THE IDEA occurred to me in 1926 that is should be possible to use infra-red or ultra violet rays in place of light, and so be able to send an image in complete darkness. I tried ultra violet rays first; at this time my only assistance was the office boy imported from Hutchinson's soap works. He was ignorant but amiable. The ultra violet rays affected his eyes, and he did not complain, but I got a fright and tried infra-red. I first used electric fires to get these infra-red rays which are practically heat rays. I could not get any result and added more fires and the dummy's head went up in flames. I decided to try another track and use the short infra-red rays. To get these I used ordinary electric bulbs covered with thin ebonite. This cut off all light but allowed the infra-red ray to pass. Wally sat under this without much discomfort and after one or two adjustments I saw him on the screen although he was in total darkness. That was again a thrill, something new and strange, I was actually seeing a person without light.
Hutchinson was shown the wondrous phenomena and great excitement prevailed. Again the members of the Royal Institution were called in to witness the new phenomenon and again the scientists and newspapers were summoned. Sir Oliver Lodge came with his daughter and said it was amazing but very hot. He did not sit long which I thought was a pity, as he was the best subject for television I have ever seen. His white beard and impressive head came through
The newspapers gave this intention, which I called "seeing in the dark" great publicity which had one rather amusing result. At that time I was staying in a small residential hotel and one morning when I came down to breakfast a young lady resident asked me "Is it true, Mr. Baird, that you have an apparatus which can see through brick walls and in the dark?" I said "Yes" and he said "That explains the queer tickling sensation I had last night". That is, of course, a quite exaggerated and wrong view to have of the powers of television as it today but some time in the future it may be possible to do what the young lady dreaded, although if this does happen it will be a very doubtful blessing for everyone concerned.
It was not long before another very peculiar application was suggested. One day a bent up elderly man appeared in the board room. He was a professor and a distinguished entomologist and he had a very strange story to tell. It appeared he had been called in to investigate the activities of a medium called "Marjorie", this was the name the medium was known by, although more strictly speaking it was the name assumed be her controlled spirit. The earthly "Marjorie" was a respectable married lady who in early life had lost her only son in tragic circumstances. This boy "Jack" one morning in a fit of depression had gone into the bathroom and cut his throat, leaving the razor with bloodstained thumb marks on the floor; this razor had been locked away untouched. "Marjorie" was heartbroken and in an effort to speak again to her son joined a spiritualistic circle. Here she was discovered to have astounding mediumistic powers.
In the darkened silenced room of the spiritualistic circle she sank into a trance; in this state her body extruded from its orifices a strange vapour called ectoplasm. This extraordinary substance floated about her like a cloud and was of such a fine and mysterious nature that it could be used by the spirits to build ectoplasmic bodies. It was now that the spirit of Jack her departed son appeared and made his presence felt. Not only did he speak and answer questions, but he used the ectoplasm to materialise his hand and shook hands with the audience, wrote messages and moved objects and did all that a hand floating in space could do. It was at this stage of the proceedings that the professor was called in as an independent scientific observer to test and report on these astounding phenomena.
He approached the whole matter with complete scepticism, and went to work with the careful thoroughness of a highly trained observer. He was however badly handicapped as all manifestations had to take place in a completely dark room, ectoplasm being highly sensitive to light which instantly destroys it, with dreadful results to the medium, profuse bleeding and even death - such was the tale. Nevertheless, the professor persevered, the mystic hand materialised and the professor shook hands with the ectoplasmic manifestation. The hand, he said, felt hard and cold like the skin of a serpent, but of its existence there was no doubt.
Then he was truck with a really brilliant idea, no two thumb prints were alike, why not get Jack's ectoplasmic hand to make a finger print and compare it with the prints on the carefully preserved razor. This extraordinary experiment was carried out, Jack was readily persuaded to press his ectoplasmic hand on a piece of carefully prepared with wax. The prints so produced were compared with those on the razor and they were identical. The professor had heard that I had a device which enabled a person to see in the dark. He wanted to borrow this so that he could watch the whole process of materialisation without destroyed the ectoplasm.
