ARTICLES

W. J. Crawford

Lecturer in mechanical engineering in The Municipal Technical Institute, Belfast and Extra-Mural Lecturer in Queens University, Belfast, whose painstaking and thorough investigations with the Kathleen Goligher Circle between 1917 and 1920 go some way towards discovering the 'psychic' laws behind telekinesis phenomena.

Direct-Voice Phenomena

 - W. J. Crawford-

          I AM now going to describe some experiments I carried out on "direct-voice" phenomena, which phenomena occurred during several séances held in my own house. As the reader is no doubt aware, the "direct voice" is a rather rare form of psychic phenomenon. Voices, not apparently the voice of the medium or of any of the sitters, speak from the air within or around the circle. They speak through thin metal cones or "trumpets" which seemingly float about in the air under psychic support, their function being to concentrate the voice sounds and thus make them more audible than they otherwise would be. I refer the reader who desires to obtain a good general idea of this type of mediumship to the late Vice-Admiral Moore's book The Voices.

The medium who was responsible for the voice phenomena occurring at the séances held in my house was Mrs Z., a well-known public psychic. There has been much controversy over this woman's mediumship. Her séances, in order to produce any result worth mentioning, have to be held in absolute darkness, which, however, I believe, is generally true of all sittings for the "direct-voice" with all mediums. Hence there is considerable scope for fraud if the medium be a fraudulent one.

Mrs Z. has been going up and down the country for a number of years, giving hundreds of séances. I do not think anything definite has ever been discovered during this period of time which points conclusively to fraud. I have heard the explanations of many people who claim to describe how her phenomena are produced fraudulently, but when these explanations are critically examined they are found to be of little value.

The reader, however, must understand that the experiments I carried out with this medium were done under the following limitations:

(1) They were nearly all carried out in complete darkness.

(2) The medium was a public one.

Fig. 29 (below)

I carried out the tests for my own satisfaction and did not think of publishing them; but, on consideration, I have come to the conclusion that they should be put on record, if for no other reason than that the results may be compared hereafter with the vast quantities of experimental work that will have to be done if we are ever to get at the bottom of this psychic question.

It must be distinctly understood by the reader that I do not guarantee the genuineness of the results given below. I did everything I could to prevent fraud; but in an absolutely dark séance-room it is obviously impossible to ensure complete prevention. The reader must draw his own conclusions, or wait till the results obtained are compared with similar results from other "direct-voice" mediums.

The sittings were held in my own house in a small laboratory I have fitted up for psychic work. The sitters were all my personal friends, specially invited to the séances by myself.

Fig. 29 shows (in connection with other apparatus) a photograph of the two trumpets used. Each of them was made in two lengths of thin tinned iron, which fitted tightly telescopically together. The particulars are as follows:

No.1: weight, 1 lb. 2 oz.
No. 2: weight, 1 lb.

Length of each, 34 in. Apertures, ¾ in. and 4 in. diameter.

Séance I
Date: Saturday, 20th April
Time: 8 to 9.30 p.m.

Weights of medium and sitters and just after the séance:

  Weight just before séance Weight just after séance
Mrs Z. (medium)
Mrs A.
Mr X.
Mr R.
Mrs Q.
Mr M.
Mrs B.
19 st
9 st
11 st
13 st
10 st
12 st
11 st
13¾ lb.
13½ lb.
6¼ lb.
7 lb.
3½ lb.
9½ lb.
6 lb.
19 st
9 st
11 st
13 st
10 st
12 st
11 st
13½ lb.
13½ lb.
4¼ lb.
6½ lb.
3 lb.
9½ lb.
5¼ lb.


The above weights include weight of chair and drawing-board (13 ⅜ lb.).

It will be noted that there was an almost general reduction in weight after the séance, but that the medium lost only a quarter of a pound.

The reader will be interested to hear that at a circle held about a year previously with Mrs Z., one of the voices, just before the break-up of the séance, gratuitously informed us that if we were to weigh the medium at the conclusion, we would find that she had lost 10 or more pounds, due to the phenomena occurring during the evening. There is no doubt that the medium believed this herself; at any rate she mentioned it several times in the course of conversation. But it is all rubbish. The medium loses permanently very little weight; less, indeed, than some of the sitters. And in this respect she is in line with all other mediums I have known.

