creatures, which showed such symptoms of terror that they
attracted the notice of passers-by. They were covered with sweat,
trembled all over, and in three cases actually died from the violence of
their emotion. At the same time certain loud but vague sounds were heard
to come either from the chapel or from the vault beneath it. These
portents were in the early summer of the year 1844.

In July a member of the Buxhoewden family died, and the hearse horses on
approaching the cemetery showed the same signs of terror as the others.
The service in the chapel was interrupted by hollow groans, which may
have been imagined by a congregation who were already predisposed to
alarm. What was not imagination, however, was the fact that those who
afterwards descended into the vault found the coffins there, which had
been in rows, cast into a confused heap upon the wooden floor. These
coffins seem to have been of massive oak, very strongly and heavily
made. This might have been the work of some enemy to the family, but the
doors of the vault had been secured and the locks were intact. There was
always the possibility of false keys, however, so the coffins were
replaced in their order, and the place very carefully secured.

As the agitation of the horses and the general unrest of the community
still continued the chief man of the district, Baron de Guldenstubbe,
took up the matter officially, and so the Russian Government found
itself involved in the same one-sided contention from which the Governor
of Barbados had gained so little satisfaction. With two of his family he
made a preliminary examination, and then finding the coffins once again
in confusion, he formed a committee of investigation consisting of
himself, the local bishop, the Burgermeister, a physician named Luce and
four representative citizens.

On entering the vault they again found that the enemy had been at work
and that the contents were scattered in all directions. Only three
coffins, those of a very saintly grandmother and of two little children,
were undisturbed. Attempted robbery was suggested as an explanation,
which was the more plausible as an adjoining vault had once been
entered, and some gold fringe taken from the coffins. But nothing was
now missing nor was there any means of entrance. The committee pursued
its research with great care, even to the point of opening some coffins
to see if rings and trinkets buried with the owners were still within.
It was found that this was so. Workmen were then called in to examine
the floor and walls, but no secret entrance could be discovered.

Everything was now closed up once more and the disconsolate committee
withdrew, after placing heavy seals upon the door. Before leaving the
vault fine ashes were scattered all over the wooden floor, and also over
the steps leading down, and the pavement of the chapel. Finally guards
were set for three days and nights. It must be admitted that they did
things thoroughly in the village of Ahrensburg. At the end of that time
the Commission returned in full state with the whole population lining
the churchyard rails, eager to hear the result.

The seals were unbroken, the door unopened, but the interior of the
vault was in the usual state of chaos. No sign at any point was found
upon the ashes and no human feet had entered, but great forces had none
the less been at work. The secret powers, reinforced rather than abashed
by the recent visit of the Commission, had wrought far greater mischief
than before. All the coffins were scattered, save the same three which
had been exempt before. Some of the heaviest had been placed upside-down
so that the corpse was on its head, and in one instance the lid had
burst and the right arm of the inmate, who was a man who had died by his
own hand, was protruding and pointing towards the ceiling. Such was the
fearsome spectacle which greeted the Commission. They were duly noted in
a detailed report and are still to be consulted among the official
records of the Island of Oesel, with the names of the witnesses
attached. It is also on record that the effect upon the mind of Dr.
Luce, who was a man of considerable attainments and a Voltairian in
religion, was a complete change of mental outlook, and that revulsion
from materialism which any actual contact with the spiritual world, even
in its crudest forms, must logically produce.

The result of these gruesome phenomena was that the coffins were removed
from the vault and were buried in earth, after which complete
tranquillity seems to have descended upon the little village. Not only
were there no disturbances to vex the population, but the horses were
observed to occupy their old stance without any symptoms of terror.
Nothing was left of the whole incident save a memory, but it was a
memory which should not be allowed to die, for the facts are really as
well attested as facts could be. Apart from the official record, Mr.
Dale Owen, who was American minister to Naples and a man of great
intelligence, met Miss de Guldenstubbe and her brother in 1859 and took
their personal recollections of the whole matter. It is from his work
that I have taken the details.

No doubt many other such cases could be recorded, but here at least are
three which appear to be authentic and which reproduce the same
characteristics. If relics of some strange animal were found in three
different localities, the first conclusion among men of science would be
that such an animal did exist, and was henceforth to be included among
the creatures of earth. The next proceeding would be to compare the
relics and to endeavour to reconstruct some image of the new-comer. In
the same way these three cases may be said to fairly establish the fact
of these curious phenomena which involve the desecration of graves--a
fact which, however gruesome, does at least strike at the very roots of
that material view of life which has been so fashionable. When we come
to compare the cases, however, and to deduce the underlying laws, the
psychic student can at best only point to a few possible indications
which may be of value.

It has already been stated that one or more living people in a confined
space which is afterwards closed up may leave behind them something
human and yet invisible, which is sufficiently subtle to be used by
forces from the other side as a basis for material phenomena. All
movements of solid objects, touched or untouched, in the presence of a
medium are to be explained in this fashion, and the force may be
expected to be stronger when confined within a limited space. In the
case of the Cheriton dug-out, which occupied public attention a couple
of years ago, the worker and the boy were busy in a narrow excavation.
One or other was mediumistic--that is to say, emitted to an unusual
extent this emanation--with the result that the phenomena occurred in
the same way, though with less force, when both of them had left the
work for their luncheon, as Mr. Jaques, the owner of the property, was
able to testify. Let us suppose that in the case of each of these three
vaults there was an accumulation of this mysterious, but very certain,
power left behind by the coffin-bearers, and possibly reinforced by the
committees of inquiry, who would have been very amazed had they been
told that they were, in all probability, themselves contributing to the
phenomena. There, I think, you have the physical basis which is
necessary for every spiritual manifestation, for it cannot too often or
too clearly be insisted upon that spirits are not omnipotent and
irresponsible forces, but that they are under a rule of law no less
strict than our own. One of these laws is that a physical basis is
needed for every physical manifestation. We may find in the future some
non-human basis, for it is conceivable that some subtle chemical action
could be established which would generate this magnetic force just as
zinc and acid generate the kindred mystery of electricity. But a
physical basis there must be. No ghost was ever self-supporting. He can
exist without our help, but he cannot manifest to human eyes without
drawing his material from human (or possibly animal) sources. That, as
it seems, to me, is one of the basic laws of the new world of science.

There is some evidence, which could be cited in full if it did not lead
us down a lengthy side street, that when a life has been cut short
before it has reached its God-appointed term, whether the cause be
murder or suicide (of accident I speak with less confidence), there
remains a store of unused vitality which may, where the circumstances
are favourable, work itself off in capricious and irregular ways. This
is, I admit, a provisional theory, but it has been forced upon my mind
by many considerations. Such a theory would go some way to explain, or
at least to throw some dim light upon, the disturbances which from all
past time have been associated with scenes of violence and murder. If it
could be conceived that the unseen part of a man is divisible into the
higher, which passes on as spirit, and the lower which represents animal
functions and mere unused vitality, then it is this latter which has not
been normally worked off in a life prematurely ended, and which may
express itself in strange semi-intelligent fashion afterwards. In dreams
one is conscious of some such division, where the higher functions
occasionally bring us back touches of the most spiritual; while the
lower functions, deprived for the time of judgment, humour and all the
spirit qualities, evolve a capricious and grotesque life of their own,
which has neither reason nor sense of proportion and yet seems very real
to us in our slumbers. It is not a subject upon which one could be
dogmatic, but the days are passing when all such cases can be disposed
of by being brushed aside and ignored as senseless superstition. Some
sort of framework must be formed into which they can be fitted, and with
fuller knowledge the fit will be closer.

Finally the question arises: What was the object of such phenomena? We
see that the result in at least two cases out of three was that the dead
were buried elsewhere. Apparently for some reason the earth burial may
have been desired instead of the seclusion of the vault. It would
certainly hasten the absolute decomposition of the body, if that should
be good from the point of view of the other world. This seems a
farfetched supposition and one very much at variance with the belief of
those numerous nations who have practised the art of embalming and
corpse-preservation, but if this was not the object of the disturbance
it must be admitted that it is difficult to see what other result was
attained, save a very compelling proof of unseen intelligences and
powers. If a speedy decomposition was the object aimed at, then the
leaden and heavy oak coffins would check the process, which would be
swifter in the more fragile wooden ones. This might conceivably explain
the particular violence which seems to have been used towards the more
permanent materials. Perhaps, however, we lose time in searching for
rational explanations, since there is ample evidence that there can be
rowdiness and hooliganism beyond the veil as well as here.

One remark should be made before passing on to another form of ghostly
manifestation. It has been said that the basis for physical results lies
in the human organism. It is not meant, however, that there is any
relation between the small amount often taken from the medium and the
great physical results obtained. It is clear that the unseen forces can
get great power from a limited supply of this subtle material. In the
case carefully observed and noted by Professor Zöllner of Leipzig, a
beam of wood which two horses could not have dragged apart was shattered
into pieces in the presence of Slade. A friend of mine who was present
at a meeting of the Goligher circle saw a table ascend in the air and
remain there, although four strong men did all they could to drag it
down. It is true that in a sitting of this sort the medium, Miss
Goligher, frequently registered a loss of weight amounting to a stone in
a séance upon the weighing-dial which Dr. Crawford had erected, but it
is clear that the force exerted by the unseen powers was very much
greater than this and was due to their own manipulation of the material
which her organism had provided. In some of the sittings of D.D. Home,
the force was so great that the whole building used to shake as if a
heavy train were passing below it.

And here comes one of the mysteries which bear directly upon that
definition of spirit law which is so desirable. In spite of the
possibility of using vast power there is a clear, and so far as credible
records go, an unbroken ordinance that a ghost may not for its own
personal ends destroy anything or injure anyone. This may seem in
contradiction to the broken coffins, but that may not have been for
personal ends, but an accident due to the falling about of the heavy
weights. Here is an authentic case in illustration:

A great friend of mine, a Roman Catholic priest, whose word could not be
doubted by anyone who knew him, was sent for a rest cure to a lonely
house upon the coast which was frequently used by other priests for the
same purpose. Save for an old crone and one or two charitable visitors,
he was absolutely alone. After a few days he became conscious of strange
noises in the house, which at last reached such a point that, to quote
his own description, "it sounded at night as if there were a
steam-engine snorting and clanking in the room below." Nothing was
visible, but the sounds were incessant and were heard by two visitors as
clearly as by the inmate. The priest is himself open more than most men
to psychic impressions, and upon that night he had a dream or vision
which was so absolutely clear that he determined to act upon it. He
descended in the morning and asked the old woman whether there was not
an unused room in the basement. She answered that there was. He entered
it and found that he had already seen it in his dream--a small dusty,
cobwebbed place with some old books of theology heaped in the corners.
He walked at once to one of these heaps, picked up a book as in his
dream, opened it, took out a sheet of written paper, glanced at it to
make sure that it was really as revealed and then carried it into the
kitchen, where he stuffed it between the bars of the grate. The paper
was a written preparation for confession, made out by some
over-conscientious or over-methodical inmate of the house, who had noted
down a good many more things than were desirable for public perusal.
Presumably he had died shortly afterwards and had been worried by the
recollection of this document, which he then took these means to have
destroyed. There were no further disturbances of any sort within the
house.

Now here is a story which is undoubtedly true and which cannot be met by
any of the ingenious explanations of the honest but sceptical
Researcher. If the subconscious knowledge of my friend could have told
him that the paper was there, it certainly could not have caused the
noises which alarmed him. It has to be examined as a fact, as the
zoologist already quoted would examine the skin of his rare animal. The
unhappy spirit could apparently draw power either from the old
housekeeper or, as is more likely, from the young and psychic priest, to
shake the very house with vibrations, and yet with all this power he
could not destroy a frail sheet of paper, but had to bring its
destruction about in this indirect fashion. This seems to be a solid and
noteworthy conclusion. All authentic tales where spirits linger,
earth-bound because they appear to be worried over earthly things,
concealed treasure, lost documents, or other such matters, come into
this category, and the question which one naturally asks, "Why can't
they set the matter right for themselves?" is answered by, "They have
not the power. It is against the law."

I believe that all these varied experiences have been sent to us not to
amuse us by tales to be told and then forgotten, but as the essential
warp and woof of a new spiritual garment which is to be woven for the
modern world We live in an age which has long demanded a sign, yet when
the sign was sent it was blind to it. I cannot understand the frame of
mind of those who view proofs of survival which appear in the Bible as
of most vital importance, and yet close their mind to the same thing
when they reappear before our very eyes. I believe most of the evidence
in the sacred books, where it is not perverted by mistranslation,
interposition or forgery, to be perfectly good evidence, but no honest
mind could say that judged by human standards of credibility it could,
for an instant, compare in its demonstration of the fate which awaits
the soul, with the psychic revelations of recent years. In the latter
case the witnesses are thousands in number, are men of the highest
credibility, and have placed in many cases their personal experiences
upon record so that any objection can be lodged. Modern Britain does not
disprove but confirms ancient Judea. We are in a more scientific age,
however, and we wish to know the how and the why. Such inquiries are no
longer, with so great a wealth of material, beyond the scope of our
brains. In this article I have endeavoured to indicate two well-marked
laws: the one that it is the effluvia of the human organism which
furnish the basis of physical manifestations from the unseen; the other,
that there is a strict limitation of psychic power which does not
prevent noise and subsequent disturbance, but does stand in the way of
destruction or personal violence.

This power of producing noise and commotion may, it is true, cause such
great misery to those who endure it that it may amount to mental
torture. There is the well-known case of Miss Clavion, the famous French
actress, who refused the advances of a young Breton suitor. The man died
two years later with menaces against Miss Clavion upon his lips. He was
as good as his word and proved the wisdom of her rejection by the
unmanly persecution to which he subjected her after his death. This took
the form of loud cries, which frequently broke out when she was in the
company of others, and were so terrible that some of the hearers
fainted. In the later stages of her persecution these cries gave place
to the sound of a musket going off, which occurred once a day through a
particular window of her house. On ninety days running this phenomenon
occurred, and was most fully investigated as the cries had also been, by
the Parisian police, who placed spies in the street and sought
constantly but in vain for any normal explanation. Finally, after two
years the persecution stopped, the time having been foretold by the dead
man, who declared that he would upset her life for the same period as
she had upset his. He had certainly done so, but like all revenge, it
was probably a two-edged knife which cut him more deeply than his
victim.

A more justifiable persecution, but one which also amounted to torture,
is detailed by Mrs. Carter Hall, the authoress, as having come within
her personal observation in her youth. In this case a young officer had
inflicted the greatest of all injuries upon a beautiful young woman, who
afterwards died. The resulting persecution may have come not from her
gentle spirit, but from that of someone who loved her and desired to
avenge her, but it was of the most atrocious character. Particulars will
be found in Mr. Dale Owen's _Footfalls_--a book so accurate in its cases
and so wise in its deductions that it should be a classic upon this
subject. The unfortunate officer was attended wherever he went by such
noises and disturbances that at last no landlady would let rooms to him,
and he was hunted from house to house, a miserable and despairing man,
alternately praying for relief and cursing at his unseen enemy. No dog
would stay with him, and even his relatives were scared at his company,
so that he had to leave his home for fear of driving his mother and
sister into an asylum. "It is hard to be so punished," he said to Mrs.
Carter Hall, "but perhaps I have deserved it." Possibly this admission
may have proved to be the dawn of better days.




VI

THE ALLEGED POSTHUMOUS WRITINGS OF KNOWN AUTHORS

OSCAR WILDE--JACK LONDON--LORD NORTHCLIFFE--DICKENS--CONRAD--JEROME


From time to time communications have come through mediums which are
alleged to emanate from men who have been famous in literature. These
have been set aside by the ordinary critic, who starts with the
assumption that the thing is in a general sense absurd, and therefore
applies the same judgment with little or no examination to the
particular case. Those of us, however, who have found that many psychic
claims have actually been made good, may be inclined to look a little
more closely into these compositions, and judge how far, from internal
evidence, the alleged authorship is possible or absurd. I venture to say
that an impartial critic who approached the subject from this angle will
be rather surprised at the result.

Let us predicate on the first instance that if the Spiritualist
hypothesis is true, and if things are carried out exactly as they say,
then one would expect the posthumous work to be inferior to that of the
living man. In the first place, he is filtering it through another brain
which may often misinterpret or misunderstand. Even a typewriter under
my own control, causes me, I find, to lose something of my sureness of
touch, and how much more would it be if it were an unstable human
machine which I was endeavouring to operate. In the second place, the
writer has entered upon a new life with a new set of experiences, and
with the tremendous episode of physical dissolution between him and the
thoughts of earth. This also may well show itself in his style and
diction. The most that we can hope for is something which is strongly
reminiscent of the deceased writer. This, of course, might be produced
by parody, and we have to ask ourselves how far such a parody is likely
or even possible in the case of the particular medium. If that medium
has never shown signs of the rare power of parody, if he has had no
previous literary experience, and if there are other internal evidences
of the author's identity, then the case becomes a stronger one. In no
event could the judgment be absolutely final, but if several instances
can be adduced, each of which is cogent, then the collective effect
would tend to greatly strengthen the psychic proof of identity.

I would first take the alleged messages of Oscar Wilde, which are
certainly very arresting. Wilde's style was so marked, and at its best
so remarkably beautiful, that I have never seen any admitted parody
which was adequate. Yet there have been several communications alleged
to be from the other side which do reproduce those peculiarities in a
very marked form. One of these was a play which came through the hand of
Mrs. Hester Dowden, and which exhibited both the strength and the
weakness of Wilde. Another is to be found in that remarkable narrative,
"Both Sides of the Door," where Wilde was alleged to have interfered, in
order to save a family who were suffering from a peculiar psychic
persecution. Wilde had a particularly fine eye for colour, and a very
happy knack of hitting off a tint by an allusion to some natural object.
I think that all the "honey-coloured" moons which have floated over
recent literature had their origin in one of Wilde's adjectives. In this
particular little book Wilde spoke of the Arctic seas as "an ocean of
foaming jade." That struck me as a particularly characteristic phrase.

In the present essay, however, we will concentrate our attention upon
the volume which has been published by Werner Laurie under the title of
_Psychic Messages from Oscar Wilde_. These also came through the hand of
Mrs. Dowden (or Mrs. Travers Smith) and they are dignified by a preface
from the father of Psychic Research, Sir William Barrett, who makes the
general assertion concerning the script, "It does afford strong primâ
facie evidence of survival after the dissolution of body and brain."

The messages, it should be explained, came partly by automatic writing,
while in a normal state, and partly by the ouija board. Mrs. Dowden was
associated with Mr. Soal in the experiments, she sometimes working
alone, and sometimes with his hands upon the ouija board. Here are some
of the messages which seem to me to be most characteristic of Wilde's
personality and literary style.

"In eternal twilight I move, but I know that in the world there is day
and night, seedtime and harvest, and red sunset must follow apple-green
dawn. Every year spring throws her green veil over the world and anon
the red autumn glory comes to mock the yellow moon. Already the may is
creeping like a white mist over land and hedgerow, and year after year
the hawthorn bears blood-red fruit after the death of its may."

This is not merely adequate Wilde. It is exquisite Wilde. It is so
beautiful that it might be chosen for special inclusion in any anthology
of his writings. The adjective "apple-green" for dawn, and the picture
of the may "creeping like a white mist" are two high lights in a
brilliant passage. Again as in the "foaming jade" we have the quick
response to colour. It is not too much to say that the posthumous Wilde
in such passages as this is Wilde with an added sparkle.

In the script we find that after this passage Wilde was subjected to a
long _questionnaire_, which he answered with great precision. When asked
why he came, he answered:

"To let the world know that Oscar Wilde is not dead. His thoughts live
on in the hearts of all those who in a gross age can hear the flute
voice of beauty calling on the hills, or mark where her white feet brush
the dew from the cowslips in the morning. Now the mere memory of the
beauty of the world is an exquisite pain. I was always one of those for
whom the visible world existed. I worshipped at the shrine of things
seen. There was not a blood stripe on a tulip or a curve on a shell, or
a tone on the sea, but had for me its meaning and its mystery, and its
appeal to the imagination. Others might sip the pale lees of the cup of
thought, but for me the red wine of life."

This also is beautiful and rare literary work. If an artist can tell a
Rubens by its colouring or a sculptor can assign an ancient statue to
Phidias, then I claim that a man with an adequate sense of the rhythm of
good prose can ascribe these fine extracts to Wilde and to no one else.
His hallmark is stamped upon them for all the world to see, and when it
ceases to turn away its head it will see it clearly enough. Immersed in
trivialities, it seems to have no leisure at present for the great
questions of life and of death.

These two beautiful passages and several others almost as fine, came in
a single sitting on June 8th, 1923, and were produced by Mr. Soal
writing, while Mrs. Dowden laid her hand upon his. In many forms of
mediumship it is to be observed that the blending of two human
atmospheres produces finer results than either alone can get.

The cynical humour of Wilde, and a certain mental arrogance which was
characteristic, breaks out in these passages.

"Being dead is the most boring experience in life. That is if one
excepts being married, or dining with a schoolmaster."

Again being dissatisfied with one of his own images he writes, "Stop!
Stop! This image is insufferable. You write like a successful grocer
who, from selling pork, has taken to writing poetry."

When someone alluded to an occasion when Whistler had scored off him, he
wrote, "With James vulgarity always begins at home."

Again

"I do not wish to burden you with details of my life, which was like a
candle that had guttered at the end. I rather wish to make you believe
that I was the medium through which beauty filtered, and was distilled
like the essence of a rose."

His literary criticism was acid and unjust, but witty.

"I knew Yeats well--a fantastical mind, but so full of inflated joy in
himself that his little cruse of poetry was erupted early in his
career--a little drop of beauty which was spread only with infinite
pains over the span of many years."

Now and again there are passages of intense interest to an instructed
Spiritualist which give a glimpse of the exact sphere upon which Wilde
is moving, and the reasons which retard his progress and subject him to
those limitations which draw from him the constant exclamation of "Pity
Oscar Wilde!" His pictures of earth are a reminiscence, and his witty
cynical chatter is a mere screen. The real bitterness of his experience,
a bitterness which might I think have been assuaged by some sympathy and
instruction from this side, flashes out in occasional passages which
vibrate with his emotion.

"I am a wanderer. Over the whole world I have wandered, looking for eyes
by which I may see. At times it is given to me to pierce this strange
veil of darkness, and through eyes from which my secret must be for ever
hidden, gaze once more on the gracious day."

This would mean in our language that from time to time he has been able
to take control of a medium, and so get into touch with physical things
once more. His troubles come from the desire to struggle down rather
than up. He has found strangely assorted mediums.

"I have found sight in the most curious places. Through the eyes out of
the dusky face of a Tamil girl I have looked on the tea fields of
Ceylon, and through the eyes of a wandering Kurd I have seen Ararat....
Once on a pleasure steamer on its way to St. Cloud I saw the green
waters of the Seine and the lights of Paris through the vision of a
little girl, who clung wondering to her mother and wondered why."

What rational explanation can be given for such messages save the
Spiritualistic one? They are there. Whence come they? Are they the
unconscious cerebration of Mr. Soal? But many of them have come when
that gentleman was not present, so this explanation is ruled out. Are
they then an emanation of Mrs. Dowden? But they have come in full
strength and beauty when her hands have not been on the ouija board, but
have simply touched those of Mr. Soal. What then is the alternative
explanation? I confess that I can see none. Can anyone contend that both
Mr. Soal and Mrs. Dowden have a hidden strand in their own personality
which enables them on occasion to write like a great deceased writer,
and at the same time a want of conscience which permits that
subconscious strand to actually claim that it _is_ the deceased author?
Such an explanation would seem infinitely more unlikely than any
transcendental one can do.

The case might be made fairly convincing on the question of style alone.
But there is much more in it than that. The actual writing, which was
done at a speed which forbids conscious imitation, is often the
handwriting of Wilde, and reproduces certain curious little tricks of
spacing which were usual with him in life. He alludes freely to all
sorts of episodes, many of them little known, which have been shown to
be actual facts. He gives criticisms of authors with a sure, but rather
unkind touch, where the medium has little or no acquaintance with the
writings criticized. He alludes to people whom he has known in life with
the utmost facility. In the case of one, Mrs. Chan Toon, the name was so
unlikely that it seemed to me that there must be some mistake. As if to
resolve my doubts a letter reached me presently from the very lady
herself.

To sum up, I do not think that any person who approached this problem
with an open mind can doubt that the case for Wilde's survival and
communication is an overpoweringly strong one.

We now turn to a second case, that of Jack London. Here again we are
dealing with an author who had such a marked individuality, and such a
strong explosive method of expression that any imitation should be
readily detected. The collector of the evidence is Edward Payne, who
died soon after his task was completed. He was a man of considerable
attainments, a close friend of London's in his lifetime, and not a
Spiritualist, so we have the material for a very instructed and
unprejudiced opinion. The messages came to him through a lady who has a
public career, and therefore desires to remain anonymous. Mr. Payne
answers for her bona fides, and assures us she was not a professional
medium, that she was a woman of considerable culture, and that she was a
convinced materialist, so that no strand of her own nature, so far as
can be traced, is concerned in producing messages which are in their
very nature the strongest indictment of materialism that could be
framed.

The messages assume two forms, the one quite unconvincing, the other
most powerful. The former is an attempt at a work of fiction which was
an utter failure. The fact that London could not get his story of
worldly life across, and yet was most convincing in discussing his own
actual condition, is to be understood readily. It is clear that he was
attempting the most difficult of all forms of communication, a long,
connected narrative with characters and plot, under indirect conditions
to which no living author could submit.

If London had relied upon his transmitted fiction alone he would have
been deservedly set down as an impostor. But when he comes to draw not
others, but himself, he is much more convincing. Apparently he was much
worried after death by finding everything entirely different from
anything he had expected, though if he and other materialists would
deign to listen to the poor despised Spiritualists they would save
themselves all such shocks, the effects of which endure often for many
years.

Instead of loss of personality he found himself, like Wilde, in a mist
or haze--a reflection of his own perplexed mind--with a body and mind as
before, the perceptions being more acute than on earth. He quickly was
forced to realize that all his teaching had been utterly wrong, that he
had done harm by it, and that his immediate task was to get back if he
could, and set the matter right. This getting back is no easy task. The
right vibration has to be found, and it is far to seek. But London was
not a man to be repulsed. He found his vibration and he delivered his
message. Here are some of the communications which seem to me to bear
the stamp of the man on every line of them.

"I am going to try. Trying is the life of me. Ask Aunt Netta if it is
Jack who speaks that."

"Here I am alive, feeling myself to be myself, yet nothing I say or
write can identify me to those who know me best."

"Death has taught me what earth held from me. My spirit is plunging
forward with more vigour than wisdom, as in my earth days. But I know
now the way and the life. Oh, I have much, much, that I must undo."

He sends a long, connected communication which is an essay in itself,
headed "What Life means to me now." In it he says, "I am a soul--a
living Soul. I followed the lost trail of materialism, and sickened in
the foul mists of error." The whole composition, which is too long for
quotation, is most powerful, and might serve as a warning from the
grave, to those millions who so heedlessly tread the very path which led
London to his misery.

"My soul, though I knew it not, was dyspeptic with the materialistic
fodder I crammed into it.... Death caught me unawares. He snapped me up
when my face was not turned his way. I almost regret this. I believe it
made my transition the harder.

"I awoke. Dreaming? I was sure of it. I dreamed on and on. I dreamed
myself into eternity. I am vague. I was vague to myself. My powers
returned. I could think. I hailed my old brain like a returned friend. I
fumbled and groped. My earth blindness was on me. It hazed me about. I
fought my way through it. I had no goal. I had passed the only goal I
had ever admitted. I was on the other side of it. I struggle to seize
the correct term. I try vainly to translate the experience into terms of
earth which has no utterance for it.

"I died. I am looking at death from the other side--the tame friendly
side of him. And Life is indestructible.... I see man face his destiny
as I saw him on earth. I see him fall. I see him rise again and go on.
He fights his way and when his place is ready here he comes. There are
no catastrophes. All is in order.

