WE HAVE seen in the last chapter how a juggler, aided by the mystery which
surrounds a medium, and knowing how to take advantage of the infirmities to
which human observation and testimony are liable, could mislead even experts
into the belief that his tricks were due to powers beyond those of ordinary
humanity. Now we have no reason to credit Eglinton with any peculiar aptitude
for the profession which he had chosen. Such eminence as he attained seems to
have been due as much to good fortune as to any special skill or astuteness of
his own. He was, in fact, an impostor of a sufficiently commonplace type. We
have now to consider a medium of another kind. Charlatan and adventurer,
helpless sport of superhuman forces, or chosen emissary of the spirit-world,
commonplace is the last epithet that could justly be applied to
Home. Whatever the explanation of the feats ascribed to him - and they are more
varied, more striking, and better attested than any others in the history of the
marvellous it does not lie on the surface. In Home and in his doings all the
problems of Spiritualism are posed in their acutest form; with the marvels
wrought by or through him the main defences of Spiritualism must stand or fall.
Daniel Dunglas Home, or Hume, was, by his own account, born near Edinburgh in
1833. Neither in his original auto biography nor in the two biographical
accounts written by his second wife is there any express mention of his father,
and this omission, coupled with his own statement that he was adopted at an
early age by his mother's sister, affords strong confirmation of the rumour that
his birth was illegitimate.
 The materials for an account of Home's
life and mediumship are extremely abundant. There are, in the first place, his
own writings, of which the chief are the two volumes of Incidents in My Life
(First Series, 1863; Second Series, 1872) and the Lights and Shadows of
Spiritualism, 1877. There are two works by Madame Home (the second wife), D. D.
Home; his Life and Mission, 1888, and The Gift of D. D. Home, 1890.
Of other documents, the most important are
Researches in the Phenomena of
Spiritualism, by W. Crookes, F.R.S., 1874 (a reprint of various articles which
had appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Science), and Notes of Séances with D.
D. Home, by the same author, published in the Proc. SPR, vol. vi. pp. 98-127; a
privately circulated volume entitled Experiences in Spiritualism, by
Viscount Adare (the present Earl of Dunraven), with a preface by the late Earl,
containing an account of seventy-eight séances held in the years 1867-8; the
evidence included in the Dialectical Society's Report; the affidavits given at
the trial Lyon v. Home in 1868; Evenings with Mr. Home and the Spirits, by Dr.
J. G. Wilkinson, 1855; Spirit Manifestations, by J. Snaith Rymer, 1857;
Spiritualism: a Narrative with a Discussion, by Patrick Proctor Alexander,
Edinburgh, 1871; the correspondence in the Morning Advertiser (London) in
October and November, 1855; and numerous articles in the Spiritualist Press,
especially the Spiritual Telegraph (New York); the Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph
(Keighley), 1855-7; the Spiritual Herald (London), 1856; the Spiritual Magazine,
1860 and onwards; and Human Nature, 1867 and onwards. There are also references
to Home in Hare's book on The Spirit Manifestations, New York, 1855;
Mechanism of Man, London, 1876; in Spicer's Sights and Sounds, 1853; and in many
other works on Spiritualism. The Journal of the Society for Psychical Research
for July, 1889, and May, 1890, contains some valuable additional evidence
collected by the late F. W. H. Myers. Further, Mr. Myers was allowed by Madame
Home to inspect the original letters and documents which are quoted in that
lady's Life of her husband, and was able to satisfy himself, by his knowledge of
the writing in some cases, and by other indications, that the letters are
genuine and that they are accurately reproduced in the book.
Some of the facts given in the text as to Home's personal characteristics and
manner of life are derived from information supplied to me by persons who had
known him. Of these I desire especially to acknowledge my indebtedness to Mr.
Ion Perdicaris, who was kind enough to give me orally copious details of his own
association with Home, and subsequently to correct and supplement my memoranda
of our conversation. No one living is probably better qualified to speak with
authority on Home's early life; Mr. Ogden and Professor Bush, who experimented
with Home in New York prior to his departure for England in 1855, were friends
of Mr. Perdicaris' family. He was also intimately acquainted with Home and with
many of Home's circle of friends in this country, and for some years even
undertook the expense of educating Home's young son.
 In a footnote to the Incidents (Second Series, p. 48), Home states that his
father was a natural son of Alexander tenth Earl of Home. No proof is offered of
When Home was nine years old he appears to have been taken by his aunt to
America, and to have lived with her and her husband until the end of 1850. Then
the rapping epidemic which had broken out in Hydesville two years previously
infected young Home, and he left his aunt's house and went out into the world.
For the next five years he stayed in one household or another in New York and
elsewhere, giving séances and apparently receiving hospitality and some measure
of education in return. It does not appear that at this or any other period he
ever accepted any definite payment in money for his services as a medium.
Amongst those who attended his séances at this period were the poet Bryant, Ward
Cheney, Bishop Clark of Rhode Island, Rufus Elmer, S. B. Brittan (editor of the
Shekinah and the New York Spiritual Telegraph), Judge Edmonds, Professor Bush,
Mr. Ogden, and Mr. J. W. Carrington. The three gentlemen last named were in 1855
members of a small committee who subscribed a sum of money to send Home over to
Europe, partly for the benefit of his health, partly, it would seem, as a
missionary of Spiritualism.
Home arrived in England in the spring of 1855 and went to stay at Cox's Hotel in
Jermyn Street, having brought introductions to the proprietor, a man of
scientific tastes, from his friends in New York. He spent the spring and summer
of this year as a guest, now of Mr. Cox, now of Mr. J. S. Rymer, a solicitor, at
his house at Ealing, and gave numerous séances Lord Brougham, Sir
Robert Owen, T. A. Trollope, Sir E. Bulwer Lytton, Dr. J. Garth Wilkinson and
others being amongst the privileged witnesses.