I think the origin of the medium's belief that she lost 10 or more pounds in weight during one of her circles came about as follows: Some years ago, in America, telekinetic phenomena occurred through her; as a matter of fact, a piano is said to have moved across the room. She was weighed while this was happening, and it was found that she lost a good many pounds. The medium immediately came to the rash conclusion that this loss of weight was permanent, and she has since so informed all and sundry. Of course, the loss (supposing it to have taken place) was merely temporary and lasted only during the time the phenomenon was occurring. The reader who has followed my experiments will know that these temporary fluctuations of weight seemingly occur during all phenomena of the telekinetic order.

But what are we to think of the voice (quite evidently a "direct" voice, and not the voice of the medium either in or out of trance) which definitely declared that the medium permanently lost a great many pounds in weight? Did the voice belong to a sub-conscious part of Mrs Z.'s ego masquerading as an independent entity, or did it really belong to an independent spirit? If the latter was the case, why did the spirit make incorrect statements in so fundamental a matter? If an independent spirit was speaking, he must be very like unscientific people here, who, in order to impress others, are not very careful or exact in their statements.

Returning to my experiments, the two trumpets were placed upright on the floor within the circle. The red light (obtained from a gas jet enclosed in a large lantern having a sliding red glass front) was turned on full, and the lantern was placed on a table at the end of the room farthest from the medium. Nothing happened for about a quarter of an hour. Then there were some raps on the floor and on the trumpets. In reply to questions the operators said (by raps) that the light was too strong. I went over to the lantern and turned the gas half down. A feeble voice, apparently emanating from near the ceiling within the circle space, was then heard saying, "Sing something." Soon the swish of what might have been the trumpets flying about in the air was heard (they could not, however, be seen). The voice then said, "Turn the light round," i.e. the light was to be turned round so that it faced the wall, away from the circle and the medium. This voice is from the "control," who is supposed to be a daughter of the medium who died many chief guide or years ago, and who now acts as control at her mother's circles. Her voice is very much in evidence at all Mrs Z.'s circles, and it has a peculiar timbre not easily 'mistakable. The light was turned round as directed, which had the effect of making the room practically dark. There were then heard some facetious remarks from the control with regard to the experimental apparatus in the room, and various voices spoke which gave names, but no evidence of identity.

What I wished, however, was to see if the trumpets were really moving about in the air, as they seemed to be doing from the various directions in which the voices were speaking and from the peculiar way in which the trumpets apparently touched sitters in different parts of the circle. But it was now evident that only the feeblest light was possible with this medium. So I inserted a yellow screen in front of the red glass of the lantern, which I again turned round facing the medium. (It is to be remembered that the lantern was on a table right outside the circle of sitters, and perhaps seven feet distant from the medium.) The screen had the effect of practically extinguishing the light, there only remaining the dullest glow visible just in front of the lantern. Mr M., who was holding the left hand of the medium, then said that he could see the trumpets moving in front of the lamp. I went over beside him and saw shadows crossing and re-crossing the dull glow produced by the light. These shadows seemed to be due to the trumpets, for their outlines were visible crossing both in a vertical position (sometimes small end up and sometimes large end) and in an inclined position.

At the conclusion of the séance, when the lights were turned up, a fresh mark was found on the plaster of the ceiling of the room which would appear to have been made by the end of a trumpet. This mark was more than ten feet distant from the chair on which the medium was sitting. After the medium had departed we tried if it was possible to make such a mark fraudulently, even with the aid of both trumpets, but nobody could see how this was possible. (The small ends of the trumpets were of practically the same diameter and would not telescope into each other.) I may say also that I had heard voices speaking from the vicinity in which the mark was discovered.

During the whole séance Mr M. had hold of the medium's left hand. Mrs A. had her right hand, but this was occasionally free for a few seconds.

This séance showed that practically no phenomena could be obtained with this medium even in the feeblest of light. The trumpets could not even be made to move in the air round the room except in the dullest of dull glows. With Miss Goligher's mediumship the trumpets floated about in strong red light, and could be examined in detail (see The Reality of Psychic Phenomena).

Séance II
Date: Sunday, 21st April 1918.
Time: 7.30 to 9.15 p.m.

Weights of medium and sitters just before and just after the séance:

  Weight just before séance Weight just after séance
Mrs Z. (medium)
Mr R.
Mr M.
Mrs S.
Mrs T.
Mrs A.
Mrs Q.
20 st
13 st
12 st
10 st
9 st
10 st
10 st
2½ lb.
6¾ lb.
8½ lb.
6 lb.
10¾ lb.
1½ lb.
5¼ lb.
20 st
13 st
12 st
10 st
9 st
10 st
10 st
2¼ lb.
6½ lb.
8 lb.
4¼ lb.
10½ lb.
1 lb.
5 lb.


