Arthur Conan Doyle

Famous British writer and creator of Sherlock Holmes. President of the College of Psychic Studies, Federation Spirite Internationale and the London Spiritualist Alliance. Between 1885-88 he was invited to take part in table-turning experiments at the house of a patient, General Drayson, a teacher in the Greenwich Naval College, a keen mathematician and a man of scholarly education. He later joined the SPR and carried out a series of experiments with a Mrs. Ball and satisfied himself that telepathy was a fact. As regards survival, in 1902 when he first met Sir Oliver Lodge he had not arrived at a definite conclusion. But Myers' "Human Personality" made a deep impression on his mind, and eventually Doyle became a prominent advocate of the spirit hypothesis and wrote many books on the subject, including his two-volume "The History of Spiritualism".

Some Great Modern Mediums

 - Arthur Conan Doyle -

          THERE IS always a certain monotony in writing about physical signs of external intelligence, because they take stereotyped forms limited in their nature. They are amply sufficient for their purpose, which is to demonstrate the presence of invisible powers unknown to material science, but both their methods of production and the results lead to endless reiteration. This manifestation in itself, occurring as it does in every country on the globe, should convince anyone who thinks seriously upon the subject that he is in the presence of fixed laws, and that it is not a sporadic succession of miracles, but a real science which is being developed. It is in their ignorant and arrogant contempt of this fact that opponents have sinned. "Ils ne comprennent pas qu'il y a des lois," wrote Madame Bisson, after some fatuous attempt on the part of the doctors of the Sorbonne to produce ectoplasm under conditions which negatived their own experiment. As will be seen by what has gone before, a great physical medium can produce the Direct Voice apart from his own vocal organs, telekinesis, or movement of objects at a distance, raps, or percussions of ectoplasm, levitations, apports, or the bringing of objects from a distance, materializations, either of faces, limbs, or of complete figures, trance talkings and writings, writings within closed slates, and luminous phenomena, which take many forms. All of these manifestations the author has many times seen, and as they have been exhibited to him by the leading mediums of his day, he ventures to vary the form of this history by speaking of the more recent sensitives from his own personal knowledge and observation.

It is understood that some cultivate one gift and some another, while those who can exhibit all round forms of power are not usually so proficient in any one as the man or woman who specializes upon it. You have so much psychic power upon which to draw, and you may turn it all into one deep channel or disperse it over several superficial ones. Now and then some wonder-man appears like D. D. Home, who carries with him the whole range of mediumship - but it is rare.

The greatest trance medium with whom the author is acquainted is Mrs. Osborne Leonard. The outstanding merit of her gift is that it is, as a rule, continuous. It is not broken up by long pauses or irrelevant intervals, but it flows on exactly as if the person alleged to be speaking were actually present. The usual procedure is that Mrs. Leonard, a pleasant, gentle, middle-aged, ladylike woman, sinks into slumber, upon which her voice changes entirely, and what comes through purports to be from her little control, Feda. The control talks in rather broken English in a high voice, with many little intimacies and pleasantries which give the impression of a sweet, amiable and intelligent child. She acts as spokesman for the waiting spirit, but the spirit occasionally breaks in also, which leads to sudden changes from the first person singular to the third, such as: "I am here, Father. He says he wants to speak. I am so well and so happy. He says he finds it so wonderful to be able to talk to you ..." and so on.

At her best, it is a wonderful experience. Upon one occasion the author had received a long series of messages purporting to deal with the future fate of the world, through his wife's hand and voice in his own Home Circle. When he visited Mrs. Leonard, he said no word of this, nor had he at that time spoken of the matter in any public way. Yet he had hardly sat down and arranged the writing-pad upon which he proposed to take notes of what came through, when his son announced his presence, and spoke with hardly a break for an hour. During this long monologue he showed an intimate knowledge of all that had come through in the Home Circle, and also of small details of family life, utterly foreign to the medium. In the whole interview he made no mistake as to fact, and yet many facts were mentioned. A short section of the less personal part of it may be quoted here as a sample:

There is so much false progress of material mechanical kind. That is not progress. If you build a car to go one thousand miles this year, then you build one to go two thousand miles next year. No one is the better for that. We want real progress - to understand the power of mind and spirit and to realize the fact that there is a spirit world.

So much help could be given from our side if only people on the earth would fit themselves to take it, but we cannot force our help on those who are not prepared for it. That is your work, to prepare people for us. Some of them are so hopelessly ignorant, but sow the seed, even if you do not see it coming up.

The clergy are so limited in their ideas and so bound by a system which should be an obsolete one. It is like serving up last week's dinner instead of having a new one. We want fresh spiritual food, not a hash of the old food. We know how wonderful Christ is. We realize His love and His power. He can help both us and you. But He will do so by kindling fresh fires, not by raking always in the old ashes.