In the autumn of this year he went to Italy, and spent the next few years on the
Continent, quartered apparently for the whole period on various friends, mostly
persons of rank and wealth, and repaying the hospitality which he received by
the exercise of his marvellous powers. He was summoned during this period on
several occasions to the Tuileries, to hold sittings with the Emperor and
Empress; he also performed before the Czar of Russia and many other royal and
noble personages. In the autumn of 1859 he returned to this country, bringing
with him a young and charming wife, the daughter of a noble Russian family, and
possessed of a moderate fortune. An account of his mediumship at this period
will be found in the article written by Robert Bell, which appeared in the
Cornhill in August, 1860. For the next ten or twelve years Home seems to
have resided chiefly in London, with intervals more or less prolonged spent upon
the Continent. In 1862 his wife died; and Home, who appears to have been left in
somewhat straitened circumstances, was forced to eke out his means by giving
public lectures and recitations. In 1866 a new society, the "Spiritual
Athenæum," was founded by his numerous friends, mainly in order to give Home,
as salaried secretary, a fixed position and a livelihood. In the autumn of the
same year he made the acquaintance of a wealthy and childless widow, Mrs. Lyon.
Mrs. Lyon professed her desire to adopt Home, and presented him "as a free gift"
with a sum of £24,000, following this up with still further benefactions. Home
in return took the name of Home-Lyon. In the course of a few months Mrs. Lyon
changed her mind, and desired to revoke her gifts. The matter came into court in
April, 1868, the case being noteworthy from the Spiritualist standpoint because
of the large number of affidavits filed by persons of distinction testifying to
the reality of Home's power. No definite charge of fraud or illicit influence
was proved against Home: but the court was not satisfied that Mrs. Lyon's gifts
were "acts of pure volition uninfluenced," and judgment was given in her
 See above, pp. 48-50.
 See the analysis of the proceedings by Mr. H. Arthur Smith, author of
Principles of Equity, in the Journal SPR for July, 1889.
In the years 1870-2 Home gave a long series of sittings to Mr. (now Sir William)
Crookes. In the autumn of 1871 he had married for the second time, his wife
being again a Russian lady possessed of some fortune. Shortly after this event
Home seems to have broken with nearly all his friends in this country, and to
have exercised his mediumship more and more rarely. He spent the rest of his
life mostly on the Continent, and died after a long and painful illness in June,
1886, the immediate cause of death being pneumonia.
This brief sketch of Home's career, founded as it is, as regards the earlier
years, mainly on material written or inspired by Home himself, needs a critical
supplement. It seems certain that Home began life in extreme poverty, and
probably as an illegitimate child. From the age of seventeen onwards he lived by
the exercise of his mediumship, none the less if he never actually received
payment in cash down. Throughout his life, first in the Eastern States of
America and later in every country of Europe, he found wealthy patrons to
welcome him to their homes, and lavish their hospitality on him. Such formal
education as he received in his youth was paid for by the New York committee to
which I have alluded. When Home was not actually a guest in their houses, his
patrons, in one way or other - by taking tickets for his lectures, by
commissioning busts from him, by subscribing to pay his debts, by making him
presents of costly jewellery - managed to provide for his wants. Mr. Perdicaris
for some years undertook the charge of educating his only son. Home thus lived
not merely in comfort, but - a thing which to a man of his temperament was
probably not less an object of desire - he lived in what is commonly called the
"best" society, the society of persons of rank, wealth, and fashion, and
occasionally of intellectual distinction.
It is to be noted that when Home first came to England he changed his name.
Prior to that period it had been spelt Hume. Possibly the explanation of the
change may be found in the claim already referred to, of kinship with the Earl
 Madame Home (Life, p. 31) states that the
supposed change of name was a misconception; that Home himself had always spelt
the name with an o, and that the spelling Hume was due to the ignorance of
American journalists, who were misled by the sound ("Home" was pronounced
But it is difficult to reconcile this explanation with the fact that the name is
spelt Hume in every document printed, whether in America or England, before
1855, and in many belonging to that year, even in the signature of the medium's
own letters to newspapers. See e.g. the letter to the Hartford Times, reprinted
in the Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph for October, 1855.
Two other curious features in Home's career should be recorded as having some
possible significance in their bearing on his character. Early in February,
1856, according to his own account, after due warning from his spirit guides,
Home's mediumistic powers left him. Shortly afterwards he was received into the
Church of Rome. He had an audience with the Pope, and was even at one time, as
Madame Home tells us, on the point of joining a monastic order. He drew back,
however, and in February of the following year, being then at Paris, he resumed
his mediumistic performance, on the occasion of an invitation from the
 Life and Mission, pp. 67-70.
In December, 1855, shortly before the intermission of his powers, Home,
returning at night through the streets of Florence, reported himself to have
been attacked by a man who struck at him with a dagger, and succeeded only in
inflicting a slight flesh wound. Thirteen years later, at the time of the
trial Lyon v. Home, the drama was repeated, but on a stage, it must be admitted,
less happily chosen. The midnight assassin and the murderous stiletto may pass
for topical melodrama in Italy, but they degenerate into farce when the theatre
is Jermyn Street. Home, it remains to be said, in London as in Florence, was
unaccompanied at the time of the outrage: the wound was on each occasion happily
trivial, and the perpetrator was never discovered.
 Incidents (First Series), p. 92.
 Life and Mission, p. 269. In recent times defaulting bank managers,
occasional mail-cart drivers, and at least one lady of quality, have reported
themselves as victims of outrages curiously similar. Shelley, it will be
remembered, appears on one occasion to have had an hallucinatory experience of
In person Home is described as having been slight, fair, and, without being
actually handsome, attractive and even distinguished-looking. A portrait of him
is prefixed to the Life by Madame Home, and there is a three-quarter-length oil
painting in the rooms of the Spiritual Alliance. Here is a pen portrait of him
by one of his earliest American friends, a Miss Ely, extracted from a
contemporary letter written to her cousin: "He is but seventeen years old, tall
for his age, fair complexion, hair neither red, brown, nor auburn, but a
complete mixture of the three - like a three-coloured changeable silk - rather
inclining to curl: and beautiful hair it is, as you can imagine: a large, broad
forehead, well-developed, lively grey eyes, nose not remarkable, and a handsome
mouth and teeth; easy manners; very intelligent for his age; perfectly artless
and very affectionate." Mr. Perdicaris described him to me as "not
good-looking, though his face was as a rule pleasant to look upon; very vain of
his personal appearance, with a quite innocent and not unpleasing vanity. Always
pleasing manners, very affectionate towards all - men, women, and children alike."
