IT WAS in 1934 that I first saw the White Cliffs rising steeply. I remember it
distinctly, for my stomach was performing a similar motion.
I had long wished to see England, and on this occasion I was scheduled to appear
at the Aeolian Hall, New Bond Street, to give a lecture-demonstration. From
there I intended to combine a lecturing tour throughout the country with the
never-failing pleasure of seeing fresh faces, hearing new ideas, and amusing
myself in general in the usual manner of a visitor to a strange land.
It was during one of my early lectures at the Aeolian Hall (my English was
patchy in the extreme, by the way) that I was the centre of a sensational
incident that, for some reason or other, has never yet been published.
A Typical Attitude During an Experiment
This, I am told, is one of my most typical attitudes of concentration. I
clutch the paper (or other medium of impressions); I rub my forehead
vigorously; always stand up to concentrate; and usually move about
On this occasion I was proceeding quite happily with my programme when there
came a sudden interruption. A lady sitting in the first few rows, rose to her
feet and called out to me in a very loud voice. She was a small woman, of quick,
restless gestures and an obviously powerful personality. Her face was thin and
angular, the nose jutting out and down towards a curved, protruding chin. Her
hat was rather extraordinary, and she was elderly; but her vitality belied her
What all good authors call 'the discerning reader' may recognize Margot, Lady
Oxford and Asquith.
I had never seen her before, but I certainly recognized her, for my concert
agent had. told me she would be in the audience that night, and he had also
inferred that, to put matters bluntly, she would probably poke her nose into
things a good deal. I do not mention this as being something to the lady's
detriment. She was quite entitled to do so.
My experiments up to this moment had dealt mainly with past-cognition - that is
to say, with the reconstruction of incidents in the past life of various members
of the audience, and I had been achieving good results when this interruption
"Excuse me, Mr. Marion," this forceful lady called loudly, "but is this a
A somewhat shocked buzz arose from that unpredictable entity, The Audience.
"Yes, madam. My demonstration is quite genuine," I informed her. At least, that
is the gist of what I said: I had been learning English for only two months.
She shook her head determinedly. I have no record of her exact words, but
several hundred people witnessed this incident and can confirm that in quoting
from my memory I am not exaggerating in any way.
"I'm very sorry," Lady Oxford said firmly, "but I don't believe a word of it.
You have been giving reconstructions in the past life of various individuals,
and those reconstructions have been confirmed; but they are so precise and
contain such detail that I find it quite impossible to credit the genuineness of
your show. The only solution, to me, is that you are employing confederates."
"What am I expected to reply, madam?" I asked. "I can only offer the
demonstration and hope that it provides sufficient evidence to satisfy you."
Everything was very quiet in the hall now.
"I'm afraid," said Lady Oxford sternly, "that only an experiment conducted with
me personally would convince me."
I made a gesture of invitation. "Then what's stopping you, madam?"
Lady Oxford seemed rather taken aback.
"Do you mean that you are prepared to carry out an experiment on the basis of
reconstructing some incident from my own life?" she queried.
I conveyed my readiness to accept what amounted to a challenge from the lady,
and felt a thrill of excitement pass through the audience as she left her seat
and made her way on to the stage. I handed her a slip of paper.
"Will you please write down half a dozen words in your usual handwriting," I
requested. "Try to associate those words with some fairly outstanding incident
in your life, and if possible make it an incident which is known only to
you. In that way there can be no suspicion that I have secret information about
Lady Asquith thought for a moment, and then complied. At my request she folded
the paper and placed it in an envelope, which she scaled. I took the envelope in
my hand and concentrated.
"There is a large room with bookshelves lining some of the walls," I stated. "In
this room a man is sitting behind a huge table. A number of documents are spread
out on the table in front of him. He is reading something. He picks up a pen,
then puts it down again. He picks it up once more, puts it down again, and rises
from his seat to walk up and down the room. Returning to his scat, he once again
picks up the pen. As he does so a door behind him opens slightly. Somebody is
looking into the room. The man writes, then takes a handkerchief from his pocket
and dabs his eyes. He is crying―"
Lady Oxford uttered the words sharply, showing great agitation. She was silent
for a moment or two, recovering her poise, then turned to address the utterly
"Ladies and gentlemen," she said in a steady voice, "Mr. Marion has just given a
description of wonderful accuracy. He has described an incident to which I was
the only living witness. The room he describes is the study at Number 10 Downing
Street. The incident occurred in August 1914. The man he describes was the Prime
Minister - Asquith, my husband; and at the moment of which I wrote on the slip
of paper he was in the act of signing the declaration of war against Germany. He
was crying, and I happened to open the door of his room. It was the only time in
my life that I ever knew him to cry."
I think it is unnecessary to plunge into a pen-picture of the tremendous effect
this speech had upon the audience. But Lady Oxford had not finished. If she did
not spare others, at least she meted out the same treatment to herself.
"I owe Mr. Marion a public apology, which I offer him now," she continued. "I am
compelled to withdraw everything I said a few moments ago. The preciseness of
his reconstruction is due to the genuineness of his experiments."