That is what we want - the fire of enthusiasm on the two altars of imagination and knowledge. Some people would do away with the imagination, but it is often the gateway to knowledge. The Churches have had the right teaching, but they have not put it to practical use.

One must be able to demonstrate one's spiritual knowledge in a practical form. The plane on which you live is a practical one in which you are expected to put your knowledge and belief into action. On our plane knowledge and faith are action - one thinks a thing and at once puts it into practice, but on earth there are so many who say a thing is right, but never do it. The Church teaches, but does not demonstrate its own teaching. The blackboard is useful at times, you know. That is what you need. You should teach, and then demonstrate upon the blackboard. Thus physical phenomena are really most important. There will be some in this upheaval. It is difficult for us to manifest physically now because the greater bulk of collective thought is against and not for us. But when the upheaval comes, people will be shaken out of their pig-headed, ignorant, antagonistic attitude to us, which will immediately open the way to a fuller demonstration than we have hitherto been able to give.

It is like a wall now that we have to batter against, and we lose ninety per cent of our power in the battering and trying to find a weak spot in this wall of ignorance through which we can creep to you. But many of you are chiselling and hammering from your side to let us through. You have not built the wall, and you are helping us to penetrate it. In a little while you will have so weakened it that it will crumble, and instead of creeping through with difficulty we shall all emerge together in a glorious band. That will be the climax - the meeting of spirit and matter.

If the truth of Spiritualism depended upon Mrs. Leonard's powers alone, the case would be an overwhelming one, since she has seen many hundreds of clients and seldom failed to give complete satisfaction. There are, however, many clairvoyants whose powers are little inferior to those of Mrs. Leonard, and who would perhaps equal her if they showed the same restraint in their use. No fee will ever tempt Mrs. Leonard to take more than two clients in the day, and it is to this, no doubt, that the sustained excellence of her results are due.

Among London clairvoyants whom the author has used, Mr. Vout Peters is entitled to a high place. On one occasion a very remarkable piece of evidence came through him, as is narrated elsewhere.(1) Another excellent medium upon her day is Mrs. Annie Brittain. The author was in the habit of sending mourners to this medium during the wartime, and filed the letters in which they narrated their experience. The result is a very remarkable one. Out of the first hundred cases eighty were quite successful in establishing touch with the object of their inquiry. In some cases the result was overpoweringly evidential, and the amount of comfort given to the inquirers can hardly be exaggerated. The revulsion of feeling when the mourner suddenly finds that death is not silent, but that a still small voice, speaking in very happy accents, can still come back is an overpowering one. One lady wrote that she had fully determined to take her own life, so bleak and empty was existence, but that she left Mrs. Brittain's parlour with renewed hope in her heart. When one hears that such a medium has been dragged up to a police-court, sworn down by ignorant policemen, and condemned by a still more ignorant magistrate, one feels that one is indeed living in the dark ages of the world's history.

(1) The New Revelation, p. 53.

Like Mrs. Leonard, Mrs. Brittain has a kindly little child familiar named Belle. In his extensive researches the author has made the acquaintance of many of these little creatures in different parts of the world, finding the same character, the same voice and the same pleasant ways in all. This similarity would in itself show any reasoning being that some general law was at work. Feda, Belle, Iris, Harmony, and many more, prattle in their high falsetto voices, and the world is the better for their presence and ministrations.

Miss McCreadie is another notable London clairvoyante belonging to the older school, and bringing with her an atmosphere of religion which is sometimes wanting. There are many others, but no notice would be complete without an allusion to the remarkable higher teaching which comes from Johannes and the other controls of Mrs. Hester Dowden, the daughter of the famous Shakespearean scholar. A reference should be made also to Captain Bartlett, whose wonderful writings and drawings enabled Mr. Bligh Bond to expose ruins of two chapels at Glastonbury which were so buried that only the clairvoyant sense could have defined their exact position. Readers of The Gate of Remembrance will understand the full force of this remarkable episode.

Direct Voice phenomena are different from mere clairvoyance and trance-speaking in that the sounds do not appear to come from the medium but externalize themselves often to a distance of several yards, continue to sound when the mouth is filled with water, and even break into two or three voices simultaneously. On these occasions an aluminium trumpet is used to magnify the voice, and also, as some suppose, to form a small dark chamber in which the actual vocal cords used by the spirit can become materialized. It is an interesting fact, and one which has caused much misgiving to those whose experience is limited, that the first sounds usually resemble the voice of the medium. This very soon passes away and the voice either becomes neutral or may closely resemble that of the deceased. It is possible that the reason of this phenomenon is that the ectoplasm from which the phenomena are produced is drawn from him or her, and carries with it some of his or her peculiarities until such time as the outside force gains command. It is well that the sceptic should be patient and await developments, for I have known an ignorant and self-opinionated investigator take for granted that there was fraud through noting the resemblance of voices, and then wreck the whole séance by foolish horseplay, whereas had he waited his doubts would soon have been resolved.