 The Gift of D. D. Home, p. 66.
Other testimonies which I have received orally from persons still living, or
which are to be found scattered through the literature of Spiritualism, confirm
generally this view of his character. There can be no doubt that he produced on
most persons the impression of a highly emotional, joyous, childlike nature,
full of generous impulses, and lavish of affection to all corners. That he
possessed in full measure the defects of his temperament there can be as little
doubt; affections so lightly given were liable to be as lightly recalled: vanity
seems to have been the permanent element in his character; he basked in
admiration; for the rest he showed throughout a disposition to take life easily,
and to look out, in the American phrase, for "soft jobs." In short, as Mr.
Andrew Lang has somewhere described him, "a Harold Skimpole with the gift of
divination." The malignant side of his nature showed but rarely, and then
chiefly in his attitude towards rival mediums. But it flashed out when his
vanity was injured; and after his second marriage he treated many of his old
friends with indifference, and some with marked ingratitude.
 The most careful and dispassionate
account of Home's character which I have seen is contained in a letter from Miss
Louise Kennedy - a lady who only knew him in his later years - written in July,
1891, to Mr. Lang, which appeared in the Journal of the SPR, Jan., 1894.
Amongst Home's social accomplishments it must be mentioned that he was a good
performer on the piano; and that his recitations, whether in the drawing-room or
on the platform, are said by competent judges to have been distinguished by
brilliant dramatic faculty and power of emotional expression. Even on those who
were brought only into momentary contact with him he produced commonly the
impression of frankness and sincerity: in those who stood in more frequent
and intimate relations with him the confidence which he inspired seems to have
been unlimited. The belief in the honesty of the performer became for them
hardly less instinctive than the belief in the trustworthiness of the senses
which took note of the performance. The trust upon which other mediums relied
was built up mainly by adventitious devices; with Home it was inspired and
maintained by the charm of his personality.
 See e.g. the testimony of Robert Bell,
in the Cornhill article already referred to; Mr. P. P. Alexander
(Spiritualism, a narrative with a discussion, p. 2). "The impression he made on
me was, on the whole, favourable... His manners were simple and quiet, and very
much those of a gentleman." Sub-Committee No. 5 of the Dialectical Society,
which included Dr. Edmunds and Mr. C. Bradlaugh, had four sittings with Home.
The sittings were fruitless, but the committee reported that "Mr. Home afforded
every facility for examination, and appeared to be anxious to further the
objects which the committee had in view" (Dialectical Report, p. 49). Mr. Bradlaugh gave independent testimony to the same effect (Ibid., p. 279). On the
other hand, Hamilton Aide (Nineteenth Century, April, 1890, article "Was I
Hypnotised?") could find "no glamour of esoteric power," nor "subtle
fascination" about Home; and thought him "entirely unimpressive in any way."
But there were two other causes which contributed in no small degree to the
confidence felt in Home's integrity. Home himself professed a fervent belief in
his own mission as a teacher of the truth of immortality; and in his trances
habitually delivered discourses on religious themes. The late Lord Dunraven, in
the preface to his son's series of letters on Home's mediumship, writes of the
"high and pure morality" inculcated at Home's séances, and describes some of the
trance utterances as "very touching and beautiful. A pure, lofty, and religious
tone more or less pervades them." Other witnesses have written to the same
 Thus, in speaking of the effect produced
on T. A. Trollope by a séance at Ealing, Home writes: "When at length the light
did beam upon his soul, and the chords of his spirit vibrated in unison with the
celestial harmonies that ushered in the birth of faith through the shadows of
his old unbelief, the result was too much for his stoicism, and the tears of
holy joy coursed down his manly cheeks... It was an impressive scene, and an
occasion of deep interest. There are many such in the life of a spirit medium."
(Letter from D. D. Home to the Hartford Times (U.S.A.), quoted in the Yorkshire
Spiritual Telegraph, Oct., 1855).
 See also Home's own writings, e.g. the article in the Spiritual Magazine
for February, 1860, comparing the rise of Spiritualism to that of Christianity;
and the chapters on the "Higher Aspects of Spiritualism," in his book
Shadows of Spiritualism.
Again, the impression produced by Home's trance sermons was heightened by the
frequent delivery of clairvoyant messages, purporting to proceed from dead
friends of one or other of those present, and often showing an intimate
knowledge of the past history of the persons addressed. Amongst the English and
American witnesses who have testified to receiving messages of this kind which
gave details of a private nature, presumably unknown to the medium, are S. B.
Brittan, Ward Cheney, Dr. Garth Wilkinson, Dr. Gully, Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall,
Mrs. Nassau Senior, Mr. P. P. Alexander, Mr. J. S. Rymer, the present Earl of
Dunraven, Dr. Hawksley, and others. Mr. Perdicaris has furnished me with two or
three additional instances in his own experience of a very remarkable character.
I have not space to consider the evidence for this clairvoyance, nor the
possibilities of the information having been obtained by normal means. The whole
subject of these alleged communications from the dead will be dealt with in a
later chapter. The evidence, at any rate, in the case of Home, is far less
complete than in the case of the later medium, Mrs. Piper, or than the evidence
already considered in the chapter on Cahagnet's somnambules. It is perhaps
sufficient, however, to raise a presumption of Home's possession of supernormal
powers. But our concern here is primarily not with the authenticity of these
communications, but with the undoubted effect produced by them at the time in
predisposing those present to accept Home's physical manifestations as
 Book 1. chap. vi.
 Many of these trance communications are quoted at length in Madame Home's
biographical notices of the medium. But the more important were published at the
time, in the Spiritualist periodicals, especially, in this country, the
Spiritual Magazine, and the various works of Alexander, Wilkinson, Rymer, etc.,
already referred to.