As I have said, this incident seems to have escaped publicity. I made no attempt
to make capital out of it, for it seemed that Lady Oxford had been a little
distressed at the picture that my experiment had brought back so vividly to her
memory ... a matter that caused me some regret.
It is now, however, more than two years since her death, and I can cause harm to
no one by recounting the story. Lady Oxford came to see another performance of
mine, given at the Grotrian Hall, and later wrote in her column for the
"... he is a Czecho-Slovakian, and only learnt to
speak English two months ago. He is called Marion, and he performed before a
small but distinguished audience in the Grotrian Hall.
It is always, all ways, difficult (and sometimes boring) to write of these
demonstrations, but I have never seen a more remarkable performance than that I
witnessed in the Grottian Hall, and I was compelled to congratulate him when he
There is so much swindling as a rule in these demonstrations that I went
prepared to be swindled, but I was disappointed, as Mr. Marion is a man of
exceptional integrity and rare genius.
Very flattering indeed, from such a sceptical
character; but I am quite sure that it was at the Aeolian Hall, not the Grotrian,
that Lady Oxford was convinced.
A Session with Dr. Soal and Harry Price at the Laboratory for Psychical
Carrying out a card experiment during one of my many sessions with
Professor Soal at the Laboratory of Psychical Research in South
Kensington, founded by Harry Price. Soal is in the centre, Price on the
right. Of the two other watchers, the one nearest the camera is Mr.
Dribbel, who figures in one of the hypotheses advanced by Professor Soal.
For some time I toured England giving lecture-demonstrations. My appearance at
Queen's College, Birmingham, the Royal West of England Academy, Wigmore Hall and
many other places caused quite a lot of Press comment in which there was much
good-natured amusement at the brisk way I carried out my demonstrations and at
my peculiar English. Investigators of psychic phenomena became profoundly
interested, with the result that for many months I carried out a prolonged
series of experiments under the observation of such people as Professor
S. G. Soal, Professor Julian Huxley,
Harry Price and others at the National Laboratory
of Psychical Research.
It would be impossible to record here all the numerous experiments we carried
out, but detailed bulletins have been issued by the University of London Council
for Psychical Investigation on the whole series.
In touching briefly upon some of these experiments I prefer to quote reports
from various sources rather than present my own version in every case. Here, for
example, is an extract from a press-cutting which appeared as the result of a
demonstration at the Pump Room, Bath:
... The experiment that has created most interest
during Professor Huxley's investigations has been the following to predict a
Ordinary forecasts that turn out to be correct may depend for their success on
no more than mere coincidence. The element of doubt cannot be lacking, for
instance, in such a case where the prophet foretells that some event will come
to pass within three or four or more years.
Here, however, is an experiment that leaves doubt out of the question. A pack of
cards is placed on a table. Marion knows that in a minute's time one of the
scientists making the investigations will take a card - no one, not even the
person about to take it, knows which. Marion concentrates for a few seconds and
then states which card will be taken.
Then the card is picked out of the pack and the success or failure of Marion's
prediction is at once ascertainable.
Well, this simple experiment was carried out 100 times. On 50 occasions Marion
correctly foretold which card would be taken out. On the other 50 occasions he
The result shows - as the scientists readily agreed - that Marion has some at
present unknown gift, for if an ordinary person were to undertake the same
experiment, the law of chance shows that he is likely to be right only two or
three times out of a hundred...
In 1934 I carried out a long series of experiments
under the direction of Professor S. G. Soal, at the National Laboratory of
Psychical Research. Of my work here Professor Soal has written:
... My laboratory experiments show that Marion
performs his amazing feats by the aid of remarkable powers which are probably
possessed by not one man in a million. There can be no question of either
collusion or trickery in his public performances judging from what I have seen
him do single-handed in the laboratory... Marion is one of the very greatest
masters of his art that this century has produced...
I must emphasize here that Soal's term "remarkable
powers" refers to my powers of hyperaesthesia (as he believes them to be) and
not to my powers of paranormal cognition, as I believe them to be.
I cannot pass over this period without mentioning the work of that shrewd and
ardent investigator, the late Harry Price.
Now Harry Price was my very good friend. We have worked together, talked
together, broadcast together and been televised together. And still we failed to
agree on a number of points concerning the psychic phenomena I claim to
demonstrate. In some circles there is a mistaken idea that Harry Price was a
complete sceptic who went around destroying ghost-legends and showing up fake
mediums. He has done both, of course, and a very excellent thing, too; but
primarily he was an investigator of psychic phenomena, not an opponent of it. If
he tended to approach such matters with a certain amount of wariness, it was
only due to the enormous number of fake phenomena that it had been his lot to
encounter throughout many years of investigation.
In his book The Confessions of a Ghost Hunter he devoted a few pages to
some of the experiments we carried out together. I used to disagree with certain
of his conclusions, both in the laboratory and over the dinner-table. I am sure
he would have been neither surprised nor offended if, after quoting a passage
from his book, I then proceed to dispute his contentions.
