Page images

a year or more, and Miss Wood sat in it weekly. It was screwed up from the outside, yet all the usual phenomena of materialization occurred just the same as when no cage was used. At other times Miss Wood sat in the circle visible to all, yet other figures of various apparent ages came out of the cabinet. Then again Mr. Varley, the electrician, applied the electrical test to Miss Cook, she forming part of the circuit, yet all the usual phenomena occurred. Crookes again used the same test, with the same result; and he also saw Miss Cook and the materialized form 'Katie' at the same time, in his own house, and he photographed the latter. All these facts and many others of like nature have been published, and are known to all inquirers, and every investigator knows that your failure to obtain phenomena under the test, was no proof of any dishonesty in the medium, or of impossibility of obtaining the phenomena under such conditions. Such tests often require to be tried many times before success is attained. To me, and I believe to most inquirers, it will appear in the highest degree unscientific to reject phenomena that could not possibly be due to imposture, and to ignore the hundreds of corroborative tests by other equally competent observers, and then, after this, to call all such observers (by implication) fools or lunatics !

“Yet, again, your attempted explanation of the 'mental question' test does not apply to the Bellew case, where you expressly state that some of the words while being spelled out were challenged by all present as being wrong, and were yet insisted on by the unknown intelligence, and resulted, contrary to the expectation of all, in—' I, John Bellew, fear no being.'

“Yours truly,


In reply to this, I received another long and very argumentative letter, admitting that from my point of view and greater experience, my arguments were very strong, but that from his point of view, with his "bias against the preterhuman,” his refusal to accept any evidence, unless it could be

repeated under “several reasonable alterations of conditions, designed to exclude merely human powers of trickery,” his objections and his incredulity were quite logical and scientific. He also urged that the mental tests and that of the unexpected answer about Bellew did not require any other intelligence, because equally unexpected things and sayings occurred in dreams, in which we ourselves supply the whole of the matter dreamt of. He therefore thought "that a man may, unconsciously, or subconsciously, supply the other side of a dialogue when he is wideawake, just as well as he can when he is fast asleep.” This shows how ingenious was my correspondent as a dialectician, and rendered me disinclined to carry on a further correspondence which seemed likely to be a long one. He quite overlooked, however, the circumstance that our correspondence began, not on account of his being unconvinced by what he witnessed, but by using the fact that I, after much longer experience and a much wider acquaintance with the subject, had been convinced, as a weapon against me in a scientific argument.

However, on the whole, he took my criticism, and even my ridicule, in very good part—better, in fact, than I expected -and he was completely mystified when I told him that my knowledge of his letters did not come directly or indirectly through any of Darwin's family. In order to relieve their minds of such a supposition, I told them how I got to see copies of the letters.

In this letter, however, he gave me an account of a "sack trick” he had seen, which he thought as wonderful as anything he saw with Williams, but which he persuaded the performer to show him the secret of. As I think this may interest my readers, I will give it in his own words.

“ But for the fact that he is now dead, I could have introduced you to an American medium who would have gone to your own house, and allowed you to furnish your own cabinet, handcuffs, canvass sack, twine, sealing-wax, and seal. Having fastened his hands together behind his back by means of handcuffs as tightly as possible, you might have

taken him to the cabinet, placed him inside the sack, tied the mouth of the sack as tightly with the string as you could, and sealed the knots and likewise the two ends of the string to the outside of the sack. Lastly, you might have shut and locked the cabinet door. Then after a period varying from one to two minutes, you would have heard the medium knock, and on opening the door would have found him outside the sack with his hands handcuffed behind his back as before—the mouth of the sack being wide open, and all the knots and seals intact. This performance the medium would repeat any number of times. Having seen him do this I was completely baffled (as I was with Williams), and so would you have been unless you can suggest 'how it was done,' and unless I add, what I do now, that I persuaded this man to explain the trick.”

In reply to this I pointed out that the “sack" and handcuff trick involved only one essential operation, that of quickly slipping his hands in and out of the handcuffs, and that this was probably done partly by a natural mobility of the bones of the wrists and hand, partly by induced suppleness by long practice. That being done while being put into the sack inside the cabinet when the movement of his arms would not be noticed, he had only to insert one or two fingers in the neck of the sack while it was being tied, and all the rest was easy. Nothing was needed or done but to slip out of the handcuffs and slip off the string tied round the neck of the sack.

In the case of Williams, solid objects were moved which were a long way from the medium, and two self-moving objects - a luminous hand, and a head and face with movable features, were produced and seen by all while the medium was held and one of the party looked on outside the circle. And I asked him what became of these solid objects afterwards?

In his reply he said I was substantially right about the way the “sack" trick was done. Also, that several years afterwards Darwin wrote to him that Williams had been detected by some one striking a light! He therefore felt

quite justified in disbelieving all he had once thought so convincing.

Thus ended our correspondence on this subject; and, I suppose, as a kind of amende honorable, my correspondent asked me, the next year, to allow him to have a photograph of myself for a forthcoming book of his on the Darwinian theory! This I declined with thanks.




THE publication of my book in 1874, not only brought me an extensive correspondence on the subject, but led to my being invited to take part in many interesting séances, and making the acquaintance of spiritualists both at home and abroad. As what I witnessed was often very remarkable, and forms a sort of supplement to the “ Notes of Personal Evidence" given in my book, and also because these phenomena have had a very important influence both on my character and my opinions, it will be necessary here to give a brief outline of them.

I attended a series of sittings with Miss Kate Cook, the sister of the Miss Florence Cook, with whom Sir William Crookes obtained such very striking results. The general features of these séances were very similar, though there was great variety in details. They took place in the rooms of Signor Randi, a miniature painter, living in Montague Place, W., in a large reception-room, across one corner of which a curtain was hung and a chair placed inside for the medium. There were generally six or seven persons present. Miss Cook and her mother came from North London. Miss C. was always dressed in black, with lace collar, she wore lacedup boots, and had earrings in her ears. In a few minutes after she had entered the cabinet, the curtains would be drawn apart and a white-robed female figure would appear, and sometimes come out and stand close in front of the curtain. One after another she would beckon to us to come

« EelmineJätka »