I agreed at once to take part in this and he went off to arrange matters. I never saw him again. He was killed in a motor accident. A spiritualist told me that this was undoubtedly the action of the spirit forces and the result of his effort to pry into sacred secrets.
This was not, however, the end of the matter. Sometime afterwards a caller arrived at the company's office with an invention for me to examine. It was a little electric motor controlled by a tuning fork. He had it with him but had some difficulty in making it run properly. I suggested he should come back when the troubles were overcome. He rose to go and as a parting shot said: "Would you care to have definite and irrefutable evidence of the survival of the personality after death?" I said, "Yes, I would give everything I possessed for such evidence". "Well" he said, "I can give it to you if you do not mind making the journey". I said "I would go to the ends of the earth for such a cause". "There is no need for that" said he, "you only have to go to West Wimbledon".
This was arranged and I duly arrived at the above address given, a small highly respectable villa; here I was welcomed by a party of elderly ladies and gentlemen and given tea. Then the medium arrived, a neurotic nervous looking woman of about 35. We trooped up to the
sťance room. Here there was arranged a circle of chairs and in the centre of this a small box like a sentry box, draped in black, provided with a chair. The medium was handcuffed to this chair. The audience sat round on the other chairs provided, each person held a hand of each of his neighbours and put a foot on one of his neighbours feet, so that any undetected movement of hand or foot was impossible. Lights were then extinguished. The leader, an impressive elderly gent with dies whiskers, then led the singing of a hymn, "Tis a beauteous belief that spirits round us throng". This was followed by a prayer. Then darkness and silence, broken only by a mysterious steady humming sound, which I learned afterwards came from an electrical tuning fork. The rhythmic sound was found to assist manifestations (also possibly to mask any noise made by the medium).
we waited and waited, the darkness and silence had a most eerie effect, then the old lady next to me squeezed my hand and whispered in an awestruck whisper, "look, it's coming". Sure enough in front of the booth, faint and almost invisible, a wavering purple coloured cloud was forming. It grew denser and then the silence was broken by the irregular tapping of a morse key; the spirit was signalling by tapping in the morse key; the spirit was signalled by tapping in the morse code. The message was directed to me and it came from no less a personage than Thomas Alva Edison. Edison had, it appeared been experimenting with noctovision in his home in the astral plane, and he was convinced that it would in time prove of great use in assisting communication between the living and those who had passed over, but the time was not ripe, and to attempt to use it now would incur grave danger. He was however continuing his research and would communicate with me when the time came to use noctovision. Here his message stopped and Edison left and gave place to another control called Lilly.
Lilly was more domestic in her messages and gave detailed advice to one of the circle upon what to do for he rheumatism and how to handle various family troubles. I remembered that I had a lunch appointment and time was passing, and so I whispered to the leader that I had an engagement and if he would excuse me I would slip out. A horrified whisper replied to me, "If you move you may be struck dead".
I murmured that under the circumstances I would wait, however, the spirits took the hint and a few minutes afterwards heavy groans came from the medium. She was coming out of the trance, and the lights were turned up. The leader hurried into the box with a large glass full of something hot and steaming, and soon the medium was sitting up looking about her in a dazed way. I slipped out, bade a hurried and apologetic good-bye and arrived at the Dieu Donne restaurant nearly an hour late.
My guests, two hearties from Scotland, were still waiting, drinking beer over lunch. I told them where I had been and what I had seen. "It seems all tosh to me", said Mr. B. "I wonder how sensible people can waste time with that nonsense", said Mr. M. "Well", I said, "What about Sir Oliver Lodge, Conan Doyle and other men of similar standing, you can't brush them aside with vulgar noises". "Oh," said Mr. B., "they are people who are perfectly sane except on one point. I once knew a man who was not only sane, but extremely clever, but he was under the delusion that one of his legs was made of glass". "It's not that" said Mr. M.,"
old Lodge and these other boys wanted to get into the limelight, the press won't give any prominence to their ordinary activities, but they get a good show for spooks, the public will always read about spooks. Of course the whole thing is a lot of damned rot".
I might have agreed with them but I have witnessed some very startling phenomena under circumstances which make trickery out of the question - and also unfortunately publication. I am convinced that discoveries of the far-reaching importance remain waiting along these shadowy and discredited paths.