I have said very little about Marion in this chapter
because a full report of our experiments, by Mr. S. G. Soal (whom I asked to
take charge of the inquiry), is being published as one of the Bulletins of the
University of London Council for Psychical Investigation. But a résumé of
our tests will not be out of place in this volume.
... The first experiments we tried with Marion were on the lines of the Stuart
Cumberland tests, except that there was no physical contact with the 'agent'. A
little nervous at first, he soon got used to us, and gave us some brilliant
examples of his skill. In Marion's absence small articles were hidden in various
parts of our large séance-room and were found by him within a minute or so. For
example, on January 25, 1934, a special test was held and among those present
were Mr. R. S. Lambert and Mrs. Lambert, Professor Dr. Millais Culpin, Dr.
Frederick Ridley, Dr. J. Edgley Curnock, Dr. Eva Morton, etc. At 8.13 (I am
quoting from the verbatim report) Mr. Lambert gave his fountain pen to Marion,
who, having lightly stroked it ('sensed' it), left the room. Mr. Lambert then
hid the pen in his wife's handbag. Marion was called in, and in one and a
quarter minutes had found the pen. Later, a ring was hidden in one of six
identical rectangular boxes. The boxes were then placed in various parts of the
room. Marion returned and, with many apparently nervous, quivering movements of
the arm, as of one with the palsy, passed his hand over each box in turn. (Not a
word was spoken, and of course Marion did not touch the boxes in any
way.) Within two minutes, and at the first attempt, he had found the box
containing the ring.
The six tin boxes mentioned above played a major part in the Marion experiments.
For at least once a week, for several months, these boxes were used in our
tests. A handkerchief would be 'sensed' by Marion, who then left the room. A die
would then be thrown and, according to what number came uppermost, the
handkerchief (in a box) would be placed in a certain location indicated by the
number. For example, 3 would mean on the floor, and 2 on the table. It will be
seen that it was left entirely to chance as to what position in the room the box
(containing handkerchief) was placed. After each attempt, boxes and lids were
mixed, and every box changed to another location. Out of hundreds of attempts,
Marion had many more correct 'guesses' than could be accounted for by chance. We
later discovered that Marion's skill in finding objects is due to the fact that
he gathers indicia from the audience as to where the handkerchief or
other object is hidden. It is difficult to say exactly how he does this -
probably he does not know himself. But, as in the case of Mr. Lambert's fountain
pen, the audience knew in which box the handkerchief, etc., was hidden:
consequently, when he was near that box, we did something that told
Marion that he was getting 'hot'. Whether it was unconscious muscular movements
of the body or limbs, some change in the breathing rate, or a different facial
expression, it is certain that the experimenters unconsciously informed Marion
when he was near the hidden object. Later, we constructed special apparatus
which proved that our theory was correct. In his advertisements Marion claims to
be 'clairvoyant' but we received no proof of this.
Playing and other cards entered largely into our tests. Quoting from the
protocol of the same séance (January 25, 1934), I find that at 8.43 the five of
diamonds was chosen from a new pack of playing-cards and given to Marion, who
'sensed' it. He then went out of the room. The chosen card and five others were
shuffled, in the dark, and then placed face downwards on the
table. The lights were switched on, Marion was called in, and, within four
minutes and at first trial, had found the correct card. At 9.24 the four of
hearts was chosen, mixed with others in the same way, and was found by Marion in
one and half minutes, at the first attempt. On January 31, 1934, further card
tests were arranged and he made some brilliant 'guesses'. At 3.30 a new pack of
cards was opened and the three of hearts was given to Marion, who 'sensed' it,
and went out of the room. Six black cards and the red one were shuffled under
the table and laid face downwards on the table. No one in the room knew which
card was the three of hearts. Marion came in, commenced sliding each card
towards him and, at the fourth, turned it up as the correct card - which it was.
This took twenty-eight seconds only.
Marion's ability to find these hidden cards is due to (a) hyperaesthesia of the
sense of sight, or (b) hyperaesthesia of the sense of touch. If Marion feels
a card once (back or front), he can often find it again (in the dark) from
amongst many others: if he sees the back of a card once he can often
recognize it amongst many others by - according to the theory we have formed -
the minute differences that exist on the backs (supposed to be identical) of a
pack of playing-cards.
Now that is an excerpt from Confessions of a
Ghost Hunter by Harry Price. I have refrained from interpolating my own
comments throughout in order to avoid confusing the issue, not because I have no
comments to make.
The story of the experiments is well and justly presented. I do not take umbrage
at the use of the word 'guesses', for the author is careful to use quotes for
this word, thus implying that it is a makeshift word employed for want of a
Later in the chapter Harry Price goes on to describe how, to prove their theory
that I get my results by means of indicia from the audience, the
experimenters used a tall cabinet large enough to contain a man: in this cabinet
the 'agent', or person to whom the hidden object belonged, concealed himself
during the period of my search. All other members of the committee withdrew or
hid themselves completely. The agent permitted a proportion of his body to
remain in sight by means of panels in the front of the cabinet. By adjustment of
these panels a varying proportion of the body could be seen.
