ARTICLES

Everard Feilding

Primary known for his involvement in the SPR investigation of Eusapia Palladino in 1908 with W. W. Baggally and Hereward Carrington. The report centres on 11 séances held in November and December 1908 in a Naples hotel. It concluded that Palladino was able to produce genuinely paranormal phenomena. Written mainly by Feilding, it is often referred to as the Feilding or Naples Report and has been widely regarded as providing some of the most convincing evidence in support of physical mediums.

Sittings with Christopher Chambers

 - Everard Feilding -

NOTE BY E. J. DINGWALL: Mr. Feilding's attention had been called to the activities of Mr. Christopher Chambers through the eulogistic accounts of his activities which were appearing in the British Spiritualist press in 1905. He was exposed performing the same kind of puerile tricks as here described at least six times; and in 1919 when giving his performance under the auspices of the Walthamstow Spiritualist Church in London he promised not to offend again. The article by Mr. Theobald mentioned in the account was entitled "Mediumship and Fraud" and appeared in Light on December 30, 1905, pp. 614-615.

          REPORTS APPEARED in Light in the early part of 1905 of a "materialising" medium, Mr. Christopher Chambers, who had been giving sittings in Huddersfield and other northern towns. Later in the year his performances became notorious through press reports in several of the Newcastle papers; among these reports was one of an exposure which took place on October 14th, 1905, as reported in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle of October 17th. According to a statement which we obtained from Mr. Arthur T. Neale of Newcastle, who played the principal part in this exposure, Mr. Neale, whose suspicions had been aroused at a previous séance, went to the sitting with two electric lamps, which could be turned up at any moment, and when one of the forms came out he turned the light suddenly on to it, and revealed Mr. Chambers dressed in a sheet, wearing a false moustache and a paper turban in the character of an Oriental. He drew back the curtain of the cabinet, and found on the chair the trousers, socks, and boots of the medium. Mr. Easthope, who had arranged for the sitting, returned the money to the sitters, and wrote to the Newcastle Daily Chronicle that Mr. Chambers had been "caught red-handed at my meeting on Saturday, October 14, by one of the sitters, the medium being found dressed up as a spirit form, much to the horror and disgust of the sitters present."

After this, some of the spiritualists at Newcastle arranged for a series of test sittings with Mr. Chambers, in the hope that some evidence might be given of genuine phenomena. Their report, however, was that the proceedings were quite inconclusive, since, the medium having been adequately fastened inside the cabinet, no forms emerged from it. Mr. W. H. Robinson, who had arranged for these sittings, confirmed in a letter to us the report of their unsatisfactory nature, adding "I found him [Mr. Chambers] worthless as a medium and duly informed the spiritual press, but no notice was taken."

At this period a photograph was circulated, representing Mr. Chambers with an alleged "spirit form" in the background, this form representing his supposed control, "Lottie." Not only does an examination of the photograph show obviously suspicious features, but the photographer, Mr. James Wallace of Newcastle, afterwards sent a letter to the Newcastle Daily Chronicle of November 30th, 1905, through his solicitors, confessing that he had prepared the plate by getting a young lady to pose as a ghost, and had subsequently taken the photograph of Mr. Chambers on the same plate. This has since been confirmed to us in a letter from Mrs. Wallace, who states that the whole thing had been intended by her husband merely as a joke at Mr. Chambers' expense.

Mr. Chambers, professing himself anxious after this to re-establish his reputation, arranged through a gentleman in the north of England, who was known to us and had previously given us a favourable report of him, to give a few sittings to the Society for Psychical Research, on condition that nothing should be paid to him, either for the sittings or for his expenses, unless, in the judgment of the officials of the Society, conclusive evidence was afforded of supernormal agency: also that should materialised forms appear, he would consent to his own person being reasonably examined by the sitters, in order to verify that he and the apparition were separate existences; provided that neither the apparition nor the medium should be suddenly clutched while the phenomena were going on.

On this agreement, which he signed before coming, Mr. Chambers travelled to London, and four sittings were held in the Rooms of the Society for Psychical Research on December 12th, 13th, 15th, and 16th, being arranged for by Mr. Feilding, Mr. Baggally, Colonel Taylor and Miss Johnson, who were generally present; the other sitters being invited by them, and being mostly members of the Society, except that Mr. Chambers brought a friend with him, though unauthorised to do so, on three occasions.