"I am a stranger to this tongue. I am but learning to speak. What
faculty I possessed on earth is disrupted by a condition it was never
trained to meet. I shall strive to re-establish it and then I shall
speak, and, friends of earth, you shall recognize my voice."

These short strong pregnant sentences are Jack London at his best. As in
the case of Wilde, his posthumous work will bear comparison with
anything he has done in life.

He has a horror of his old point of view.

"That which was my truth of yesterday, which I hugged to me as the
quintessence of my distilled thought, becomes a volatile poison to me
here and I must ... distil a new thought out of the fires of my previous
experience, and by this thought shall I rise. Renaissance of soul is a
labour shot with pains of remembrance, held by fetters of past error
which are burst with a sweated toil while the heart strains with its
propulsion ... I feel that I have got right with God--I am no longer
worshipping myself."

When asked what specific work he was doing, he answered, "I have to
direct those lost or bewildered, as I was when I came. I labour to show
them the way I would not take."

These last words seem to me to mark the beginning of Jack London's
regeneration. He understands that his work is impersonal, unselfish and
humble. Before that he had wished to reassert himself on the old earth
terms, and the realization that he could not do so was a bitter one. He
kicked hard against the pricks.

"God! I am annihilated!" he cried; "my earth life is stamped out,
blotted from time by this passage. I can't puzzle it out. My hand
fumbles. Did Death rob me as I passed through his clutch. Did he steal
the face of me that those who knew me see me strange, feeble, pitiful.
Who or what has cut the tap-root of my power? I am befogged."

The child still cried for its toys and refused to understand that it had
left the nursery. But it cries in a voice that is familiar. The man
himself never spoke in such a vital strain as does his ghost. He ends at
last on the note that he is not to look back and that the future only
should concern him. "The messages" he said, "come from Jack London, the
damned soul, struggling out of his own hell of materialization." But
there was light ahead. He had but to persevere. "I am a soldier of the
eternal march." Who but Jack London would have written those words? He
winds up, "What is more important than to let the world know I am busy
undoing what mischief I did." Alas, Jack, the world is too busy with its
games and its pleasures, too immersed in its wooden creeds and its
petrified religions, to give ear to what you have learned. They, like
you, will only realize when it is too late.

It may be gathered from the above that I accept Jack London's return as
being a genuine one. I can see no other possible conclusion. The message
is there, and it is easier to account for it by the return of London's
activities to this sphere, than to torture the theory of multiple
personality or subconscious activity, until it is twisted to cover a
case which is so much beyond its limits.

There is one other writer who has claimed that he has been able to get
messages back to us. This is Lord Northcliffe--or Alfred Harmsworth, as
the alleged spirit prefers to be called. In life Harmsworth had no
distinctive style, but only the pen of the ready writer, so that it is
far more difficult to identify him than in such marked cases as Wilde or
London. But if he had not style he had character, and this of a very
forcible and individual kind. Judged from that angle his return is
convincing, though I would not say that it is so conclusive as in the
case of the two men of letters. The great journalist claims to have come
through many times, and I have myself had experiences in that direction
which cannot possibly be explained away. Hannen Swaffer has given his
own account of the matter in his forcible narrative "Northcliffe's
Return." For the purpose of this essay, however, I will confine myself
to a single long article, said to be dictated by Northcliffe, and coming
through the hand of a lady living in a small town in New Zealand, and
quite ignorant of her control's character, or of his methods of thought
and expression.

He also, like the others, most bitterly regrets the want of true
guidance which he had found in his lifetime, and the absorption in
material things which stunted his spiritual development. At the same
time it is easy to see that the spirit which is struggling for
expression is really, as I should judge, upon a higher plane than either
of those which have been already discussed. Service is his one ideal and
that is the sign of progression. He speaks of his powers humbly enough.

"I would probably not have risen above the rank of private yet had it
not been for some executive ability. For the will power and the dynamic
force necessary to achieve success in my old line of endeavour has
helped me considerably here."

His review of his own earth life is interesting and instructive:

"I had a tremendous lot of power in public affairs, and I now see to how
much better use I might have put that power. But I could only act
according to my light at the time, and as that light was very dim
indeed, on matters pertaining to the more real and lasting things of
life, I made many mistakes. We do not suffer for our mistakes, except in
witnessing the results of past actions, which is suffering enough in
many cases, God knows! What I mean is, that this suffering is
self-inflicted, and the only escape from it is in honest toil to try and
right some of the wrong we have unwittingly done in the past. In this
way only can we wipe the slate clean and start life afresh on a higher
level."

Now and again he breaks out into that impetuous and loud-spoken anger
which was one of his earth characteristics. Here is an example when he
talks of our present misleaders of public opinion:

"The colossal ignorance and arrogant pride of so many of those whose
privilege it is to help to form public opinion is my especial bugbear at
present. If they would not be so smug and self-satisfied about it I
could bear it better. But, as things are, I often long to prick the
highly-inflated bubble of their unholy conceit with one of my sharp,
old-time, vigorous denunciations of humbug."

And again he has a word to say to those who imagine that to commune with
those who are gone can in any way be harmful or disagreeable to those
who come to us.

"Poor silly, deluded folks! If they only knew what I, and millions like
me know of the heart-hunger for those left behind, which exists over
here, they would open their minds and hearts, and make their dear ones
as welcome in their lives and concerns as they were before death
overtook them. They could do it easily, too, if they would only allow
themselves to be properly instructed in these matters of great moment to
all concerned, by those who know, instead of being content to listen to
those shrill, oft-repeated, parrot cries of religious humbugs, who tell
of the sin and danger of tampering with these things, whilst knowing
nothing whatever of the help and consolation such intercourse can bring
to loving, suffering beings on both sides of the veil."

Can anyone imagine that these forceful words, which can be matched in
unpublished communications from the same source in England, could have
really come from the mind of the lady in far New Zealand.

In theoriginal form of this essay, which appeared in the _Fortnightly
Review_, I devoted some space to considering a continuation of Edwin
Drood, which professed to come from Charles Dickens through the hand of
one James who was foreman in a printing office in Brattleborough,
Vermont. No one who reads it can deny that it is an excellent imitation
of the great author's style, but the most unconvincing part was the
narrative itself, which was clumsy and improbable. My conclusion was
"that the actual inspiration of Dickens is far from being absolutely
established." I added, however, "No one with any critical faculty would
say that the result was an entirely unworthy one, though if written by
the living Dickens it would certainly not have improved his reputation.
It reads," I added, "like Dickens gone flat."

There was an extraordinarily interesting sequel to this. Shortly after I
had written as above I had a sitting with Florizel von Reuter the
celebrated violin virtuoso, and his mother. Their (or rather her)
mediumship is of a most convincing nature, as its technique is in itself
of abnormal power. She sits with her eyes tightly bandaged, and her hand
upon a small pointer which darts very rapidly at the letters of the
alphabet, while her son writes down the result. There is no question at
all about the bandage being adequate, and she does not turn her face
down to the board. The letters too, are so close together that she could
not learn to touch them with accuracy. Yet the messages come through
with extreme speed. Whatever their value there is no question that they
come in preternatural fashion.

Imagine us there, seated, these two at the centre table, my wife and I
in the corner of our cottage room. Dickens and Drood had been in my
mind, but our visitors had no means of knowing that. Florizel von Reuter
had never read _Edwin Drood_. His mother had read it years ago but had
a very vague memory as to the book. Suddenly the pointer begins to dart
furiously and Florizel reads off each sentence as he notes it down Some
of them, I may add, came in looking-glass writing and had to be read
backwards. The first was, "Boz is buzzing about." Boz, of course, was
the nom-de-plume of Dickens, so I asked if it was he. He eagerly
declared that it was. After a short interchange of dialogue I said,
"Will you answer some questions?"

"I hope I know enough," was the answer.

"Was that American who finished _Edwin Drood_ inspired?"

"Not by me," was the instantaneous and decided answer.

Now von Reuter knew nothing of this matter, and my own opinion was, at
the utmost, neutral, so that this positive answer reflected none of our
own thoughts.

Then came a further message.

"Wilkie C. did" [or would have done] "better."

There was, I believe, some talk after Dickens' death of Wilkie Collins
finishing the book. So far as I know he did nothing in the matter. The
von Reuters knew nothing of this.

"Was Edwin Drood dead?"

"No, he was not."

That was certainly my own opinion so I make a present of it to the
telepathist.

Then after a pause, the message went on:

"I was sorry to go across before I got him out of his trouble. The poor
chap has had a hard time. I don't know which is better, to solve the
mystery in your note-book or let it remain a mystery for ever. If you
make good with Conrad I will put you on to Edwin."

"I shall be honoured, Mr. Dickens."

"Charles, if you please. We like friends to be friends." The reader will
smile at this. So did I. But facts are facts and I am giving them. I
asked:

"Have you a clear recollection of the plot?"

"I have."

"Who was Datchery?"

"What about the fourth dimension? I prefer to write it all out through
you."

What the fourth dimension has to do with it I cannot imagine. I think it
was meant as chaff, since the fourth dimension is what no one can
understand.

Now comes the important sentence:

"Edwin is alive and Chris is hiding him."

This seems to me to be exceedingly important, both from a literary and
from a psychic point of view. Some of the best brains in the world have
occupied themselves over the problem as to whether Drood was dead, and
if not where he could be. Numerous solutions have been suggested, but
though I am fairly well posted in the matter this is an entirely new
one. Chris is the Rev. Crisparkle, who in the novel is a kindly and
energetic, muscular Christian. Certainly if he played the part indicated
it is well concealed. But then it was the author's duty to conceal it
well. There are several subtle touches which might point to the truth of
it. On re-reading the fragment with this idea in my mind I can say with
certainty that up to a point Crisparkle certainly knew nothing about it.
He has a soliloquy to that effect, and whatever means are legitimate by
which an author may mislead a reader, a false soliloquy is not among
them. But after that point in the story there is no reason why
Crisparkle may not have surprised Drood's secret, and helped him. There
was a huge cupboard in Crisparkle's room which is described with a
detail which seems unnecessary and exaggerated if nothing is to come
from it. There again the artist drew his frontispiece under Dickens'
very particular direction, and it contains small vignettes of various
scenes. There is one which shows Drood standing in a sort of vault, and
someone who has some indications of clerical garb coming in to him with
a lantern. Is this not Crisparkle and is it not some corroboration of
the spirit message?

We got no more messages at that time. Let us for a moment, however,
consider the case. Is it not clear evidence of an intelligence outside
ourselves? I do not insist upon Charles Dickens. If anyone says to me,
"How can you prove that it was not an Impersonation?" I would admit
frankly that I cannot prove it. There is none of that corroboration from
style which I get in the case of Wilde and of London. I put it on the
broader basis, "Was it not an Intelligence apart from ourselves?" Whence
came an ingenious solution of a mystery which involved a character of
which neither of the von Reuters knew anything with a solution entirely
new to me. I claim that it was a most evidential case of Intelligence
outside our own physical bodies.

I may add that on the same evening we had a number of messages in Arabic
which none of us could understand. When, however, I sent them to my
friend, Major Marriott, who is a competent Arabic scholar, they proved
to be quite correct. This reinforces the argument that the Dickens'
messages were quite apart from ourselves.

Before I close my comments upon "dead" authors I might mention two other
points of contact which had in each case some evidential value. Both
were effected through the von Reuters--once in my presence and once in
my absence. In the former case the message, delivered as before by the
blindfolded lady, purported to be from Joseph Conrad, whom I had not
known in life. He said that he had left a book unfinished, that it dealt
with the Napoleonic era, and that he would be glad if I would finish it
for him, since he knew that I had worked on that epoch. Neither I nor
the von Reuters had any idea that such a book existed. We found on
inquiry, however, that it was indeed so, and that the book had actually
been published a year or two before in its incomplete form. This, of
course, lessens the value of the evidence from a psychic research point
of view, since we might have heard of the book and forgotten about it,
but the fact remains that none of us had any recollection of it.

On another occasion when I was not present the name "Jerome" came
through. On being asked whether it was a Christian or a surname the
characteristic answer came:

"It is my alpha and omega."

"I want to speak to Sir Arthur," came next.

"Did you know him in life?"

"Yes, yes, yes" (very excitedly).

"Would you like to write with my son's hand?" He assented eagerly.

Florizel von Reuter, who had the gift of automatic writing, then took
the pencil. A message came through that Jerome and I had been good
friends, but had disagreed upon the subject of Occultism. The message
concluded, "Tell him from me that I know now that he was right and I was
wrong. We never know our greatest mistakes at the time we make them.
Make it clear to him that I am not dead."

In von Renter's account of this incident in his remarkable book,
_Psychical Experiences of a Musician,_ he says:

"I should like to impress upon the reader that neither my mother nor I
had the least idea whether Doyle and Jerome had been even superficially
acquainted, let alone knowing anything of Jerome's views upon occult
matters."

The latter cases are certainly not so convincing as the earlier ones,
but if you take all the evidence together it adds, I think, a new and
little explored region to psychic research.



VII

SOME CURIOUS PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

My experiences with mediums, good, bad and indifferent, are probably as
wide as those of any living man. At one time or another I have
experimented with Jonson of Los Angeles, whom I look upon as the best
materializing medium whom I have known, with Inez Wagner of the same
city, a wonderful voice medium, with Mrs. Wickland and with Miss
Besinnet of Toledo, who is also of the first psychic quality. I have sat
also in America with Mr. John Ticknor, a gifted amateur; with Mrs.
Chenoweth, the famous clairvoyante; with Mrs. Wriedt of Detroit and
Valiantine, wonderful direct voice exponents; with "Margery" Crandon,
the world-famous amateur; with Miss Ridley of Philadelphia; Mrs. Pruden
of Cincinnati; Mrs. Rose Miller of Washington; Mrs. Hazel of Winnipeg;
the Hamilton circle in the same city, and many others. In Australasia I
experimented with Bailey, the apport medium; Mrs. Susanna Harris; Mrs.
Roberts of Dunedin, and several more. In South Africa with Mrs. Kimpton,
and half a dozen more. In Paris with "Eva" and with Madame Briffaud. In
Denmark with Einar Nielson. In Sweden with the remarkable daughter of
Judge Dahl.

At home there are few mediums of the last twenty years whom I have not
sampled, including Husk and Craddock of the older generation, and Evan
Powell (at his best at the top of the list), Mrs. Roberts, Mrs. Garrett,
Mrs. Barkel, Mrs. Brittain (all four splendid clairvoyantes), Mrs.
Roberts Johnson and Mrs. Cooper (both of them overworked voice mediums),
and a great many others of lesser note.

I have worked also many times with Hope of Crewe, who in his own line is
the greatest medium of all time, and with Mrs. Deane, both of them
exponents of psychic photography. These are some of the mediums whose
gifts I have explored, and in many cases I have sat as often as a dozen
times. Hence, if I have formed conclusions they have been based upon
wide experiences. I have always taken copious notes of my cases. Fraud I
have discovered, and helped to expose in several cases, but on the whole
I should not put it at more than ten per cent--if as much--of the whole.

With so much practical work behind me the reader can imagine my feelings
when in a public debate upon the subject with Dr. Haldane of Cambridge
my distinguished opponent said, "I once knew a medium." In my reply I
asked him what he would think of me if I contradicted him upon some
point of chemistry, and said, "I have once been in a laboratory."

Apart from the ordinary phenomena of the séance room, my life has not
given me much direct psychic experience. I have, so far as I know, no
spiritual gifts myself and none of that psychic atmosphere which gives a
tinge of romance to so many lives. There have, however, been occasions
when without the aid of a medium I have been sensitive to the unknown.

One instance occurred some years ago. It was in my bedroom at
Crowborough. I wakened in the night with the clear consciousness that
there was someone in the room, and that the presence was not of this
world. I was lying with my back to the room, acutely awake, but utterly
unable to move. It was physically impossible for me to turn my body and
face this visitor. I heard measured steps across the room. I was
conscious (without seeing it) that someone was bending over me, and then
I heard a voice saying in a loud whisper, "Doyle, I come to tell you
that I am sorry." A minute later my disability disappeared, and I was
able to turn, but all was black darkness and perfectly still. My wife
had not awakened, and knew nothing of what had passed.

It was no dream, I was perfectly conscious all the time. My visitor gave
no name, but I felt that it was a certain individual to whom I had tried
to give psychic consolation when he was bereaved. He rejected my
advances with some contempt and died himself shortly afterwards. It may
well be that he wished to express regret. As to my own paralysis it
came, I have no doubt, from the fact that the power for the
manifestation had been drawn out of ME. When spirit manifests upon the
physical plane it has to draw its matter from a material source, and I
was the obvious one. It is the one occasion upon which I have been used
as a physical medium, and I am content that it should be the last.

I had a second interesting experience some years ago. There was a church
in the neighbourhood which had the reputation of being haunted. There
are reasons why it would be wrong for me to indicate it more precisely.
The party consisted of my wife and myself, my two sons, my daughter, a
friend, and a young London lady who is among our rising poets. It was
ten o'clock when we presented ourselves at the door of the church, where
we were met by an elderly villager. Swinging a lantern he led the way to
the choir end, where we all seated ourselves in the stalls which the
ancient monks once occupied. My own very angular throne was that which
had been used by many priors, in far-off days when the old church was
one of the shrines of England. Opposite me, and dimly lit by the
lantern, was the altar, and behind it a blank wall unbroken by any
window, but reflecting strange ghostly shadows and illuminations through
the high clerestory windows on either side. When the lantern was
extinguished and we sat in the darkness watching these strange shifting
lights coming and going, the impression was quite ghostly enough, though
I have no doubt at all that there was a physical cause, due to some
reflection of passing lights in the distance. It was, however,
sufficiently weird.

For two hours I had sat in the dark upon my hard seat, and wondered
whether cushions were vouchsafed to the priors of old. The lights still
came and went behind the altar, but they only flickered over the top of
the high expanse which faced us, and all below was very black. And then
suddenly, quite suddenly, there came that which no scepticism could
explain away. It may have been forty feet from where I sat to the altar,
and midway between, or roughly twenty feet from me, there was a dull
haze of light, a sort of phosphorescent cloud, a foot or so across, and
about a man's height from the ground. We had been rustling and
whispering, but the sudden utter silence showed me that my companions
were as tense as I was. The light glimmered down, and hardened into a
definite shape--or I should say shapes--since there were two of them.
They were two perfectly clear-cut figures in black and white, with a dim
luminosity of their own. The colouring and arrangement gave me a general
idea of cassocks and surplices. Whether they were facing the altar or
facing each other, was more than I could say, but they were not misty
figures, but solid objective shapes. For two or three minutes we all
gazed at this amazing spectacle. Then my wife said loudly, "Friends, is
there anything which we can do to help you?" In an instant they were
gone, and we were peering into unbroken darkness with the lights still
flickering above.

Personally, I saw no more, but those of our party who sat upon the
right, said that they could afterwards see a similar figure, but
somewhat taller--a man alone--who stood on the left of the altar. For my
own part nothing more occurred, and when midnight tolled forth above our
heads, I thought it was time to make for the waiting motor.

Such was our experience. There was no possible room for error.
Unquestionably we all saw these figures, and equally unquestionably the
figures were not of this world. I was full of curiosity to know more of
the matter, and presently my desire was gratified, for there came into
my Psychic Bookshop a gentleman, Mr. Munro, who had had a similar
experience some years before in the same place. He was possessed,
however, of the great gift of clairvoyance, and his adventure was by day
light, so that it was far more definite. He was going round the old
church when he was suddenly aware of an ancient monk who was walking by
his side, and he knew by his own sensations that it was a clairvoyant
vision. The man was middle sized, with a keen, aristocratic, hawk-like
face. So clear was he that Mr. Munro remembered how the sunlight shone
upon the arched bone of his prominent nose. He walked for some time
beside Mr. Munro, and he then vanished. What is noticeable is that he
was wearing a gown of a peculiar tint of yellow. Some little time
afterwards my informant was present at Bernard Shaw's noble play of
"Saint Joan." In one act an English monk appears upon the stage. My
friend instantly said to his wife, "That is the dress. That is what the
dead man wore." Mrs. Munro, who was in the shop at the time, confirmed
this. I may say that they had broached the subject before I had told
them of our own experience in the old church.

Then again there came yet another light upon the matter. It was, strange
to say, in an Australian paper which was sent to me. It gave an account
of the old church, and of the ghosts which haunt it. The chief spirit,
the one with the masterful face, was, according to this narrative, the
head of the community in the time of Henry the Eighth. He had hid some
of the treasures of the church to prevent their spoliation, and his
spirit was still earth-bound on account of his solicitude over these
buried relics. His name was given, and it was stated that he had shown
himself to many visitors. If this account be indeed true, then I should
think that the spot in front of the altar, where we saw first the light,
and then the two draped figures, might very possibly be worth the
attention of the explorer.

I joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1893 or 1894 and must now
be one of the oldest members. Shortly afterwards I was asked to form one
of a small party to inspect a house at Charmouth. It was said to be
haunted.

Dr. Scott of Norwood and Mr. Podmore, a determined and very unreasonable
opponent of spiritualism, were my companions. The evidence in the case
was so voluminous that it took us the whole of our railway journey to
master it. It consisted mainly of a record of senseless noises which
made the place hardly habitable for the unfortunate family who had it on
a lease and could not afford to abandon it.

They proved to be charming people. An elderly mother, a grown-up son and
a married daughter.

The house was a rambling place, a couple of centuries old. We sat up for
two nights. On the first nothing occurred. On the second Dr. Scott left
us, and I sat alone with Mr. Podmore and the young man. We had, of
course, taken every precaution to checkmate fraud, put worsted thread
across the stairs, and so on.

We had just begun to think that the second night would be as blank as
the first and the ladies had already gone to bed when a fearsome noise
broke out. It was like someone whacking a table with a heavy stick. The
door of the sitting-room was open and the noise reverberated down the
passage.

We rushed into the kitchen from which the sound appeared to come, but
there was nothing to be seen there, and the threads on the stair were
unbroken. The others returned to the sitting-room, but I remained
waiting in the dark in the hope that the noise would break out once
more. There was, however, no return and we were never able to cast a
light upon the mystery. We could only say that what we had heard
corroborated, up to a point, what we had read in the account of the
disturbances.

There was, however, a curious sequel. Within a year or so the house was
burnt down, which may or may not have had a connection with the
mischievous sprite who appeared to haunt it. A suggestive thing,
however, was that the skeleton of a child about ten years old was dug up
in the garden. This I had from relatives of the family who were so
plagued.

Some people think that a young life cut short in an unnatural fashion
may leave, as it were, a store of unused vitality which may be put to
strange uses.

I was never asked by the Society for a report of this case, but Podmore
sent one in, ascribing the noises to the young man, though as a matter
of fact, he was actually sitting with us in the parlour when the trouble
began. Therefore, the explanation given by Podmore was absolutely
impossible. I think that if we desire truth we should not only be
critical of all psychic assertions, but equally so of all so-called
exposures in this subject. I am sorry to say that in some cases the
exposure means downright fraud upon the part of the critic.

One other curious experience comes back to my memory. Shortly after the
War I had a letter from the widow of a distinguished soldier living at
Alton, Hampshire, in which she stated that her life was made miserable
by a noisy haunting of her house, which frightened the children and
drove away the servants.

I visited her, however, to see what I could do. She had taken it as a
furnished house with a lease of some years, and it was impossible for
her to leave it.

I found that the lady was, herself, very psychic, and had the power of
automatic writing. Through this it was that she received the name of the
entity which haunted the house and she assured me that on making
inquiries she found, after some time, that a person of that name had
actually inhabited the house some sixty years before. On asking him why
his spirit should be so restless she received the answer that some
papers about which he was anxious were concealed in the rafters of the
box-room.

This message had actually just come through and the box-room had not yet
been explored. It was a terrible place, thick with dust and piled with
all kinds of lumber, and for an hour or more, in my shirt and trousers,
I crawled about under the rafters looking for these papers. I observed,
however, that at some period, a bell wire had been passed along there,
and it was clear to me that the men who fixed the wire would certainly
have come upon any concealed packet. I therefore, made my way back to
the sitting-room in a shocking state of dust and perspiration and then
and there the lady and I held a table-sitting in which I addressed the
unseen entity and explained to him that the papers, if they had ever
been there, were certainly gone.

I remonstrated with him for the trouble which he had given to the
household and I begged him to think no more of his worldly affairs, but
to attune his mind to the higher life. When I asked him if he would do
so the table spelt D.V.

I am conscious that this is very vague and open to criticism, but the
direct sequel of it all was that from that day onwards the trouble
entirely ceased, and the lady was able to write and to assure me that
the atmosphere of her house had changed to one of deep peace.

Thus my visit to Alton was not entirely in vain.



VIII

DWELLERS ON THE BORDER [Footnote: An expansion of this general argument
is to be found in _The Coming of the Fairies_ (Psychic Press, 2 Victoria
Street, W.) ]

I propose in this essay to discuss the evidence for the existence of
elemental forms of life, invisible to the normal eye, which inhabit the
same planet as ourselves. It seems to me that our knowledge of the ether
vibrations which govern wireless are a great help to us in this
connection, and that we can readily understand now what would have been
incomprehensible, because there was no existing analogy, a few years
ago. Let us suppose that the London centre was the only one known, and
that we were in touch with it through our own receiving apparatus. That
represents our reaction to the material world and normally we know of no
other, just as the wireless recipient would know only London. But we
find that by a very small change of vibration or wave-length we get
Paris, Berlin, or Constantinople, and London has vanished. Now if we
apply that to psychic vibrations the analogy seems to me very close. As
Paracelsus said, "Ut infra, ita supra" (As it is below so it is above).
A uniformity runs through the scheme of creation. The clairvoyant whose
various powers of receptivity enable him to contact different types of
extra-corporeal creatures, corresponds to the man who can switch from
one centre to another, and he has the same difficulty in getting his
results accepted as the owner of a wave-adjustment set would have if all
the normal world was confined to one vibration.

To vary the simile, we are accustomed to the idea of amphibious
creatures who may dwell unseen and unknown in the depths of the waters,
and then some day be spied sunning themselves upon a sandbank, whence
they slip into the unseen once more. If such appearances were rare, and
if it should so happen that some saw them more clearly than others, then
a very pretty controversy would arise, for the sceptics would say with
every show of reason, "Our experience is that only land creatures live
on the land, and we utterly refuse to believe in things which slip in
and out of the water; if you will demonstrate them to us we will begin
to consider the question." Faced by so reasonable an opposition the
others could only mutter that they had seen them with their eyes, but
that they could not command their movements. The sceptics would hold the
field.

Something of the sort may exist in our psychic arrangements. One can
well imagine that there is a dividing line, like the water edge, this
line depending upon what we vaguely call a higher rate of vibrations.
Taking the vibration theory as a working hypothesis, one could conceive
that by raising or lowering them, creatures could move from one side to
the other of this line of material visibility, as the tortoise moves
from the water to the land, returning for refuge to invisibility as the
reptile scuttles back to the surf. This, of course, is supposition, but
intelligent supposition based on the available evidence is the pioneer
of science, and it may be that the actual solution will be found in this
direction. I am alluding, now, not to spirit return, where eighty years
of close observation have given us some sort of certain and definite
laws, but rather of those fairy and phantom phenomena which have been
endorsed by so many ages, and even in these material days seem to break
into some lives in the most unexpected fashion. Victorian science would
have left the world hard and clean and bare, like a landscape in the
moon, but this science is in truth but a little light in the darkness,
and outside that limited circle of definite knowledge we see the loom
and shadow of gigantic and fantastic possibilities around us, throwing
themselves continually across our consciousness in such ways that it is
difficult to ignore them.