The author has had the experience with Mrs. Wriedt of hearing the Direct Voice, accompanied by raps on the trumpet, in broad daylight, with the medium seated some yards away. This disposes of the idea that the medium in the dark can change her position. It is not uncommon to have two or three spirit voices speaking or singing at the same moment, which is in turn fatal to the theory of ventriloquism. The trumpet, too, which is often decorated with a small spot of luminous paint, may be seen darting about far out of reach of the medium's hands. On one occasion at the house of Mr. Dennis Bradley, the author saw the illuminated trumpet whirling round and tapping on the ceiling as a moth might have done. The medium (Valiantine) was afterwards asked to stand upon his chair, and it was found that with the trumpet in his extended arm he was unable to touch the ceiling. This was witnessed by a circle of eight.

Mrs. Wriedt was born in Detroit some fifty years ago, and is perhaps better known in England than any American medium. The reality of her powers may best be judged by a short description of results. On the occasion of a visit to the author's house in the country she sat with the author, his wife, and his secretary, in a well-lighted room. A hymn was sung, and before the first verse was ended a fifth voice of excellent quality joined in and continued to the end. All three observers were ready to depose that Mrs. Wriedt herself was singing all the time. At the evening sitting a succession of friends came through with every possible sign of their identity. One sitter was approached by her father, recently dead, who began by the hard, dry cough which had appeared in his last illness. He discussed the question of some legacy in a perfectly rational manner. A friend of the author's, a rather irritable Anglo-Indian, manifested, so far as a voice could do so, reproducing exactly the fashion of speech, giving the name, and alluding to facts of his lifetime. Another sitter had a visit from one who claimed to be his grand-aunt. The relationship was denied, but on inquiry at home it was found that he had actually had an aunt of that name who died in his childhood. Telepathy has to be strained very far to cover such cases.

Altogether the author has experimented with at least twenty producers of the Direct Voice, and has been much struck by the difference in the volume of the sound with different mediums. Often it is so faint that it is only with some difficulty that one can distinguish the message. There are few experiences more tensely painful than to strain one's ears and to hear in the darkness the panting, labouring, broken accents beside one, which might mean so much if one could but distinguish them. On the other hand, the author has known what it was to be considerably embarrassed when in the bedroom of a crowded Chicago hotel a voice has broken forth which could only be compared with the roaring of a lion. The medium upon that occasion was a slim young American lad, who could not possibly have produced such a sound with his normal organs. Between these two extremes every gradation of volume and vibration may be encountered.

George Valiantine, who has already been mentioned, would perhaps come second if the author had to make a list of the great Direct Voice mediums with whom he has experimented. He was examined by the committee of the Scientific American and turned down on the excuse that an electric apparatus showed that he left his chair whenever the voice sounded. The instance already given by the author, where the trumpet circled outside the reach of the medium, is proof positive that his results certainly do not depend upon his leaving his chair, and their effect depends not only on how the voice is produced, but even more on what the voice says. Those who have read Dennis Bradley's Towards the Stars and his subsequent book narrating the long series of sittings held at Kingston Vale, will realize that no possible explanation will cover Valiantine's mediumship save the plain fact that he has exceptional psychic powers. They vary very much with the conditions, but at their best they stand very high. Like Mrs. Wriedt, he does not go into trance, and yet his condition cannot be called normal. There are semi-trance conditions which await the investigations of the student of the future.

Mr. Valiantine is by profession a manufacturer in a small town in Pennsylvania. He is a quiet, gentle, kindly man, and as he is in the prime of life, a very useful career should still lie before him.

As a materialization medium, Jonson, of Toledo, who afterwards resided in Los Angeles, stands alone, so far as the author's experience carries him. Possibly his wife's name should be bracketed with his, since they work together. The peculiarity of Jonson's work is that he is in full view of the circle, sitting outside the cabinet, while his wife stands near the cabinet and superintends the proceedings. Anyone who desires a very complete account of a Jonson séance will find it in the author's Our Second American Adventure, and his mediumship is also treated very thoroughly by Admiral Usborne Moore.(2) The admiral, who was among the greatest of psychic researchers, sat many times with Jonson, and obtained the co-operation of an ex-chief of the United States Secret Service, who established a watch and found nothing against the medium. When it is remembered that Toledo was at that time a limited town, and that sometimes as many as twenty different personalities manifested in a single sitting, it will be realized that personification presents insuperable difficulties. Upon the occasion of the sitting at which the author was present, a long succession of figures came, one at a time, from a small cabinet. They were old and young, men, women, and children. The light from a red lamp was sufficient to enable a sitter to see the figures clearly but not to distinguish the details of the features. Some of the figures remained out for not less than twenty minutes and conversed freely with the circle, answering all questions put to them. No man can give another a blank cheque for honesty and certify that he not only is honest but always will be. The author can only say that on that particular occasion he was perfectly convinced of the genuine nature of the phenomena, and that he has no reason to doubt it on any other occasion.