At the first sitting the medium went into a cabinet, and purported to become entranced, when he spoke in a voice slightly different from his ordinary one, but not suggesting any more alteration than could easily have been produced at will. Two or three forms appeared, one a man with a short black beard (Mr. Chambers himself wearing only a moustache), who stepped out of the Cabinet and bowed several times, holding out his left arm at full length. Mr. Baggally, who sat next to the cabinet, could see that only the front part of the form was draped, while on its back was visible the back of the medium's waistcoat, he having apparently taken off his coat. Later, a short form, supposed to be that of a child, was seen in the opening just within the curtains; this appeared merely as a vague white shape with no distinct arms or head. The light in the room was provided by a single electric lamp closely shrouded in red paper, so as to give extremely little light. There was no feature in the phenomena to suggest anything but deliberate personation of "spirit forms" by the medium.

The second sitting on December 13th was practically a repetition of the first, the "forms" being, if anything, rather less distinct, owing to the medium insisting on still less light. Contrary to the stipulation in the agreement, no opportunity was afforded for examining the medium during the appearance of the "spirit forms".

At the third sitting, on December 15th, Mr. Chambers was accompanied by Mr. John Lobb, a gentleman who is well known for his interest in spiritualistic phenomena. On this occasion, at the medium's own suggestion, he was tied in a wicker arm-chair with some objects disposed on the floor near him, and he stated that these or perhaps himself in his chair might possibly be levitated over the heads of the sitters. The tying was performed by Mr. Baggally and another gentleman, both expert in such matters, and at Mr. Chambers's request the room was made completely dark. Nothing at all happened except that during the sitting Mr. Chambers, on whose back a small luminous patch had (without his knowledge) been affixed, so that his whereabouts could be ascertained, was observed gradually to work himself along into close proximity to the objects disposed upon the floor. Possibly because when he got there he found that on account of the security with which he was tied he could do nothing with them, he worked himself partly back again.

The fourth sitting, on December 16th, was again one for "materialisations." The electric lamp, shaded with red paper, was again used, and gave a slightly better light than before. The sitters were arranged in the usual horse-shoe in front of the cabinet, Mr. Feilding and Mr. Baggally being seated respectively at the ends of the horse-shoe nearest the cabinet. After some conversation and a speech by the supposed control, "Lottie," the medium went into the cabinet, and some time later some vague white forms were seen, one appearing like a white figure materialising from below, the drapery rising gradually from the floor between the division in the curtains, till the form appeared fully draped. It having been over and over again pointed out to the medium that, while the committee had no intention of violating their agreement not to seize the "spirit form," the mere appearance of such a form could not be regarded as evidential unless opportunity was afforded of ascertaining that while the form was outside the cabinet the medium himself was inside, Mr. Chambers, after the return of the form into the cabinet, withdrew part of the curtain and revealed himself sitting in the chair and moving about to prove that it was really himself, and a white form to his right. He probably miscalculated the quantity of light, for it was perfectly clear to those seated near the cabinet that the form was merely a piece of white drapery held in his right hand and waved about in a very far from realistic manner. Later, an attempt was made to simulate the gradual materialisation upwards of a spirit form by slowly raising a piece of white muslin gauze between the division of the curtains, which had now been drawn together, the action being again perfectly obvious to those seated near the cabinet.

Afterwards a completely draped form, the mouth of which was also covered with drapery (Mr. Chambers wearing a moustache), came out of the cabinet into the room. On being asked by the sitters to shake hands, it offered its left hand to each of them, and would not allow the right hand to be seen or touched, Mr. Chambers having lost three of the fingers of his right hand. On being asked whether it was the deceased wife of one of the sitters, the form bowed assent. As it advanced into the room Mr. Baggally and Mr. Feilding saw the black trousers of the medium behind it, the drapery only covering the front part. After this form had retired a man with a black beard was seen, but no further opportunity for reasonable examination was permitted.

At the end of the sitting Mr. Feilding and Mr. Baggally informed the medium of what they had seen, and that they had no doubt that drapery and a false beard were concealed about him. He denied absolutely that this was so, or that he had taken any part in producing the phenomena. They then asked him to allow himself to be searched in the adjoining room, but he declined. Mr. Lobb admitted the reasonableness of their request, and did his utmost to persuade the medium to accede to it, stating that if it was from motives of modesty that Mr. Chambers objected, he himself would consent to a similar operation in order to put him entirely at his ease. Mr. Chambers, however, persisted in his refusal, and presently took his leave. While he did not in terms confess to any fraud, he promised that he would give no more sittings, but would in future seek his living in a more honest kind of work. It is understood, however, that he has since resumed his operations in the north of England, where doubtless an enthusiastic band of earnest believers will, as usual, in the face of all evidence, continue to support his séances.

(Signed)

W. W. Baggally
Alice Johnson
Everard Feilding (present at last three sittings)
Le M. Taylor (present at first two sittings)
John Lobb (present at last two sittings)
 

Note: 

The article above was taken from "Sittings with Eusapia Palladino and Other Studies" (New York: University Books, 1963), but was originally published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. 12, 1905.

Other articles by Everard Feilding

The Case of Abbé Vachère

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