There is much curious evidence of varying value concerning these
borderland forms, which come or go either in fact or imagination--the
latter most frequently no doubt. And yet there remains a residue which
by all human standards should point to occasional facts. I pass in this
essay the age-long tradition which is so universal and consistent, and
come down to some modern instances which make one feel that this world
is very much more complex than we had imagined, and that there may be
upon its surface some very strange neighbours who will open up
inconceivable lines of science for our posterity, especially if it
should be made easier for them, by sympathy or other help, to emerge
from the deep and manifest upon the margin.

Taking a large number of cases of fairy lore which lie before me, there
are two points which are common to nearly all of them. One is that
children claim to see these creatures far more frequently than adults.
This may possibly come from greater sensitiveness of apprehension, or it
may depend upon these little entities having less fear of molestation
from the children. The other is that more cases are recorded in which
they have been seen in the still shimmering hours of a very hot day than
at any other time. "The action of the sun upon the brain," the sceptic
says. Possibly--and also possibly not. If it were a question of raising
the slower vibrations of our surroundings one could imagine that still
heat would be the very condition which might favour such a change. What
is the mirage of the desert? What is that scene of hills and lakes which
a whole caravan can see while it faces in a direction where for a
thousand miles of desert there is neither hill nor lake, nor any cloud
or moisture to produce refraction? I can ask the question but I do not
venture to give an answer. It is clearly a phenomenon which is not to be
confused with the erect or often inverted image which is seen in a land
of clouds and of moisture.

There are many people who have a recollection of these experiences of
their youth and try afterwards to explain them away on material grounds
which do not seem adequate or reasonable. Thus in his excellent book on
Folklore the Rev. S. Baring-Gould gives us a personal experience which
illustrates several of the points already mentioned.

"In the year 1838," he says, "when I was a small boy, four years old, we
were driving to Montpelier on a hot summer day over the long straight
road that traverses a pebble and rubble-strewn plain on which grows
nothing save a few aromatic herbs. I was sitting on the box with my
father when to my great surprise I saw legions of dwarfs of about two
feet high running along beside the horses--some sat laughing on the
pole, some were scrambling up the harness to get on the backs of the
horses. I remarked to my father what I saw, when he abruptly stopped the
carriage and put me inside beside my mother, where, the conveyance being
closed, I was out of the sun. The effect was that little by little the
host of imps diminished in numbers till they disappeared altogether."

Here certainly the advocates of sunstroke have a strong though by no
means a final case. Mr. Baring-Gould's next illustration is a stronger
one.

"When my wife was a girl of fifteen," he says, "she was walking down a
lane in Yorkshire between green hedges, when she saw seated in one of
the privet hedges a little green man, perfectly well made, who looked at
her with his beady, black eyes. He was about a foot or fifteen inches
high. She was so frightened that she ran home. She remembers that it was
a summer day."

A girl of fifteen is old enough to be a good witness, and her fright and
the clear detail of her memory point to a real experience. Again we have
the suggestion of a hot day.

Baring-Gould has yet a third case.

"One day a son of mine," he says, "was sent into the garden to pick
pea-pods for the cook to shell for dinner. Presently he rushed into the
house as white as chalk to say that while he was thus engaged, and
standing between the rows of peas, he saw a little man wearing a red
cap, a green jacket, brown knee-breeches, whose face was old and wan,
and who had a grey beard and eyes as black and hard as sloes. He stared
so intently at the boy that the latter took to his heels."

Here again the pea-pods show that it was summer and probably in the heat
of the day. Once again the detail is very exact and corresponds closely,
as I shall presently show, to some independent accounts. Mr.
Baring-Gould is inclined to put all these down to the heat conjuring up
the familiar pictures of fairy-books, but some further evidence may
cause the reader to doubt this explanation.

Let us compare with these stories the very direct evidence of Mrs.
Violet Tweedale, whose courage in making public the result of her own
remarkable psychic faculties should meet with recognition from every
student of the subject. Our descendants will hardly realize the
difficulty which now exists of getting first-hand evidence with names
attached, for they will have outgrown the state when the cry of "fake"
and "fraud" and "dupe" is raised at once against any observer, however
honourable and moderate, by people who know little or nothing of the
subject. Mrs. Tweedale says:

"I had a wonderful little experience some five years ago which proved to
me the existence of fairies. One summer afternoon I was walking alone
along the avenue of Lupton House, Devonshire. It was an absolutely still
day--not a leaf moving, and all nature seemed to sleep in the hot
sunshine. A few yards in front of me my eye was attracted by the violent
movements of a single long, blade-like leaf of a wild iris. This leaf
was swinging and bending energetically while the rest of the plant was
motionless. Expecting to see a field mouse astride it I stepped very
softly up to it. What was my delight to see a tiny green man. He was
about five inches long and was swinging back downwards. His tiny green
feet which appeared to be green-booted were crossed over the leaf and
his hands, raised behind his head, also held the blade. I had a vision
of a merry little face and something red in the form of a cap on the
head. For a full minute he remained in view, swinging on the leaf. Then
he vanished. Since then I have several times seen a single leaf moving
violently while the rest of the plant remained motionless, but I have
never again been able to see the cause of the movement."

Here the dress of the fairy, green jacket and red cap, is exactly the
same as was described independently by Baring-Gould's son, and again we
have the elements of heat and stillness. It may be fairly answered that
many artists have drawn the fairies in such a dress, and that the
colours may in this way have been impressed upon the minds of both
observers. In the bending iris we have something objective, however,
which cannot easily be explained away as a cerebral hallucination, and
the whole incident seems to me an impressive piece of evidence.

A lady with whom I have corresponded, who is engaged in organizing work
of the most responsible kind, has had an experience which resembles that
of Mrs. Tweedale.

"My only sight of a fairy," she says, "was in a large wood in West
Sussex about nine years ago. He was a little creature about half a foot
high dressed in leaves. The remarkable thing about his face was that no
soul looked through his eyes. He was playing about in long grass and
flowers in an open space."

Once again summer is indicated. The length and colour of the creature
correspond with Mrs. Tweedale's account, while the lack of soul in the
eyes may be compared with the "hard" eyes described by young
Baring-Gould.

One of the most gifted clairvoyants in England was the late Mr. Turvey
of Bournemouth, whose book, _The Beginnings of Seership_, should be in
the library of every student. Mr. Lonsdale of Bournemouth is also a
well-known sensitive. The latter has given me the following account of
an incident which he observed some years ago in the presence of Mr.
Turvey.

"I was sitting," says Mr. Lonsdale, "in his company in his garden at
Branksome Park. We sat in a hut which had an open front looking on to
the lawn. We had been perfectly quiet for some time, neither talking nor
moving, as was often our habit. Suddenly I was conscious of a movement
on the edge of the lawn, which on that side went up to a grove of pine
trees. Looking closely I saw several little figures dressed in brown
peering through the bushes. They remained quiet for a few minutes, and
then disappeared. In a few seconds a dozen or more small people about
two feet in height, in bright clothes and with radiant faces, ran on to
the lawn, dancing hither and thither. I glanced at Turvey to see if he
saw anything and whispered, 'Do you see them?' He nodded. These fairies
played about, gradually approaching the hut. One little fellow, bolder
than the others, came to a croquet hoop close to the hut, and using the
hoop as a horizontal bar, turned round and round it, much to our
amusement. Some of the others watched him, while others danced about,
not in any set dance, but seemingly moving in sheer joy. This continued
for four or five minutes, when suddenly, evidently in response to some
signal or warning from those dressed in brown, who had remained at the
edge of the wood, they all ran into the wood. Just then a maid appeared
coming from the house with tea. Never was tea so unwelcome, as evidently
its appearance was the cause of the disappearance of our little
visitors."

Mr. Lonsdale adds, "I have seen fairies several times in the New Forest,
but never so clearly as this." Here also the scene is laid in the heat
of a summer day, and the division of the fairies into two different
sorts is remarkably borne out by the general descriptions.

Knowing Mr. Lonsdale as I do to be a responsible, well-balanced, and
honourable man, I find such evidence as this very hard to put to one
side. Here, at least, the sun-stroke hypothesis is negatived since both
men sat in the shade of the hut and each corroborated the observation of
the other. On the other hand, each of the men, like Mrs. Tweedale, was
supernormal in psychic development, so that it might well happen that
the maid, for example, would not have seen the fairies even if she had
arrived earlier upon the scene.

I know a gentleman belonging to one of the learned professions whose
career would not be helped if this article were to connect him with
fairy lore. As a matter of fact, in spite of his solemn avocations and
his practical and virile character, he seems to be endowed with that
faculty--let us call it the appreciation of higher vibrations, which
opens up so wonderful a door to its possessor. He claims, or rather he
admits--for he is reticent upon the subject--that he has carried this
power of perception on from childhood, and his surprise is not so much
at what he sees, as at the failure of others to see the same thing. To
show that it is not subjective he tells the story that on one occasion
while traversing a field he saw a little creature which beckoned eagerly
that he should follow. He did so, and presently saw his guide pointing
with an air of importance to the ground. There, between the furrows lay
a flint arrowhead, which he carried home with him as a souvenir of the
adventure.

This gentleman is further distinguished by having that power of
attracting animals, even wild animals, which some people have, and it
may be that this sympathy is the same quality which helps him in getting
into touch with fairies. His account of the latter is extraordinarily
interesting.

"I should describe them as being between two and three feet in height,"
says he, "and dressed in brown clothes. The nearest approach I can get
to them is to say that they are 'spiritual monkeys.' Their general
instinct is to avoid mankind, but they are capable individually of
becoming extremely fond of humans--or of _a_ human. They are just Peter
Pans, children who have never grown up. Speaking generally I should
imagine that anyone who has had any truck with the fairies must have
obeyed the scriptural injunction to 'become as a little child '--i.e. he
or she must be either a Buddha or simple."

Another friend of mine who claimed to have the power of seeing fairies
is the late Tom Tyrrell, the famous medium, whose clairvoyance and
general psychic gifts were of the strongest character. I cannot easily
forget how one evening in a Yorkshire hotel a storm of raps, sounding
very much as if someone was cracking their finger and thumb, broke out
around his head, and how with his coffee-cup in one hand, he flapped
vigorously with the other to warn off his inopportune visitors. In
answer to my question about fairies, he says:

"Yes, I do see these little pixies or fairies. I have seen them scores
of times. But only in the woods and when I do a little fasting. They are
a very real presence to me. What are they? I cannot say. I can never get
nearer to the beggars than four or five yards. They seem afraid of me,
and they scamper off up the trees like squirrels. I dare say if I were
to go in the woods oftener I would perhaps gain their confidence more.
They are certainly like human beings only very small, say about twelve
or fifteen inches high. I have noticed they are brown in colour, with
fairly large heads and standing up ears, out of proportion to the size
of their bodies, and bandy legs. I am speaking of what I see. I have
never come across any other clairvoyant who has seen them, though I have
read that many do so. Probably they have something to do with Nature
processes. The males have very short hair, and the females rather long,
straight hair."

The idea that these little creatures are occupied in consciously
furthering Nature's projects--very much, I suppose, as the bee carries
pollen--is repeated by the learned Dr. Vanstone, who combines great
knowledge of theory with some considerable experience, though a high
development of intellect, is, in spite of Swedenborg's example, a bar to
psychic perception. This would show, if it is correct, that we may have
to return to the classical conceptions of something in the nature of
naiads and fauns and spirits of the trees and groves. Dr. Vanstone,
whose experiences are on the borderland between what is objective and
what is sensed without being actually seen, writes to me:

"I have been distinctly aware of minute intelligent beings in connection
with the evolution of plant forces, particularly in certain localities,
for instance in Ecclesbourne Glen. Pond life yields to me the largest
and best sense of fairy life, and not the floral world. I may be only
clothing my subjective consciousness with unreal objective imaginations,
but they are real to me as sentient intelligent beings, able to
communicate with us in varying distinctness. I am inclined to think that
elemental beings are engaged, like factory hands, in facilitating the
operation of Nature's laws."

Another gentleman who claims to have this most remarkable gift is Mr.
Tom Charman, in the New Forest, who hunts for fairies as an entomologist
would for butterflies. In answer to my inquiries he tells me that the
power of vision came to him in childhood, but left him for many years,
varying in proportion with his own nearness to nature. According to this
seer the creatures are of many sizes, varying from a few inches to
several feet. They are male, female, and children. He has not heard them
utter sounds but believes that they do so of finer quality than we can
hear. They are visible by night as well as by day, and show small lights
about the same size as glowworms. They dress in all sorts of ways. Such
is Mr. Charman's account.

It is easy, of course, for us who only respond to the more material
vibrations, to declare that all these seers are self-deluded or are the
victims of some mental twist. It is difficult for them to defend
themselves from such a charge. It is, however, to be urged upon the
other side that these numerous testimonies come from people who are very
solid, practical and successful in the affairs of life. One is a
distinguished writer, another an ophthalmic authority, a third a
successful professional man, a fourth a lady engaged on public service,
and so on. To wave aside the evidence of such people on the ground that
it does not correspond with our own experience, is an act of mental
arrogance which no wise man will commit.

It is interesting to compare these various contemporary first-hand
accounts of the impressions which all these witnesses have received. I
have already pointed out that the higher vibration which we associate
with hot sunshine, and which we actually seem to see in the shimmer of
noontide, is associated with many of the episodes. Apart from this is
must be admitted that the evidence is on the whole irregular. We have
creatures described which range from five inches to two and a half feet
An advocate of the fairies might say that since the tradition has always
been that they procreate as human beings do, we are dealing with them in
every stage of growth, which accounts for the varying size. It seems to
me, however, that a better case could be made out if it were pleaded
that there have always been many different races of fairyland, and that
samples of these races may greatly differ from each other, and may
inhabit varying spots, so that an observer like Mr. Tyrrell for example,
may always have seen woodland elves which bear no resemblance to gnomes
or goblins. The monkey-like brown-clad creatures of my professional
friend, which were over two feet high, compare very closely with the
creatures which little Baring-Gould saw climbing on to the horses. In
both cases these taller fairies were reported from flat plain-like
locations, while the little old man type varies completely from the
dancing little feminine elf so beloved by Shakespeare. In the experience
of Mr. Turvey and Mr. Lonsdale two different types engaged in different
tasks were actually seen at the same moment, the one being
bright-coloured dancing elves, while the other were the brown-coloured
attendants who guarded over them.

The claim that the fairy rings so often seen in meadow or marshland are
caused by the beat of fairy feet is certainly untenable, as they
unquestionably come from fungi such as _agaricus gambosus_ or _marasmius
oveades_ which grow from a centre, continually deserting the exhausted
ground and spreading to that which is fresh. In this way a complete
circle is formed which may be quite small or may be of twelve-foot
diameter. These circles appear just as often in woods from the same
cause but are smothered over by the decayed leaves among which the fungi
grow. But though the fairies most certainly do not produce the rings it
might be asserted, and could not be denied, that the rings once formed,
whatever their cause, would offer a very charming course for a circular
ring-a-ring dance. Certainly from all time these circles have been
associated with the gambols of the little people.

After these modern instances one is inclined to read with a little more
gravity the accounts which our ancestors gave of these creatures, for
however fanciful in parts it still may have had some core of truth. I
say "our ancestors," but as a matter of fact there are shepherds on the
South Downs to this day who will throw a bit of their bread and cheese
over their shoulders at dinner-time for the little folk to consume. All
over the United Kingdom, and especially in Wales and in Ireland, the
belief is largely held among those folk who are nearest to nature. First
of all it was always supposed that they lived within the earth. This was
natural enough since a sudden disappearance of a solid body could only
be understood in that way. On the whole their description was not
grotesque, and fits easily into its place amid the examples already
given.

One of the best of the ancient accounts is that of the Rev. R. Kirk who
occupied a parish at Monteith on the edge of the Highlands, and wrote a
pamphlet called _The Secret Commonwealth_ about the year 1680. He had
very clear and definite ideas about these little creatures, and he was
by no means a visionary but a man of considerable parts, who was chosen
afterwards to translate the Bible into Erse. His information about
fairies tallies very well with that already quoted. He slips up in
imagining that flint arrowheads are indeed "fairy-bolts," but otherwise
his contentions agree very well with our modern instances. They have
tribes and orders, according to this Scotch clergyman. They eat. They
converse in a thin whistling sort of language. They have children,
deaths and burials. They are fond of frolic-dancing. They have a regular
state and polity with rulers, laws, quarrels and even battles. They are
irresponsible creatures, not hostile to the human race unless they have
reason to be angry, but even inclined to be helpful, since some of them,
the Brownies, are by universal tradition, ready to aid in the household
work if the family has known how to engage their affection.

An exactly similar account comes from Ireland, though the little folk
seem to have imbibed the spirit of the island to the extent of being
more mercurial and irascible. There are many cases on record where they
are claimed to have shown their power and to have taken revenge for some
slight. In the _Larne Reporter_ of March 31,1866, as quoted in _True
Irish Ghost Stories_, there is an account of how a stone which the
fairies claimed having been built into a house, the inhabitants were
bombarded with stones by invisible assailants by day and night, the
missiles hurting no one but causing great annoyance. These stories of
stone-throwing are so common, and present such similar well-attested
features in cases coming from every part of the world, that they may be
accepted as a recognized preternatural phenomenon, whether it be the
fairies or some other form of mischievous psychic force which cause the
bombardment. The volume already quoted gives another remarkable case
where a farmer having built a house upon what was really a fairy right
of way between two "raths" or fairy mounds, was exposed to such
persecution by noises and other disturbances that his family was at last
driven out and had to take refuge in the smaller house which they had
previously occupied. This story is narrated by a correspondent from
Wexford, who says that he examined the facts himself, examined the
deserted house, cross-examined the owner and satisfied himself that
there were two raths in the vicinity and that the house was in a
dead-line between them.

I have particulars of a case in West Sussex which is analogous, and
which I have been able to trace to the very lady to whom it happened.
This lady desired to make a rock garden, and for this purpose got some
large boulders from a field hard by, which had always been known as the
pixie stones and built them into her new rockery. One summer evening
this lady saw a tiny grey woman sitting on one of the boulders. The
little creature slipped away when she knew that she had been observed.
Several times she appeared upon the stones. Later the people in the
village asked if the stones might be moved back to the field, "as," they
said, "they are the pixie stones and if they are moved from their place
misfortune will happen in the village." The stones were restored.

But supposing that they actually do exist what _are_ these creatures?
That is a subject upon which we can only speculate with more or less
plausibility. Mr. David Gow, Editor of _Light_ and a considerable
authority upon psychic matters, had first formed the opinion that they
were simply ordinary human spirits seen, as it were, at the wrong end of
a clairvoyant telescope, and therefore very minute. A study of the
detailed accounts of their varied experience caused him to alter his
view and to conclude that they are really life forms which have
developed along some separate line of evolution, and which for some
morphological reason have assumed human shape in the strange way in
which Nature reproduces her types like the figures on the mandrake root,
or the frost ferns upon the window.

In a remarkable book, _A Wanderer in the Spirit Lands,_ published in
1896, the author, Mr. Farnese, under inspiration, gives an account of
many mysteries including that of fairies. What he says fits in very
clearly with the facts that have been put forward, and goes beyond them.
He says, speaking of elementals,

"Some are in appearance like the gnomes and elves who are said to
inhabit mountain caverns. Such, too, are the fairies whom men have seen
in lonely and secluded places. Some of these beings are of a very low
order of life, almost like the higher order of plants, save that they
possess independent motion. Others are very lively and full of grotesque
unmeaning tricks.... As nations advance these lower forms of life die
out from the astral plane of that earth's sphere and succeeding
generations begin at first to doubt and then to deny that they ever had
any existence."

This is one plausible way of explaining the disappearance of the faun,
the dryad, the naiad, and all the creatures which are alluded to with
such familiarity in the classics of Greece and Rome.

All these evidences as to fairies sink into insignificance compared with
the actual photographs which I have published in my _Coming of the
Fairies._ These, in the enlarged edition, cover cases from Yorkshire,
Devonshire, Canada and Germany, and show varying sizes as already
described. Since its publication I have had an excellent one from
Sweden. They are not all supported by the same degree of evidence, but
each case is strong and all the cases taken together seem to me to be
final, unless we are to reconsider altogether our views as to the nature
and power of thought-forms. No criticism has for a moment shaken the
truth of the original Cottingley pictures. All fresh evidence has tended
to confirm it. I refer readers to the book for the full detail, and for
the pictures themselves.

Some final paragraphs may be devoted to other forms of elemental life
for which there is some evidence, though I admit that it is on a very
different level from that which sustains the fairies. In Mrs. Tweedale's
_Ghosts I have seen_, a book which is far more thrilling than any
sensational novel, and which can only be matched by the companion
volume, _Phantoms of the Dawn_, will be found several descriptions of
fauns, satyrs, and even in one case of a troop of centaurs, which are
picturesque and arresting, if not entirely convincing. I know Mrs.
Tweedale personally--she is the daughter of one of the famous Chambers
brothers of Edinburgh, and I am aware that she is the last woman in the
world to exaggerate or trifle with truth. The more remarkable of these
elemental stories, however, are given second-hand, so that she cannot be
responsible.

There is one curious case which fits into the idea of a satyr-like
creature who had by some mischance wandered out of his own vibration and
got entangled in matter. I do not venture to say that this is the actual
explanation, but I do maintain that the facts appear to be well-attested
and that I know no other solution which would fully cover them. They are
to be found in a book called _Oddities_ published some years ago. It is
there shown that on a certain year in the middle of last century, after
a slight snow-shower, footprints of cleft goat-like feet which were most
carefully observed, measured, and even photographed, were found over a
hundred miles of ground in Devonshire. These footsteps had apparently
all been made in the one night, and extended right across country over
all obstacles, including the Teignmouth estuary, where the marks
vanished at one side and re-appeared at the other. They were--I quote
from memory--about two inches by one in size. If the facts are correctly
given, then an elaborate practical joke carried out by a number of
people acting in collusion would be the only alternative to the
preternatural one, which I have ventured not to maintain but to suggest
as a remote possibility. The case attracted much attention at the time
and tracings of the prints are to be found in an old number of the
_Illustrated London News_.

One may well ask what connection have fairies and elementals with the
essays upon the fate of the human soul which have formed most of this
series? The connection is slight and indirect, consisting only in the
fact that anything which widens our conceptions of the possible, and
shakes us out of our time-rutted lines of thought, helps us to regain
our elasticity of mind and thus to be more open to new philosophies. The
fairy question is infinitely small and unimportant compared to the
question of our own fate and that of the whole human race. The evidence
also is very much less impressive though, as I trust I have shown, it is
not entirely negligible. These creatures are in any case remote from us
and their existence is of little more real importance than that of
strange animals or plants. At the same time the perennial mystery, why
so many "flowers are born to blush unseen" and why Nature should be so
lavish with gifts which human beings cannot use, would be solved if we
understood that there were other orders of being which used the same
earth and shared its blessings. It is at the lowest an interesting
speculation which gives an added charm to the silence of the woods and
the wildness of the moorland.



IX

A STRANGE PROPHET

When one finds that a philsophy is obscure, and when one fails after an
earnest effort to get it clear, one may usually conclude that the
teacher is also obscure and that the subject has not been clearly
thought out. For some time I have endeavoured to get an understanding of
Thomas Lake Harris, a mystic about whom there has been the utmost
difference of opinion ranging from the Messianic to the diabolical. In
my search for truth I have read much that he has written and I have
carefully perused his _Life and World Work_, by a devoted follower, Mr.
Arthur Cuthbert, who claims to have shared some of the same psychic
experiences. I have also studied _Sympneumata_, written by Mrs. Laurence
Oliphant and edited by her famous husband. Instead of clearing up
obscurities this leaves them more obscure than ever. One earnestly
wishes that the husband had expounded the matter, since he could write
English, instead of the wife with her interminable and involved
sentences which average about two to a page. Finally I read the picture
of Harris taken by the novelist, Mrs. Oliphant, who was Laurence's aunt,
and who takes a very severe view of the American prophet. At the end of
it all I find myself in the same perplexity as ever, and have no sure
idea whether I am dealing with a megalomaniac ranter endowed with
considerable worldly cunning, or with one who really had a breath of the
divine afflatus--whether in fact his philosophy was a cloud of words or
whether he had an authentic message.

I am consoled in my indecision, and reassured as to my own judgment when
I clearly see that the astute Laurence Oliphant, after twelve years of
most intimate association, cannot answer for the real character of his
associate. His famous pen-drawing of him in _Masollam_ pictures a dual
personality with two voices and two ranges of vision, and it ends with
the words, "He might be the best or the worst of men." A short sketch of
my impressions of this curious man and of his doctrines may be of
interest to readers.

Harris was born in Fenny Stratford in Buckinghamshire in 1823, and was
five years old when his parents emigrated to the United States, settling
in Utica in the north of the State of New York. This region seems to
have been to an extraordinary degree the centre of new religions or
pseudo-religious impulses from that time onwards. Spiritualism,
Mormonism, and, as I believe, Christian Science all had their original
springs in this geographical centre. Harris, who was independent of each
of these movements, was destined to make a very definite contribution of
his own to the general spiritual urge and outreach which was
characteristic of the time and place.

His people were narrow Calvinistic Baptists, and at an early age Harris
rebelled against their sour doctrines and accepted the wider and more
charitable teaching of the Universalists. An officer has told me how
upon his inquiring into the religion of a recruit the Sergeant answered,
"'E calls 'imself a Christadelphian, but to my mind 'e's little better
than a 'eathen." Probably this was the view taken of the Universalists
in those days of dogma. It was the nature of Harris to reject all
dogmas, until he came to put forward some of his own. He was twenty
years of age when he changed his religion, and he has left it on record
that his dead mother appeared to him at that time and said, "My dear
child, my poor child, you must all remember that God is the father of
all men and that all mankind are your brothers."

He seems to have been a most eloquent preacher and soon won a
considerable name, but the rather vague tenets of his new creed made him
crave for something in the nature of concrete proof. Some chance of this
was offered at this period by the use of Spiritualism, and in order to
get clearer views upon the subject Harris paid a visit to Andrew Jackson
Davis, who after some experiences as a hypnotic subject had finally
become an inspired medium. The meeting and intercourse of these two men
was certainly a notable event, for in their different ways they were
both remarkable characters, and each has a niche of his own in religious
history. Harris was twenty-four at the time and Davis twenty, two most
singular youths. Davis converted Harris to the idea of spirit
intercourse and for some years Harris was an enthusiastic preacher and
leader. Davis, however, had some peculiar amatory adventures, depicted
in his _Magic Staff_, and Harris, who professed a deeper regard for the
marriage vow, was disillusioned and turned as violent an opponent as he
had been a friend of the Spiritualistic movement. His attitude seems to
have been supremely illogical, for the ill-doings, granting that they
exist, of any member of a philosophy cannot alter the facts upon which
the philosophy is founded. It would be as reasonable for an inquirer to
discard Christianity in order to show disapproval of Judas. The fact
remains, however, that Harris was seen no more on Spiritualistic
platforms and that his voice was raised against all that he had
supported. To anyone who is acquainted with the true tenets of this cult
it must be obvious that he had never grasped their meaning and seemed to
consider that an artificial hypnotism was essential to mediumship. His
objections are mostly founded upon the supposition that one comes in
contact with evil spirits. One may find plenty of evil spirits in the
flesh, but one chooses one's company and one finds that it is not
difficult to come into contact with the higher ones as well. This great
fact Harris ignored and from that moment his life took a turn of its
own, and he lost touch with any philosophy which is capable of clear
expression, though it influenced strongly a small circle of followers.

He still ministered to a considerable church in New York, the
congregation of which, including Horace Greeley, must have been sorely
exercised in endeavouring to keep pace with, or to understand, the
spiritual gyrations of their pastor. It was called the Independent
Christian Church and was still on universalist lines. He narrates that
addresses which he delivered there came to him by what Spiritualists now
call automatic writing, and that the purpose and ultimate effect of them
was the redemption of destitute children--an admission which one would
have supposed must modify his condemnation of spirit intercourse. At
this period he was one of those who founded a colony called the Mountain
Cave Association, which was dissolved after a short and not too
honourable existence. It was this first experiment in communal life
which no doubt suggested the larger developments to come.