Before we proceed to consider the physical manifestations one preliminary remark
needs to be made. Home was never publicly exposed as an impostor; there is no
evidence of any weight that he was even privately detected in trickery. On
the assumption - an assumption which the whole course of our inquiries up to
this point compels us to make - that the alleged physical marvels were
fraudulent, this unique immunity from the common lot of mediumship certainly
calls for explanation. Mainly, no doubt, it was due to Home's peculiar position
as a non-professional medium; to the fact that his sitters were, in a sense, his
guests; and that he himself in effect selected those before whom he would
consent to perform. Again, we cannot exclude the possibility that there were
cases in which imposture was actually detected by persons who refrained, out of
consideration for the feelings of their friends, or from the fear of ridicule,
from making their discovery public. But whatever deductions are made on this
score, Home's immunity is not the least remarkable feature of his career, and
may no doubt fairly be considered as weakening to some extent the general
assumption referred to.
 The late F. W. H. Myers (Journal SPR,
July, 1889) has carefully examined this question. Mr. Browning personally
explained to Mr. Myers that he had never detected Home cheating, and that the
only definite evidence which he could show for his opinion that Home was an
impostor was based upon a second-hand rumour that Home was once caught in Italy
experimenting with phosphorus. No testimony has ever been adduced which even
remotely approached first-hand for the alleged exposure at the Tuileries.
Mr. Myers also prints a letter from a gentleman known to him, written in 1889,
in which the writer relates that at a séance held in 1855 he saw plainly that
the alleged "spirit hands" were supported by and in obvious connection with
Home's arms. The matter was not, however, mentioned at the time, and rests now
on the unsupported memory of events which took place thirty-four years before
the account was written (Journal SPR, July, 1889, p. 121).
But though more fortunate, or haply more deserving, than his fellows, it is
important to note that none of Home's manifestations seem to have been peculiar
to himself. At the outset of his career, indeed, he appears to have won no
special distinction as a medium. Raps were heard at his séances; tables and
chairs were moved about; the room was shaken, bells, accordions, and guitars
were played under the table or even at a distance from the circle, with no hand
near them; spirit voices would speak through the medium; spirit hands were felt
under the tablecloth, and occasionally seen above it; spirit lights made
themselves visible; and the medium himself would be levitated. But all these
performances were the common property of the guild; the Fox girls, Gordon,
Cooley, E. P. Fowler, Abby Warner, and even Willis, the Harvard divinity
student, were Home's rivals, and apparently, in the estimation of his
contemporaries, at least his equals in all these feats. It is noteworthy that
Home appears to have attracted comparatively little attention in the American
Press before his journey to England.
 There are, however, a few notices in the
New York papers before 1855, some of which are quoted in the Incidents. See
especially the account of a séance from the Shekinah, New York, Vol. i. p. 289,
quoted in the Incidents (First Series), p. 24. See also Telegraph Papers, vol.
iii. pp. 211, 212; Vol. vii. pp. 182, 261, 287; vol. viii. p. 293. That Home's
séances attracted less attention than those of Gordon, the Foxes, or the Koons
family was no doubt largely due to the fact that his performances were never
given in public or to promiscuous circles. It should be noted, as bearing upon
Home's relations to other mediums, that after his second visit to this country
(1859-60) he associated himself for some time with another American medium,
Squire, and that they even gave joint séances (see Spiritual Magazine, 1860,
75, 88, 232, etc.) See above, pp- 51-2, for some account of Squire's
His séances in this country followed for the most part on the lines sketched
above. The room was commonly illuminated by one or more candles, a single
gas-burner, or a shaded lamp, so that, in comparison with the almost complete
darkness insisted on by other mediums, it could honestly be described as well
lighted. The manifestations would then usually begin with raps, followed shortly
by a quivering movement of the table which is described by one witness as like
the vibration in the cabin of a small steamer when the engine begins to
work; by another as resembling "a ship in distress, with its timbers
straining in a heavy sea"; and in a finer flight of imagination is
characterised by another witness as "literally trembling, as if every vein of
the wood was a human nerve." The table would then tilt up, move about, or
"float" suspended in the air; musical instruments would perform in the
convenient obscurity afforded by its shelter; hands would be felt clasping the
knees of the sitters and pulling portions of their dress; handkerchiefs,
flowers, and other light articles, and even heavy bells, would be handed about
the circle, under the table, by the same means. The performance would be
interspersed with messages rapped out by the spirits, or delivered through the
mouth of the entranced medium.
 Spiritual Magazine, 1861, p.
 Spiritualism, by P. P. Alexander, p. 37. This imaginary resemblance
was, as will be seen from Mr. Alexander's account, afterwards worked up into a
striking test of "identity."
 Spiritual Magazine, 1861, p. 431.
At this point the sitting would commonly terminate. But if the conditions were
judged favourable to the higher manifestations, the lights would be turned out,
the fire screened, and the table drawn up to the window, the company sitting
round three sides, leaving the side next the window vacant, with Home sitting at
one end of the vacant space. Hands would then be seen, outlined against the
faint light proceeding from the window, to rise over the vacant edge of the
table, move about the papers lying on its surface, or give flowers to the
sitters. Afterwards the medium would be levitated. An account of a typical
séance of this kind, extracted from the Cornhill article by Robert Bell,
will be found above.
 Pages 48-50. Other instances of séances at
which hands appeared under these conditions - conditions, it should be remarked,
which appear always to have been punctually observed - are given in Spiritual
Magazine, 1860, pp. 233, 266, 338, 370, 524; Evenings with Home, by J. G.
Wilkinson; Dialectical Report, p. 139; Spirit Manifestations, by Rymer;
Spiritual Herald, p. 108, account of a séance by "H. W" (Mrs. Helen Clarke),
Now as described it must be admitted that many of the phenomena which took place
at Home's séances seem inexplicable: more inexplicable than in the case of other
mediums. This difference is no doubt largely due, as already indicated, to the
fact that Home's manners and appearance, his aloofness from the professional
medium, and the atmosphere of smart society which encompassed him, inspired a
confidence which encouraged the witnesses of his marvels to "let themselves go."