Tabulation 'proved' (according to the committee) that the ratio of my success
varied in proportion to the amount of agent in view.
Let me say right away that I reject the theory of hyperaesthesia - which means,
roughly, a supersensitive faculty, as opposed to an extra-sensory faculty. I do
not believe that my abilities depend upon an incredibly hypersensitive power of
touch or sight, as Harry Price suggests.
I also reject the many and varied theories advanced by Mr. S. G. Soal (who, as I
have said, was in charge of the series of experiments) in Bulletin III of the
University of London Council for Psychical Investigation: but, to be as
objective as possible, I shall not myself dispute those theories, for I feel
that the opinion of an unbiased and well-qualified third party will have more
validity. I am fortunate in being permitted to quote from a very sound and
reasoned criticism of Mr. Soal's report, a criticism written by an American
investigator of wide knowledge and repute in these matters - Mr. Edmond P.
I have never met Mr. Gibson, but I should very much like to. I should also like
to quote the whole of his excellent critique, for it is a valuable one; but to
do so would involve going deeply into the methods, technicalities and finer
nuances of psychical research. And although I hope that the mystery and
fascination of many things I have recorded in these pages will stimulate at
least a few minds to delve more deeply into the subject, I am resolved not to
fall between two stools by making this book half biography and half text-book.
As will be seen, Mr. Gibson did not hold a very high opinion of the experimental
methods adopted by Mr. Soal during the series. He pursues his criticism with a
deal of good-natured irony at times. Were I to argue my own case, I should do so
with rather less verve, for, having worked with Mr. Soal for such a long time, I
have great respect for his ability and ardent sincerity in the investigation of
But Mr. Gibson's arguments are backed by wide experience of the subject and by
an unusual depth of understanding, and I do feel that his spirited method of
criticism is stimulating and provocative. It is by such healthy cut-and-thrust
discussion that the truth can be made to emerge.
Here, then, is a third-party viewpoint of the series.
After introducing the subject of his critique, explaining the part I played and
the way in which the experiments were controlled, Mr. Gibson writes:
Mr. Soal soon succeeded in eliminating the
possibility that confederates were aiding Marion, by not permitting his close
friends or associates to witness his experiments or act as telepathic agents.
One exception was made in the case of a certain Mr. Van Lier, an acquaintance of
Marion's who was 'controlled' in various ways to eliminate his participation in
the results attained... Mr. Soal began to suspect that in some way, the presence
of Mr. Van Lier might contribute to the happy results. The fact that Marion was
equally successful without the presence of Mr. Van Lier weakens Mr. Soal's first
hypothesis advanced to account for the success of the inquiry thus far. I shall
call this Hypothesis No. 1 (the Van Lier Hypothesis). Mr. Soal admits that this
hypothesis is somewhat weak and that in the period in which Mr. Van Lier is
supposed to have contributed in some mystical manner to Marion's success, a
fountain pen was found in the handbag of Mrs. R. S. Lambert in one and
one-quarter minutes with no agent accompanying Marion and with Mr. Van Lier
absent. Mr. Soal describes this test as 'of no particular interest'.
Mr. Gibson goes on to tell how Mr. Soal next
suspected that the gallery of onlookers supplied sensory 'clues' of some form or
another, thus directing me as to where the hidden object lay. This, Mr. Gibson
labels Hypothesis No. 2. Coming to the experiments with a handkerchief hidden in
one of several tin boxes, he writes:
... Marion now enters but is unaccompanied by a
'telepathic agent' and is supposed to be assisted by a gallery of selected
sitters (seven or eight in number). The gallery was instructed to 'follow Marion
with their eyes - willing him to go to the right tin, but they were not to give
any obvious indication, such as a nod of the head or other sign'.
In this Series A, 104 tests were made in 10 sittings and Marion located the
object successfully 46 times on the first try and 22 times on a second try. Mr.
Soal computes the anti-chance odds of this performance, but first reduces his
data by applying Hypothesis No. 1 (Van Lier). He removes 13 trials in which Mr.
Van Lier was present as a witness. In this group, a first-trial hits were made.
On the basis of 91 unsullied trials remaining (in 8 of which no handkerchief was
used, a clever expedient devised by Mr. Soal for no definite reason), 38
first-trial hits remain. Discounting the second-trial hits altogether, the
anti-chance odds are computed by Mr. Soal as 1.41 x 108.
(Anti-chance odds means the mathematical odds
against a result being due to chance or guesswork. They are normally applied
fairly stringently, and a result must be of the order of 20 to 1 against chance
before it is considered significant. It will be seen that 1.41 x 108 gives
enormous odds against the results being due to chance.)
Mr. Soal remains worried by the fact (goes on Mr.