It was at this time, about 1850, that Harris received according to his
own account a direct revelation from a majestic angel man who turned his
thoughts into a special channel. This tale of the direct apparition
occurs in Swedenborg's first vision, in Smith's revelation of Mormonism,
and in Davis's account of his experience in the hills near Poughkeepsie.
Considering the recent close association with the latter seer, it is not
entirely impossible that Harris's vision may have been subconsciously
suggested by what he had heard of the apparition seen by Davis. The
first fruits of the new departure were a long poem of 6,000 lines which
was completed in the extraordinary time of twenty-seven working hours,
scattered over fourteen days. It may be said once for all that Harris in
this and many subsequent poems, which were so copious that it is
doubtful if any writer has ever composed so much, showed himself to be a
true poet of a high order. Lawrence Oliphant put him at the very top,
and without being able to go so far as that, I should say that he stood
very high. There are times when in his strong simplicity of phrase he
reminds one of Blake, and there are times when his high spirituality
touches the edge of Shelley. As an example of the former I would take:

    "Nine months I lay in a Lady's womb,
    She folded me all in her laughing bloom,
    She hallowed me while I filled and fed
    From the nectar-wells of her mother-head."

As to the latter almost any page from his longer poems would illustrate
my meaning.

Lyrical speech seems to have been his natural expression, which accounts
for a certain rhythm and majesty in his addresses. A lady who knew him
at that period wrote of him:

"When in Utica he would come to my sitting-room of an evening and
sitting down on a rather high chair--one which allowed him to swing his
feet rhythmically, he would compose poetry by the mile--exquisite
thoughts, exquisitely worded. My memories of those quiet hours are very
beautiful. There was nothing impressive about his person then; he was
too thin, really lank, but his eyes were very full of thought and his
voice had a rare charm. His poetic utterances were to me like views of
sunset and sunrise, which we enjoy internally but which we cannot
remember."

This last sentence seems to me to be very good criticism, well observed
and clearly expressed. The reason seems to be that it is all too
transcendental and ethereal. When Tennyson discusses the deeper things
of life there are constant touches which bring one back to human
experience. Harris is off the ground all the time. There is no anchor by
which one may attach him to the current life of man. Hence one reads, as
the lady says, with admiration for the limpid verse and the lofty
thought, and yet at the end there is little which has remained as part
of one's own mental storehouse.

And now the time had come when Harris had to strike out a path of his
own into the unknown, and a very vague and difficult path it is for
anyone else to indicate--far less to follow. There is an objective side
to it and there is a theoretical or dogmatic side. The objective side of
this system lay in the assertion that by some system of breathing
certain psychic results may be obtained, and the mind elucidated as to
things divine. It is to be presupposed that such exercises of the
diaphragm or solar plexus--for those are indicated as being physically
involved--are concomitant with mental and spiritual efforts, otherwise
the matter would be no more a sign of progress than results to be
obtained by standing upon one's head. On the other hand, one would
suppose that if the mental and spiritual effort had been made the
advance would be automatic and independent of physical exertions.
However, the theory is as I have stated, and there are found other
witnesses, such as Mr. Cuthbert, who assert that they have themselves
gone through the early stages of illumination as produced in this
fashion. There are said to be seven stages in this advance by breath,
each of them to be obtained by long and apparently painful effort. No
one save Harris himself had ever attained the seventh, though all his
followers, including his successive wives, three in number, were on
various rungs of the ladder. The fact that Harris himself was supposed
to have passed through the whole seven degrees was the basis for claims
which must startle if not convince the general public, since it was
seriously stated that the Christ was the only person who had ever done
so much. The process, however, seems to have escaped the notice of the
apostles, since it is mentioned in no gospel, and Paul, who gave so full
a list of the spiritual gifts, has said nothing on the subject.

At the same time it is not to be denied that there is a considerable
body of evidence that by a certain control of the breath some exalted
mental condition can be obtained. In Swedenborg's case the more shallow
his breathing the more spiritual his frame of mind. Cataleptics appear
not to breathe at all, and are from time to time buried alive in
consequence, but the condition seems to go with remarkable
enfranchisement of the spirit. The Hindoos have reduced it to a system
and claim similar results. I can remember in Canterbury, New Zealand,
meeting some people who practised it, and who assured me that it was not
without danger, as the excursion of the soul leaves an empty house
behind, which may attract a parasitic tenant. However that may be,
Harris's general claim meets with some support, though I know no proof
that any high spirituality is necessarily associated with what would
rather seem to be a curious physiological experiment. This breathing
phenomenon is, so far as I know, the only objective part of Harris's
philosophy.

We come, therefore, to its dogmatic side, which consists in the
assertion of the dual sex in every-one, including the Creator. Bi-une is
the word which covers the philosophy. So far is it pushed that even a
name is given to this second personality, so that the Lady Jessa is
associated with the Lord Jesus, and Harris himself is closely
intertwined with the Lady Lily to the not unnatural confusion of his
earthly wives. So high is the Lady Lily that the whole celestial region
after death is named Lilistan. This dual internal mating is supposed to
do away with the coarser processes of nature and to free mankind from
the lustful morass in which he is accused of wallowing, but as Harris
had not only wives but also children, it would appear that the higher
path was not all-sufficing.

In that most incomprehensible book _Sympneumata_, which might well be
translated into English, there is a disquisition upon the bi-une gods of
old, in which Isis and Osiris, Hathor and Ra, Bel and Bilit, with many
others are duly paired. Considering the practical results of these old
systems one would think that their teachings are rather to be avoided
than followed. What is to be gained, or how would human life be elevated
by our following hermaphroditic divinities? So far as the case is
applicable to human beings it has, of course, that amount of obvious
truth that a man does reproduce many of the qualities of his mother, and
a girl may do the same by the father, and so each sex may manifest its
presence in the composite result. There are also anatomical facts which
correspond with the psychological unison. But when this is said one
cannot see that much remains. The discussion of sex in connection with
the Deity seems incongruous and repulsive, nor does Harris ever give any
clear reason why such strange dogmas should be given to a world which is
already sick of unproved assertions and struggling hard to escape from
wild faiths into a region of concrete proof. Had Harris ever really
understood Spiritualism he would have realized that this concrete proof
for which the whole intellect of the human race is yearning, may well be
found in that direction.

There were some other peculiar beliefs in the Harris cosmogony. One was
that the planets were inhabited by spirits, some superior and some
inferior to those upon earth. There was a reaction between these beings
and ourselves. Another was that fairies, or as he preferred to call
them, fays, played a very important part in the development of man's
spirit. That such creatures exist and that they play some lowly part in
nature is held by many and is supported by evidence which will bear
examination, but for the ambitious spiritual role here assigned to them
there is no evidence at all, unless we extend the term "fay" to include
those higher entities or angels who may reasonably be supposed to have
some guiding influence in our lives.

Apart from obscure doctrines there was one side of the Harris system
with which many of us would cordially agree. It was that we would do
well to get back to the simple life. He founded successive communities
for this alleged purpose, and the system adopted was called "The Use."
The first colony was assembled in a farm-house at Wassiac in 1861. In
1863 it moved to America, where it centred round a mill and a bank. In
the latter institution Mr. Harris, the president, is depicted as
spending much of his time. "Here the people come on business together
and others would sit down and smoke and talk over their affairs and
general politics, while the President himself would be frequently
occupying one of the chairs in the midst of them and entering into full
sympathy with them in a perfectly natural, ordinary, neighbourly
fashion." It is a pleasant picture which Mr. Cuthbert draws, but somehow
one wishes it was not a bank.

Just about this time a most amazing thing happened. The prophet had gone
with his wife to England for the purpose of securing the publication of
some of his works. While there he gave some lectures or sermons at the
Steinway Hall. His ornate and rather inflated style of eloquence, which
like his poetry is limpid and vaguely beautiful, attracted audiences,
among whom was Lady Oliphant, the mother of the famous writer and
diplomatist, one of the most rising men in England.

She brought her son to hear the further lectures, and the views of the
prophet struck some sympathetic mystic chord in their own bosoms. The
idea of the simple community life with its dreamy religious background
appealed strongly to natures which were weary of the empty ways of
fashion and unsatisfied by the unreasonable dogmas of the churches. They
liquidated their business affairs, left their homes and threw in their
lot with the American community. This access of fresh strength and money
enabled the colonists to move to Brocton near Buffalo, where some large
farms were taken and the whole project took on a more ambitious aspect.

Those who wish to see a critical and adverse view of the matter will
find it in Mrs. Oliphant's life of her famous nephew. One can well
understand that it was galling to the pride of a grand old Scottish
family that their finest product should come under the complete sway of
what seemed to them to be a very dubious American adventurer. How
complete that sway was may be judged from the fact that the next ten or
twelve years of Laurence Oliphant's life were spent in menial
agricultural tasks, which included the selling of strawberries at the
railway station to the passengers in the trains. There is, we must
admit, something of beauty and of sanctity in this utilitarian age, that
a man should humble himself for spiritual ends, and yet when one
considers the exceptional gifts with which this particular man had been
endowed, one doubts whether anything could excuse the diversion of his
energies into a channel so useless to the world. Such was the complete
subservience of the young Scot that he had with difficulty to get leave
of absence from Brocton in order to act as war correspondent in the
Franco-German war. Even more incredible, he had to ask leave to marry,
and after the marriage was separated for a long time from his wife by
orders of the autocratic prophet. It is amazing how any man of spirit
could submit to such a position, and no adequate explanation of it has
ever been given. It would seem that Harris held a fairly substantial
hostage for Oliphant's behaviour in the fact that a large part of the
latter's fortune was locked up in the Brocton property, which, however,
was not held in the name of Harris but in that of the community at
large. Oliphant was not the only person of distinction in the little
company, for there were several Japanese who had come presumably on his
recommendation, as he had made many friends in that nation during his
diplomatic visit to their country. One of these Japanese afterwards
became Ambassador at London and a second Ambassador at Paris, so that
either the personality or the teaching of Harris must have had some very
real attraction for intelligent followers.

The prophet, in spite of his seven stages of breathing and the agonies
of spirit or of body which those stages represented, seems to have had a
very human side in his complex personality. He enjoyed the good things
of life, including a cigar and a glass of wine, while the heartiness of
his laughter was proverbial. He had an excellent head for commercial
affairs and he built a second bank, an hotel, a general store, a railway
restaurant, and many other amenities in connection with his colony.
Finally, finding a larger and more profitable field available, he
started a considerable vineyard at Fountain Grove in the extreme south
of California, which no doubt still produces the raisins by which so
many private stills mitigate the austerities of Prohibition. One would
have a fuller sympathy with these activities if they were not mixed up
with strange religious jargon, so that it was actually claimed that the
wine from the vineyards contained within it "a divine-natural vital
substance."

In the midst of his worldly work Harris found time to write a great deal
both of verse and of prose. Of the former I have already given my
opinion. I cannot speak so favourably of the prose. Mr. Cuthbert in his
_Life and Work_ devotes some seventy pages to quotations from what he
calls "this great book," which was afterwards published as _The New
Republic_ and _God's Breath in Man_. There may be an esoteric meaning to
it all which gives it a special value to his followers, but on the face
of it to an ordinary critic it would appear to be turgid stuff with no
trace of greatness, and with a considerable tendency to both blasphemy
and obscenity. I will confess that I am influenced in my judgment of
Harris by this work, and that after reading it I cannot doubt that the
man who wrote it had at that time an utterly unbalanced mind, and that
as a guide he could only lead one to disaster. The man's life was
many-sided, however, and, as I have tried to show, there were other
aspects of it and other literary productions which were less open to
criticism.

The Laurence Oliphant episode came to an end after some twelve years of
subjection. There is no record how the rift began, but both the writer
and his mother had gradually become disillusioned. It can hardly be
imagined that such writings as those alluded to above could fail to
repel educated and sensitive minds. They may have found the worldly and
successful prophet a very different person to the spiritual enthusiast
who had originally led them into the wilderness. The parting was by no
means friendly. Oliphant took legal processes in order to recover some
portion of his property, while Harris in return tried to put Oliphant
into a lunatic asylum. Eventually some part of the money was recovered,
and Oliphant moved away on his curious orbit, winding up at El Harja in
Syria, where he spent his latter years. The fact that he allowed his
wife to publish _Sympneumata_ and that the book is adorned by many
scraps of verse which, though unacknowledged by the authoress, are
clearly from the pen of Harris, show that in some respects his views
about the prophet had not been changed.

There is little more to record of Harris, who dwelt for the most part on
his Californian estate, save that in his seventieth year he announced
that he had passed his final stage of breathing, and had thus reached
what was claimed to be a unique position among mankind. He announced the
event in the _Sonoma Democrat_, and his statement is more definite than
most of the cloud of words which obscure the subject. He wrote:

"For the last two or three years I have been secluded most of the time
in my mountain retreat, working to the final solutions of the problems
that opened in my discoveries of forty years ago. The final problem that
faced me during these years was ... how, without passing through
physical disease, shall man practically embody and realize the
resurrection. ... The alternative was success or dissolution. Success
came as suddenly and pleasantly as when a deep-laden, storm-tossed ship
glides over the harbour-bar from the raging outside sea and swings at
ease in a landlocked haven. I have passed through December. I am in
May-time. ... No more an old man of over seventy but now renewed in more
than the physical and mental powers of the early prime, my retirement is
at an end. ... I leave the disposition of my honour to the slow but
finally just unveilings of coming time. Each hour of my days must be
devoted to labour of necessity and beneficence."

These brave words should have been the cry of the centenarian. It was
not destined to be. It was not, however, until he had reached the ripe
but not extraordinary age of eighty-three that Thomas Lake Harris took
leave of his Californian vineyard and journeyed on to Lilistan or
whatever other sphere of the coming world he had earned by his strange
mixed career. He has certainly left behind him one of the most curious
personal and religious problems with which I am acquainted.



X

A LONDON GHOST


For some days the papers had contained accounts of a haunted house
within a few hundred yards of Piccadilly Circus, which had aroused the
interest of the public.

The allegations, founded on the actual experiences of residents, were,
that in the lower room of this building there was a perceptible and evil
psychic atmosphere, that raps were heard, that a luminous ray was seen
on the stair, and that a figure of an elderly man with an evil face had
several times been seen by a young woman who was employed professionally
on the premises.

It was to test this matter that a few of us assembled on the night of
May 28th, 1924, reaching the house at eleven o'clock. It was in the
theatre neighbourhood, and it was a curious change from the streets,
which were crowded with the returning pleasure-seekers, to the absolute
silence of the sinister old house which stands in a by-street.

Our party consisted of the young woman already quoted, whom I will call
the clairvoyante, the secretary of the business, a young Dutch artist
who claimed also to have psychic vision, Mr. Horace Leaf, who is a
strong medium, a Wimpole Street physician, the Rev. Vale Owen, and
myself.

As I had organized the expedition I took it on myself to guard the party
against practical jokers. All doors were locked and a piece of twine was
tied across the only staircase which led down to the lower room.

In this lower room we assembled, and at 11.30, having grouped ourselves
round a table so that we might be in a position to obtain table
messages, we turned out the lights. No sound at all reached us from the
street, and we sat quietly awaiting events, chatting occasionally among
ourselves, as experience has shown that sound vibrations are helpful in
psychic phenomena.

At first the darkness had seemed absolute. Gradually, however, we were
able to discern a dim light on the stair. It had a spectral effect, but
we were all in agreement that it was caused by a reflection from the
glass roof of the building, and that it was our own vision, growing
gradually used to the conditions, which had caused it to develop.

We were not aware of any particular psychic atmosphere. There were a few
distant taps, or cracks, but not more than is usual in an old house in
the silence of the night-time.

Our hands were all on the table, which occasionally thrilled and shook,
but gave no pronounced movement. We had begun to think that our results
might be entirely negative when the clairvoyante on my left whispered in
an agitated voice:

"I see him. He is there. He is standing on the stair looking down at
us."

"An elderly man, bearded, with rather slit eyes and a cunning
expression," was her description of the apparition. It was corroborated
by the Dutchman. I could see the faint luminosity which marked the line
of the stairs, but nothing more.

I do not, however, possess any psychic perceptions. The two seers
reported that the man had descended a little, and the clairvoyante
showed signs of considerable emotion.

We spoke, begging the unseen figure to approach us and to tell us how we
could assist it. A moment later the two seers agreed that it was no
longer on the stair.

In a minute the table began to move. It rose and fell in a steady
rhythm. My experience of table-sittings, which is a large one, has shown
me that undeveloped spirits always make violent and irregular--often
circular--movements, and that steady movement is a sign of a deliberate,
thoughtful control.

We were reassured, therefore, as regards the nature of our invisible
visitant. Having explained the code, the dialogue between us ran thus,
the answers coming clear-cut and swift.

"Are you a spirit?"--"Yes"

"A man?"--"Yes."

"Are you the spirit who has haunted this room?"--"Yes."

"Have you a reason for haunting it?"--"Yes."

"Is it money that troubles you?"--"No."

"Papers?"--"No."

"Remorse for deeds done?"--"Yes."

I then explained to the spirit the conditions under which he lived, and
the need to turn his thoughts away from worldly matters, which retarded
spiritual progress. I begged him to cease to annoy innocent people, and
I told him that he could only work out his own salvation by adapting his
mind to the new conditions, by being unselfish, and by striving for
higher things.

I said that we would pray for him, and Mr. Vale Owen, there and then,
offered up a beautiful prayer that this, our unhappy brother, might be
eased and helped. I then asked if he had heard and understood.

"Yes," was the reply.

Had it affected his attitude of mind? Some hesitation, and then "No."
Clearly he was a man of resolute character, not easily to be influenced.

I then said that we would take any message from him, and would like
first of all to know his earth name. With that object I gave him the
alphabet slowly, asking him to move the table sharply on the right
letter. The following letters came out: L-E-N-A-N.

"Is that right?" I asked.--"No," was the reply.

"Is L E N right?"--"Yes."

"Should the next letter be I?"--"Yes."

"Is Lenin the name?"--"Yes."

"Are you Lenin the Russian leader?"--"Yes."

All our company protested that this man's name was not in the minds of
anyone. Certainly it was, up to the last moment, unexpected by me.

"Could you spell something in Russian?" was the next question.--"Yes,"
was the answer.

Some lingual tests were then given, but I found it hard to follow them,
for spelling out with the alphabet is hard work even in one's own
tongue. The Dutch artist addressed the Intelligence in several
languages, and received correct "Yes" or "No" answers, which showed
comprehension.

"Have you a message for us?" I then asked.

"Yes," was the reply.

"Then I will give you the alphabet."

It was slow work, but this was the queer sentence which finally was
hammered out:

"Artists must rouse selfish nations."

I thought that by "artists" he was using a short cut to express the idea
of all men of intelligence and imagination.

We asked if this was the whole message, and were told that it was not.
As the alphabet procedure was so slow and clumsy, Mr. Horace Leaf
suggested that we should put the table aside, sit in a circle, and
invite the spirit to control one or other of us.

Both Mr. Leaf and the artist volunteered to be the subjects of the
experiment. We rearranged ourselves, therefore, and sang "Lead, kindly
light," for the sake of harmony and vibration.

Suddenly, in the pitch darkness, a strange voice broke in on a low,
level, clear tone. It was Mr. Leaf's own personal guide.

"There is a spirit here who wishes to speak. He is a strong spirit. No,
I would not say that he is an evil spirit. His aura is not evil. Yes, he
is foreign. I could not say more than that." The voice died away once
more.

Presently we heard gasps and short cries of pain. The spirit was
endeavouring to possess Mr. Leaf. It was clearly ignorant of psychic
things, and did not know how to set about it. What it really did was to
produce violent muscular contractions.

Mr. Owen on one side and the doctor on the other had all they could do
to hold his twisting, convulsed arms. Then, with a long sigh, he came
back to consciousness. The attempt had been a failure--and a painful
one.

We were at a loss now how to proceed, and the table was reintroduced
while the Dutchman took my place as questioner. "The spirit is
laughing," said the clairvoyante. She had on other occasions observed
this sneering laugh.

There is something slightly evidential here, for she had no recollection
of Lenin's face as it was in life, but it may be recalled that he had a
perpetual set contraction of his lips which gave the impression of a
broad smile, which was belied by his serious eyes.

From our new attempts we gathered that the rest of the message was an
expression of the desire that Russia and Britain should be friends, with
the warning that unless they could come to terms they would drift into
war, in which Russia would be very strong.

Such was the whole message. Immediately it was given the table turned
dead, and we could obtain no further sign of intelligence. The
clairvoyante reported the figure as sitting on the stairs for a time and
then passing on.

So ended our curious experience in the old house in mid-London. It
cannot be said that there was anything objective to which the senses of
all of us could testify. On the other hand, it is certain that we were
all in earnest, that there was no pressure on the table, that the
messages were clear, and that the whole course of events was consistent.

In answer to a question the Intelligence said that he had lived in
London and that he had known these premises, though he had never
actually lodged there. It may be added that it is a place frequented by
foreign artists, with Russians among them, and that Lenin during his
stay in London might well have been there.

Mr. Vale Owen's feeling was that the visitor took it for granted that we
were artists also, and that in his message "artists" is in the vocative.
If he were mistaken about our vocation it would prove that he was indeed
external to ourselves. It was an appeal to us to rouse nations out of
their selfishness--an appeal which could hardly come from an evil
spirit.

I am not sure of the doctor's conclusions, but I am convinced that
everyone else in the company was convinced that we were in touch with a
real entity, with a real message, and it is our hope that, the message
being delivered, the ghost of mid-London will be heard of no more.

Deception from the other side is an alternative and possible hypothesis,
but we were all impressed by the extreme earnestness of this
intelligence, and equally earnest were our own invocations to his
honesty.




XI

THE HALF-WAY HOUSE OF MATTER


In his recent work, _Life After Death_, the late Professor Hyslop, who
was formerly Professor of Logic at Columbia University and became the
chief American authority upon matters psychic, has a sentence which
sounds rather intolerant. It runs: "Any man who does not accept the
existence of discarnate spirits and the proof of it is either ignorant
or a moral coward." The words are literally true, and yet what removes
the sting is that there is really no great reproach up to now in being
ignorant. Much of the information is very recent and is contained in
works which have not been translated and which are expensive and
difficult to get. It is true that we have Crawford's splendid work at
Belfast and Crookes's researches of fifty years ago, but both of these
needed the corroboration and elucidation of the continental observers to
bring out their full meaning. I will try in this article to show any man
who is capable of adapting his mind to fresh facts that this tremendous
issue is no longer a fair subject for debate, but has been definitely
settled up to a certain point--a point which gives us a solid basis for
the researches of the future. All recent discoveries, whether they be of
aviation, wireless telegraphy, or other material novelties, are
insignificant beside a development which shows us a new form of matter,
with unheard-off properties, lying latent in all probability within each
of us. By a strange paradox the searchers after spirit have come to know
more about matter, and its extraordinary possibilities, than any
materialist has learned.

It should first be stated that the development of psychic phenomena was
a gradual one, and that it was some years after the Hydesville outbreak
before actual materializations of spirit were reported. During the
'sixties and 'seventies they became more common, lending themselves
greatly to fraud, as people had little critical knowledge as yet and
darkness was a physical necessity for their production. Apart from the
frauds, however, discriminating observers were aware that there was a
large residuum of cases which were undoubtedly genuine. In examining and
reporting these cases the witnesses averred that certain people, whom
they called "materializing mediums," had the strange physical gift that
they could put forth from their bodies a viscous, gelatinous substance
which appeared to differ from every known form of matter in that it
could solidify and be used for material purposes, and yet could be
re-absorbed, leaving absolutely no trace even upon the clothes which it
had traversed in leaving the body. This substance was actually touched
by some enterprising investigators, who reported that it was elastic and
appeared to be sensitive, as though it was really an organic extrusion
from the medium's body. These views were naturally much ridiculed by
scientific men, who disposed of them easily upon anatomical and also on
general physical grounds. Later investigation has, however, shown, as I
hope to demonstrate in this article, that in this as in others matters
the early Spiritualists were the pioneers of truth, and that they had
come upon the most singular manifestation of matter with which we have
any acquaintance--a form which might almost be called a half-way house
to Spirit.

Mme. Alexandre-Bisson, a French lady with a scientific bent, set herself
in the year 1909 to study this phenomenon, having as her subject a woman
named Eva, who had the power of forming this substance, which Charles
Richet, the great French physiologist, has named ectoplasm. She had as
collaborator a German doctor, Schrenck-Notzing, who afterwards collected
the notes of the sittings and had them published in French with Mme.
Bisson's name appended, under the title _Les Phénomènes dits de
Materialization_. A single sentence from the preface gives the gist of
the book. He 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 a more complete vindication
of those early Spiritualists who for two generations bore 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 other 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 methods of these wonderful experiments were as follows: All
conceivable precautions were taken against fraud. Eva, the medium,
seems, so far as one can trace her career, to have been no worse if she
was no better than her fellows. A fierce controversy had raged round a
previous series of experiments with her conducted in 1906 in Algiers,
but Charles Richet and other observers who were present nad found no
flaw in them. However, nothing was left to chance. The key of the séance
room was kept in Mme. Bisson's own pocket. Eva was compelled to change
into a special dress when in that room, undressing again when she
emerged. She submitted to physical examinations at the hands of doctors.
The illumination of the room was gradually increased until six strong,
red, electric lamps were at work--red being, as in photography, the one
bearable colour. Most important of all, a number of cameras, eight in
the last period, were directed upon the medium from all angles, and
these were operated by flashlight without warning, so that no motion
upon her part could be unobserved. Altogether two hundred and one
photographs were taken and reprinted in the book. The sittings lasted
with intervals for four years, and were witnessed not only by Mme.
Bisson and the German doctor, but by a number of scientific observers
whose names are given.

The results are, in my opinion, among the most notable of any
investigation which has ever been recorded. It was testified by
witnesses, and shown by the photographs, that there oozed from the
medium's mucous membranes, and occasionally from her 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, 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 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. It should be explained that the usual Spiritualistic habit of
putting the medium into a confined space formed by curtains was
followed. This is called the cabinet. She sat therein upon a chair, but
her hands always protruded, as an additional safeguard against fraud.
The object of the cabinet is that some condensation of material, which
we can best describe perhaps as a heavy vapour, is necessary before you
get the ectoplasm. The methods call for clearer scientific definition,
but in practice it is found that anything which will make an enclosed
space and conserve force is of great importance. Those curious, curving
draperies which are seen round spirit photographs are the means which
the control upon the other side adopts for this end, and I have often
observed that the spirit lights at a séance are hooded and flanked by
some fine, filmy material for the same reason.

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?" You must know, then, utterly incredible as
it may appear, that 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 may represent thought-forms from the brain of Eva taking visible
form, and some rough 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. Poincaré.
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, 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 word 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 connection 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 séances 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 are consistent with his
theories, that the only one which Mr. Joseph MacCabe, in his public
debate with me, could put forward was that it was a case of the
regurgitation of food! He seemed to me 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 ectoplasm.

These results, though checked in all possible ways, were none the less
so amazing that the inquirer had a right to suspend judgment until they
are confirmed. But this has 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
his book, _Materialization-phénomène._ Working with Stanislawa, the
Polish medium, and adopting the same strict methods as with Eva, he
produced exactly the same results. His hook 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 soda (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 from intelligence. One observation of the German scientist
is worth noting, as it suggests that great injustice may have been done
in the past. He is commenting upon a case where Eva was entirely covered
by a fantastic helmeted garment of ectoplasm and stood up from her
chair. He says:

"This case is interesting because it throws a light upon the state of
so-called transfiguration, which in the sense used by the Spiritualists
means that a medium plays the part of the spirit, since he is clad with
materialized stuff and seeks to imitate the character of the person
concerned. This transition stage is to be found in the career of nearly
all materialization mediums. Literature records a number of exposures of
such mediums acting the part of spirits, like the medium Bastian before
Grown Prince Rudolph, Crookes's medium Miss Cook, Mme. Esperance, and
others. In all these cases people seized the medium, but the stuff used
for the disguise vanished instantly and could not afterwards be traced."