(2) Glimpses of the Next State, pp. 195, 322.

Jonson is a powerfully built man, and though he is now verging upon old age his psychic powers are still unimpaired. He is the centre of a circle at Pasadena, near Los Angeles, who meet every week to profit by his remarkable powers. The late Professor Larkin, the astronomer, was a habitué of the circle, and assured the author of his complete belief in the honesty of the mediumship.

Materialization may have been more common in the past than in the present. Those who read such books as Brackett's Materialised Apparitions, or Miss Marryat's There Is No Death, would say so. But in these days complete materialization is very rare. The author was present at an alleged materialization by one Thompson, in New York, but the proceedings carried no conviction, and the man was shortly afterwards arrested for trickery under circumstances which left no doubt as to his guilt.

There are certain mediums who, without specializing in any particular way, can exhibit a wide range of preternatural manifestations. Of all whom the author has encountered he would give precedence for variety and consistency to Miss Ada Besinnet, of Toledo, in America, and to Evan Powell, formerly of Merthyr Tydvil, in Wales. Both are admirable mediums and kindly, good people who are worthy of the wonderful gifts which have been entrusted to them. In the case of Miss Besinnet the manifestations include the Direct Voice, two or more often sounding at the same time. One masculine control, named Dan, has a remarkable male baritone voice, and anyone who has heard it can certainly never doubt that it is independent of the lady's organism. A female voice occasionally joins with Dan to make a most tuneful duet. Remarkable whistling, in which there seems to be no pause for the intake of breath, is another feature of this mediumship. So also is the production of very brilliant lights. These appear to be small solid luminous objects, for the author had on one occasion the curious experience of having one upon his moustache. Had a large firefly settled there the effect would have been much the same. The Direct Voices of Miss Besinnet when they take the form of messages - as apart from the work of the controls - are not strong and are often hardly audible. The most remarkable, however, of all her powers is the appearance of phantom faces which appear in an illuminated patch in front of the sitter. They would seem to be mere masks, as there is no appearance of depth to them. In most cases they represent dim faces, which occasionally bear a resemblance to that of the medium when the health of the lady or the power of the circle is low. When the conditions are good they are utterly dissimilar. Upon two occasions the author has seen faces to which he could absolutely swear, the one being his mother and the other his nephew, Oscar Hornung, a young officer killed in the war. They were as clear-cut and visible as ever in life. On the other hand, there have been evenings when no clear recognition could be obtained, though among the faces were some which could only be described as angelic in their beauty and purity.(3)

(3) Various estimates and experiences of this mediumship will be found in the author's Our American Adventure, pp. 124-132; Admiral Moore's Glimpses of the Next State, pp. 226, 312; and finally Mr. Hewat McKenzie's report, Psychic Science, April, 1922.

On a level with Miss Besinnet is Mr. Evan Powell, with the same variety but not always the same type of powers. Powell's luminous phenomena are equally good. His voice production is better. The author has heard the spirit voices as loud as those of ordinary human talk, and recalls one occasion when three of them were talking simultaneously, one to Lady Cowan, one to Sir James Marchant, and one to Sir Robert McAlpine. Movements of objects are common in the Powell séances, and on one occasion a stand weighing 60 lb. was suspended for some time over the author's head. Evan Powell always insists upon being very securely tied during his séances, which is done, he claims, for his own protection, since he cannot be responsible for his own movements when he is in a trance. This throws an interesting sidelight upon the possible nature of some exposures. There is a good deal of evidence, not only that the medium may unconsciously, or under the influence of suggestion from the audience, put himself into a false position, but that evil forces which are either mischievous or are actively opposed to the good work done by Spiritualism, may obsess the entranced body and cause it to do suspicious things so as to discredit the medium. Some sensible remarks upon this subject, founded upon personal experience, have been made by Professor Haraldur Nielsson, of Iceland, when commenting upon a case where one of the circle committed a perfectly senseless fraud, and a spirit afterwards admitted that it was done by its agency and instigation.(4) On the whole, Evan Powell may be said to have the widest endowment of spiritual gifts of any medium at present in England. He preaches the doctrines of Spiritualism both in his own person and while under control, and he can in himself exhibit nearly the whole range of phenomena. It is a pity that his business as a coal merchant in Devonshire prevents his constant presence in London.