Gibson) that the gallery he has included in the experiments, hand-picked and
completely free from Marion's friends and acquaintances, still may be emitting
some form of sensory-cues favouring Marion's anti-chance results. This gives
rise to Mr. Soal's Hypothesis No. 3 (Gallery Sensory-Cues).
Mr. Gibson shows how Soal proceeded to attach great
significance to a series of 19 trials in which I attained only a chance result,
how I made a further 15 trials and gained an anti-chance result of 117 to 1, and
In series C (ii) and C (iii) Marion seems to have
been fooled still again, for the gallery is concentrating on an empty tin and no
handkerchief has been used. Marion finds the empty tin concentrated upon and
Soal now explains the deception to him early in the experiment to prevent
further loss of confidence. The writer doubts whether this repeated deception
upon the part of Mr. Soil ... serves any real purpose and may disturb seriously
the co-operation of a sensitive subject.
Mr. Gibson goes on to discuss further the attempts
to strengthen Hypothesis No. 3. He then disposes, with justifiable brevity, of
Hypothesis No. 4, which he calls the Canned-Heat Hypothesis, because Mr. Soal
suspected that the tin containing the handkerchief was radiating more heat that
the others and that I was able to register the difference!
... Mr. Soal notices that on days when a certain Mr.
Dribbel is in the gallery, results were better than on days when he was absent.
The difference was very slight but it was enough to furnish Mr. Soal with
Hypothesis No. 5 (Mr. Dribbel's Sensory-Cues Hypothesis).
The evidence in support of this is not convincing but Mr. Soal throws out the
idea just in case any reader of his report might have come this far still
thinking that Marion possessed paranormal abilities.
In his critique Mr. Gibson next deals with what he
calls 'Hypotheses 6, 6a, 6b, and 6c'. These arose because Mr. Soal noted that
results were good when a certain Mr. H. S. Collins was in the gallery. No. 6 was
simply 'Mr. Collins' Sensory-Cues Hypothesis'; in 6a it was suspected that Mr.
Collins, in some way, indicated the correct tin by his facial expression; and in
6b, by his footsteps as he followed me around. It was during this series that
the business of concealing Mr. Collins (or various parts of Mr. Collins) in a
cabinet took place.
Before quoting further, I must explain the coming reference to Mrs. Goldney, a
lady who did a great deal of necessary work in arranging, organizing and
generally managing this prolonged series of experiments for Harry Price.
As a psychic investigator she is well known. She has spent many years in India,
the land of opportunity for such investigation, and her work has added to the
sum of data now held regarding these matters. Mrs. Goldney has been a good
friend to me and has helped me greatly in my work ever since I arrived in this
country over fifteen years ago. I am pleased to note that she was awarded the
M.B.E. for her services during the Second World War.
Concerning the boxing-up of Mr. Collins, Mr. Gibson writes:
With the panel withdrawn from the box and with the
hood over Mr. Collins' head, with the other sitters behind the curtains and with
Mr. Soal acting as umpire watching cannily the immobile figure of Mr. Collins
being wheeled after Marion in the 'sentry-box' by Mrs. Goldney, four out of five
trials were successful.
One might think that Mr. Soal had produced an almost perfect experiment. However
he was greatly in need of another explanation at the moment and a new one was
immediately at hand. During this series of trials, Mr. Soal saw Marion look
deliberately at Mr. Collins several times, once for as long as five seconds.
Perhaps he was searching for sensory-cues, perhaps he was gazing at Mr. Soal's
handiwork, but a new hypothesis was born. Mr. Soal concluded that the, to him,
imperceptible body and head movements of Mr. Collins must be a veritable lexicon
of information for Marion and we have Hypothesis No. 6c (Mr. Collins' Movements
Mr. Gibson concludes the first section of his
... One might ask why Mr. Soal is so miserly with
his 'perfect experiments'. He had experimented with Marion for a period of
approximately six months and had made only 2.5 trials which he considers to be
sensory-cue free. He had reintroduced repeatedly throughout new openings for
sensory-cues... Most of the time Mr. Soal would not let Marion work without
sensory-cues - (here Mr. Gibson strikes at the fundamental error of the
experimentation) - except in the, to Mr. Soal, significant twenty-five 'perfect
The second section of Mr. Gibson's critique deals
with a number of card-finding experiments. After I had been allowed to touch a
single card from a pack, I would leave the room or the cards would be shuffled
behind a screen, the card which I had touched being shuffled into a group of
others. All cards would be spread on a table and I would then, much too
frequently for chance, select the card I had originally touched.
Mr. Gibson says:
In some of the experiments Mr. Soal gave Marion the
opportunity to bend or flex the card he had touched. In others he did not.