Spiritualists have been slow in advancing this plea, lest it seem to
exonerate real fraud, but this conclusion from a man of science in an
independent position should be set on record lest indiscriminate
disgrace should fall upon the human hyena with his material muslin and
the true medium in trance clad in ectoplasmic drapery.

These separate results of the German and the French investigators would
seem final to any reasonable mind, but they are corroborated once again
by the shorter research of the late Dr. Geley, of Paris, who 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 in _Physiologie Supernormale_ 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 assures me, unknown to
him. They may be thought-forms from Eva, for in none of his recorded
results did he get an absolute living entity. 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
debatable ground. "They had great beauty and a remarkable appearance of
life," says Dr. Geley, though they came as miniatures as well as full
size.

Once again, then, Mme. Bisson is corroborated, and we have three
separate investigators and two separate mediums giving identical
results. Is it not a perfect insanity of incredulity to wave these
things aside because they will not fit into our present philosophies?
Surely it is evident that the time has come when the philosophies must
be expanded to receive them.

Now, having thoroughly got it into our heads that it is possible for a
person to evolve very singular stuff with a tendency to form human
frames which seem for a time to be tenanted by independent intelligence,
let us hark back and apply the knowledge to cases which were proved but
not understood before these wonderful experiments. At once the instance
of Crookes and Florrie Cook in 1873 springs to the front. In this
classic case, as is well known, the celebrated chemist for three years
experimented with this young medium, who put herself at his disposal in
order to clear herself of a charge of personation made against her. It
may well have been an example of transfiguration, as may some other
alleged cases which were said to have occurred in later years when she
was Mrs. Corner. Crookes exonerated her completely as the result of his
research. She was shut up in the dark time and again in his small study.
Then, after an hour or so, there would emerge into the adjoining
laboratory an entirely different woman, who moved, spoke, and gave her
name as Katie King, saying that she was a spirit who had lived in the
reign of Charles II, and was now permitted for a brief visit to inhabit
the body moulded from Miss Cook, who could be heard, and on certain
occasions seen, in the adjoining room. Naturally the obvious criticism
was made that this _was_ Miss Cook masquerading as a phantom, but the
first objection to such a theory was that it makes Professor Crookes out
to be either a lunatic or a deliberate liar. No one but a lunatic could
be so deceived, and no one but a liar could declare that the new-comer
was four and a half inches taller than the medium, had beautiful brown
hair, a long tress of which was traced up to the scalp and then severed
(Miss Cook was a brunette), and finally that the pulse rate of the two
women was entirely different. The whole course of Crookes's life proved
that he was neither liar nor lunatic, and so a reasonable man could only
believe that this prodigy corroborated by forty photographs was true,
but totally unrelated to any other facts of the universe.

But now the matter appears otherwise. Thanks to the recent researchers,
we are in a position to enter that darkened room and to reconstruct what
is happening to Florrie Cook. She lies with an occasional animal moan
upon the sofa. From her there drains the vital ectoplasm, forming a
cloud of viscous substance, a pattern, and finally a form. The form
disengages, the cord breaks, and Katie King, infusing her spirit into
this reconstruction of what was probably a simulacrum of her earthly
body, walks forth to spend her strange brief hour upon earth, conversing
with Professor Crookes, playing with his children, telling them stories
of older days, and finally, with the words, "My mission is finished,"
leaving them for ever. Her mission was to prove the survival of the
spirit to an incredulous generation, and it would indeed have been
accomplished had it depended upon the bravery of her witness, and not
upon the dense stupidity, prejudice and materialism of the scientific,
religious, and journalistic world in which he lived. Now after many days
we are slowly understanding the message.

So much for the Crookes episode, and the light which has now been thrown
upon it. But there is another famous series of investigations which are
also confirmed and illuminated by this new knowledge. These are the very
remarkable experiments made by Dr. Crawford, of Belfast, upon the medium
Miss Goligher, and described in two successive books, _The Reality of
Psychic Phenomena_ and _Experiments in Psychic Science_. Miss Goligher,
as her portrait indicates, is'a young lady of character and education,
sprung from a decent Belfast family--a fact which has not prevented our
opponents, in their desperate plight for an explanation, from
endeavouring without a shred of evidence to depict her as a systematic
fraud. It is a deplorable thing that people with this rare power, who
submit themselves unpaid for the research of scientific men, should be
assailed in this fashion, for it frightens others away, and makes the
whole investigation more difficult.

The main lesson, as it seems to me, to be drawn from the Crawford
experiments is that the ectoplasm is a substance which can be used for
many purposes by the force which lies behind it. In the former cases it
was used to build up moulds of the human figure. In the Belfast
experiments this same ectoplasm was used for the making of rods or
columns of power, which protruded from the body of the unconscious girl,
and produced results such as raps, or the movement of objects, at a
distance from her. Such a rod of power might be applied, with a sucker
attachment, under a table and lift it up, causing the weight of the
table to be added to that of the medium, exactly as if she had produced
the effect by a steel bar working as a cantilever and attached to her
body. Or it might be placed above the table and hold it down, a loss of
weight of thirty, forty, or even fifty pounds being registered upon the
weighing chair on which Miss Goligher sat. The medium became a mere
residuum, with a third and more of her own substance outside herself,
the difference showing itself rather in a refining of the whole body
than in a visible loss of substance. One can well believe that under
such abnormal circumstances any rough disturbance of the conditions
which caused the external third to fly back with unnatural speed to the
body would cause physical suffering. I have known a medium have a broad
weal from breast to armpit through the sudden elastic recoil of the
ectoplasm. Is it a wonder, then, that Spiritualists object to the type
of researcher who suddenly flashes a powerful electric torch in the
middle of a séance? When this matter is more clearly understood our
descendants will, I think, be appalled as well as amused by some of the
incidents which have been the outcome of our ignorance.

Dr. Crawford's experiments have been an explanation and a justification
of the ordinary phenomena of the dark séance. No philosophical
unprejudiced mind could have failed to see that results which are always
of the same type, whether the conditions be produced in Iceland or in
Java, must have fixed laws underlying them. Our critics have continually
bemused themselves by considering individual cases and failing to take a
broad view of the cumulative evidence. Dr. Crawford makes every detail
plain. He has even, by staining with moist carmine a cloth in front of
the medium, got crimson marks at a distance showing that the column of
force as it pushed forward was solid enough to carry some of the
staining agent with it. This is a particularly fine and convincing
experiment.

This is but a very brief indication of the general line taken by this
remarkable research. Once again a sceptic may say, But this is physical
power of some unknown type and not an intelligence apart from the
sitters. A fuller knowledge, however, shows that at every stage there
was a controlling intelligence, advising, directing, and showing its
wishes by a code of signals. Whose intelligence was it? "I am quite
satisfied in my own mind that the operators are discarnate human
beings," says Dr. Crawford in his very latest work, with all the results
before him. I do not see how anyone else is in a position to go behind
his own interpretation of the facts which he has himself made clear. He
appears to have begun his investigation in the agnostic attitude, which
is the ideal starting-point for the truly scientific mind, but he had
the courage and adaptability which made him gain positive results
instead of that endless round of experiments leading to no conclusion
which is typical of so many psychical researchers.

Such, then, is the story of Mme. Bisson, of Dr. Schrenck-Notzing, of Dr.
Geley, of Professor Crookes, and of Dr. Crawford. Can it be laughed
away? Is it not time, after seventy years of ever-varying proof, that
such an attitude be abandoned? But when it is abandoned, and when the
conclusions have been accepted, what an eternity of ridicule is waiting
for those solemn Panjandrums of Science who have for so long held up
their warning hands lest the public should believe the truth!

The story of the Italian Cardinals and Galileo will seem reasonable when
compared with the attitude of Victorian science to this invasion of the
beyond. Of the theologians I say nothing, for that is another aspect of
the matter, and they have only lived up to their own record; but
material science, which made mock of mesmerism until for very shame it
had to change its name to hypnotism before acknowledging it, has a sad
reckoning before it in the case of Spiritualism. The fear is lest the
reaction go too far, and in contemplating its colossal blunder we may
forget or underrate the thousand additions which it has made to the
comfort of the human race.

Be this as it may, who can read the facts here quoted and doubt that in
those mists and shadows which hang round this uncharted coast we have at
least one solid, clear-cut cape which juts out into the sunshine?
Behind, however, lies a hinterland of mystery which successive
generations of pioneers will be called upon to explore.

Since this essay was written fresh demonstrations and photographs of
ectoplasm have been taken from Mrs. Crandon (Margery) in Boston, from
the medium of Dr. Hamilton in Winnipeg, and from Mrs. Henderson of
London. If any person can examine all these photographs, taken from such
varied subjects, can observe their similarity, and can then doubt that a
new field for study has opened up for Science, such a person seems to me
to be incapable of receiving a new idea or of forming a sane judgment.




XII

A REMARKABLE MAN


On the early morning of April 9, 1855, the steam packet _Africa_, from
Boston, was drawing into Liverpool Docks. Captain Harrison, his
responsibility lifted from him, was standing on the bridge, the pilot
beside him, while below the passengers had assembled, some bustling
about with their smaller articles of luggage, while others lined the
decks and peered curiously at the shores of Old England. Most of them
showed natural exultation at the successful end of their voyage, but
among them was one who seemed to have no pleasant prospects in view.
Indeed, his appearance showed that his most probable destiny would make
him independent of any earthly career. This was a youth some two and
twenty years of age, tall, slim, with a marked elegance of bearing and a
fastidious neatness of dress, but with a worn, hectic look upon his very
expressive face, which told of the ravages of some wasting disease.
Blue-eyed, and with hair of a light auburn tint, he was of the type
which is peculiarly open to the attack of tubercle, and the extreme
emaciation of his frame showed how little power remained with him by
which he might resist it. An acute physician watching him closely would
probably have given him six months of life in our humid island. Yet this
young man was destined, as many of us think, to be the instrument in
making a greater change in English thought than any traveller for
centuries--a change only now slowly developing and destined, as I think,
to revolutionize for ever our views on the most vital of all subjects.
For this was Daniel Dunglas Home, a youth of Scottish birth and
extraction, sprung, it is said, from the noble Border family of that
name, and the possessor of strange personal powers which make him, with
the possible exception of Swedenborg, the most remarkable individual of
whom we have any record since the age of the Apostles, some of whose
gifts he appeared to inherit. A deep melancholy lay upon his sensitive
features as he viewed the land which contained no one whom he could call
friend. Tears welled from his eyes, for he was a man of swift emotions
and feminine susceptibilities. Then, with a sudden resolution, he
disengaged himself from the crowd, rushed down to the cabin, and fell
upon his knees in prayer. He has recorded how a spring of hope and
comfort bubbled up in his heart, so that no more joyous man set his foot
that day upon the Mersey quay, or one more ready to meet the fate which
lay before him.

But how strange a fate, and what a singular equipment with which to face
this new world of strangers! He had hardly a relation in the world. His
left lung was partly gone. His income was modest, though sufficient. He
had no trade or profession, his education having been interrupted by his
illness. In character he was shy, gentle, sentimental, artistic,
affectionate, and deeply religious. He had a strong tendency both to art
and the drama, so that his powers of sculpture were considerable, and as
a reciter he proved in later life that he had few living equals. But on
top of all this, and of an unflinching honesty which was so
uncompromising that he often offended his own allies, there was one gift
so remarkable that it threw everything else into insignificance. This
lay in certain powers, quite independent of his own volition, coming and
going with disconcerting suddenness, but proving to all who would
examine the proof that there was something in this man's atmosphere
which enabled forces outside himself and outside our ordinary
apprehension to manifest themselves upon this plane of matter. In other
words, he was a medium--the greatest on the physical side that the
modern world has ever seen.

A lesser man might have used his extraordinary powers to found some
special sect of which he would have been the undisputed high priest, or
to surround himself with a glamour of power and mystery. Certainly most
people in his position would have been tempted to use them for the
making of money. As to this latter point, let it be said at once that
never in the course of the thirty years of his strange ministry did he
touch one shilling as payment for his gifts. It is on sure record that
as much as two thousand pounds was offered to him by the Union Circle in
Paris in the year 1857 for a single séance, and that he, a poor man and
an invalid, utterly refused. "I have been sent on a mission," he said;
"that mission is to demonstrate immortality. I have never taken money
for it, and I never will." There were certain presents from Royalty
which cannot be refused without boorishness--rings, scarf pins, and the
like, tokens of friendship rather than recompense, for before his
premature death there were few monarchs in Europe with whom this shy
youth from the Liverpool landing-stage was not upon terms of
affectionate intimacy. Napoleon the Third provided for his only sister;
the Emperor of Russia sponsored his marriage. What novelist would dare
to invent such a career?

But there are more subtle temptations than those of wealth. Home's
uncompromising honesty was the best safeguard against those. Never for a
moment did he lose his humility and his sense of proportion. "I have
these powers," he would say: "I shall be happy up to the limit of my
strength to demonstrate them to you if you approach me as one gentleman
should approach another. I shall be glad if you can throw any further
light upon them. I will lend myself to any reasonable experiment. I have
no control over them--they use me but I do not use them. They desert me
for months and then come back in redoubled force. I am a passive
instrument--no more." Such was his unvarying attitude. He was always the
easy, amiable man of the world, with nothing either of the mantle of the
prophet or of the skullcap of the magician. Like most truly great men,
there was no touch of pose in his nature. An index of his fine feeling
is that when confirmation was needed for his results he would never
quote any names unless he was perfectly certain that the owners would
not suffer in any way through being associated with an unpopular cult.
Sometimes, even after they had freely given leave, he still withheld the
names, lest he should unwittingly injure a friend. When he published his
first series of _Incidents in My Life_ the _Saturday Review_ waxed very
sarcastic over the anonymous evidence of Countess O----, Count B----,
Count de K----, Princess de B----, and Mrs. S----, who were quoted as
having witnessed manifestations. In his second volume Home, having
assured himself of the concurrence of his friends, filled the blanks
with the names of the Countess Orsini, Count de Beaumont, Count de
Komar, Princess de Beaurean, and the well-known American hostess, Mrs.
Henry Senior. His Royal friends he never quoted at all, and yet it is
notorious that the Emperor Napoleon III, the Empress Eugenie, the Czar,
the Emperor William I of Germany, and the Kings of Bavaria and
Wurtemberg were all equally convinced by his extraordinary powers. Never
once was Home convicted of any deception either in word or in deed.

In these days, when the facts of psychic phenomena are familiar to all
save those who are wilfully ignorant, we can hardly realize the moral
courage which was needed by Home in putting forward his powers and
upholding them in public. To the average educated Briton in the material
Victorian era, a man who claimed to be able to produce results which
upset Newton's law of gravity, and which showed invisible mind acting
upon visible matter, was _prima facie_ a scoundrel and an impostor. The
view of Spiritualism pronounced by Vice-Chancellor Gifford at the
conclusion of the Home-Lyon trial was that of the class to which he
belonged.

He knew nothing of the matter, but took it for granted that anything
with such claims must be false. No doubt similar things were reported in
far-off lands and ancient books, but that they could occur in prosaic,
steady old England, the England of bank rates and free imports, was too
absurd for serious thought. It has been recorded that at this trial Lord
Gifford turned to Home's counsel and said, "Do I understand you to state
that your client claims that he has been levitated into the air?" The
counsel assented, on which the judge turned to the jury and made such a
movement as the high-priest may have made in ancient days when he rent
his garments as a protest against blasphemy. In 1867 there were few of
the jury who were sufficiently educated to check the judge's remarks,
and it is just in that particular that we have made some progress in the
fifty years between. Slow work; but Christianity took more than three
hundred years to come into its own.

Take this question of levitation as a test of Home's powers. It is
claimed that more than a hundred times in good light, before reputable
witnesses, he floated in the air. Consider the evidence. In 1857, in a
chateau near Bordeaux, he was lifted to the ceiling of a lofty room in
the presence of Mme. Ducos, widow of the Minister of Marine, and of the
Count and Countess de Beaumont. In 1860 Robert Bell wrote an article,
"Stranger than Fiction," in the _Cornhill_. "He rose from his chair,"
says Bell, "four or five feet from the ground.... We saw his figure pass
from one side of the window to the other, feet foremost, lying
horizontally in the air." Dr. Gully, of Malvern, a well-known medical
man, and Robert Chambers, the author and publisher, were the other
witnesses. Is it to be supposed that these men were lying confederates,
or that they could not tell if a man were floating in the air or
pretending to do so? In the same year Home was raised at Mrs. Milner
Gibson's house in the presence of Lord and Lady Clarence Paget--the
former passing his hands underneath him to assure himself of the fact. A
few months later, Mr. Wason, a Liverpool solicitor, with seven others
saw the same phenomenon. "Mr. Home," he says, "crossed the table over
the heads of the persons sitting around it." He added: "I reached his
hand seven feet from the floor, and moved along five or six paces as he
floated above me in the air." In 1861 Mrs. Parkes, of Cornwall Terrace,
Regent's Park, tells how she was present with Bulwer Lytton and Mr. Hall
when Home, in her own drawing-room, was raised till his hand was on the
top of the door, and then floated horizontally forward. In 1866 Mr. and
Mrs. Hall, Lady Dunsany and Mrs. Senior, in Mr. Hall's house, saw Home,
his face transfigured and shining, twice rise to the ceiling, leaving a
cross marked in pencil upon the second occasion, so as to assure the
witnesses that they were not victims of imagination. In 1868 Lord Adare,
Lord Lindsay, Captain Wynne, and Mr. Smith Barry saw Home levitate upon
many occasions. A very minute account has been left by the first three
witnesses of the occurrence of December 16 of this year, when, at Ashley
House, Home, in a state of trance, floated out of the bedroom and into
the sitting-room window, passing seventy feet above the street. After
his arrival in the sitting-room he went back into the bedroom with Lord
Adare, and upon the latter remarking that he could not understand how
Home could have floated through the window, which was only partially
raised, "he told me to stand a little distance off. He then went through
the open space head first quite rapidly, his body being nearly
horizontal and apparently rigid. He came in again feet foremost." Such
was the account given by Lords Adare and Lindsay. Upon its publication,
Dr. Carpenter, who earned an unenviable reputation by a perverse
opposition to every fact which bore upon this question, wrote exultantly
to point out that there had been a third witness who had not been heard
from, assuming, without the least justification, that Captain Wynne's
evidence would be contradictory. He went the length of saying, "A single
honest sceptic declares that Mr. Home was sitting in his chair all the
time," a statement which can only be described as false. Captain Wynne
at once wrote corroborating the others, and adding, "If you are not to
believe the corroborative evidence of _three_ unimpeached witnesses,
there would be an end to all justice and courts of law." So many are the
other instances of Home's levitations that a long article might easily
be written upon this single phase of his mediumship. Professor Crookes
was again and again a witness to the phenomenon, and refers to fifty
instances which had come within his knowledge. But is there any
fair-minded person, who has read the little that I have recorded above,
who will not say with Professor Challis, "Either the facts must be
admitted or the possibility of certifying facts by human testimony must
be given up"?

But now a word of explanation. "Are we then back in the age of
miracles?" cries the reader. There is no miracle--nothing on this plane
is supernatural. What we see now and what we have read of in ages past
are but the operation of law which has not yet been studied and defined.
Already we realize something of its possibilities and of its
limitations, which are as exact in their way as those of any purely
physical power. We must hold the balance between those who would believe
nothing and those who would believe too much. Gradually the mists will
clear and we will chart the shadowy coast. When the needle first sprang
up at the magnet it was not an infraction of the laws of gravity. It was
that there had been the local intervention of another, stronger force.
Such is the case, also, when psychic powers act upon the plane of
matter. Had Home's faith in this power faltered, or had his circle been
unduly disturbed, he would have fallen. When Peter lost faith he sank
into the waves. Across the centuries the same cause still produced the
same effect. Spiritual power is ever with us if we do not avert our
faces, and nothing has been vouchsafed to Judea which is withheld from
England.

It is in this respect, as a confirmation of the power of the unseen, and
as a final answer to materialism as we now understand it, that Home's
public career is of such supreme importance. He was an affirmative
witness of the truth of those so-called "miracles," which have been the
stumbling-block for so many earnest minds, and are now destined to be
the strong, solid proof of the accuracy of the original narrative.
Millions of doubting souls in the agony of spiritual conflict had cried
out for definite proof that all was not empty space around us, that
there were powers beyond our grasp, that the ego was not a mere
secretion of nervous tissue, and that the dead did really carry on this
personal, unbroken existence. All this was proved by this greatest of
modern missionaries to anyone who could observe and reason. It is easy
to poke superficial fun at rising tables and quivering walls, but they
were the nearest and most natural objects which could record in material
terms that power which was beyond our human ken. A mind which would be
unmoved by an inspired sentence was struck into humility and into new
paths of research in the presence of even the most homely of these
inexplicable phenomena. It is easy to call them puerile, but they
effected the purpose for which they were sent by shaking to its
foundations the complaisance of those material men of science who were
brought into actual contact with them. They are to be regarded not as
ends in themselves, but as the elementary means by which the mind should
be diverted into new channels of thought. And those channels of thought
led straight to the recognition of the survival of the spirit. "You have
conveyed incalculable joy and comfort to the hearts of many people,"
said Bishop Clark of Rhode Island. "You have made dwelling-places light
that were dark before." "Mademoiselle," said Home to the lady who was to
be his wife, "I have a mission entrusted to me; it is a great and a holy
one." The famous Dr. Elliotson, immortalized by Thackeray under the name
of Dr. Goodenough, was one of the leaders of British materialism. He met
Home, saw his powers, and was able soon to say that he had lived all his
life in darkness and had thought, there was nothing in existence but the
material; but he now had a firm hope which he trusted he would hold
while on earth. Innumerable instances could be quoted of the spiritual
value of his work, but it has never been better summed up than in a
paragraph from Mrs. Webster, of Florence, who saw much of his ministry.
"He is the most marvellous missionary of modern times, in the greatest
of all causes, and the good that he has done cannot be reckoned. Where
Mr. Home passes he bestows around him the greatest of all blessings--the
certainty of a future life." Now that the details of his career can be
read it is to the whole wide world that he brings this most vital of all
messages.

It is curious to see how his message affected those of his own
generation. Reading the account of his life written by his widow--a most
convincing document, since she, of all living mortals, must have known
the real man--it would appear that his most utterly whole-hearted
support and appreciation came from those aristocrats of France and
Russia with whom he was brought into contact. The warm glow of personal
admiration and even reverence in their letters is such as can hardly be
matched in any biography. In England he had a close circle of ardent
supporters, a few of the upper classes, with the Halls, the Howitts,
Robert Chambers, Mrs. Milner Gibson, Professor Crookes, and others. But
there was a sad lack of courage among those who admitted the facts in
private and stood aloof in public. Lord Brougham and Bulwer Lytton were
of the type of Nicodemus, the novelist being the worst offender. The
"Intelligentsia" on the whole came badly out of the matter, and many an
honoured name suffers in the story. Faraday and Tyndall were
fantastically unscientific in their methods of prejudging a question
first, and offering to examine it afterwards on the condition that their
prejudgment was accepted. Sir David Brewster said some honest things,
and then, in a panic, denied that he had said them, forgetting that the
evidence was on actual record. Browning wrote a long poem--if such
doggerel can be called poetry--to describe an exposure which had never
taken place. Carpenter earned an unenviable notoriety as an unscrupulous
opponent, while proclaiming some strange spiritualistic thesis of his
own. The secretaries of the Royal Society refused to take a cab drive in
order to see Crookes' demonstration of the physical phenomena, while
they pronounced roundly against them. Lord Gifford inveighed from the
Bench against a subject the first elements of which he did not
understand. As to the clergy, such an order might not have existed
during the thirty years that this, the most marvellous spiritual
outpouring of many centuries, was before the public. I cannot recall the
name of one British clergyman who showed any intelligent interest, and
when in 1872 a full account of the St. Petersburg séances began to
appear in _The Times_, it was cut short, according to Mr. H. T.
Humphreys, "on account of strong remonstrances to Mr. Delane, the
editor, by certain of the higher clergy of the Church of England." Such
was the contribution of our official spiritual guides. Dr. Elliotson,
the Rationalist, was far more alive than they. The rather bitter comment
of Mrs. Home is: "The verdict of his own generation was that of the
blind and deaf upon the man who could hear and see."

Home's charity was among his more beautiful characteristics. Like all
true charity, it was secret, and only comes out indirectly and by
chance. One of his numerous traducers declared that he had allowed a
bill for fifty pounds to be sent in to his friend, Mr. Rhymer. In
self-defence it came out that it was not a bill, but a cheque most
generously sent by Home to help this friend in a crisis. Considering his
constant poverty, fifty pounds probably represented a good part of his
bank balance. His widow dwells with pardonable pride upon the many
evidences found in his letters after his death. "Now it is an unknown
artist for whose brush Home's generous efforts had found employment; now
a distressed worker writes of his sick wife's life saved by comforts
that Home provided; now a mother thanks him for a start in life for her
son. How much time and thought he devoted to helping others when the
circumstances of his own life would have led most men to think only of
their own needs and cares." "Send me a word from the heart that has
known so often how to cheer a friend!" cries one of his _protégés_.
"Shall I ever prove worthy of all the good you have done me?" says
another letter. We find him roaming the battlefields round Paris, often
under fire, with his pockets full of cigars for the wounded, A German
officer writes affectionately to remind him how he saved him from
bleeding to death, and carried him on his own weak back out of the place
of danger. Truly Mrs. Browning was a better judge of character than her
spouse, and Sir Galahad a better name than Sludge.

There are few of the varied gifts which we call "mediumistic," and St.
Paul "of the spirit," which Home did not possess--indeed, the
characteristic of his psychic power was its unusual versatility. We
speak usually of a direct voice medium, of a trance speaker, of a
clairvoyant, or of a physical medium, but Home was all four. To take St.
Paul's gifts in their order he had "the word of wisdom and the word of
knowledge" when in his trance utterances he described the life beyond.
"The gift of healing" was with him, and the account of his curing young
De Cardonne of total deafness or of Mme. de Lakine of paralysis is
historical. "The operation of great works" was shown in his phenomena
when the very building would shake from an unknown power. "Discerning of
spirits" was continually with him. There is no note, however, of
prophecy or of the gift of tongues. So far as can be traced, he had
little experience of the powers of other mediums, and was not immune
from that psychic jealousy which is a common trait of these sensitives.
Mrs. Jencken, formerly Miss Kate Fox, was the only other medium with
whom he was upon terms of friendship. He bitterly resented any form of
deception, and carried this excellent trait rather too far by looking
with eyes of suspicion upon all forms of manifestation which did not
exactly correspond with his own. This opinion, expressed in an
uncompromising manner in his last book, _Lights and Shadows of
Spiritualism_, gave natural offence to other mediums who claimed to be
as honest as himself. A wider acquaintance with phenomena would have
made him more charitable. Thus he protested strongly against any séance
being held in the dark, but this is certainly a counsel of perfection,
for experiments upon the ectoplasm, which is the physical basis of all
materializations, show that it is fatally affected by light unless it is
tinted red. Home had no large experience of complete materializations,
such as those obtained in those days by Miss Florrie Cook or Mme.
d'Esperance or in our own time by Mme. Bisson's medium, and therefore he
could dispense with complete darkness in his own ministry. Thus his
opinion was unjust to others. Again, Home declared roundly that matter
could not pass through matter, because his own phenomena did not take
that form, and yet the evidence that matter can in certain cases be
passed through matter seems to be overwhelming. Even birds of rare
varieties have been brought into séance rooms under circumstances which
seem to preclude fraud, and the experiments of passing wood through wood
as shown before Zöllner and the other Leipzig professors were quite
final, as set forth in the famous physicist's account, in
_Transcendental Physics_ of his experiences with Slade. Thus it may
count as a small flaw in Home's character that he decried and doubted
the powers which he did not himself happen to possess.