(4) Psychic Science, July, 1925.

Slate-writing mediumship is a remarkable manifestation. It is possessed in a high degree by Mrs. Pruden, of Cincinnati, who has recently visited Great Britain and exhibited her wonderful powers to a number of people. The author has sat with her several times, and has explained the methods in detail. As the passage is a short one and may make the matter clear to the unitiated, it is here transcribed:

It was our good fortune now to come once again into contact with a really great medium in Mrs. Pruden of Cincinnati, who had come to Chicago for my lectures. We had a sitting in the Blackstone Hotel, through the courtesy of her host, Mr. Holmyard, and the results were splendid. She is an elderly, kindly woman with a motherly manner. Her particular gift was slate-writing which I had never examined before.

I had heard that there were trick slates, but she was anxious to use mine and allowed me carefully to examine hers. She makes a dark cabinet by draping the table, and holds the slate under it, while you may hold the other corner of it. Her other hand is free and visible. The slate is double with a little bit of pencil put in between.

After a delay of half an hour the writing began. It was the strangest feeling to hold the slate and to feel the thrill and vibration of the pencil as it worked away inside. We had each written a question on a bit of paper and cast it down, carefully folded, on the ground in the shadow of the drapery, that psychic forces might have correct conditions for their work, which is always interfered with by light.

Presently each of us got an answer to our question upon the slate, and were allowed to pick up our folded papers and see that they had not been opened. The room, I may say, was full of daylight and the medium could not stoop without our seeing it.

I had some business this morning of a partly spiritual, partly material nature with a Dr. Gelbert, a French inventor. I asked in my question if this were wise. The answer on the slate was - "Trust Dr. Gelbert. Kingsley." I had not mentioned Dr. Gelbert's name in my question, nor did Mrs. Pruden know anything of the matter.

My wife got a long message from a dear friend, signed with her name. The name was a true signature. Altogether it was a most utterly convincing demonstration. Sharp, clear raps upon the table joined continually in our conversation.(5)

(5) Our American Adventure, pp. 144-145.

The general method and result is the same as that used by Mr. Pierre Keeler, of the United States. The author has not been able to arrange a sitting with this medium, but a friend who did so had results which put the truth of the phenomena beyond all question. In his case he received answers to questions placed inside scaled envelopes, so that the favourite explanation, that the medium in some way sees the slips of paper, is ruled out. Anyone who has sat with Mrs. Pruden will know, however, that she never stoops and that the slips of paper lie at the feet of the sitter.

A remarkable form of mediumship is crystal gazing, where the pictures are actually visible to the eye of the sitter. The author has only once encountered this, under the mediumship of a lady from Yorkshire. The pictures were clear-cut and definite, and succeeded each other with an interval of fog. They did not appear to be relevant to any past or future event. but consisted of small views, dim faces, and other subjects of the kind.

Such are a few of the varied forms of spirit power which have been given to us as an antidote to materialism. The highest forms of all are not physical but are to be found in the inspired writings of such men as Davis, Stainton Moses, or Vale Owen. It cannot be too often repeated that the mere fact that a message comes to us in preternatural fashion is no guarantee that it is either high or true. The self-deluded, pompous person, the shallow reasoner, and the deliberate deceiver all exist upon the invisible side of life, and all may get their worthless communications transmitted through uncritical agents. Each must be scanned and weighed, and much must be neglected, while the residue is worthy of our most respectful attention. But even the best can never be final and is often amended, as in the case of Stainton Moses, when he had reached the Other Side. That great teacher admitted through Mrs. Piper that there were points upon which he had been ill-informed.

The mediums mentioned have been chosen as types of their various classes, but there are many others who deserve to be recorded in detail if there were space. The author has sat several times with Sloan and with Phoenix, of Glasgow, both of whom have remarkable powers which cover almost the whole range of the spiritual gifts, and both are, or were, most unworldly men with a saintly disregard of the things of this life. Mrs. Falconer, of Edinburgh, is also a trance medium of considerable power. Of the earlier generation, the author has experienced the mediumship of Husk and of Craddock, both of whom had their strong hours and their weak ones. Mrs. Susanna Harris has also afforded good evidence upon physical lines, as has Mrs. Wagner, of Los Angeles, while among amateurs John Ticknor, of New York, and Mr. Nugent, of Belfast, are in the very first flight of trance mediumship.

In connexion with John Ticknor the author may quote an experiment which he made and reported in the Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, a body which has been held back in the past by non-conductors almost as much as its parent in England. In this instance the author took a careful record of the pulse-beat when Mr. Ticknor was normal, when he was controlled by Colonel Lee, one of his spirit guides, and when he was under the influence of Black Hawk, a Red Indian control. The respective figures were 82, 100 and 118.