The above weights include weight of chair and drawing-board (15½ lb.). (The chair used at these séances was not always the same.)

Experiment to find the Effect on the Medium's Weight while a Voice was speaking

The medium sat on a chair which rested upon a drawing-board placed on the platform of a weighing-machine. The medium is a heavy woman, and she found it difficult to make herself comfortable on the machine, yet she sat upon it for nearly an hour. I exactly balanced her weight, so that the lever of the machine was just quivering between the stops. The machine just balanced at 20 st. 2½ lb. The two trumpets were placed upright on the floor within the circle. The medium sat with her hands on her knees. The lights were turned completely out and the séance commenced. I stood at the back of the machine with my right hand upon the lever, so that I was sensible of its slightest movement. With my left hand I felt the back of the medium from time to time.

Nothing happened for a quarter of an hour or so. Then the lever of the machine fell lightly on the bottom stop, indicating that the medium's weight was decreasing. Very carefully I moved the rider back along the lever and obtained a new balance. Although it was dark, this was quite easily accomplished by my sense of touch. The medium's original weight had balanced at 20 st. 2½ lb., so that the rider had been at the 2½-lb. mark beyond zero on the scale. I found that by almost exactly moving the rider to zero the lever just balanced again. The decrease in the medium's weight was, therefore, within an ounce of 2½ lb. Immediately after I had surely obtained the new balance, the control's voice, issuing apparently from somewhere near the roof within the circle, cried out "Weigh me," and a trumpet dropped with a crash to the floor within the circle. The medium's weight then immediately returned to the original value.

About a quarter of an hour later the same thing happened: the medium's weight suddenly decreased almost exactly 2½ lb.; the control's voice called out from near the ceiling, "Weigh me"; a trumpet dropped with a crash to the floor; and the medium's weight immediately returned to normal.

The whole experiment was carried out in absolute darkness, only the senses of touch and hearing being of any use to the experimenter. What, then, are the chances that the decrease in the medium's weight was due to genuine psychic action and not to fraud?

(a) With the exception of the occasion when her weight decreased as described, there was absolutely no action on the weighing-machine. The lever was very delicately balanced, and I could note, by my sense of touch, if it moved the smallest amount. I am perfectly satisfied in my own mind that the medium, far from moving off the machine, or touching, or pushing on, or lifting extraneous bodies, hardly moved a muscle all the time she was sitting on the machine (possible exceptions, of course, being during the two periods of decreased weight). If she had done any of these things the delicately poised lever would have given it away. Moreover, the medium is a large heavy woman, and any movements she would make, especially from the small platform of a weighing-machine seven inches above the floor, would most likely be of a clumsy nature. Therefore any fraud attempted was only during the periods of decreased weight.

(b) If the medium lifted a trumpet with a hand or foot and held it out in the air, the weighing-machine would register increase of weight equal to weight of trumpet. The medium's weight, however, decreased on both occasions.

(c) If the medium put out a hand, grasped the end of a trumpet and pressed the other end of the trumpet on the floor, her weight would decrease. In order, however, to make the decrease almost exactly 2½ lb. on two separate occasions, she would need to have a very nice sense of touch.

(d) If acting fraudulently, the medium, during the period of the fraud, must have been doing something with the trumpet, for it crashed on the floor as soon as the voice spoke, and then immediately she regained her lost weight. It is certain she did not lift the trumpet clear of the floor at any time, for at no period was there the slightest increase in her weight. Yet the voice spoke from near the ceiling. If the trumpet had been pressed on the ceiling by the medium she would have gained weight, and during the time she was lifting it from floor to the ceiling she would have also gained weight.

Taking it on the whole, I am inclined to think the phenomenon was genuine, and that the decrease in weight of 2½ lb. was due to psychic action.

As practically no phenomena were forthcoming while the medium was sitting on the weighing-machine (with the exception of those noted), I finally removed the machine, and the medium sat on a chair placed on the floor. The medium said that the iron of the machine was hindering the production of phenomena. Voices in fair number then spoke, but nothing in the way of tests of identity was given.

I asked the control if, during the experiment, I had been weighing her or the trumpet. She did not seem to know, for she told me to "find out" for myself.

Séance III
Date: Saturday, 27th April
Time: 8 to 9.30 p.m.