Some also might count it as a failing that he carried his message rather
to the leaders of society and of life than to the vast toiling masses.
It is probable that Home had, in fact, the weakness as well as the
graces of the artistic nature, and that he was most at ease and happiest
in an atmosphere of elegance and refinement, with a personal repulsion
from all that was sordid and ill-favoured. If there were no other
reason, the precarious state of his health unfitted him for any sterner
mission, and he was driven by repeated hæmorrhages to seek the pleasant
and refined life of Italy, Switzerland, and the Riviera. But for the
prosecution of his mission, as apart from personal self-sacrifice, there
can be no doubt that his message carried to the laboratory of a Crookes
or to the court of a Napoleon was more useful than if it were laid
before the crowd. The assent of science and of character was needed
before the public could gain assurance that such things were true. If it
was not fully gained, the fault lies assuredly with the hide bound men
of science and thinkers of the day, and by no means with Home, who
played his part of actual demonstration to perfection, leaving it to
other and less gifted men to analyse and to make public that which he
had shown them. He did not profess to be a man of science, but he was
the raw material of science, willing and anxious that others should
learn from him all that he could convey to the world, so that science
should itself testify to religion, while religion should be buttressed
upon science. When Home's message has been fully learned, an unbelieving
man will not stand convicted of impiety, but of ignorance.

There was something pathetic in Home's efforts to find some creed in
which he could satisfy his own gregarious instinct--for he had no claims
to be a strong-minded individualist--and at the same time find a niche
into which he could fit his own precious packet of assured truth. His
pilgrimage vindicates the assertion of some Spiritualists that a man may
belong to any creed and carry with him the spiritual knowledge, but it
also bears out those who reply that perfect harmony with that spiritual
knowledge can only be found, as matters now stand, in a special
Spiritualist community. Alas, that it should be so! For it is too big a
thing to sink into a sect, however great that sect might become. Home
began in his youth as a Wesleyan, but soon left them for the more
liberal atmosphere of Congregationalism. In Italy the artistic
atmosphere of the Roman Catholic Church, and possibly its record of so
many phenomena, akin to his own, caused him to become a convert with an
intention of joining a monastic order--an intention which his common
sense caused him to abandon. The change of religion was at a period when
his psychic powers had deserted him for a year, and his confessor
assured him that as they were of evil origin they would certainly never
be heard of again now that he was a son of the true Church. None the
less, on the very day that the year expired they came back in renewed
strength. From that time Home seems to have been only nominally a
Catholic, if at all, and after his second marriage--both his marriages
were to Russian ladies--he was strongly drawn towards the Greek Church,
and it was under their ritual that he was at last laid to rest at St.
Germain in 1886. "To another discerning of spirits" (i Cor. xii. 10) is
the short inscription upon that grave, of which the world has not yet
heard the last.


If proof were needed of the blamelessness of Home's life, it could not
be better shown than by the fact that his numerous enemies, spying ever
for some opening to attack, could get nothing in his whole career upon
which to comment save the wholly innocent affair which is known as the
Home-Lyon case. Any impartial judge, reading the depositions in this
case--they are to be found verbatim in the second series of _Incidents
from My Life_--would agree that it is not blame but commiseration which
was owing to Home. One could desire no higher proof of the nobility of
his character than his dealings with this unpleasant, freakish woman,
who first insisted upon settling a large sum of money upon him, and
then, her whim having changed, and her expectations of an immediate
introduction into high society being disappointed, stuck at nothing in
order to get it back again.

Had she merely asked for it back, there is little doubt that Home's
delicate feelings would have led him to return it, even though he had
been put to much trouble and expense over the matter, which had entailed
a change of his name to Home-Lyon, to meet the woman's desire that he
should be her adopted son. Her request, however, was so framed that he
could not honourably agree to it, as it would have implied an admission
that he had done wrong in accepting the gift. If one consults the
original letters--which few of those who comment upon the case seem to
have done--you find that Home, S.C. Hall as his representative, and Mr.
Wilkinson as his solicitor, implored the woman to moderate the
unreasonable benevolence which was to change so rapidly into even more
unreasonable malevolence. She was absolutely determined that Home should
have the money and be her heir. A less mercenary man never lived, and he
begged her again and again to think of her relatives, to which she
answered that the money was her own to do what she pleased with, and
that no relatives were dependent upon it. From the time that he accepted
the new situation he acted and wrote as a dutiful son, and it is not
uncharitable to suppose that this entirely filial attitude may not have
been that which this elderly lady had planned out in her scheming brain.
At any rate, she soon tired of her fad and reclaimed her money upon the
excuse--a monstrous one to anyone who will read the letters and consider
the dates--that spirit messages received through Home had caused her to
take the action she had done. The case was tried in the Court of
Chancery, and the judge alluded to Mrs. Lyon's "innumerable
misstatements on many important particulars--misstatements upon oath so
perversely untrue that they have embarrassed the Court to a great degree
and quite discredited the plaintiff's testimony." In spite of this
caustic comment, and in spite also of elementary justice, the verdict
was against Home on the general ground that British law put the burden
of disproof upon the defendant in such a case, and complete disproof is
impossible when assertion is met by counter-assertion. Even Home's worst
enemies were forced to admit that the fact that he had retained the
money in England and had not lodged it where it would have been beyond
recovery, proved his honest intentions in this the most unfortunate
episode of his life. Such, within the compass of a short sketch, was the
strange fate of the young man whom we saw land upon the Liverpool pier.
He was at that time twenty-two. He died in his fifty-third year. In
those thirty years he threw out seed with either hand. Much fell among
stones; much was lost on the wayside; but much found a true
resting-place, and has put forth a harvest the end of which no living
man can see.




XIII

THE RIFT IN THE VEIL


Whether the reader belongs to that majority who are incredulous upon the
subject, or to that increasing minority who accept the evidence, he can
hardly fail to be interested in the circumstances in which the whole
strange psychic movement arose. The student is aware that there was a
long preparatory stage which began with Swedenborg and Mesmer, and ended
with Andrew Jackson Davis, called the Poughkeepsie seer, who at an early
age, without education, wrote or dictated one of the deepest, most
comprehensive explanations of the universe, ever framed. Passing these
we will begin the narrative with the happenings of Hydesville, and give
some account of these less-known developments which followed the new
movement, sometimes to its great glory and sometimes to its temporary
degradation.

The hamlet of Hydesville, near Rochester, in the State of New York,
consisted of a cluster of wooden houses of a very humble type. In one of
these, a residence which would hardly pass the requirements of a British
district council surveyor, there began this development which will, in
my opinion, prove to be far the most important thing which America has
given to the common weal of the world. It was inhabited by a decent
farmer family of the name of Fox--a name which, by a curious
coincidence, has been already registered in religious history as that of
the evangel of the Quakers. Beside the father and mother, who were
Methodists in religion, there were two children resident in the house at
the time when the manifestations reached such a point of intensity that
they attracted general attention. These children were the daughters,
Margaret, aged fifteen, and Kate, aged twelve.

About the beginning of 1848 many loud noises like sudden blows had been
heard both by day and by night in the house, accompanied by a vibration
of the furniture. Rats, mice and the hammering of a neighbouring cobbler
were all put forward as explanations and each proved equally inadequate.
As the spring advanced these sounds became more insistent and more
varied in character, and occasionally were accompanied by actual motions
of the furniture. It was soon observed that daylight was inimical to the
phenomena, and the idea of trickery was thereby suggested, but careful
watch by Mr. Fox failed to detect anything of the kind. Finally, on
March 31st, there was a very loud and continued outbreak of inexplicable
sounds. It was upon this evening that one of the great points in the
history of psychic evolution was reached, for it was then that young
Kate Fox, having lost all sense of fear in the presence of that which
use had made familiar, challenged the unseen power to repeat the snaps
of her fingers. This challenge, though given in flippant words, was
instantly accepted. Each snap was answered by a knock. However humble
the operator at either end, the spiritual telegraph was at last working,
and it was left to the patience and moral earnestness of the human race
to determine how high might be the uses to which it was put in the
future. Unexplained forces were many in the world, but here was a force
claiming to have independent intelligence at the back of it. That was
the supreme sign of a new departure. "Fancy a new spiritual departure in
a frame-house in an American hamlet!" Yes, and fancy a previous one in a
camel-driver's tent in Arabia, and before that the greatest of all in a
carpenter's shop in Judea! _Exaltavit humiles!_ Mrs. Fox was amazed at
this development, and at the further discovery that the force could
apparently see as well as hear, for when Kate snapped her fingers
without sound the rap still responded. The mother asked a series of
questions, the answers to which, given in numerals, showed a greater
knowledge of her own affairs than she herself possessed, for the raps
insisted that she had had seven children, whereas she protested that she
had six, until one who had died early came back to her mind. A
neighbour, Mrs. Redfield, was called in, and her amusement was changed
to wonder, and finally to awe, as she also listened to the correct
answers to intimate questions.

The neighbours came flocking in as some rumours of these wonders got
about, and the two children were carried off by one of them, while Mrs.
Fox went to spend the night at Mrs. Redfield's. In their absence the
phenomena went on exactly the same as before, which disposes once for
all of those theories of cracking toes and dislocating knees which have
been so frequently put forward by people unaware of the true facts. The
happenings of the night were at once recorded and were printed in
pamphlet form within three weeks of the event, so that it would be
difficult to get more prompt and direct testimony, which was subscribed
to by a number of disinterested witnesses.

Having formed a sort of informal committee of investigation, the crowd,
in shrewd Yankee fashion, spent a large part of the night of March 3ist
in playing question and answer with the unseen intelligence. According
to its own account he was a spirit, he had been injured in that house,
he rapped out the name of a former occupant who had injured him, he was
thirty-one years old at the time of death, which was five years before,
he had been murdered for money, he had been buried in the cellar ten
feet deep. On descending to the cellar dull, heavy thumps, coming
apparently from under the earth, broke out when the investigator stood
at the centre. There was no sound at other times. That, then, was the
place of burial! It was a neighbour named Duesler who, first of all
modern men, called over the alphabet and got answers by raps on the
letters. In this way the name of the dead man was obtained--Charles B.
Rosma. The idea of connected messages was not developed until four
months later, when Isaac Post, a Quaker of Rochester, was the first
pioneer. Such, in very brief outline, were the events of March 3ist,
which were continued and confirmed upon the succeeding night, when not
less than a couple of hundred people had assembled round the house. Upon
April 2nd, it was observed that the raps came in the day as well as at
night.

Excavations were begun in the cellar, but the spring thaw and a swollen
river had flooded the land, and water was struck a foot or so below the
surface. When the summer came, a hole was dug by David Fox, the young
son, who had come from a distant farm after the disturbances broke out.
He was aided by Henry Bush, Lyman Granger of Rochester, and others. His
account of what occurred was published in Capron's _Modern
Spiritualism_, 1855, and was confirmed personally in conversation with
the Hon. Dale Owen, so that the evidence is very clear and direct. They
passed a plank five feet down, and below it came on some crockery,
charcoal, and quicklime, under which was some human hair, several bones,
and part of a human skull. Clearer evidence of murder and its
concealment could hardly be asked for. These were corroborative details,
for a young girl, Lucretia Pulver, came forward with an account of how a
pedlar had called there while she was acting as "help" to Mr. and Mrs.
B----. He had remained for the night, while she, the girl, had been sent
away, and was kept away three days. The pedlar had promised to call at
her father's house, but he never came. On her return she had heard for
the first time the rappings and noises in the house. She observed that
the centre of the cellar was soft, which was explained by Mrs. B---- as
being due to rat-holes. Afterwards, Mr. B---- carried down some earth
and was at work for some time. Shortly afterwards the B----s left the
house and the neighbourhood, but their successors, the Weekmans, were
conscious of the same noises which finally culminated under the Fox
tenancy. As might be expected, B----, who was a blacksmith by trade,
vigorously denied this accusation and produced many certificates as a
proof that he was a man of good character. The spiritual story was also
weakened by the fact that the man Rosma could not be traced in Orange
Country, New York, whence he professed to have come, and a search for
five alleged children was equally fruitless. We know now how difficult
it is to get a name through correctly, and I think it very likely that
"Ross" may have been the real surname. His non-recognition is less
remarkable as he was by profession a wanderer. It must be admitted that
the case against B---- needed further corroboration before it could be
called substantial. Two great undoubted results did emerge, however,
which have never been shaken, that the origin of the raps could by no
means be explained, and that they did convey the unknown fact that a
human body had been buried in the cellar. This is the vital core of the
whole matter, for it touched that which is of eternal interest to all of
us, while the question of individual guilt is temporary and incidental.

The danger of blindly following alleged spirit guidance was clearly
shown some months later in the neighbouring town of Rochester, where a
man disappeared under suspicious circumstances. An enthusiastic
Spiritualist had messages by raps which announced a murder. The canal
was dragged, and the wife of the missing man was actually ordered to
enter the canal, which nearly cost her her life. Some months later the
absentee returned, having fled to Canada to avoid a writ for debt. This,
as may well be imagined, was a blow to the young cult. The public did
not then understand what even now is so little understood, that death
causes no change in the human spirit, that mischievous and humorous
entities abound, and that the inquirer must use his own instincts and
his own common sense at every turn. "Try the spirits that ye may know
them." In the same year, in the same district, the truth of this new
philosophy upon the one side, and its limitations and dangers on the
other, were most clearly set forth. These dangers are with us still. The
silly man, the arrogant inflated man, the cocksure man, is always a safe
butt. Every observer has had some trick played upon him. I have myself
had my faith sorely shaken by deception until some compensating proof
has come along to assure me that it was only a lesson which I had
received, and that it was no more fiendish or even remarkable that
disembodied intelligences should be hoaxers, than that the same
intelligence inside a human body should find amusement in the same
foolish way.

The first effect of the new dispensation was to bring utter misery and
ruin to the Fox family. Within their house there were constant
disturbances from the insistent manifestations, while from without they
were plagued by sightseers and wonder-mongers, many of whom looked upon
the unfortunate people as being concerned in something diabolical. Kate
was sent away to Rochester to join her married sister, Mrs. Fish, but
her absence appears to have had no effect upon the sounds which
continued to disturb the family, who at last abandoned Hydesville
altogether, hoping that the manifestations would remain behind. It
speedily became evident, however, that the unseen powers were no longer
attached to the place, but that they specially associated themselves
with the two girls, for they were as insistent in the town as in the
hamlet. In vain the family prayed with their Methodist friends that
relief should come. In vain also were the exorcisms of the ministers of
various creeds. Beyond joining with loud raps in the "Amens," the unseen
presences took no notice of these religious exercises.

The whole course of the movement had now widened and taken a more
important turn. It was no longer a murdered man calling for justice. The
pedlar seemed to have been used as a pioneer, and now that he had found
the opening and the method, a myriad of Intelligences were swarming at
his back. Isaac Post had instituted the method of spelling by raps, and
messages were pouring through. According to these the whole system had
been devised by the contrivance of a band of thinkers and inventors upon
the spirit plane, foremost among whom was Benjamin Franklin, whose eager
mind and electrical knowledge in earth life might well qualify him for
such a venture. Whether this claim was true or not, it is a fact that
Rosma dropped out of the picture at this stage, and that the intelligent
knockings purported to be from the deceased friends of those inquirers
who were prepared to take a serious interest in the matter, and to
gather in reverent mood to receive the messages. That they still lived
and still loved was the constant message from the beyond, accompanied by
many material tests, which confirmed the wavering faith of the new
adherents of the movement. When asked for their methods of working and
the laws which governed them, the answers were from the beginning
exactly what they are now--that it was a matter concerned with human and
spirit magnetism, that some who were richly endowed with this physical
property were mediums, that this endowment was not necessarily allied to
morality or intelligence, and that the condition of harmony was
especially necessary to secure good results. In eighty years we have
learned very little more--and after all these years the primary law of
harmony is invariably broken at the so-called test séances, the members
of which imagine that they have disproved the philosophy when they
obtain no results, whereas they have actually confirmed it.

In one of the early communications the Fox sisters were assured that
"these manifestations would go all over the world." This prophecy was
soon in a fair way to be fulfilled, for these new powers, and further
developments of them which included the discerning and hearing of
spirits and the movement of objects without contact, appeared in many
circles which were independent of the Fox family. In an incredibly short
space of time the movement, with many eccentricities and phases of
fanaticism, had swept over the Northern and Eastern States of the Union,
always retaining that solid core of actual tangible fact, which might be
occasionally simulated by impostors but always reasserted itself to the
serious investigator who could shake himself free from preconceived
prejudice. Disregarding for the moment these wider developments, let us
continue the story of the original circles at Rochester.

The spirit messages had urged upon the small band of pioneers a public
demonstration of their powers in an open meeting at Rochester--a
proposition which was naturally appalling to two shy country girls and
to their friends. So incensed were the discarnate Guides by the
opposition of their earthly agents, that they threatened to suspend the
whole movement for a generation, and did actually desert them completely
for some weeks. At the end of that time communication was restored, and
the believers, chastened by this interval of thought, put themselves
unreservedly into the hands of the outside forces, promising that they
would dare all in the cause. It was no light matter. A few of the
clergy, notably a Methodist named the Rev. A.H. Jervis, rallied to their
aid, but the majority thundered from their pulpits against them, and the
mob eagerly joined in the cowardly sport of heretic-baiting. On November
14, 1849, the Spiritualists held their first meeting at the Corinthian
Hall, the largest available in Rochester. The audience, to its credit,
listened with attention to the exposition of facts from Mr. Capron of
Auburn, the principal speaker. A committee of five representative
citizens was then selected to examine into the matter and to report upon
the following evening, when the meeting would reassemble. So certain was
it that this report would be unfavourable that the _Rochester Democrat_
is stated to have had its leading article prepared, with the heading:
"Entire Exposure of the Rapping Humbug." The result however, caused the
editor to hold his hand. The committee reported that the raps were
undoubted facts, though the information was not invariably correct. They
added that these raps came on walls and doors some distance from the
girls, causing a sensible vibration. "They entirely failed to find any
means by which it could be done."

This report was received with disapproval by the audience and a second
committee from among the dissentients was formed. This investigation was
conducted in the office of a lawyer. Kate, for some reason, was away,
and only Mrs. Fish and Margaret present. None the less, the sounds
continued as before, though a Dr. Langworthy was introduced to test the
possibility of ventriloquism. The final report was that "the sounds were
heard, and their thorough investigation had conclusively shown them to
be produced neither by machinery nor ventriloquism, though what the
agent is they were unable to determine."

Again the audience turned down the report of their own committee, and
again a deputation was chosen from among the most extreme opponents, one
of whom vowed that if he could not find out the trick he would throw
himself over the Falls of the Genessee River. Their examination was
thorough to the length of brutality, and a committee of ladies were
associated with it. The latter stripped the frightened girls, who wept
bitterly under their afflictions. Their dresses were then tied tightly
round their ankles, and they were placed upon glass and other
insulators. The committee was forced to report "when they were standing
on pillows with a handkerchief tied round the bottom of their dresses,
tight to the ankles, we all heard the rapping on the wall and floor
distinctly." The committee further testified that their questions, some
of them mental, had been answered correctly. So long as the public
looked upon the movement as a sort of joke it was prepared to be
tolerantly amused, but when these successive reports put the matter in a
more serious light, a wave of blackguardism swept over the town, which
reached such a pitch that Mr. Willetts, a gallant Quaker, was compelled
at the fourth public meeting to declare that "the mob of ruffians who
designed to lynch the girls should do so, if they attempted it, over his
dead body." There was a disgraceful riot, the young women were smuggled
out by a back door, and reason and justice were for the moment clouded
over by force and folly. Then, as now, the minds of the average men of
the world were so crammed with the things that do not matter that they
had no space for the things that do matter. But Fate is never in a hurry
and the movement went on. Many accepted the findings of the successive
committees as being final, and indeed it is difficult to see how the
alleged facts could have been more severely tested. At the same time
this strong new fermenting wine began to burst some of the old bottles
into which it was poured, to the excusable disgust of the public.

The many discreet, serious, and religious circles were for a season
almost obscured by swollen-headed ranters, who imagined themselves to be
in touch with every high entity from the Apostles downwards, some even
claiming the direct afflatus of the Holy Ghost and emitting messages
which were only saved from being blasphemous by their crudity and
absurdity. One community of these fanatics, who called themselves the
Apostolic Circle of Mountain Cove, particularly distinguished themselves
by their extreme claims and furnished good material for the enemies of
the new dispensation. The great body of Spiritualists turned away in
disapproval from such exaggerations, but were unable to prevent them.
Many well-attested supernormal phenomena came to support the failing
spirits of those who were distressed by the excesses of the fanatics. On
one occasion, which is particularly convincing and well-reported, two
bodies of investigators in separate rooms received the same messages
simultaneously from some central force which called itself Benjamin
Franklin. This double message was: "There will be great changes in the
nineteenth century. Things that now look dark will be made plain. The
world will be enlightened." It must be admitted that the prophecy has up
to now been only partially fulfilled--and it may at the same time be
conceded that, with some startling exceptions, the forecasts of the
Spirit people have not been remarkable for accuracy, especially where
the element of time is concerned.

The question has often been asked: "What was the purpose of so strange a
movement at this particular time, granting that it is all that it claims
to be?" Governor Tallmadge, a United States Senator of repute, was one
of the early converts to the new cult, and he has left it upon record
that he asked this question upon two separate occasions in two different
years from different mediums. The answer in each case was almost
identical. The first said: "It is to draw mankind together in harmony
and to convince sceptics of the immortality of the soul." The second
said: "To unite mankind and to convince sceptics of the immortality of
the soul." Surely this is no ignoble ambition and does not justify those
narrow and bitter attacks from ministers and the less progressive of
their flocks from which Spiritualists have up to the present day had to
suffer. The first half of the definition is, I think, particularly
important, for I believe that one of the ultimate results of this
movement will be to unite Christianity upon a common basis so strong
and, indeed, self-sufficient that the quibbles which separate the
Churches of to-day will be seen in their true proportion and will be
swept away or disregarded. One could even hope that such a movement
might spread beyond the bounds of Christianity and throw down some of
the barriers which stand between great sections of the human race.

Within two years from the crisis at Hydesville, the Fox sisters, still
little more than children, were in New York, in the centre of the huge
public discussion which raged round the subject. They stayed as guests
for a short time in the house of Horace Greeley, the famous editor of
the _New York Tribune_, one of the clearest thinkers in America, and
whilst there gave constant exhibitions of their strange powers. Greeley
had the courage to imperil the fortunes of his great newspaper by
publicly stating that the phenomena which he had tested were undoubtedly
genuine. "We devoted what time we could spare from our duties, out of
three days, to this subject," he wrote:

"It would be the basest cowardice not to say that we are convinced
beyond a doubt of the ladies' perfect integrity and good faith. 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 are as unlike that of deceivers
as possible."

So said Horace Greeley, cute Yankee and man of the world, after personal
investigation. Against this, what is the worth of the opinion of people
who even now talk nonsense about cracking joints and ventriloquism?

What impressed the New Yorkers as much as the actual sounds was the
extreme accuracy of the answers and the fact that unspoken questions
were replied to as readily as those which were audible. We have records
of one particular séance at which there were more famous men assembled
than have ever perhaps been present at one demonstration. Among them
were Fenimore Cooper, the novelist; Bancroft, the historian; Cullen
Bryant and N.P. Willis, poets; Bigelow, Dr. Griswold, with several
doctors and clergymen. As befitted such a company the phenomena were
mental rather than material, but absolutely convincing. Mrs. Fox and the
three daughters were the mediums. It is interesting to note that half an
hour elapsed before any sounds were heard. Strong brains charged with
prejudice were present and time was needed, even by those remarkable
mediums, to harmonize the conditions. Then at last came slight sounds,
increasing gradually in volume until they were very clear. Each member
of the company in turn asked questions, some mentally, some aloud, and
all attested that the correct answers were given by the knockings. The
record is too long to give in detail, but some of the information was so
exact and so unusual that it was absolutely convincing. It is said that
nearly all the guests were converted by this remarkable experience, and
that this knowledge coming when their feet were, as the future proved,
on the very threshold of death, was of inestimable comfort to Cooper and
to Willis.

In the presence of these extraordinary happenings it may be imagined
that American science was not silent. It was loud in its mockery and
disapproval. At last the flood rising from that small spring at
Hydesville had become so great that it would no longer be ignored. The
religious exorcisms had failed. Could not science put a stop once for
all to this disturbing intrusion? There were two scientists in the
United States at that time who had a European reputation. One was
Agassiz, the naturalist, the other Robert Hare, the chemist, who
invented among other things the oyx-hydrogen blow-pipe. It was Robert
Hare who went forth to slay the new delusion. He started in that
thoroughly unscientific frame of mind in which science has always
approached the question. He felt called upon, he said, "to bring
whatever influence he possessed to the attempt to stem the tide of
popular madness which, in defiance of reason and science, was fast
setting in favour of the gross delusion called Spiritualism." This can
hardly be called an impartial method of approaching an inquiry, and can
only be compared with Faraday's contemporary assertion that in
investigating such a matter one should make up one's mind beforehand
what is possible and what is not. Here was a brave and honest man,
however. The huge tome which recorded his investigation lies upon my
table as I write. It is adorned with pictures of the spring balances,
double tables, and other appliances with which he endeavoured to
confound these heretics, and was himself confounded. So searching was
his investigation that every possible source of error was eliminated. As
a result Professor Hare declared after a year that he had been entirely
mistaken, and that the claims of the new philosophy not only as to the
phenomena, but as to their source and meaning, were absolutely
justified. For this he was boycotted and bullied by the American
Scientific Association, which seems to have behaved as unwisely as all
of our own scientific bodies in its unreasoning opposition to what it
did not comprehend. Whilst the report of this eminent scientific man was
ignored, great stress was laid upon the absurd report of three unknown
medical men of Buffalo, who declared that in their opinion the sounds
made by the Fox sisters were caused by the repeated partial dislocations
of their knee-joints. How these dislocations answered unspoken questions
was not explained.

The persecution endured by Professor Hare was repeated in the case of
Judge Edmonds, head of the High Court of New York, who had also
approached the movement with a view to exposing it, but who found
himself confounded by the appearance of phenomena within his own family
circle, and by the development of his own daughter into a medium,
possessing in some directions greater powers than the Fox sisters. Like
Professor Hare, he proclaimed his conversion in a book, and had to leave
the Bench in consequence. Such intolerance was deplorable, and yet there
is this excuse for it, that numerous cranks had burst into all sorts of
wild theories, and also that the vile race of spurious mediums, or of
mediums who eked out real powers by faked phenomena, were beginning to
appear and to cause those scandals with which we are too familiar.
Unable to distinguish the true from the counterfeit, the public, busy
with its own affairs and impatient with the claims of another world, was
glad to dismiss the whole subject as one vast delusion.

A word must be said as to the tragic fate of the two younger Fox
sisters, a subject which is painful to Spiritualists and yet must be
faced. Both fell victims to that dipsomania which was hereditary in the
family. Each had made a remarkably good marriage, Margaret becoming the
wife of Dr. Kane, the famous Arctic explorer, while Kate married Mr.
Jencken, a member of the English Bar. The latter was very thoroughly
tested by Professor Crookes, who was a most severe critic of psychic
powers, though opponents of the movement represent him as credulous.
Margaret became a Roman Catholic, and high influences were used,
according to her own account, to place her in a convent. What with
religious excitement and her hereditary weakness she fell in her later
years into a pitiable state, in which she alternately denounced
Spiritualism, proclaiming herself an impostor, and recanted her
statement with the most solemn vows. Personally, I am of opinion that
she was by no means free from the suspicion that when psychic power was
wanting she supplemented it by fraud. As to her final assertions and
denials, I think that Father Thurston may be right when he says that
both were in a sense true. Mr. Isaac Funk, the famous lexicographer,
says of her in her later years, "For five dollars she would have denied
her mother and sworn to anything."