The discerning reader will not need to be told that Robert Bell's mood when he
sat in the dark and saw the spirit hands, was not that of dispassionate
observation; and that he was, alike at the time and in retrospect, incapable of
distinguishing between what he saw, heard, or felt, and what he inferred from
those sensations. But Robert Bell was a much better witness than most. He admits
that the room was very dark, and that Home's hands were visible only as a "faint
white heap"; and he did not, like many of Home's sitters, profess to recognise
the spirit hands which clasped his knees, or appeared as a transitory gleam of
white at the far edge of the table. Nor would he, it is likely, have regarded as
a proof of spirit intervention an incident recorded at this time by Mr. Enmore
Jones. At the close of a dark séance, part of a bronze idol, which had been
taken to pieces by the spirits and thrown about the room, was missing, and could
not, after prolonged search, be discovered. Home came to the rescue and asked
the spirits to guide his hands to the hiding-place of the missing article. The
request was complied with. Enmore Jones comments on the incident, "It
confirmed me in the belief that our spirit friends are more keen-eyed than we,
that they hear our words, and can control even our physical organism."
 Spiritual Magazine, 1861, p. 480.
Unfortunately, though we have abundant evidence of the intellectual condition of
the witnesses, we can rarely find independent accounts given in sufficient
detail to enable us to prove such errors of interpolation and transposition,
etc., as Dr. Hodgson was able to point out in the accounts of Eglinton's
performances. One case may, however, be quoted. The account which appears in the
left-hand column below is taken from J. S. Rymer's pamphlet, Spirit
Manifestations, published in 1857; it professes to have been based on notes
taken at the time, and as it is quoted by Home, it may be presumed to have
his endorsement. The date of the sitting, it will be seen, is not given. The
account of the same sitting given in the right-hand column is by Mr. Thomas Dalling Barlee, of Ealing, and is quoted from a letter dated 23rd October, 1855,
which was published in the Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph.
 Incidents (First Series), p. 69;
see also Gift of D. D. Home, pp. 82, 83.
 Vol. iii. pp. 21, 22.
One evening I found seated at my long table my
wife, my second son, Mr. Home, and two friends. I was passing through my
room to my chamber. I stood for a few moments at the end of the table -my
attention was immediately arrested by sounds; it was stated to be my
little boy, who had passed away some years ago. I asked if he recollected
how pleased he was when on earth to place me a chair on my return home.
The chair was immediately moved round the corner of the table, and, by no
visible agency, it was placed behind me, and I sat down upon it."
* * * *
* * *
(Here follows half a page of argument aimed at proving that the
manifestation could not have been due to deception or illusion. The
account then continues as given below).
"We were told through the alphabet that my little boy was present in
spirit. I had heard of spirit-writing in America. Mr. Wolf, of Athens, co.
Ohio, writes: 'Writing is done without human hands; the hand of the spirit
is visible while the writing is done.' I asked if the unseen boy could
write as on earth; he answered that he would try. I then took from my
wife's writing-desk a sheet of notepaper, clean, and without any writing
on it of any description. I borrowed a pencil from a lady friend who was
at the table - the table had its usual cloth; on the cloth I placed the
paper and pencil; both moved as if by a breath of air the brass fastenings
of my table were then displaced one by one, and fell to the ground; the
table was opened or pulled out, and by no human agency; everyone in the
room was seated at the table, and had their hands on its surface. I then
asked if I should place the pencil and paper on the table near the opening
under the cloth - three sounds (yes); I did so, and immediately the form of
a small hand was seen under the cloth; it was felt by some who placed
their hands upon it; the paper and pencil were then removed, the form of
the hand disappearing at the same time. In a few minutes the same form of
hand was again seen replacing the paper and pencil; the alphabet was
called for: 'Dear papa, I have really done my very best.' I removed the
paper and pencil, and on the paper was written, 'Dear papa, dear mama,'
and signed 'Watt.' Watty was the name of my child. No one was aware that I
intended to ask for this to be done. It was not prearranged even by
myself; it was the thought of the moment."
"At Mr. Rymer's, on the 8th May, Mrs. Barlee
and I formed part of a circle of fourteen. Very soon after we had all been
seated round a heavy mahogany dining-table, large enough for a party of
twenty, many different kinds of raps were distinctly heard, and presently
the brass fastenings which held the parts of the table together beginning
to make a rattling noise, Mr. Hume exclaimed, 'The spirits are actually
trying to take the brass fastenings out, and to move this heavy table,'
which was really the case. For soon after, hearing the brass fastenings
fall, we looked under the table, and there found two of them which had
thus been taken out, and then the table began to move about.
"At the time all this was going on, the hands of Mr. Hume and all present
were, as usual, laid upon the table, and I am convinced that if he or any
of the party had attempted to deceive us or had tried to take out the
brass fastenings, and throw them under the table, the attempt and
deception must have been discovered. Soon after the brass fastenings had
thus been taken out, and the table had been moved about, without any human
handling, many more distinct raps were heard, and as they were known by
Mr. Hume and those present to be little Watty (a son of Mr. Rymer's, who
died when about thirteen years old), Mr. R. said, 'Dear little Watty knows
papa is always delighted to hear his merry little raps, and does Watty
think he could write something for papa, who would so like to have some of
dear Watty's writing?' - when the raps answered 'yes.'
"Mr. Rymer then put a sheet of notepaper and a pencil over the tablecloth,
and presently I saw the paper and pencil begin to move without any visible
handling, and soon after I saw the shadow of a finger on that part of the
paper which was nearest to me, just about the time when an accordion which
was on the table began to play. Some who were present saw a whole hand
trying to take the pencil and paper up, but as my attention at that moment
was turned to the music, I did not see the hand. Mr. Hume then said, 'As
the spirits seem inclined to give us some music, let us hear that first,
and in the meantime, if the paper and pencil are put under the cloth, I
have no doubt little Watty will have written something before the music is
finished.' Mr. Rymer then placed the pencil and paper under the
tablecloth, and the accordion soon, without any visible handling, played
'Home, sweet Home.' (Here follows a description of the music). After the
accordion ceased, Mr. Rymer said, 'Now let us see whether little Watty has
written anything for papa,' when instantly five raps came calling for the
alphabet, and then there was spelt, 'Dear papa, I have done my very best,'
and on Mr. Rymer's taking up the paper he found written on it, 'Dear papa,
dear mama, Watt,' and on comparing the handwriting with that contained in
one of his last letters before he died, it was found to be exactly
resembling the writing there, particularly the capital letters."