However, the flexure of the card touched by Marion serves Soal for Hypothesis
No. 7 (the Card-Flexure Hypothesis)... In this experiment Mr. Soal bends and
twists all the cards in the deck - (the American word for 'pack') - after Marion
had touched a single card therefrom. Soal is certain that Marion does not mark
the card backs. Nevertheless the card-flexure argument has to stand through
thick and thin and the momentary mystical touch of Marion stands out, according
to Soal, so that Marion can immediately identity the card in a deck, all of the
cards of which have been twisted and bent by Mr. Soal to the best of his
ability. Soal admits that Marion had not played the 'Hide and Seek' game with
cards before but that it was invented by the experimenter himself. It again
speaks well for the 'hyperaesthetic senses' discovered by the experimenter that
Marion could adapt them immediately to a new experimental condition and succeed
in it so well.
Later Mr. Gibson comments:
Mr. Soal realizes apparently that Hypothesis No. 7
is not the correct one, for he also offers another, Hypothesis No. 8 (Specks on
the Card-Backs), to reinforce it. This in spite of the fact that he states that
he is continually introducing new decks which Marion has had no opportunity to
handle... Soal follows up with Hypothesis No. 9 (Special Tactual Hyperaesthesia)
to cover those cases that might elude the first two. He still seems to be
somewhat unsatisfied that he has explained Marion's results in full. To this
doubt must be credited the creation of the most remarkable theory of all which
is Hypothesis No. 10. Soal argues that each card tapped or touched by Marion has
a pitch or keynote of its own, perceptible only to Marion. His subject has only
to memorize all of these component notes in his symphonic decks in order to
recognize any of the cards.
(In point of fact, remarkable though this theory may
sound, it is, by analogy, very near to the truth. I have said elsewhere
that I recognize a card in an experiment such as this by its individual and
characteristic emanations. It is not a long step from 'emanations' to 'keynote';
neither word is entirely correct, but 'emanations' is the most appropriate word
within the inadequate scope of language.)
Concluding, Mr. Gibson says:
Mr. Soal is too parsimonious to permit a paranormal
hypothesis or to test out that possible interpretation of the results in any
adequate manner... When experimental conditions become reasonably perfect,
usually at the end of a long series or at the close of a séance in which Marion
appears to go downhill as he tires, tight conditions are introduced for a few
trials and the attempt abandoned for the day... How often Mr. Soal thinks he has
invented a 'perfect experiment', only to have Marion succeed in it and require
him to produce a new hypothesis.
... In series (viii) Soal carries out a card experiment with Marion in the dark
with a new type of card and gets a highly significant result, 1:1,511 odds
against chance, in 17 trials. The cards are not flexible, there is no evidence
of marking, scratching, or nicking, and the cards were scrutinized carefully at
the close of the test. The explanation of this is again Hypothesis No. 9 which
has gained added power, possibly by reason of darkness...
So it goes on... The fact that he has to scamper so nimbly from hypothesis to
hypothesis to explain a simple phenomenon and has to invent a 'hyperaesthesia'
for which there is little or no real psychological proof, weakens an already
poor case... He resolutely refuses to trade any of his hypotheses for an
investigation of the paranormal possibilities of his subject and refuses to test
that subject in procedures in which the question can be adequately described at
... One's sympathy goes out to his subject who seems to have gone through this
ordeal without a whimper.
* * *
There, then, is an answer to the theory or theories
advanced by Harry Price and Dr. Soal. Mr. Gibson is clearly dissatisfied, to say
the least, with the way in which the experiments were conducted and with the
deductions Dr. Soal makes from these experiments. Mr. Gibson has put my own side
of the question very ably, and I do not intend to add to his words except to
emphasize that, whether testing for telepathy or some deeper power
(cryptaesthesia), the experimenters should have eliminated all
possibility of sensory-cues right from the start. To keep imposing all sorts of
odd conditions that might provide sensory-cues was simply confusing to
both the experimenters and myself. Just one further point: I have ventured to
interpolate a remark in the matter of Hypothesis No. 10 - the 'keynote' theory.
Here, it is clear, I am at variance with Mr. Gibson as to the merits of the
theory, and I felt it only just that I should indicate this.
I think it must be apparent that my approach to these profound questions of
psychic phenomena and the like is purely metaphysical. I hold that metaphysics
provides the answer to all the problems postulated by 'uncanny' ability or
No matter what was thought to be 'proved' by the business of shutting the agent
in a cabinet during the experiments at the National Laboratory of Psychic
Research, throughout my fifty years I have conducted thousands of experiments in
which the possibility of indicia from the audience was entirely ruled
out, as also was the possibility of hyperaesthesia of sight or touch. So much
should be obvious from the examples I have given.
On what indicia, for instance, did I build up an accurate story from
those few scribbled words of Lady Oxford's? If the answer is 'telepathy', then I
would ask how it is that on many occasion's I have carried out metagraphological
experiments with the handwriting of people who were not present at the séance,
or who were no longer even alive.
No. Even though hyperaesthesia of various senses to the nth degree be presumed,
it can never provide a satisfactory answer. In studying these matters, a
metaphysical approach is essential. It is a fundamental error to expect good
results from experiments which develop into a form of competition between the
investigators, and the person whose faculties are being investigated.
* * *
Despite the amount of work that I carried out for
the London University Council for Psychic Investigation, I still managed to
deliver a number of lecture-demonstrations in different parts of England during
the period of my first visit to this country.