I have said that such a fate befalling the early mediums is painful to
their friends, but it has small bearing upon their faith. A medium is in
no sense a teacher or an example, but is a passive instrument for forces
outside herself. There have been, and are, many mediums who have been of
saintly mould. There have been others who have yielded to some human
weakness, very especially to drink. Their powers and their message are
to be held distinct from themselves, as a Catholic would hold that a bad
priest may celebrate a true sacrament, or a materialist that a foolish
operator may transmit a wise telegram. There weaknesses delay the
acceptance of the new knowledge. It still stands upon the threshold--but
the door is slowly opening.




XIV

A NEW LIGHT ON OLD CRIMES


Psychic science, though still in its infancy, has already reached a
point where we can dissect many of those occurrences which were regarded
as inexplicable in past ages, and can classify and even explain them--so
far as any ultimate explanation of anything is possible. So long as
gravity, electricity, magnetism, and so many other great natural forces
are inexplicable one must not ask too much of the youngest--though it is
also the oldest--of the sciences. But the progress made has been
surprising--the more surprising since it has been done by a limited
circle of students whose results have hardly reached the world at large,
and have been greeted rather with incredulous contempt than with the
appreciation which they deserve. So far have we advanced that of the
eighty or ninety cases carefully detailed in Dale Owen's _Footfalls_,
published in 1859, we find now, seventy years later, that there is
hardly one which cannot be classified and understood. It would be
interesting, therefore, to survey some of those cases which stand on
record in our law courts, and have been variously explained in the past
as being either extraordinary coincidences or as interpositions of
Providence. The latter phrase may well represent a fact, but people must
learn that no such thing has ever been known as an interposition of
Providence save through natural law, and that when it has seemed
inexplicable and miraculous it is only because the law has not yet been
understood. All miracles come under exact law, but the law, like all
natural laws, is itself divine and miraculous.

We will endeavour in recounting these cases, which can only be done in
the briefest fashion, to work from the simpler to the more complex--from
that which may have depended upon the natural but undefined powers of
the subconscious self, through all the range of clairvoyance and
telepathy, until we come to that which seems beyond all question to be
influenced by the spirit of the dead. There is one case, that of Owen
Parfitt, of Shepton Mallet, in Somersetshire, which may form a
starting-point, since it is really impossible to say whether it was
psychic or not; but if it were not, it forms one of the most piquant
mysteries which ever came before the British public.

This old fellow was a seaman, a kind of John Silver, who lived in the
piratical days of the eighteenth century and finally settled down, upon
what were usually considered to have been ill-gotten gains, about the
year 1760, occupying a comfortable cottage on the edge of the little
Somerset town. His sister kept house for him, but she was herself too
infirm to look after the rheumatic old mariner, so a neighbour named
Susanna Snook used to come in by the day and help to care for him. It
was observed that Parfitt went periodically to Bristol, and that he
returned with money, but how he gained it was his secret. He appears to
have been a secretive and wicked old creature, with many strange tales
of wild doings, some of which related to the West Coast of Africa, and
possibly to the slave trade. Eventually his infirmity increased upon
him. He could no longer get farther than his garden, and seldom left the
great chair in which he was placed every day by the ministering Susanna
Snook, just outside the porch of the cottage.

Then one summer morning, June 6, 1768, an extraordinary thing happened.
He had been deposited as usual, with a shawl round his shoulders, while
the hard-working Susanna darted back to her own cottage near-by. She was
away for half an hour. When she returned she found, to her amazement,
that the old seaman had disappeared. His sister was wringing her hands
in great bewilderment over the shawl, which still remained upon the
chair, but as to what became of the old reprobate nothing has ever been
learned from that day to this. It should be emphasized that he was
practically unable to walk and was far too heavy to be easily carried.

The alarm was at once given, and as the haymaking was in full swing the
countryside was full of workers, who were ready to declare that even if
he could have walked he could not have escaped their observation upon
the roads. A search was started, but it was interrupted by a sudden and
severe storm, with thunder and heavy rain. In spite of the weather,
there was a general alarm for twenty-four hours, which failed to
discover the least trace of the missing man. His unsavoury character,
some reminiscences of the Obi men and Voodoo cult of Africa, and the
sudden thunderstorm, all combined to assure the people of Somerset that
the devil had laid his claws upon the old seaman; nor has any natural
explanation since those days set the matter in a more normal light.
There were hopes once that this had been attained when, in the year
1813, some human bones were discovered in the garden of a certain Widow
Lockyer, who lived within two hundred yards of the old man's cottage.
Susanna Snook was still alive, and gave evidence at the inquiry, but
just as it began to appear that perhaps the old man had been coaxed away
and murdered, a surgeon from Bristol shut down the whole matter by a
positive declaration that the bones were those of a woman. So the affair
rests till to-day.

No psychic explanation can be accepted in any case until all reasonable
normal solutions have been exhausted. It is possible that those visits
to Bristol were connected with blackmail, and that some deeper villain
in the background found means to silence that dangerous tongue. But how
was it done? It is a freakish, insoluble borderland case, and there we
must leave it. The natural question arises: If you have spirit
communications why are you unable to get an explanation? The answer is
that spirit communication is also governed by inexorable laws, and that
you might as well expect an electric current along a broken wire as to
get a communication when the conditions have become impossible.

Passing on to a more definite example, let us take the case of the
murder of Maria Marten, which was for a long time a favourite subject
when treated at village fairs under the name of "The Mystery of the Red
Barn." Maria Marten was murdered in the year 1827 by a young farmer
named Corder, who should have married her but failed to do so,
preferring to murder her in order to conceal the result of their illicit
union. His ingenious method was to announce that he was about to marry
the girl, and then at the last hour shot her dead and buried her body.
He then disappeared from the neighbourhood, and gave out that he and she
were secretly wedded and were living together at some unknown address.

The murder was on May 18, 1827, and for some time the plan was
completely successful, the crime being more effectually concealed
because Corder had left behind him instructions that the barn should be
filled up with stock. The rascal sent home a few letters purporting to
be from the Isle of Wight, explaining that Maria and he were living
together in great contentment. Some suspicion was aroused by the fact
that the postmarks of these letters were all from London, but none the
less the matter might have been overlooked had it not been for the
unusual action of an obscure natural law which had certainly never been
allowed for in Mr. Corder's calculations.

Mrs. Marten, the girl's mother, dreamed upon three nights running that
her daughter had been murdered. This in itself might count for little,
since it may have only reflected her vague fears and distrust. The
dreams, however, were absolutely definite. She saw in them the red barn,
and even the very spot in which the remains had been deposited. The
latter detail is of great importance, since it disposes of the idea that
the incident could have arisen from the girl having told her mother that
she had an assignation there. The dreams occurred in March, 1828, ten
months after the crime, but it was the middle of April before the wife
was able to persuade her husband to act upon such evidence. At last she
broke down his very natural scruples, and permission was given to
examine the barn, now cleared of its contents. The woman pointed to the
spot and the man dug. A piece of shawl was immediately exposed, and
eighteen inches below it the body itself was discovered, the horrified
searcher staggering in a frenzy out of the ill-omened barn. The dress,
the teeth, and some small details were enough to establish the
identification.

The villain was arrested in London, where he had become, by marriage,
the proprietor of a girls' school, and was engaged, at the moment of
capture, in ticking off the minutes for the correct boiling of the
breakfast eggs. He set up an ingenious defence, by which he tried to
prove that the girl had committed suicide, but there was no doubt that
it was a cold-blooded crime, for he had taken not only pistols, but also
a pickaxe into the barn. This was the view which the jury took, and he
was duly hanged, confessing his guilt in a half-hearted way before his
execution. It is an interesting fact that the London schoolmistress,
whom he had trapped into marriage by means of a specious advertisement
in which he described himself as a "private gentleman, whose disposition
is not to be exceeded," remained devotedly attached to him to the end.

Now here is a case about which there is no possible doubt. The murder
was unquestionably discovered by means of the triple dream, for which
there could have been no natural explanation. There remain two psychic
explanations. The one depends upon telepathy or thought-reading, a
phenomenon which, of course, exists, as anyone can prove who experiments
with it, but which has been stretched to most unreasonable lengths by
those who would prefer any explanation to that which entails disembodied
intelligence. It is, of course, within the bounds of remote possibility
that the murderer thought of the girl's mother upon three successive
nights and also upon the scene of the crime, thus connecting up the
vision of one with the brain of the other. If any student thinks this
the more probable explanation he is certainly entitled to accept it. On
the other hand, there is a good deal of evidence that dreams, and
especially early-in-the-morning dreams just before the final waking, do
at times convey information which seems to come from other intelligences
than our own. Taking all the facts, I am of opinion that the spirit of
the dead woman did actually get in touch with the mind of the mother,
and impressed upon her the true facts of her unhappy fate. It is to be
remembered, however, that even those who advanced telepathy as an
explanation of such a case are postulating a power which was utterly
unknown to science until this generation, and which itself represents a
great extension of our psychic knowledge. We must not allow it, however,
to block our way to the further and more important advances which lie
beyond it.

For purposes of comparison we will now take another dream case which is
perfectly authentic. Upon February 8th, 1840, Edmund Norway, the chief
officer of the ship _Orient_, at that time near St. Helena, dreamed a
dream between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. in which he saw his
brother Nevell, a Cornish gentleman, murdered by two men. His brother
was seen to be mounted. One of the assailants caught the horse's bridle
and snapped a pistol twice, but no report was heard. He and his comrade
then struck him several blows, and dragged him to the side of the road,
where they left him. The road appeared to be a familiar one in Cornwall,
but the house, which should have been on the right, came out upon the
left in the visual picture. The dream was recorded in writing at the
time, and was told to the other officers of the ship.

The murder had actually occurred, and the assassins, two brothers named
Lightfoot, were executed on April 13th of that year, at Bodmin. In his
confession the elder brother said: "I went to Bodmin on February 8th and
met my brother ... my brother knocked Mr. Norway down. He snapped a
pistol at him twice, but it did not go off. He then knocked him down
with the pistol. It was on the road to Wade-bridge" (the road which had
been seen in the dream). "We left the body in the water on the left side
of the road coming to Wadebridge. My brother drew the body across the
road to the watering." The evidence made it clear that the murder was
committed between the hours of ten and eleven at night. As St. Helena
is, roughly, in the same longitude as England, the time of the dream
might exactly correspond with that of the crime.

These are the actual facts, and, though they may be explained, they
cannot be explained away. It appears that Norway, the sailor, had been
thinking of and writing to his landsman brother just before going to his
bunk. This might possibly have made the subsequent vision more easy by
bringing the two men into _rapport_. There is a considerable body of
evidence to prove that during sleep there is some part of us, call it
the etheric body, the subconscious self, or what you will, which can
detach itself and visit distant scenes, though the cut-off between
sleeping and waking is so complete that it is very rarely that the
memory of the night's experience is carried through. I could quote many
examples within my own experience of this "travelling clairvoyance," as
it is called, but one which attracted a good deal of attention at the
time, as it was fully described in _The Times_, was that of Sir Rider
Haggard's dog, the dead body of which was found through a vision of the
night. The same occurs in the stupor of high fever, and I have heard my
little son, with a temperature of one hundred and four degrees, make a
remark in delirium which showed that he saw clearly what had occurred in
the next room. "Naughty Denis, breaking my soldiers!" were the words,
and they were absolutely correct. Thus it can easily be conceived that
the consciousness of the sailor, drawn to his brother by recent loving
thoughts, went swiftly to him in his sleep, and was so shocked to
witness his murder that it was able to carry the record through into his
normal memory. The case would resolve itself, then, into one which
depended upon the normal but unexplored powers of the human organism,
and not upon any interposition from the spirit of the murdered man. Had
the vision of the latter appeared alone, without the accompanying scene,
it would have seemed more probable that it was indeed a post-mortem
apparition. For the next illustration we will turn to the records of
American crime. In this case, which is absolutely authentic, a man named
Mortensen owed a considerable sum of money, three thousand eight hundred
dollars, to a company, which was represented by the secretary, Mr. Hay.
The transaction occurred in Utah in the year 1901. Mortensen beguiled
Hay to his private house late in the evening, and nothing more was heard
of the unfortunate man. Mortensen's story was that he paid the money in
gold, and that Hay had given him a receipt and had started home with the
money, carried in glass jars. When the police visited Mortensen's house
in the morning they were accompanied by Hay's father-in-law, an aged
Mormon named Sharp, who said: "Where did you last see my son-in-law?"

"Here," answered Mortensen, indicating a spot outside his door.

"If that is the last place you saw him," said Sharp, "then that is where
you killed him."

"How do you know he is dead?" asked Mortensen.

"I have had a vision," said Sharp, "and the proof is that within one
mile of the spot where you are standing, his dead body will be dug up
from the field."

There was snow on the ground at the time, and next morning, December
18th, a neighbour observed some blood-stains upon it not very far from
Mortensen's house. They led to a mound shaped like a grave. The
neighbour procured a spade, borrowing it from Mortensen himself, and
speedily unearthed the body of Hay. There was a bullet wound at the back
of his head. His valuables had been untouched, but the receipt which he
was known to have carried to Mortensen's house afforded sufficient
reason for the murder.

The whole crime seems to have been a very crude and elementary affair,
and it is difficult to see how Mortensen could have hoped to save
himself, unless, indeed, an immediate flight was in his mind. There
could be no adequate defence, and the man was convicted and shot--the
law of Utah giving the criminal the choice as to the fashion of his own
death. The only interest in the affair is the psychic one, for again old
Sharp repeated at the trial that in a vision he had learned the facts.
It is not a very clear case, however, and may conceivably have been a
bluff upon the part of the old man, who had formed his own opinion as to
the character of his son-in-law, and his probable actions. Such a
solution would, however, involve a very extraordinary coincidence.

The next case which I would cite is very much more convincing--in fact,
it is final in its clear proof of psychic action, though the exact
degree may be open to discussion. The facts seem to have been
established beyond all possible doubt, though there is some slight
confusion about the date. According to the account of Mr. Williams, of
Cornwall, the chief actor, it was in the early days of May, 1812, that
he thrice in the same night had a remarkable dream. Mr. Williams was a
man of affairs, and the superintendent of some great Cornish mines. He
was familiar with the lobby of the House of Commons, into which his
interests had occasionally led him. It was this lobby which he perceived
clearly in his dream. His attention was arrested by a man in a
snuff-coloured coat, with metal buttons, who loitered there. Presently
there entered a small, brisk man in a blue coat and white waistcoat. As
he passed, the first man whipped out a pistol and shot the other through
the breast. In his dream Mr. Williams was made aware that the murdered
man was Mr. Perceval, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Williams was
greatly impressed, and alarmed, by this dream, and he recounted it not
only to his wife but also to several friends whom he met at the
Godolphin mine next day, asking their advice whether he should go up to
London and report the matter. To this they answered very naturally, but
unfortunately as the event proved, that it was useless, and would only
expose him to derision. On the thirteenth, about ten days after the
dream, Mr. Williams narrates how his son, returning, from Truro, rushed
into the room crying, "Oh, father, your dream has come true! Mr.
Perceval has been shot in the House of Commons." The deed, as is well
known, was committed by a man named Bellingham, who had some imaginary
grievance. The dress of the two chief actors, and all the other details,
proved to be exactly as foretold.

In an account in _The Times_ sixteen years later it was stated that the
vision was upon the actual night of the murder, which would reduce the
case to ordinary clairvoyance, but the evidence is very strong that it
was prophetic as well. Mr. Williams, writing in 1832, four years after
_The Times_ account, repeated the story once more as it is set forth
here. His wife, his friends at the mine, his projected journey to
London, and his recollection of his son's arrival with the news all
corroborate his version of the affair. What comment can we make upon
such an incident? Explain it we cannot, but at least we can get some
light upon it by examining the statements of others who have had both
the clairvoyant and the prophetic faculty. One of these was Swedenborg,
who exhibited it again and again, but we have no exact account from him
as to how his visions came. More to the point are the notes of Mr.
Turvey, of Bournemouth, a most remarkable psychic, whose _Beginnings of
Seership_ is one of the most illuminating books I know. Our ordinary
comments must always be explanations from outside, but this gentleman,
with his great powers and analytical brain, is able to give us more
precious information which comes from within. Mr. Turvey was not only an
extraordinary clairvoyant, capable of throwing out his own etheric body
at will, and communicating at once to others the information which it
brought back, but he again and again saw scenes of the future, which he
put upon record and which frequently, if not invariably, were fulfilled.
His description of his own sensation is very helpful and destined, I
think, to be classical. He says:

"At certain times I see a sort of ribbon moving like the endless belt of
a cinema film. In colour it is very pale heliotrope, and seems to
vibrate very rapidly. On it are numerous little pictures, some of which
appear to be engraved upon the film itself, while others are like
pale-blue photographs stuck upon the film. The former refer to past, the
latter to future events. The locality is judged by the scenery and
climatic heat" (felt by the observer). "The dates are judged by the
clearness of the pictures."

Now, applying this analysis of Mr. Turvey to the far less complete
experience of Mr. Williams, we get some glimmer of light. Mr. Williams
was of Welsh or Cornish stock, and predisposed to the psychic. In his
busy life he could not develop it as Mr. Turvey had done, for the
latter, though he was once a famous athlete, had broken in health to an
extent which confined him to his chair. Yet at times his true innate
powers could assert themselves, and thus he received or perceived one of
those cinema visions of which Mr. Turvey speaks. Why it should have been
sent him is beyond our ken. Was it to prompt him to go to London, as he
so nearly did, and try to turn the stream of fate? Or was it as
impersonal as were many of the prophetic visions of Mr. Turvey? One
cannot say, but there is a big fact standing up as clear as the Nelson
Column, and to turn away one's eyes, pretend not to see it, and make no
attempt to fit it into the general scheme of the universe, is neither
science nor common sense. Mr. Turvey has left it upon record that he saw
more unpleasant than pleasant things, and Mr. Williams' experience was
in accordance. This might be taken as supporting the idea that the
visions are for the purpose of warning and prevention. When one
considers that in this instance the picture of the lobby of the House of
Commons was presented to one of the very few men in Cornwall who would
recognize the place when they saw it, it certainly suggests that the
vision did not merely happen, but came for a definite purpose. It is not
to be denied that this and many other prophetic cases strengthen the
argument of the fatalist, who holds that our Life's path is marked out
for us. On the other hand, the student will find a certain number of
cases which give a comforting assurance, that, though the general path
may be indicated, there is still a certain play of events which gives
room for changes in the issue. I have notes, for example, of one dream
or vision in which the subject had a most clear impression of a long
series of events, which ended in his going down a coal-mine, the latter
experience being particularly vivid. Some months afterwards the whole
long episode occurred exactly as depicted, but when they came to the
coal-mine the guide said: "I had hoped to take you down the coal-mine,
but it is a holiday, and the cage is not working." In another case a
young officer of my acquaintance was warned by a dead comrade that they
would meet again upon a certain date. The young man spent the day in his
dug-out, and late in the evening was congratulating himself upon having
got through, when about 10 p.m. his Company Commander came round and
said: "I fear I must ask you to do a rather dirty job. We have to find
if there are any of our dead near the German wire. Take a few men and
make an examination." He gave himself up as lost, and his batman, who
had heard the story, burst into tears. The young fellow was so convinced
of his own impending fate that he left his party safe in No Man's Land,
thinking that there was no use in their being sacrificed also. He went
forward alone, made a perfectly successful search, returned in safety,
and had no misfortune at all. Such a case must hearten up those who are
overburdened by any prophecy or presentiment. It may be that some force
--prayer, perhaps--can divert the stream of fate. We shall now turn to
some cases which were more clearly ultramundane in their nature, and I
would express my obligation to Mr. Harold Furniss, whose care has
restored many details in his collection of criminal records. The first
which I would choose is the murder of Sergeant Davies in the Highlands
in the year 1749. Davies was part of the English garrison left in the
north after the suppression of Prince Charlie's rising, and, like many
of his comrades, he alleviated his exile by the excellent sport which
the barren country afforded. Upon September 28th in that year he went
shooting near Braemar without any attendant. The rancour of the recent
war had to some extent died down, and in any case the sergeant, who was
a powerful and determined man, feared no opponent. The result showed,
however, that he was overbold, as he never returned from his expedition.
Search parties were sent out, but months passed and there were still no
signs of the missing soldier. Five years passed, and the mystery was
still unsolved. At the end of that time, two Highlanders, Duncan Terig
and Alex. Bain Mac-donald, were arrested because the fowling-piece and
some of the property of the lost man were found in their possession. The
case rested mainly, however, upon some evidence which was as strange as
any ever heard in a court of law.

A farm labourer named Alex. Macpherson, aged twenty-six, deposed that
one night in the summer of 1750--that is, some nine months after the
sergeant's disappearance--he was lying awake in the barn where all the
servants slept, when he saw enter a man dressed in blue, who came to his
bedside and beckoned him to follow. Outside the door the figure turned
and said: "I am Sergeant Davies." The apparition then pointed to a
distant moss or swamp, and said: "You will find my bones there. Go and
bury them at once, for I can have no peace, nor will I give you any,
until my bones are buried, and you may get Donald Farquharson to help
you." It then vanished.

Early next day Macpherson, according to his own account, went to the
place indicated and, obeying the exact instructions received, he came
straight upon the body, still wearing the blue regimental coat of
Guise's Horse. Macpherson laid it upon the surface, dragging it out from
the slime, but did not bury it. A few nights later the vision appeared
to him once more as he lay in the barn, and reproached him with having
failed to carry out the instructions given. Macpherson asked: "Who
murdered you?"

To this the apparition answered: "Duncan Terig and Alex. Macdonald," and
vanished once more. Macpherson next day went to Farquharson and asked
him to come and help bury the body, to which the latter agreed. It was
accordingly done. No one else was told of the incident save only one
friend, John Grewar, who was informed within two days of the burial.
This story was certainly open to criticism, as the arrest was in 1754,
and the alleged apparition and subsequent burial in 1750, so that one
would naturally ask why no information had been given during four years.
On the other hand, one could imagine that these Celtic Highlanders were
somewhat in the position of Irish peasants in an agrarian outrage. They
were bound together against a common enemy, and would not act save under
pressure. This pressure arrived when the two suspects were actually
arrested, the murdered man's gear was found upon them, and direct
inquiry was made from the folk in the neighbourhood. No ill-will was
shown to exist between Macpherson and the accused men, nor was any
motive alleged for so extraordinary a concoction. On the psychic side
there are also some objections. One would have conceived that the
sergeant might return, as others seem to have done, in order to identify
his murderers, but in this case that was a secondary result, and the
main one appears to have been the burial of his own remains. Spirits are
not much concerned about their own bodies. In a communication which I
saw recently, the deceased alluded to his body as "that thing that I
used to go about in." Still, earthly prejudices die hard, and if Davies,
sprung from a decent stock, yearned for a decent burial, it would surely
not be an unnatural thing.

There was some corroboration for Macpherson's weird story. There were
female quarters in this barn, and a woman worker, named Isabel
Machardie, deposed that on the second occasion of the apparition she saw
"something naked come in at the door and go straight to Macpherson's
bed, which frightened her so much that she drew the clothes over her
head." She added that when it appeared it came in a bowing posture, but
she could not tell what it was. The next morning she asked Macpherson
what it was that had troubled them the night before, and he answered
that she might be easy, for it would trouble them no more.

There is a discrepancy here between the blue-coated figure of the first
vision and the "something naked" of the second, but the fact remained
that the woman claimed to have seem something alarming, and to have
alluded to it next day. Macpherson, however, could speak nothing but
Gaelic, his evidence being interpreted to the Court. Lockhart, the
defending barrister, naturally asked in what tongue the vision spoke, to
which Macpherson answered: "In as good Gaelic as ever I heard in
Lochaber." "Pretty good for the ghost of an English sergeant," said
Lockhart, and this facile retort made the Court laugh, and finally
brought about the acquittal of the prisoners, in spite of the more
material proofs which could not be explained away. Later, both Lockhart
and the advocate engaged with him, admitted their belief in the guilt of
their clients.

As a matter of fact, Davies had fought at Culloden in April, 1746, and
met his end in September, 1749, so that he had been nearly three and a
half years in the Highlands, mixing in sport with the gillies, and it is
difficult to suppose that he could not muster a few simple sentences of
their language.

But apart from that, although our information shows that knowledge has
to be acquired by personal effort, and not by miracle, in the after
life, still it is to be so acquired, and if Sergeant Davies saw that it
was only in a Gael that he would find those rare psychic gifts which
would enable him to appear and to communicate (for every spirit
manifestation must have a material basis), then it is not inconceivable
that he would mastef the means during the ten months or so which elapsed
before his reappearance. Presuming that Macpherson's story is true, it
by no means follows that he was the medium, since any one of the
sleepers in the barn might have furnished that nameless atmosphere which
provides the correct conditions. In all such cases it is to be
remembered that this atmosphere is rare, and that a spirit comes back
not as it would or when it would, but as it can. Law, inexorable law,
still governs every fresh annexe which we add to our knowledge, and only
by defining and recognizing its limitations will we gain some dim
perception of the conditions of the further life and its relation to the
present one. We now pass to a case where the spirit interposition seems
to have been as clearly proved as anything could be. It was, it is true,
some time ago, but full records are still available. In the year 1632 a
yeoman named John Walker lived at the village of Great Lumley, some
miles north of Durham. A cousin named Anne Walker kept house for him,
and intimacy ensued, with the prospect of the usual results. John Walker
greatly feared the scandal, and took diabolical steps to prevent it. He
sent the young woman over to the town of Chester-le-Street to the care
of one Dame Carr. To this matron Anne Walker confessed everything,
adding that Walker had used the ominous phrase "that he would take care
both of her and of her child." One night at Dame Carr's door there
appeared the sinister visage of Mark Sharp, a Blackburn collier, with a
specious message which induced the girl to go with him into the dusk.
She was never seen again. Walker, upon being appealed to by Dame Carr,
said that it was all right, and that it was better in her condition that
she should be among strangers. The old lady had her suspicions, but
nothing could be done, and the days passed on.

A fortnight later a miller, named James Graham, was grinding corn in his
mill at night some miles away. It was after midnight when he descended
to the floor of the mill after putting a fresh fill of corn in the
hopper. His exact experience, as preserved in the Bodleian Library at
Oxford, was as follows:

"The mill door being shut, there stood a woman in the midst of the
floor, with her hair hanging down all bloody, with five large wounds on
her head. He being much amazed began to bless himself, and at last asked
her who she was and what she wanted. She answered, 'I am the spirit of
Anne Walker, who lived with John Walker.... He promised to send me to
where I should be well looked to ... and then I should come again and
keep his house. I was one night sent away with Mark Sharp, who, upon a
certain moor' (naming the place) 'slew me with a pick such as men dig
coal with and gave me these five wounds, and after threw my body into a
coalpit hard by, and hid the pick under a bank, and his shoes and
stockings being bloody he endeavoured to wash them, but seeing the blood
would not part he hid them there.'"

The spirit ended by ordering the miller to reveal the truth on pain of
being haunted. In this case, as in the last, the message was not
delivered. The horrified miller was so impressed that he would by no
means be alone, but he shirked the delicate task which had been confided
to him. In spite of all his precautions, however, he found himself alone
one evening, with the result that the vision instantly reappeared, "very
fierce and cruel," to use his description, and insisted that he should
do as commanded. More obdurate than the Celtic Macpherson, the miller
awaited a third summons, which came in so terrific a form in his own
garden that his resistance was completely broken down, and so, four days
before Christmas, he went to the nearest magistrate and lodged his
deposition. Search was at once made, and the vision was justified in all
particulars, which, it must be admitted, has not always been the case
where information has seemed to come from beyond. The girl's body, the
five wounds in the head, the pick, the bloodstained shoes and stockings
were all found, and as the body was in a deep coalpit there seemed no
normal means by which the miller could possibly have known the nature of
the wounds unless he had himself inflicted them, which is hardly
consistent either with the known facts, with his appearance as informer,
or with the girl's admissions to Dame Carr.