Mrs. Roberts Johnson is another medium who is unequal in her results, but who has at her best a very remarkable power with the Direct Voice. The religious element is wanting at her sittings, and the jocose North Country youths who come through create an atmosphere which amuses the sitters, but which may repel those who approach the subject with feelings of solemnity. The deep Scottish voice of the Glasgow control, David Duguid, a famous medium himself in his lifetime, is beyond all imitation by the throat of a woman, and his remarks are full of dignity and wisdom. The Rev. Dr. Lamond has assured me that Duguid at one of these sittings reminded him of an incident which had occurred between them in life - a sufficient proof of the reality of the individual.

There is no more curious and dramatic phase of psychic phenomenon than the apport. It is so startling that it is difficult to persuade the sceptic as to its possibility, and even the Spiritualist can hardly credit it until examples actually come his way. The author's first introduction to occult knowledge was due largely to the late General Drayson, who at that time - nearly forty years ago - was receiving through an amateur medium a constant succession of apports of the most curious description - Indian lamps, amulets, fresh fruit, and other things. So amazing a phenomenon, and one so easily simulated, was too much for a beginner, and it retarded rather than helped progress. Since then, however, the author has met the editor of a well-known paper who used the same medium after General Drayson's death, and he continued, under rigid conditions, to get similar apports. The author has been forced, therefore, to reconsider his view and to believe that he has underrated both the honesty of the medium and the intelligence of her sitter.

Mr. Bailey, of Melbourne, appears to be a very remarkable apport medium, and the author has no confidence in his alleged exposure at Grenoble. Bailey's own account is that he was the victim of a religious conspiracy, and in view of his long record of success it is more probable than that he should, in some mysterious way, have smuggled a live bird into a séance room in which he knew that he would be stripped and examined. The explanation of the Psychic Researchers, that the bird was concealed in his intestines, is a supreme example of the absurdities which incredulity can produce. The author had one experience of an apport with Bailey which it is surely impossible to explain away. It was thus described:

We then placed Mr. Bailey in the corner of the room, lowered the lights without turning them out, and waited. Almost at once he breathed very heavily, as one in a trance, and soon said something in a foreign tongue which was unintelligible to me. One of our friends, Mr. Cochrane, recognized it as Indian, and at once answered, a few sentences being interchanged. In English the voice then said that he was a Hindu control who was used to bring apports for the medium, and that he would, he hoped, be able to bring one for us. "Here it is," he said, a moment later, and the medium's hand was extended with something in it. The light was turned full on and we found it was a very perfect bird's nest, beautifully constructed of some very fine fibre mixed with moss. It stood about two inches high and had no sign of any flattening which would have come with concealment. The size would be nearly three inches across. In it lay a small egg, white, with tiny brown speckles. The medium, or rather the Hindu control acting through the medium, placed the egg on his palm and broke it, some fine albumen squirting out. There was no trace of yolk. "We are not allowed to interfere with life," said he. "If it had been fertilized we could not have taken it." These words were said before he broke it, so that he was aware of the condition of the egg, which certainly seems remarkable.

"Where did it come from?" I asked.
"From India."
"What bird is it?"
"They call it the Jungle Sparrow."

The nest remained in my possession and I spent a morning with Mr. Chubb, of the local museum, to ascertain if it was really the nest of such a bird. It seemed too small for an Indian Sparrow, and yet we could not match either nest or egg among the Australian types. Some of Mr. Bailey's other nests and eggs have been actually identified. Surely it is a fair argument that while it is conceivable that such birds might be imported and purchased here, it is really an insult to one's reason to suppose that nests with fresh eggs in them could also be in the market. Therefore, I can only support the far more extended experience and elaborate tests of Dr. MacCarthy of Sydney, and affirm that I believe Mr. Charles Bailey to be upon occasion a true medium, with a very remarkable gift for apports.

It is only right to state that when I returned to London I took one of Bailey's Assyrian tablets to the British Museum, and that it was pronounced to be a forgery. Upon further inquiry it proved that these forgeries are made by certain Jews in a suburb of Bagdad - and, so far as is known, only there. Therefore the matter is not much farther advanced. To the transporting agency it is at least possible that the forgery, steeped in recent human magnetism, is more capable of being handled than the original taken from a mound. Bailey has produced at least a hundred of these things, and no Custom House officer has deposed how they could have entered the country. On the other hand, Bailey told me clearly that the tablets had been passed by the British Museum, so that I fear I cannot acquit him of tampering with truth - and just there lies the great difficulty of deciding upon his case. But one has always to remember that physical mediumship has no connexion one way or the other with personal character, any more than the gift of poetry.(6)

(6) The Wanderings of a Spiritualist, pp. 103-105.