It is not necessary to point out all the discrepancies in these two accounts; it
will be sufficient to indicate some of the most important. Mr. Rymer has
apparently combined the events of two separate séances; this will account for
the discrepancy in the number reported to be present. Moreover, Rymer's
account of the order of the manifestations differs materially from Barlee's -
the incident of the brass fastenings in one account precedes, in the other
follows, the request for writing. Rymer omits the whole business of the
accordion playing, a device, no doubt, for diverting attention from the writing.
Barlee makes no mention of the incident recorded by Rymer, the removal and
replacing of the paper and pencil. Again, according to Rymer, he himself
suggested that the paper and pencil should be placed under the cloth; but Barlee
tells us that the suggestion came from Home. There are, of course, other and by
no means unimportant discrepancies.
 Home, in quoting Rymer's account in the
Incidents, inserts the words, "on another evening."
In view, then, of the mental condition of the sitters and the fallibility of
ordinary testimony on these matters demonstrated in the last chapter, it is not
difficult to guess how most of Home's manifestations were accomplished. It may
be conceded that many of the performances were held in a better light than was
commonly the case with his rivals; and that the medium's hands were frequently
at rest on the table during the performance, even though the only proof offered
of this latter fact may have been the presence of "a faint white heap" where his
hands should be. The medium's feet were probably responsible in most cases for
the playing of bells and guitar under the table, the spirit touches, spirit
hands, peregrination of chairs, floating of tables, and the rest of it. His
knees and other parts of his person could give substantial help in the feats
where more muscular action was required. The hands seen at the edge of the
table after the lowering of the lights and other preparations, call for no
special explanation. Similar hands have been exhibited again and again by
fraudulent mediums in America and England, and have been exposed to the public
gaze in Dr. Monck's portmanteau. It is to be noted that Mr. Crookes, as he then
was, appears never to have been favoured with this particular manifestation. At
the séances of which he has published notes hands were frequently felt and
occasionally seen by one or more sitters, but never so unequivocally, or under
such circumstances of elaborate preparation, as at Home's séances in 1860 and
1861 with observers of less scientific acumen.
 Dr. Edmunds, who examined Home on the
occasion of his sittings with the Sub-Committee No. 5 of the Dialectical
Society, reported to the Committee that Mr. Home possessed an extremely muscular
and elastic frame (Dialectical Report, p. 47). J. E. Boehm, the sculptor, writes
of Home's "delicately formed hands, feet, and limbs in general" (Life of Home, p.
It is to the experiments and observations made by the distinguished physicist
that we must now turn our attention. In an article published in the Quarterly
Journal of Science for July, 1870, Mr. Crookes, as already mentioned,
announced that he had been for some time past engaged in investigating the
manifestations commonly called spiritualistic. Though by no means prepared to
accept the Spiritualist hypothesis, he had seen enough to satisfy him of the
occurrence of certain physical phenomena, not explicable "by any physical law at
present known." But he pointed out that the precautions hitherto taken against
fraud, and the methods adopted for ascertaining the extent and the reality of
the effects produced, were alike insufficient. What those methods and
precautions should be he indicated in a passage already quoted.
 See above, p. 152.
 Above, p. 183.
A year later he was able to announce that he had succeeded in experimentally
demonstrating the existence of a hitherto unknown force, and had measured the
effects produced. In justification of his claim he gave a detailed
description of one series of experiments conducted in his own laboratory in the
presence of four other persons, two of whom, Dr. (later Sir William) Huggins and
Serjeant Cox attested the accuracy of his report, based upon notes made at the
time. The "medium" of the new force was Daniel Dunglas Home. The apparatus
employed in the chief experiment is thus described:
 Quarterly Journal of Science,
"In another part of the room an apparatus was fitted
up for experimenting on the alterations in the weight of a body. It consisted of
a mahogany board 36 inches long by 9 ½ inches wide and 1 inch thick. At each
end a strip of mahogany 1 ½ inches wide was screwed on, forming feet. One end
of the board rested on a firm table, whilst the other end was supported by a
spring balance hanging from a substantial tripod stand. The balance was fitted
with a self-registering index, in such a manner that it would record the maximum
weight indicated by the pointer. The apparatus was adjusted so that the mahogany
board was horizontal, its foot resting flat on the support. In this position its
weight was 3 Ibs., as marked by the pointer of the balance.
"Before Mr. Home entered the room the apparatus had been arranged in position,
and he had not even the object of some parts explained before sitting down."
When, after some preliminary experiments with an
accordion, attention was turned to the apparatus, Mr. Home placed his finger
lightly upon the extreme end of the mahogany board furthest from the balance,
Dr. Huggins and Mr. Crookes sitting one on each side and watching; under these
conditions the index of the balance moved several times, the greatest downward
pull registered being 6 Ibs. It was particularly noticed, Mr. Crookes tells
us, that Home's fingers were not at any time advanced more than 1 ½ inches
from the extreme end of the board - that is, not outside the point of support - so
that it was physically impossible for any pressure of his fingers to have
produced the downward movements of the board shown by the index. Moreover, "his
feet as well as his hands were closely guarded by all in the room."
 i.e. the index showed a total weight of
The few scientific men who ventured any public criticism on these experiments
contented themselves for the most part with pointing out possible defects in the
apparatus employed, or some source of error in the actual conduct of the
experiments. Some of these criticisms appear to have been founded on a
misunderstanding of the facts; some, in themselves perhaps no better founded,
Mr. Crookes endeavoured to meet by modifications of the apparatus. But there
were a few men who, equally disinclined apparently to believe, on the evidence
adduced, in the genuineness of the alleged manifestations, or in the
incompetence of the distinguished physicist who conducted the experiments,
propounded yet another solution of the difficulty. Professor Balfour Stewart, in
reviewing in Nature Mr. Crookes' article, refers to the illusions produced
by Mesmerists and electro-biologists, and conjectures that in the present
instance the observers may have been hallucinated. Again, Mr. E. B. Tylor,
enlarging an idea put forward by Dr. A. R. Wallace, that the were-wolf
superstition might have been due to mesmeric influence exercised by certain
persons, extended it to spiritualistic marvels in general, and suggested that D.