John Walker and Mark Sharp were both arrested and were tried for murder
at the Durham Assizes before Judge Davenport. It was shown that the
miller was unknown, save by sight, to either prisoner, so that it could
not be suggested that he had any personal reason for swearing away their
lives by a concocted tale. The trial was an extraordinary one, for there
seems to have been a psychic atmosphere such as has never been recorded
in a prosaic British court of law. The foreman of the jury, a Mr.
Fairbairn, declared in an affidavit that he saw during the trial the
"likeness of a child standing upon Walker's shoulder." This might be
discounted as being the effect upon an emotional nature of the weird
evidence to which he had listened, but it received a singular
corroboration from the judge, who wrote afterwards to a fellow-lawyer,
Mr. Serjeant Hutton, of Goldsborough, that he himself was aware of a
figure such as Fairbairn described, and that during the whole
proceedings he was aware of a most uncanny and unusual sensation for
which he could by no means account. The verdict was guilty, and the two
men were duly executed.

The array of responsible witnesses in this case was remarkable. There
was the judge himself, Mr. Fairbairn, with his affidavit, Mr. James
Smart, Mr. William Lumley, of Great Lumley, and others. Altogether, it
is difficult to see how any case could be better authenticated, and I
have no doubt myself that the facts were as stated, and that this single
case is enough to convince an unprejudiced mind of the continuance of
individuality and of the penetrability of that screen which separates us
from the dead.

What comment can psychic science make upon such an episode? In the first
place, I would judge that the miller was a powerful medium--that is, he
exuded that rare atmosphere which enables a spirit to become visible as
the meteorite becomes visible when it passes through the atmosphere of
earth. It is, I repeat, a rare quality, and in this case seems to have
been unknown to its possessor, though I should expect to find that the
miller had many other psychic experiences which took a less public form.
This is the reason why the apparition did not appear before the
magistrate himself, but could only approach him by messenger. The spirit
may have searched some time before she found her medium, just as
Sergeant Davies was ten months before he found the Highlander who had
those physical qualities which enabled him to communicate. Law and
obedience to law run through the whole subject. It is also abundantly
evident that the confiding woman who had been treated with such
cold-blooded ingratitude and treachery carried over to the other world
her natural feelings of indignation and her desire for justice. As a
curious detail it is also evident that she recovered her consciousness
instantly after death, and was enabled to observe the movements of her
assassin. With what organs, one may ask? With what organs do we see
clear details in a dream? There is something there besides our material
eyes.

A most reasonable objection may be urged as to why many innocent people
have suffered death and yet have experienced no super-normal help which
might have saved them. Any criminologist could name off-hand a dozen
cases where innocent men have gone to the scaffold. Why were they not
saved? I have written in vain if I have not by now enabled the reader to
answer the question himself. If the physical means are not there, then
it is impossible. It may seem unjust, but not more so than the fact that
a ship provided with wireless may save its passengers while another is
heard of no more. The problem of unmerited suffering is part of that
larger problem of the functions of pain and evil, which can only be
explained on the supposition that spiritual chastening and elevation
come in this fashion, and that this end is so important that the means
are trivial in comparison. We must accept this provisional explanation,
or we are faced with chaos.

Can these dim forces which we see looming above and around us be turned
to the use of man? It would be a degradation to use them for purely
material ends, and it would, in my opinion, bring some retribution with
it; but, where the interests of Justice are concerned, I am convinced
that they could indeed be used to good effect. Here is a case in point.

Two brothers, Eugene and Paul Dupont, lived some fifty years ago in the
Rue St. Honoré of Paris. Eugene was a banker, Paul a man of letters.
Eugene disappeared. Every conceivable effort was made to trace him, but
the police finally gave it up as hopeless. Paul was persevering,
however, and in company with a friend, Laporte, he visited Mme. Huerta,
a well-known clairvoyante, and asked for her assistance.

We have no record as to how far articles of the missing man were given
to the medium, as a bloodhound was started on a trail, but whether it
was by psychometry or not, Mme. Huerta, in the mesmerized state, very
quickly got in touch with the past of the two brothers, from the dinner
where they had last met. She described Eugene, and followed his
movements from the hour that he left the restaurant until he vanished
into a house which was identified without difficulty by her audience,
though she was unable to give the name of the street. She then described
how inside the house Eugene Dupont had held a conference with two men
whom she described, how he had signed some paper and had received a
bundle of bank notes. She then saw him leave the house, she saw the two
men follow him, she saw two other men join in the pursuit, and finally
she saw the four assault the banker, murder him, and throw the body into
the Seine.

Paul was convinced by the narrative, but his comrade, Laporte, regarded
it as a fabrication. They had no sooner reached home, however, than they
learned that the missing man had been picked out of the river and was
exposed at the Morgue. The police, however, were inclined to take the
view of suicide, as a good deal of money was in the pockets. Paul Dupont
knew better, however. He hunted out the house, he discovered that the
occupants did business with his brother's firm, he found that they held
a receipt for two thousand pounds in exchange for notes paid to his
brother on the night of the crime, and yet those notes were missing. A
letter making an appointment was also discovered.

The two men, a father and son, named Dubuchet, were then arrested, and
the missing links were at once discovered. The pocket-book which Eugene
Dupont had in his possession on the night of the murder was found in
Dubuchet's bureau. Other evidence was forthcoming, and finally the two
villains were found guilty and were condemned to penal servitude for
life. The medium was not summoned as a witness, on the ground that she
was not conscious at the time of her vision, but her revelations
undoubtedly brought about the discovery of the crime.

Now it is clear in this authentic case that the police would have saved
themselves much trouble, and come to a swifter conclusion, had they
themselves consulted Mme. Huerta in the first instance. And if it is
obviously true in this case, why might it not be so in many other cases?
It should be possible at every great police-centre to have the call upon
the best clairvoyant or other medium that can be got, and to use them
freely, for what they are worth. None are infallible. They have their
off-days and their failures. No man should ever be convicted upon their
evidence. But when it comes to suggesting clues and links, then it might
be invaluable. In the case of Mr. Foxwell, the London stockbroker who
fell into the Thames some years ago, it is well known that the mode of
his death, and the place where his body would be found, were described
by Von Bourg, the crystal-gazer, and that it was even as he had said. I
venture to say that the mere knowledge that the police had an ally
against whom every cunning precaution might prove unavailing would in
itself be a strong deterrent to premeditated crime. This is so obvious,
that if it had not been for vague scientific and religious prejudices,
it would surely have been done long ago. Its adoption may be one of the
first practical and material benefits given by psychic science to
humanity.




XV

SINGULAR RECORDS OF A CIRCLE


I have recently received a considerable bundle of records from a circle
sitting in Uruguay. The sitters consisted of two Englishmen of the best
class, whom I will call "Hudson." They have given me permission to use
their real names, but perhaps they hardly realize how considerable the
backwash might be from such a publication. A lady friend, Miss Reader,
is the medium, and the procedure is by means of a glass and the alphabet
in the usual fashion.

The number of real or alleged spirits that came to this circle and their
communications have been so clear and direct and present such
extraordinary variety that they invite comment. After reading their
record, which has been very well taken, I guarded myself by getting each
member of the circle to sign a document putting them upon their word of
honour that no hoax was intended. The elder Mr. Hudson adds: "The way in
which spirits of different character came through, one after the other,
and the unexpectedness and spontaneity of the answers with the different
styles and phrases would have taxed better imaginations than those
possessed by any of the three of us."

I particularly inquired whether they had any special acquaintance with
the English public schools and whether they had done any particular
reading as to seventeenth or eighteenth-century life. The answer to the
first question was that they had both been Eton boys, but that they knew
nothing of any other school, and the answer to the second was that none
of them had any particular knowledge of the centuries named.

When I say that among the visitants were two very exuberant
public-school boys, four ladies of easy virtue, one old sea captain, one
Austrian adventurer who had been murdered, and a number of bucks from
the Regency and earlier years, it will be realized that the
communications really seemed of unusual nature. They were full of points
which might be evidential and I have taken some trouble to follow these
up, sometimes with striking success and sometimes with complete failure.

The first visitant who came on December 18th, 1928, and on several
subsequent occasions, was one Nicholas, who refused to give his surname.
He said he had just died, having been shot in Vienna. He was forty-one
years of age, had lived an evil life and was intensely unhappy in the
other world. He was born in Baku, had gone to Germany afterwards, as an
Austrian he had served in the war, against the Russians, had been taken
prisoner and sent to Siberia, had been liberated by the Communists, but
had been arrested by the Bolshevists as a spy, not making his escape
until 1926. Then he went to Vienna, where he had an intrigue with an
English girl who had gone there to study art. In the course of this
intrigue he had been shot, presumably by some jealous rival. The story
seems to me to hang together fairly well, though there is no means of
verifying the statements. It is worth noting that the sitters had some
little difficulty as to where Baku might be, and were corrected at once
by the visitor.

The next comer was an exceedingly flighty youth who gave the name of
Lionel Vereker, but admitted that the surname had not been disclosed. He
was a practical joker, and his answers to questions are so full of
levity, sometimes witty and sometimes foolish, that it is difficult to
know when one is to take him seriously. When his jokes were not
appreciated he seems to have got sulky. When pressed as to his surname
he said, "I think, in the excitement of dying, I forgot it." In his more
sober moments he said that he had been educated at Dulwich and that he
left school in the year 1920. When asked what house he was at there, he
replied, "Alleyne's." I find on inquiring, that "Alleyne" was actually
the founder of Dulwich College, so that this reply was evidential if we
accept the assurance of the sitters that they had no knowledge of the
matter, which I may say I unreservedly do. Judging by his high spirits
he seemed perfectly happy. He gave the impression of being an
irresponsible fribble with no great harm in him and no great good. I can
well believe that there are impersonations at séances if Lionel was
around. I inquired at Dulwich, but the name could not be traced.

The next visitor, December 29th, 1928, was a very interesting personage.
This was Harriette Wilson, the famous courtesan of the beginning of last
century, who numbered among her lovers both the Duke of Wellington and
the Duke of Argyll. She wrote a volume of Memoirs which show that in
spite of her profession she was in many ways a woman of fine character.
The circle seems to have known that such a person existed and also that
she wrote Memoirs, so to that extent the evidence is weakened. She
gives, however, some details which have been found on examination to be
approximately correct and which could hardly have been known by them.
She says, for example, that she died a hundred years ago. She actually
left London in 1826, lived in Paris for a short time and then seems to
have disappeared. I have often wondered whether she had been poisoned.
She had promised to write a second book of "Memoirs," mentioning the
names of quite a string of people whom she would inculpate. The spirit
says she was thirty-nine when she died. She was, I think thirty-six when
she left London. The monologue with her concludes thus:

Q. "Are you happy?"--A. "No."

Q. "Have you others to whom you can talk?"--A. "Yes" (glass moves
violently).

Q. "Don't you like them?"--A. "No" (furiously).

Q. "Why?"--A. "I don't find them to my taste."

Q. "Do you know us?"--A. "No, who are you? Interesting?"

Q. "Have you talked to others on this earth?"--A. "Yes. Many."

Q. "Can you materialise?"--A. "No, I wish I could."

Q. "Have you got any particular message?"--A. "No."

So appeared Harriette after a hundred years. She does not seem to have
found the peace which some of her kindly actions upon earth deserved.

The message seems to be evidential unless I could suppose that members
of the circle in Uruguay had hunted up details which I have had some
difficulty in getting in London.

The next visitor was one Catherine Wimpole, who claimed that she had
died at the age of twelve, one hundred and sixteen years before--or in
1812. She had lived in Clarges Street. It is remarkable that in nearly
every case the communicator, readily and without hesitation gave the
names of streets which did exist at that time, and never made any
mistake as to the monarch who reigned then. There was nothing of a
really evidential character from Catherine Wimpole, and a Spiritualist
must feel surprise that one who died as an innocent girl of twelve so
long ago had not progressed beyond the somewhat mediocre crowd who
assembled round this circle.

The next was a James Kirk, who claimed to have been a gentleman who died
of an unknown pest in the year 1749 in London. It would be interesting
to know if the City had any such visitation in that year. When asked who
was King he at once replied, "George the Second." He said that he lived
in a grey twilight and was not happy, having none of the luxury to which
he was used. It was his first return to earth and it gave him pleasure.
He said that he had been in several spheres, and he asked what London
was like now. He said that he had been a theatregoer, that his favourite
actress was Mrs. Oldfield and that he had liked her best in "The Country
Wife." He died in Duke Street, which is or was out of the Strand. He
went often to Court. He named Louis Quatorze as King of France, which of
course would not be correct at the time of Kirk's death, but that great
monarch would have filled the years of his youth and have left the
strongest impression upon his mind, so that the error should not be
judged too harshly. He was then asked for a statement as to his own life
and he wrote as follows:

"I had a full life. More than my share of entertainment; balls,
theatres, and such diversions. I became enamoured many times to no
purpose. I was too much like the famous Captain Macheath. (We exclaim at
this.) So you also know? I was a friend of the Lady Mary Montague.
Perhaps you have not heard her name? (No.) She was a beautiful woman,
brilliant in her own circle. I saw the execution of the notorious Jack
Sheppard on Tyburn Hill. Did you ever hear of Mrs. Cornelys? (No.) She
was the owner of a kind of public ball-room or rooms. She and her
daughter became involved in difficulties and eventually disappeared from
London, which caused endless idle speculation and gossip. I fought two
duels; was, I feared, wounded fatally in the second; but as you
perceive, I did not fare too bad. I frequently travelled to Harrogate,
Tonbridge and Bath; generally I confess, in quest of the newest aspirant
to my name. I enjoyed existence; there was much to occupy one's mind. I
was fond, inordinately fond, of dress. Most of every pleasure I doted
upon the theatre. I went without fail to the new plays presented."

Now this reads extraordinarily true. The "Beggar's Opera" was all the
vogue at the time and Captain Macheath would be a most natural allusion.
Mary Montague was, of course, as stated and comes within the dates. Jack
Sheppard was executed at Tyburn in 1724. Finally, Madame Cornelys is
excellent. How many are there who have heard of her? By a chance note in
an old book I found that she was the proprietor at that time of a very
popular dancing-place at the corner of Soho Square, and that she went
bankrupt. I think that this sequence of correct references is beyond all
guess or coincidence and that we may take James Kirk at his face value.

He was fifty-three when he died, so that he was born in 1698. When asked
if he would come again he replied that he would be "full glad." His
health, he said, was excellent. "The Cocoa Tree" was his favourite
resort upon earth, and Mr. Oliver Penberthy of St. James' his best
friend. He was at his best among the fair sex.

The next actor upon this curious stage was one David Overman who claimed
to be an Uppingham boy, but whose name is not upon the School lists.
There is a mystery in names and possibly some prohibition upon their use
in a way which would hurt surviving relations. The evidence of the last
comer shows that even when the name of the communicator may be wrong his
allusions are quite correct. David Overman was an irresponsible person,
very much like Lionel Vereker, for whom he professed great contempt. "A
perfect fool" was his description. Overman left school, according to his
account, in 1917, did not go to the war, and died at the age of
twenty-seven, He seems to have been in a cheerful, frivolous sphere. The
dialogue runs:

Q. "Where is Lionel?"--A. "Off on the gay, I expect."

Q. "Any ladies there?"--A. "Plenty. Too many."

Q. "Are you restricted?"--A. "Not unreasonably. We can even dance."

Q. "What clothes?"--A. "Any. I wear a very handsome suit of plus-fours."

Q. "Did you die in them?"--A. "Yes."

Q. "Of what?"--A. "Motor accident. Nasty man. Quick car."

Q. "Instantly killed?"--A. "Yes."

Q. "Where?"--A. "On the Portsmouth Road between Esher and Kingston."

It would be interesting to know whether in 1927 or 1928 a youth of
twenty-seven answering to this description was killed in the manner
indicated. His only other information was that he was attached to "a
very natty young woman," Betty Matthews, on his side of life. Also that
he did not go to the University. There is nothing evidential in all
this, but the details are plausible and possibly some of them may be
corroborated.

The next visitant was Edward Keith of Lincoln, who died in 1870 of
small-pox, being sixty-four years of age. He said that he found
difficulty in communicating and he soon stopped. There was no means of
checking this witness.

We now come to a very gay young lady with the curious name of Norah
Sallast. Norah died at the age of nineteen, seventy-eight years ago,
which takes her back to the middle of last century.

Q. "Are you happy?"--A. "No."

Q. "Why?"--A. "Life is so monotonous. I hate it" (violently).

Q. "Is it dark?"--A. "No, light."

Q. "Have you anyone to talk to?"--A. "Yes. I hate it all. You can do
little to help me. I was wrong in my life."

Q. "And you suffer for it?"--A. "Quite enough."

Q. "Any prospect of happiness?"--A. "I doubt it."

Q. "In what way were you wrong?"--A. "Bad (violently). Rotten all
through. I could not be thought immoral, as I knew not the meaning of
the word."

She then proceeded to give a sketch of her life which was certainly
rather hectic considering that she died at nineteen. She ran away from
school with a mysterious man. "He gave me a hell upon earth. I left him
and life was a series of meetings and separations--Budapest, Berlin,
everywhere--had no money of my own. I was stranded in Sicily and found
my way home. I lived in London for five years. I was only thirteen when
I ran from school. I spent two days in Bristol and died there."

This pitiable story hangs together and yet is incapable of proof. Taking
it as true it seems a long purgatory for so young a sinner. One could
imagine that she, like Harriette Wilson, is held until she has realized
that the seeking of excitement is not the object of life. Had the
sitters been experienced Spiritualists this would, of course, have been
pointed out to her, and a new era have, perhaps, been started.

The next comer was curious, though hard to verify. The name given was
Niel Hamilton. He was twelve years old when he was drowned at Cuckfield
in Sussex, more than a century ago. He had been pushed into a duck pond,
when playing. He said that he was happy, but he gave no reason why he
had not progressed further in so long a time.

We now make a big leap backwards and come upon Charles Amor, who died in
1658, at the age of eighty-one. He had lived at Fleet in Hampshire. When
asked who was King he answered promptly, "No one. Cromwell." Which, of
course, is correct but might have stumped some of us. He had gone to
Germany, his wife had eloped with a German and he had stabbed the man.
Possibly this hasty temper may have kept him so long in the purgatorial
regions. There was nothing really evidential.

The next comer took us further back still. His name was John Castle, who
died in 1613, at the age of ninety-two. He gave James as the name of the
King, at which the circle remonstrated, but John Castle proved to be
correct. This seems an important evidential point, for please do not
forget that I have the signed word of honour of all concerned that there
was no deception. I have always found that a British word of honour is
worth more than an oath. He was a learned man, but was asked frivolous
questions by the circle, who certainly played down to their visitors and
had no idea of the limits of spirit power.

The next was so definite that I had high hopes, but, alas, they came to
nothing. The name was Laura Yelverton. She died early in 1928 at
Torquay. The Register, however, in that town failed to trace her. She
was thirty-one at the time of her death. She claimed that she was born
at Chester, went to school in Switzerland, lived for years at Arcachon
in the South of France, lost money, returned to England in 1918, was a
married woman. In reference to her surroundings she said that, "it is
all grey and almost sticky in the atmosphere." There were many to whom
to talk. She, like the last, seems to be in some sort of purgatory.
Possibly this account may meet the eye of someone who can corroborate. A
note to Crowborough would always find me.

She was immediately succeeded by a man, Mark Lamb, who died in 1725. He,
at once, said that George the First was on the throne, which is, of
course, correct but might not be answered by everyone. He was
seventy-eight when he died and he put his death down to excess in
living. He lived in Charles Street, London, and was a man of fashion,
going to Court. He disliked the King. "His character I hated vastly." So
I should think--the coarse little boor. Here we have nothing evidential
but everything plausible.

He was at once succeeded by Peter Lamb, a carpenter, who died of a
poisoned arm at Chatham at the age of fifty in the year 1924. He had
nothing to say save that he was unfit to go to the war.

The next spirit seems to have been more intelligent and of a higher
grade than any of the others. He gave some prophecies which seem to have
been fairly accurate. Then comes the following:

Q. "Is it pleasant where you are?"--A. "Very. I am happy. I have
interesting companionship."

Q. "Do you hope to rise higher?"--A. "I do earnestly."

Q. "Is there reincarnation?"--A. "Yes" (violently).

Q. "Have you risen higher since you died?"--A. "Yes, twice."

This is the kind of vital information which we want. As to
reincarnation, it is clear at any rate that it is at only long
intervals, since in three centuries he had not himself experienced it.

The next visitor gave the name of John. He was a half Spaniard who
interlarded his remarks with Spanish words which were, of course,
intelligible to the audience. He had been killed some fifty years ago,
that would mean about 1879, on some steps in Madrid. It was in a fight
with a rival over a woman. He was very unhappy, "I hate my
surroundings." He was English on his mother's side. Nothing could be
done to help him. His case seemed to be a bad one. There was nothing
evidential.

There followed a very sprightly young lady named Willette, who claimed
to be the girl of that "will of the wisp" Lionel Vereker. She did not
like proper people. "Life is quite good here." She had died in 1928 in
England. "What a hole!" she added. She came from Dresden, had red hair
and was fond of laughing. She had talked to other people at séances,
mentioning two names, Kenneth Gardner and Ruth Cameron. She was bored
with Lionel--a cheerful irresponsible person--non-evidential.

The next called himself Peter Morrison, almost certainly using a false
name if he exists at all. He had died in 1924 in Birmingham, aged
forty-one. He had been in the war as a Lieut.-Commander in the R.N.V.R.
He was on the _Warspite_. Educated at Bradfield, born in Nottingham.

This was very disappointing, as inquiry both at Bradfield and at the
Admiralty failed to find any Peter Morrison. Always we seemed to break
down upon the individual name even when other names were convincingly
correct.

It is noticeable how often they use Christian names only, as if they did
not desire identification. Thus the next called himself "Robin." He had
been over two hundred years "a gentleman of much leisure and pleasure. I
lived in London and Worcester." Asked if he knew James Kirk, who seemed
a kindred soul, he answered, "No, is he a well-known man?" Robin soon
departed. The next was also very short. Rose Lonsdale was the name. She
had died in early Victorian days, aged sixty-four. Her life was
uninteresting. She was always tired. She could speak a little German
because she had a German music master. Nothing evidential or
instructive.

The next gave the name of James Welby and he made the comprehensive
remark, "we live as mortals do." He had died two centuries before at the
age of fifty-two. Died from a severe cold. When asked who was king he
said that George the First was on the throne. George I died in 1727, so
that would be fairly correct. He lived at Salisbury and was a man of
leisure. He was born in Hampshire. His parents bought him a large house
in London or he added, "on the outskirts of that noble city. It was just
outside of Piccadilly." Afterwards he travelled in France and married an
Irish lady, named Cecilia Abby. When asked the name of his London home
he replied, "It had simply the name of Dunton House." This place I have
been unable to identify. He continued, "We went to all entertainments,
routs and such frivolous amusements. We were blessed with two daughters,
one alas, died of small-pox. The other married George Fountain. My wife
died and I then lived in Salisbury, contracted a severe chill and died."
The dialogue then ran:

Q. "Are you happy?"--A. "Extremely."

Q. "Are your wife and daughter with you?"--A. "Yes."

Q. "And your other daughter?"--A. "I wish I knew." (This is
interesting.)

He was then asked if he knew Robin and he answered he knew Robert Castle
who often called himself Robin. They suggested that Robin lived in
London and Worcester, and he replied, "No, this one lived in Cheshire."
He then added that he was happy and that his surroundings were more or
less like the earth he knew, but more happy and less troubled.

There is nothing evidential here, but it is very reassuring to us
mortals who follow on the trail.

We now come on Richard Merriman who died in 1560 and is, therefore, the
oldest spirit of all. Asked who was king at that time, he replied
instantly, "Queen." "Which one?" they asked. "What other, but our
Elizabeth?" He died at sea at the age of thirty-five. He caught "the
feared disease. Was not able to obtain help of any competence. We had no
surgeon aboard." Nothing further of importance was gathered.

Then came Katie, who refused to give a second name. She died in 1764.
When asked who was king, she replied, "George the Second while I lived."
This was quite correct, as George the Third came on in 1760.

The accuracy of these historical dates is really a strong point for the
proof of the reality of these visitors.

Q. "How old were you?"--A. "Thirty. A great age for a woman of my kind."

Q. "Were you a woman of easy virtue?"--"If you care to word it thus."

Q. "Could you tell us the names of some of your lovers."--A. "Arthur
Grenville, Will Roberts, Laurence Annaly. There are none worth my
attention."

The conversation abruptly broke off. The next witness gave me more
trouble than any of the others and some disappointment, since I seemed
to be continually on the edge of what would be evidential and yet never
could attain it. I was greatly helped by the courtesy of the Secretary
of Lloyds' Shipping Register. The name given was John Coke. He said that
he was a sailor and had been drowned eighty years ago in a shipwreck off
the Virgin Islands. He asked them to pronounce his name as Cook. When
asked if he was happy he said, "Not very. I miss the sea. It meant a lot
to a man like me." Asked if any of his old shipmates were with him, he
said, "Yes, two, but not my friends." "It is very black," he added. "I
like light, I like wind and sea and salt and sun and sails. I think you
do not have many sails now." Buenos Aires was a bleak town in his time.
He seemed surprised to learn that it was now a great city. He was
English by birth. Born at a village, Bolderstone in Norfolk. (The
nearest I could get to that, after long inquiry, was Blunderstone.) He
was a mate. His ship sailed from Hull to the West Indies. They were
carrying back a cargo of sugar and fruit. The name of the captain was
"Molleson." The name of the ship, _The Mary of Kintyre_, about two
thousand tons. He was forty and unmarried.

By search we found that there was a vessel, _The Marion Macintyre_, but
the name "Molleson" was not connected with it. There was, however, a
vessel named _Mary_ with "Morrison" as the master's name, in 1846. Her
subsequent movements could not be traced. The tonnage seemed to be
excessive for those days. It has been suggested that "Gorleston" which
is a seaside village from which a sailor might well originate, is the
right name and Bolderstone a mistake. This, however, seems a little
far-fetched. On the whole we must admit that my search has not been
successful in identifying John Coke.

Only one other case remains to be examined. It was that of Zoe, a lady
of light virtue who claims to have met her death two years ago at Tours.
She was stabbed or shot by her lover. I made some inquiries from a
friend at Tours, but here again I was unable to verify the facts. Zoe,
judging by her dialogue, was an amusing and rather impertinent person.
Her remarks took the form of rather broad chaff of the people in the
circle. Once again we have to admit there is nothing evidential.

One very curious thing about this series of cases is the number of them
who died by violence. Zoe was murdered, John was murdered, Nicholas was
executed, Overman died in a motor smash, Coke was drowned. The death of
Harriette Wilson, is in my opinion, extremely doubtful. Therefore quite
a large proportion of the cases came to their end in an untimely way.
Whether this determined their presence in the particular stratum which
this circle seems to have tapped is more than we can say. Apparently it
was not one stratum alone, since about half of the communicants said
that they were happy and the other half miserable, half being in light
and the other half in gloom. Though, of course, in this world we do find
happy and unhappy people living in close proximity. I give the facts as
reported and I give my analysis as far as I have been able to make it,
and while there is much which is unsatisfactory, there is a great deal
which is plausible and which was entirely outside the knowledge of the
circle. It is just possible that this publication may bring some fresh
evidence on one point or another, and such evidence would be very
welcome to me. When compared with other such records there is enough in
common to give us good reason to believe that we are, in some sort of
dim fashion, gaining an actual glimpse of the conditions of life in a
certain section of the purgatorial world.



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The Edge of the Unknown by Arthur Conan Doyle





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