Weights of medium and sitters and just after the séance:

  Weight just before séance Weight just after séance
Mrs Z. (medium)
Mrs A.
Mr M.
Mr U.
Mr W.
Mrs S.
Mrs T.
20 st
10 st
13 st
10 st
11 st
10 st
9 st
6 lb.
3 lb.
¾ lb.
13½ lb.
4⅞ lb.
6¾ lb.
12½ lb.
20 st
10 st
13 st
10 st
11 st
10 st
9 st
5½ lb.
2½ lb.
½ lb.
13⅛ lb.
4⅛ lb.
6½ lb.
12¼ lb.


The above weights include the weight of chair and drawing-board (18¾ lb.).

Experiment to determine if the "Direct Voice" could be registered on a Phonograph

In order that the medium might not be able to move the trumpets with her feet, I devised an electrical apparatus which effectually prevented this. A photograph of it is shown (fig. 29). It consists of a couple of flat boards hinged at their back ends to an under board which is screwed to the floor. An electrical contact device and springs are so arranged to each that normally the contacts are closed and an electric bell in the circuit rings. If a person sits on a chair and places a foot on each of the flat hinged boards, the contacts are opened due to the weight, and the bell ceases to ring. Each foot-rest operates independently. Between the two footrests is a vertical board sufficiently high to prevent one foot from being placed across both rests simultaneously. Many control tests showed that neither foot could be raised for an instant without the bell ringing.

When Mrs Z. came into the séance-room and saw the foot electrical apparatus she seemed annoyed and nervous (I had not previously told her of it). She said I should have made arrangements with her guides, i.e. spirit controls, before it was used. It took a lot of coaxing before she would consent to sit on a chair above the apparatus and put her feet on it.

A friend of mine, Mr Stoupe, sat on her left, and Mrs Mills on her right, throughout the whole séance. The medium placed a hand on each knee. A minute or two after the light was put out each of these sitters linked the little finger of each of the medium's hands with their own hands, and I have their word that except during the times the light was subsequently lit (it was lit twice) they held tightly and that the medium's hands were never free. On the occasions upon which the light was temporarily lit I examined the situation and found each of the medium's hands properly gripped: in fact, they were gripped so tightly that it was necessary, during the few minutes the light was on, to relax hands temporarily in order to give relief to the fingers of medium and sitters, which had become cramped. But before the light was again extinguished the medium's hands were again tightly held.

As I have said, Mrs Z., although obviously nervous and ill at ease, eventually submitted to all the test conditions. The trumpets were placed upright on the floor within the circle and the light was extinguished.

Within four minutes from the commencement, the control's voice was heard from the air within the circle. I was surprised at this quick starting of phenomena, as at the previous séances they had been much slower in getting under way. Is it possible that the control, being a real spirit entity, desired to give her mother confidence and to show her that there was no reason for her nervousness? At any rate this was the effect produced, for the medium immediately became quite cheerful.

The phonograph was resting on a table outside the circle of sitters, directly opposite the medium. The horn of the instrument was more than seven feet distant from her.

The control seemed to be in charge, so I explained that I wished her to bring the mouth of the trumpet, through which the direct voice would speak, right up to the horn of the phonograph, as otherwise the voice might not be clearly reproduced. She rather discourteously replied that "she would do what she liked."

However, in a short time she said she was ready. I told her to wait until she heard the buzzing of the machine and then to speak into it. Before I pulled the lever which started the machine (it was an Edison "Standard," kindly loaned me by Mr Edens Osborne of Belfast), I asked the sitters on either side of the medium if they had tight hold of her hands, and they replied in the affirmative. The cylinder had only made a few revolutions when the control commenced to sing a song into the horn. This song was three verses in length, and at the end of each verse she interjected remarks such as "How's that?" etc. I told her to sing a little louder, and during the third verse she sang quite loudly.

I plainly felt the movement of the air just at the mouth of the phonograph horn as the song was being sung, which would seem to indicate that the end of the trumpet was moving to and fro at the spot. Moreover, the control's voice emanated from a position just at the mouth of the horn. I did not attempt to touch the trumpet, as I knew from experience that if I did so it would be likely to drop. If an end of the trumpet was thus right at the mouth of the phonograph horn, as it appeared to be, the nearest distance of the other end of the trumpet from the medium must have been well over four feet. At the conclusion of the song, and after I had stopped the instrument, I asked the sitters on either side of the medium if they still had hold of her hands, and they replied in the affirmative. These sitters afterwards told me that during the taking of the record the medium's hands were vibrating rapidly, as though they were under great nervous stress.