D. Home and Mrs. Guppy might be were-wolves, endowed with the power of acting on
the minds of sensitive spectators.
 See Carpenter's article in the Quarterly
already referred to, the letters from Sir C. Wheatstone, Sir G. G. Stokes, and
others, and Mr. Crookes' replies, quoted in his Researches; a letter in
August 3rd, 1871, from J. P. Earwaker, etc., etc.
 July 27th, 1871.
 Nature, 29th Feb., 1872.
There are perhaps amongst the marvels recorded by credible witnesses, including
Mr. Crookes himself, cases in which a modified form of this hypothesis would
seem to be the only alternative to believing in the manifestation of a new
physical force. But such a drastic solution is hardly required to explain
the recorded movements of the balance. The experiment as it stands, even without
the modifications introduced later by Mr. Crookes in deference to his scientific
critics, seems, indeed, conclusive against the possibility of Home's affecting
the balance by any pressure on his end of the board. But, tested by the canons
laid down by Mr. Crookes himself at the outset of his investigations, we shall
find the conditions of the experiment defective in one important particular. Mr.
Crookes had shown that it is the province of scientific investigation not merely
to ascertain the reality of the alleged movements and measure their extent, but
to establish their occurrence under conditions which render fraud impossible. In
the passage quoted on page 183 it is implicitly recognised that such conditions
are to be secured by eliminating the necessity for continuous observation on the
part of the investigator. The proof of the thing done should depend upon
something else than the mere observation of the experimenters, however skilled.
 See the discussion on this point in the
Now in the experiment quoted these conditions were not fulfilled. On the
contrary, we are expressly told that all present guarded Home's feet and hands.
It is pertinent to point out that a duty for which the whole company were
collectively responsible may well at times have been intermitted. Moreover, Dr.
Huggins and Mr. Crookes had to watch the balance also, and Mr. Crookes had to
take notes. Again, the experiment described was not the first of the kind; it
occurred in the middle of a long series. It is indeed stated that Home was not
familiar with the apparatus employed. But as similar apparatus had been
employed, probably at previous trials by Mr. Crookes himself, certainly by
earlier investigators - amongst them Dr. Hare with whose published writings
on Spiritualism we cannot assume that Home was unacquainted - the statement
carries little weight. Further, a point of capital importance, there had
apparently been many previous trials with various modifications of the apparatus
and many failures; in Mr. Crookes' own words, "the experiments I have tried have
been very numerous, but owing to our imperfect knowledge of the conditions which
favour or oppose the manifestations of this force, to the apparently capricious
manner in which it is exerted, and to the fact that Mr. Home himself is subject
to unaccountable ebbs and flows of the force, it has but seldom happened that a
result obtained on one occasion could be subsequently confirmed and tested with
apparatus specially contrived for the purpose."
 See above, vol. i. p. 234, for some
account of Hare's experiments.
 Researches, p. 10. Further on he remarks with reference to the various
experiments recorded in the article: "Although space will allow only the
publication of the details of one trial, it must be clearly understood that for
some time past I have been making similar experiments with like results. The
meeting on the occasion here described was for the purpose of confirming
previous observations by the application of crucial tests, with carefully
arranged apparatus, and in the presence of irreproachable witnesses" (op. cit.,
The real significance of this statement is that Home - a practised conjurer, as
we are entitled to assume - was in a position to dictate the conditions of the
experiment. By the simple device of doing nothing when the conditions were
unfavourable he could ensure that the light (gas in the present instance) was
such and so placed, the apparatus so contrived, and the sitters so disposed, as
to suit his purpose, and that in the actual experiment the attention of the
investigators would necessarily be concentrated on the wrong points. Under such
conditions, as ordinary experience shows, and as the experiments described in
the last chapter have abundantly demonstrated, five untrained observers are no
match for one clever conjurer.
The word "untrained" in this connection may seem to require justification. Of
Sir William Crookes' high distinction in many branches of physical science there
is no need to speak here. But his previous training did not necessarily render
him better qualified to deal with problems differing widely from those presented
in the laboratory. To put it bluntly, if Home was a conjurer, Mr. Crookes was
probably in no better position for detecting the sleight-of-hand than any other
man his equal in intelligence and native acuteness of sense. Possibly even in a
worse position; for it may be argued that his previous training would prepare
the way for Home's efforts to concentrate attention on the mechanical apparatus,
and thus divert it from the seemingly irrelevant movements by which it may be
conjectured the conjurer's end was attained.
Moreover, the record of the experiments is obviously incomplete. The date is not
given. We only know that it took place before June 8th, 1871, the date of
Serjeant Cox's attesting letter. Again, the amount of light is not stated. There
is only a brief prefatory statement that the experiment took place in the
evening and that the room was lighted by gas. If we turn to the detailed notes
of selected experiments undertaken about this time which Mr. Crookes contributed
to the Proceedings of the SPR, we shall find that this particular experiment
indeed is not included, but that at a similar experiment which took place a few
weeks later (June 21st) the light, by Home's order, was so diminished that at
the first trial "there was scarcely light enough to see the board and the index
move." Moreover, as Lehmann has pointed out in his criticism of this
experiment, it seems probable from reading these fuller notes that the
account published in the Quarterly Journal of Science represents only a part of
what took place at the séance. Mr. Crookes selected, as he had a perfect right
to do, and published only those details (including the temperature of the room)
which to the man of science seemed relevant. But, as we have already seen, in
investigating the performances of conjurers even the most intelligent witness is
apt to reject as irrelevant precisely those details which would give the clue to
 Vol. vi. p. 98, etc.
 op. cit., p. 110
 Aberglaube und Zauberei, pp. 27 1-3. Stuttgart, 1898.