I was compelled to turn down a booking for the Stoll circuit, which came as a
result of an agent of Sir Oswald Stoll witnessing my experiment with Lady Oxford
at the Aeolian Hall. A few years later, on my third and final visit to England,
the invitation was renewed. I accepted, and a special show was put on at the
Alhambra for me.
However, I am anticipating.
Soon after my arrival in England I renewed my acquaintance with a man named
Salcer, the representative of the Neue Wiener Journal of Vienna. He was
living in a pleasant house in Ealing at the time, and asked me if I would hold a
private séance there so that he could send an exclusive story to Vienna. I
The guests he invited were mostly unknown to me, but seemed to be mainly from
theatrical, artistic and journalistic circles. For the first experiment I was
handed an envelope by a lady. Inside, she informed me, was a specimen of her own
handwriting. I had never before received such a strange sense of unreality as I
did when absorbing the impressions streaming to my subconscious from the
envelope I held.
"There is a church," I stated, "and several people are leaving the Church while
a large crowd stands outside watching. They are all dressed in an old-fashioned
way. They cannot be of this century. The whole vision is quite unreal, and is of
a dreamlike quality. The incident occurred on the stage of a theatre during some
play. There is one man standing out among the characters. He is well built, with
rounded features and long hair carried back clear of his ears. He is like the
On finishing the statement I asked that the envelope should be unsealed and that
the lady should make herself known. Those who remember the popularity of
White Horse Inn will probably feel irate that I failed to recognize Lea
Seidl as the lady of my experiment. It was indeed the lovely Viennese singer who
had offered me an incident from her past as a basis for cryptaesthesic
reconstruction. In excuse of this omission I hasten to say that I was not in
England when the operetta attained its fame, and had never seen Lea Seidl
I believe that one or two of the other guests at the séance were a little
suspicious, fancying that I had recognized the singer and had built my
experiment on this recognition.
Their doubts were quickly dispersed, for Lea Seidl explained that the incident I
had described was perfectly correct and had occurred on the occasion of her
first appearance in London. But it was nothing to do with White Horse Inn,
the operetta with which she is always associated. The words she had written in
the envelope referred to a scene from the operetta Frederika by Franz
Lehar. This scene took place outside a church exactly as I had described it ...
and the theme of Frederika is the life of Goethe.
It would be easy for me to relate countless experiences which came my way during
lecture-demonstrations and private seances, but many of them would only
exemplify the same points in a slightly different way, and I do not want to
A year's booking on the continent compelled my reluctant departure from England;
but I was back again in 1936 and, in March of the following year, was involved
in an intriguing but rather bewildering experience. The whole thing began in the
middle of the night, and my first intimation of its oddness came when I heard
"You'll probably call the police and give the whole thing away when you've heard
my story, Mr. Marion."
The speaker was a man in his early thirties. He moved restlessly around the
room, darting quick glances at me from time to time. I do not think I was a
particularly prepossessing sight, but I really didn't care. Wearily I rubbed the
top of my head, yawned and blinked blearily at this nocturnal visitor. I huddled
a little deeper into my thick dressing-gown.
London. March 1937. And well after midnight on a Saturday.
I had been hauled out of bed with the message that there was a man who had
to see me immediately. No, the matter could not wait till morning. This was not
the first time in my life that I had been dragged from my slumbers by
importunate visitors. However, I do not refuse to see anybody once I feel they
need my help.
Rather slowly the full import of my visitor's first words began to dawn upon me.
I blinked and began to shake the heaviness of sleep from my mind. The stranger
was tall and elegant, with clean-shaven chin and quiet, distinguished features.
Pale with anxiety as he was, his hair was yet parted with meticulous care, and
behind the tension that possessed him his air was one of buoyant modernity.
In all I didn't feel it necessary to snatch up the phone and call for the
police. I invited my guest to continue his story - or rather to start at the
beginning instead of at the end. Puffing quickly at a cigarette between every
few words, he told his tale in terse, accurate sentences.
He was a Mr. L―, holding a high managerial position in a large chemical concern.
For some years he had been living in the grand-seigneur manner, was well known
as a man-about-town and was received by what is usually considered to be the
For two years he had been living far beyond his quite considerable income. At
first he had borrowed from money-lenders. They had charged exorbitant rates of
interest. To stave off disaster he had embezzled money from his firm. In his
high position it was not surprising that he had managed to cover up the deficits
for some time: but sooner or later the cat would be out of the bag, so he had
decided to make a final scoop and then disappear.
The previous day he had arranged for a very large sum of money to be placed at
his disposal through the bank handling his firm's account. It was so large that
the loss would be discovered within a week, even with all his efforts at
concealment. But that did not matter; for several weeks earlier he had booked a
passage to South America on a ship due to leave a northern French port within
two or three days. As it was now past midnight on the Saturday, this meant that
he was due to sail for France next day at the very latest.