It is forgotten by those critics who are continually quoting Bailey's exposure,(7) that immediately before the Grenoble experience he had undergone a long series of tests at Milan, in the course of which the investigators took the extreme and unjustifiable course of watching the medium secretly when in his own bedroom. The committee, which consisted of nine business men and doctors, could find no flaw in seventeen sittings, even when the medium was put in a sack. These sittings lasted from February to April in 1904, and have been fully reported by Professor Marzorati. In view of their success, far too much has been made of the subsequent accusation in France. If the same analysis and scepticism were shown towards "exposures" as towards phenomena, public opinion would be more justly directed.

(7) Annals of Psychical Science, Vol. IX.

The phenomenon of apports seems so incomprehensible to our minds, that the author on one occasion asked a spirit control whether he could say anything which would throw a light upon it. The answer was: "It involves some factors which are beyond your human science and which could not be made clear to you. At the same time you may take as a rough analogy the case of water which is turned into steam. Then this steam, which is invisible, may be conducted elsewhere to be reassembled as visible water." This is, as stated, an analogy rather than an explanation, but it seems very apt none the less. It should be added, as mentioned in the quotation, that not only Mr. Stanford, of Melbourne, but also Dr. MacCarthy, one of the leading medical men of Sydney, carried out a long series of experiments with Bailey, and were convinced of his genuine powers.

The mediums quoted by no means exhaust the list of those with whom the author has had opportunities of experimenting, and he cannot leave the subject without alluding to the ectoplasm of Eva, which he has held between his fingers, or the brilliant luminosities of Frau Silbert which he has seen shooting like a dazzling crown out of her head. Enough has been said, he hopes, to show that the succession of great mediums is not extinct for anyone who is earnest in his search, and also to assure the reader that these pages are written by one who has spared no pains to gain practical knowledge of that which he studies. As to the charge of credulity which is invariably directed by the unreceptive against anyone who forms a positive opinion upon this subject, the author can solemnly aver that in the course of his long career as an investigator he cannot recall one single case where it was clearly shown that he had been mistaken upon any serious point, or had given a certificate of honesty to a performance which was afterwards clearly proved to be dishonest. A man who is credulous does not take twenty years of reading and experiment before he comes to his fixed conclusions.

No account of physical mediumship would be complete which did not allude to the remarkable results obtained by "Margery," the name adopted for public purposes by Mrs. Crandon, the beautiful and gifted wife of one of the first surgeons in Boston. This lady showed psychic powers some years ago, and the author was instrumental in calling the attention of the Scientific American Committee to her case. By doing so he most unwillingly exposed her to much trouble and worry, which were borne with extraordinary patience by her husband and herself. It was difficult to say which was the more annoying: Houdini the conjurer, with his preposterous and ignorant theories of fraud, or such "scientific" sitters as Professor McDougall, of Harvard, who, after fifty sittings and signing as many papers at the end of each sitting to endorse the wonders recorded, was still unable to give any definite judgment, and contented himself with vague innuendoes. The matter was not mended by the interposition of Mr. E. J. Dingwall of the London S.P.R., who proclaimed the truth of the mediumship in enthusiastic private letters, but denied his conviction at public meetings. These so-called "experts" came out of the matter with little credit, but more than two hundred common-sense sitters had wit enough and honesty enough to testify truly as to that which occurred before their eyes. The author may add that he has himself sat with Mrs. Crandon and has satisfied himself, so far as one sitting could do so, as to the truth and range of her powers.

The control in this instance professes to be Walter, the lady's dead brother, and he exhibits a very marked individuality with a strong sense of humour and considerable command of racy vernacular. The voice production is direct, in a male voice, which seems to operate some few inches in front of the medium's forehead. The powers have been progressive, their range continually widening, until now they have reached almost the full compass of mediumship. The ringing of electric bells without contact has been done ad nauseam, until one would imagine that no one, save a stone-deaf man or a scientific expert, could have any doubt about it. Movement of objects at a distance, spirit lights, raising of tables, apports, and finally the clear production of ectoplasm in a good red light, have succeeded each other. The patient work of Dr. and Mrs. Crandon will surely be rewarded, and their names will live in the history of psychic science, and so in a very different category will those of their traducers.