Then occurred the incident of the silk coat (discussed later).

The control asked that the light be turned on, which was done. I tried the record and found the voice satisfactorily recorded.

Another blank record was put on the machine, the medium's hands were held, and the light was put out. The control, at my request, this time spoke into the horn of the phonograph, instead of singing, and again the voice was recorded.

There is internal evidence in the records themselves that the voice must have been speaking right into the horn of the phonograph and not from some distance away. Amongst people who are continually making records it is well known that if the voice to be recorded speaks too close into the horn a kind of tinny, metallic sound is produced which spoils the quality of the reproduced voice. Phonograph manufacturers call this effect "blasting." In several places in the two records of the control's voice this metallic "blasting" is heard, indicating that the voice must have been very close to, if not indeed within, the horn of the phonograph.

At the conclusion of the experiment the electrical foot apparatus was tested and was found to be working perfectly.

The Coat Incident

At the commencement of the séance the medium wore a knitted silk coat having sleeves reaching down to the wrist. There was a silk belt fastened round it at the waist.

Just after the first phonographic record had been taken I heard a peculiar fussling noise near me (on the side of the circle remote from the medium). When the light was turned on, the coat and belt were found neatly hung over the arm of one of the men (Mr W.), sitting opposite the medium and perhaps five feet distant from her. They had previously landed on Mrs T.'s hands, and had then seemed to take a leap on to the gentleman's arm (so at least says Mrs T.). One sleeve of the coat was found turned outside in. The belt was found undone and separate from the coat. At the time the coat was thrown or lifted on to Mr W.'s arm, both Mrs Mills and Mr Stoupe were holding one of the medium's hands, and her feet were on the electrical apparatus. But there was a minute or two at the beginning of the séance, while the hands of everybody were supposed to be resting on knees, during which the medium's hands were free. Hence there is nothing of test conditions about this incident, and I only relate it as a matter of interest.

Séance IV
Date: Sunday, 28th April 1918.
Time: 7.30 to 9 p.m.

Weights of sitters just before and just after the séance:

  Weight just before séance Weight just after séance
Mrs Z.
Mrs A.
Mr M.
Mr W.
Mr U.
Mrs Q.
Mrs P.
...
10 st
12 st
11 st
10 st
10 st
10 st
...
1½ lb.
12 lb.
5 lb.
13⅞ lb.
8¾ lb.
4¾ lb.
...
10 st
12 st
11 st
10 st
10 st
10 st
...
1½ lb.
11¾ lb.
5 lb.
13½ lb.
8¾ lb.
4¾ lb.


The above weights include the weight of chair and drawing-board (18¾ lb.).

There was very little phenomena at this séance, and the reader should note that the decreases in weight of the sitters are not so marked as in previous sittings.

Experiment with a Photographic Plate

The medium held a dark slide containing a half plate in her hands for half an hour. There were noises as though the slide was being opened and closed, and the medium may have been doing this. The control's voice was heard saying that she was trying to put something on the plate.

Result.- Negative. Nothing whatever on the plate.

Experiment with Curtain Rings

Two wooden curtain rings were placed on the floor with A request to the operators to interlock them. (This would have amounted to the penetration of solid matter by solid matter.)

Result. - Negative.

Experiment with Clay in Sealed Box

A wooden box about 12 inches square and 4 inches high was used. Into this some modeller's clay was placed and nicely smoothed. The lid was then placed on it and the whole roped and sealed. The operators were asked to make an impression on the clay inside the box without breaking the seals.

Result. - Negative.

The Municipal Technical Institute,
Belfast,
6th May 1918

I hereby declare that during the whole time the control was singing and speaking into the phonograph, I had firm hold of Mrs Z.'s left hand. Her hand was resting on her knee and my little finger was tightly twisted round her little finger. Dr Crawford asked me just before each phonograph record was taken and just after it was taken if I was sure I had tight hold. I replied that I was sure.

(Signed) Seamus Stoupe

Bray,
Co. Wicklow
7th May 1918.

I hereby declare that during the whole time the control was singing and speaking into the phonograph, I had firm hold of Mrs Z.'s right hand. Her hand was resting on her knee and my little finger was tightly twisted round her little finger. Dr Crawford asked me just before each phonograph record was taken and just after it was taken if I was sure I had tight hold. I replied that I was sure.

(Signed) Marian Mills.


Note: The above article appeared in "Experiments in Psychical Science" by W. J. Crawford (1919, E. P. Dutton & Co, New York).

 

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