The ingenious part of his plot was this. The head office of his firm was not
expecting to see him on the Monday, because it was arranged that he should go to
the continent on business for five days. In this way his non-appearance for a
week would be thought quite in order, and by the time suspicion was aroused he
would have covered his tracks well. The money, it seemed (though he gave me no
details), was in compact and negotiable form. He could not be traced from that
angle. All details of his flight had been carefully prepared.
By the time my peculiar visitor had finished telling me his story I was well and
truly awake ... although the whole thing seemed more like a dream than a
reality. I searched for words. It was difficult to know where to begin.
"Why come to me?" I asked at last. It seemed about the only thing to say.
My client frowned and hesitated. Then: "I've got the money with me now. My boat
sails in about ten hours' time. There's only one thing that worries me. Suppose
something happened during those five days that I believe I have quite clear.
Suppose in some way my firm managed to get on to me during that time. What would
be my chances?"
Rather dazedly, I asked a few further questions and found that Mr. L― was, in
fact, so worried by this fear of the unexpected that he had come to me with the
desire that I should carry out an experiment and try to find out whether his
plot would succeed or 'gang agley'.
I had very little idea of my legal position in this situation. I always observe
the strictest confidence in dealing with people who ask my help, but, after all,
I am not a doctor, a solicitor or a priest. These, I believe, may carry the
guilty secrets of another and are not compelled by law to reveal such knowledge.
"Aren't you taking a bigger risk in coming to me than in simply following out
your plan and chancing any contretemps that may arise?" I asked.
Mr. L― shrugged. "I suppose so. But the thing has become an obsession with me,
in spite of all my planning. I know you may possibly call the police, but at the
same time I couldn't keep away. That's the only explanation I can offer, though
I must admit I can hardly understand what brought me here."
I thought the matter over for a moment or two. The situation was intriguing, to
say the least.
"Let's make the experiment first," I offered, "and see what I can find out. Then
I'll decide what happens next."
He nodded eagerly.
"All I want to know, Mr. Marion, is whether or not the getaway I have planned
will go through without any hitch."
At my direction he handed me a specimen of his handwriting, and I began to
concentrate. A few minutes later the experiment was over, but I was somewhat
doubtful as to what I should tell my client.
The overall impression that he would be successful in his project was quite
vivid. At the same time I was convinced that there would be a very nasty snag in
his plans for flight; but not in the way he feared. There seemed to be no chance
of his firm becoming suspicious in the early stages, but I felt quite sure that
his trip to South America would not go according to schedule. This would cause
further complications which would be very damaging to his carefully-worked-out
Bearing in mind that I had been asked, "Will the escape go according to plan?",
I simply told Mr. L― that his flight would certainly not proceed as expected and
that he would be detained.
Now it is a curious thing that many people come to me so that I may confirm
something they wish to come true. If I carry out an experiment and declare a
result opposed to their wishes, then they simply do not believe me. This was the
case with my nocturnal guest.
He tried to make me expand or qualify my statement, almost putting the words
into my mouth, but I refused to go any further. A few minutes later he paid my
fee, thanked me rather brusquely and disappeared into the night. When he left me
I felt sure that he intended to go through with his plan - in fact, he had gone so
far towards burning his boats that I did not see how the strongest warning from
me could be of any use to him. I knew also that in some way or other he would
meet with a major hitch, but I reasoned that my conscience was clear, for I had
offered no encouragement to the malefactor.
I went back to bed, rather tickled by the curious experience.
During the next two or three days I watched the newspapers very carefully,
studying the shipping news in particular, and on the lookout for news of any
hold-up between France and South America. I did not, at any time, come across
any reference to the crime itself: there was no news of anybody absconding from
a large firm with a load of money. But, on the Wednesday following my midnight
experiment, my prophecy was confirmed.
In the Daily Telegraph, dated 10 March, 1937, there was a report of a
shipping strike. Even the Normandie, which was due to sail for New York
and had hopes of winning the Blue Riband from the Queen Mary, had been
affected. The crew had joined in the strike of all Le Havre seamen, and the
entire port was paralysed - liners, tugs, pilot-boats and dredgers, not one of
them could move. About five thousand men ceased work, and all the big French
shipping companies were affected.
The Kerguelen, which should have left for South America, was unable to
So there it was. I tried to picture the fugitive's state of mind in his
predicament, and wondered if he was now recalling my words.
I watched carefully for a few more days, looking out for any mention of Mr. L―
(though the name he gave me may not have been correct). None was forthcoming. I
do not know whether he reached his haven of retreat in South America or whether
he was brought to book and the matter was hushed up.
But according to the impressions I received during my experiment, that
extraordinary young man got away with his loot - despite the shipping hitch.
The above article was taken from Frederick Marion's In My Mind's Eye (New
York, Melbourne, Sydney, Cape Town: Rider and Co., N.D.). A review and critique
of this book by Theodore Besterman, and a reply by Marion, was published in the
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research Vol. XXXV. No. 656,
January/ February 1950 pp. 187-195 and is reproduced with permission at