Of all forms of mediumship the highest and most valuable, when it can be relied upon, is that which is called automatic writing, since in this, if the form be pure, we seem to have found a direct method of obtaining teaching from the Beyond. Unhappily, it is a method which lends itself very readily to self-deception, since it is certain that the subconscious mind of man has many powers with which we are as yet imperfectly acquainted. It is impossible ever to accept any automatic script whole-heartedly as a hundred per cent statement of truth from the Beyond. The stained glass will still tint the light which passes through it, and our human organism will never be crystal clear. The verity of any particular specimen of such writing must depend not upon mere assertion, but upon corroborative details and the general dissimilarity from the mind of the writer, and similarity to that of the alleged inspirer. When, for example, in the case of the late Oscar Wilde, you get long communications which are not only characteristic of his style, but which contain constant allusions to obscure episodes in his own life and which finally are written in his own handwriting, it must be admitted that the evidence is overpoweringly strong. There is a great outpouring of such scripts at present in all the English-speaking countries. They are good, bad, and indifferent, but the good contain much matter which bears every trace of inspiration. The Christian or the Jew may well ask himself why parts of the Old Testament should admittedly have been written in this fashion, and yet its modern examples be treated with contempt. "And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying," etc. (2 Chronicles xxi. 12) is one of several allusions which show the ancient use of this particular form of spirit communion.

Of all the examples of recent years there is none which can compare in fullness and dignity with the writings of the Rev. George Vale Owen, whose great script, The Life Beyond the Veil, may be as permanent an influence as that of Swedenborg. It is an interesting point, elaborated by Dr. A. J. Wood, that even in most subtle and complex points there is a close resemblance between the work of these two seers, and yet it is certain that Vale Owen is very slightly acquainted with the writings of the great Swedish teacher. George Vale Owen is so outstanding a figure in the history of modern Spiritualism that some short note upon him may not be out of place. He was born in Birmingham in 1869 and was educated at the Midland Institute and Queen's College, Birmingham. After curacies at Seaforth, Fairfield, and the low Scotland Road division of Liverpool, where he had a large experience among the poor, he became vicar of Orford, near Warrington, where his energy has been instrumental in erecting a new church. Here he remained for twenty years working in his parish which deeply appreciated his ministrations. Some psychic manifestations came his way, and finally he found himself impelled to exercise his own latent power of inspired writing, the script purporting to come in the first instance from his mother, but being continued by certain high spirits or angels who had come in her train. The whole constitutes an account of life after death, and a body of philosophy and advice from unseen sources, which seems to the author to bear every internal sign of a high origin. The narrative is dignified and lofty, expressed in slightly archaic English which gives it a curious flavour of its own.

Some extracts from this script appeared in various papers, attracting the more notice as being from the pen of a vicar of the Established Church. The manuscript was finally brought to the notice of the late Lord Northcliffe, who was much impressed by it and also by the self-denial of the writer, who refused to take any remuneration for its publication. This followed weekly in Lord Northcliffe's Sunday paper, the Weekly Dispatch, and nothing has ever occurred which has brought the highest teachings of Spiritualism so directly to the masses. It was shown incidentally that the policy of the Press in the past had been not only ignorant and unjust, but actually mistaken from the low point of view of self-interest, for the circulation of the Dispatch increased greatly during the year that it published the script. Such doings were, however, highly offensive to a very conservative bishop, and Mr. Vale Owen found himself, like all religious reformers, an object of dislike, and suffered veiled persecution from his Church superiors. With this force pushing him, and the pull in front of the whole Spiritualist community, he bravely abandoned his living and cast himself and his family on the mercy of whatever Providence might please to direct, his brave wife entirely sympathizing with him in a step which was no light matter for a couple who were no longer young. After a short lecturing tour in America and another in England, Mr. Vale Owen is at present presiding over a Spiritualist congregation in London, where the magnetism of his presence draws considerable audiences. In an excellent pen-portrait, Mr. David Gow has said of Vale Owen:

The tall, thin figure of the minister, his pale, ascetic face lit by large eyes, luminous with tenderness and humour, his modest bearing, his quiet words charged with the magnetism of sympathy, all these revealed in full measure what manner of man he is. They disclosed a soul of rare devotion kept sane and sweet by a kindly, humorous sense and a practical outlook on the world. He seemed to be charged more with the spirit of Erasmus or of Melanchthon than of the bluff Luther. Perhaps the Church needs no Luthers to-day.

If the author has included this short notice under the head of personal experience, it is because he has been honoured by the close friendship of Mr. Vale Owen for some years, and has been in a position to study and endorse the reality of his psychic powers.

The author would add that he has succeeded in getting the independent Direct Voice sitting alone with his wife. The voice was a deep, male one, coming some feet above our heads, and uttering only a short but very audible greeting. It is hoped that with further development consistent results may be obtained. For years the author has, in his own domestic circle, obtained inspired messages through the hand and voice of his wife, which have been of the most lofty and often of the most evidential nature. These are, however, too personal and intimate to be discussed in a general survey of the subject.


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Some parts of this page The International Survivalist Society 2003