For us, I am inclined to think, that clue may be found in a very early
manifestation of Home's, which he seems to have been chary of repeating in his
later years, and which Mr. Crookes - I infer from his published writings on the
subject - had never seen. In the accounts of the early physical phenomena in
America I have quoted a description of a séance with Home, during which the
table was tilted at a precarious angle, without the displacement of various
small objects which rested on its polished surface. Lord Adare (the present
Earl of Dunraven*) was favoured with one - and only one - unequivocal example of
this manifestation. But I can remember no other detailed account of a
similar feat in all the records of Home's séances in this country. This
extremely effective exhibition was, I take it, dropped from Home's repertory for
prudential reasons. The articles were probably, it may be suggested, held in
position when the table was tilted by means of hairs or fine threads attached to
Home's dress. If the illumination and background are properly arranged, a dark
thread is practically invisible in such a case, even to eyes that know what to
look for. Mr. Davey used to employ a hair or thread to move bits of coloured
chalk under a glass tumbler, when the eyes of all present were concentrated upon
the spot; and would even by similar means cause a tumbler to glide across the
table. I have described below a similar trick, for which I have
known human hair to be employed. The risk of using threads to keep small objects
in place on the inclined table is obvious; a suspicious or too curious sitter
might at any moment discover the trick. Or, if several objects were attached,
the threads might become entangled, or the performance miscarry in other ways.
But if a single loop is used the risks are considerably lessened; and if the
experimenters are not too close to the point of attachment a movement on the
part of any of them could generally be foreseen, and the medium would have time
to let go one end of the thread, which would then fall to the ground and could
be drawn in at leisure.
 Vol. i. pp. 242-3.
* ISS note: This article was written in 1902.
 Experiences in Spiritualism, pp. 1, 2. A similar manifestation is briefly
described by Madame Home as having taken place in Paris (Life, p. 92).
 In the Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph, vol. iii. p. 22, Mr. Barlee briefly
refers to a similar manifestation.
It is by the use of such a thread, I venture to suggest, that the watchful
observation of Mr. Crookes and his colleagues was evaded. Given a subdued light,
and opportunity to move about the room - and from the detailed notes of later
séances it seems probable that Home could do as he liked in both respects - the
loop could be attached without much risk of detection to some part of the
apparatus, preferably the hook from which the distal end of the board was
suspended, the ends being fastened to some part of Home's dress, e.g., the knees
of his trousers, if his feet and hands were under effectual observation.
There are some other rather puzzling movements of small objects recorded in Mr.
Crookes' detailed notes which may yield their secret to the same clue; in
particular, the floating of a small lath. Thus, towards the end of the séance on
June 21st, 1871, after having got up to inspect the balance and registering
apparatus, and to move it away from the table, the sitters resumed their seats,
and a message shortly came, "Hands off the table and all joined." After this the
"Just in front of Mr. Home and on the table was a
thin wooden lath 23 ¼ inches long, 1 ½ inches wide, and 1 inch thick,
covered with white paper. It was plainly visible to us all, and was one foot
from the edge of the table. Presently the end of the lath, pointing towards Mr.
Walter Crookes, rose up in the air to the height of about ten inches. The other
end then rose up to a height of about five inches, and the lath then floated
about for more than a minute in this position suspended in the air, with no
visible means of support. It moved sideways and waved gently up and down, just
like a piece of wood on the top of small waves of the sea. The lower end then
gently sank till it touched the table and the other end followed.
 The amount of light is not stated. It had been,
as already mentioned, so faint at the beginning of this sitting that the index
could be read with difficulty. Later the gas was turned up; but from the fact
that Mr. Crookes thought it necessary to state that a white object two feet long
was plainly visible, it may, I think, fairly be inferred that the illumination
was sufficiently subdued to allow of the feat being worked in the manner
suggested in the text.
"Whilst we were speaking about this wonderful
exhibition of force, the lath began to move again, and rising up as it did at
first, it waved about in a somewhat similar manner. The startling novelty of the
movement having now worn off, we were all enabled to follow its motions with
more accuracy. Mr. Home was sitting away from the table at least three feet from
the lath all this time; he was apparently quite motionless, and his hands were
tightly grasped, his right by Mrs. Walter Crookes and his left by Mrs. William
Crookes. Any movement by his feet was impossible, as, owing to the large
cage being under the table, his legs were not able to be put beneath, but
were visible to those on each side of him. All the others had hold of
 An upright cylinder of about two feet in
diameter used in these experiments to isolate the accordion.
 Proc. SPR, vol. vi. p. 111.
The sittings were held in Mr. Crookes' dining-room, and the assistants sat round
the dining-room table. The occupation of the sitters with the balance apparatus
immediately before the manifestation would have afforded Home an opportunity for
adjusting the loops of thread over the gaselier, whilst the injunction to join
hands secured him from any serious risk of interruption.
It seems possible, therefore, to explain the great bulk of the marvels recorded
of Home by a combination of trickery on the one side and unconscious
misinterpretation on the other. But it is not easy to see how the investigators
of a generation ago could have been deceived, and repeatedly deceived, by any
device of the kind suggested; and if we find ourselves unable to accept Mr.
Crookes' testimony, we are guided to an adverse decision less perhaps by any
defects which have been demonstrated in the particular evidence here presented
than by that general presumption against the operation of the supposed new
physical energy which, as already shown, inevitably follows from an analysis of
all the cognate evidence accumulated down to the present day. Even so there
remain a few manifestations which the hypothesis of simple trickery does not
seem to fit. Some of these marvels - the levitations, the elongations, and the
fire-ordeal - will be dealt with in the next chapter.
 See above, p. 185.
Source: Modern Spiritualism: A History
and a Criticism by Frank Podmore (2 vols) (London: Methuen, 1902.)