Book: "Raymond or Life and Death"

Author: Sir Oliver Lodge FRS

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- (Part 2) Chapter 8 - Supernormal Portion -

A Table Sitting


          ON 28 September my wife and I together had a table sitting with Mrs. Leonard, which may be reported nearly in full together with my preliminary note written immediately afterwards. This is done not because it is a particularly good specimen, but because these early sittings have an importance of their own, and because it may be instructive to others to see the general manner of a table sitting. It was, I think, the first jointsitting of any kind which we had had since the old Piper days.

Note by OJL on Table Tiltings

A table sitting is not good for conversation, but it is useful for getting definite brief answers-such as names and incidents, since it seems to be less interfered with by the mental activity of an intervening medium, and to be rather more direct. But it has difficulties of its own. The tilting of the table need not be regarded as a 'physical phenomenon' in the technical or supernormal sense, yet it does not appear to be done by the muscles of those present. The effort required to tilt the table is slight, and evidentially it must, no doubt, be assumed that so far as mechanical force is concerned, it is exerted by muscular action. But my impression is that the tilting is an incipient physical phenomenon, and that though the energy, of course, comes from the people present, it does not appear to be applied in quite a normal way (XIV, Pt. III).

As regards evidence, however, the issue must be limited to intelligent direction of the energy. All that can safely be claimed is that the energy is intelligently directed, and the self-stoppage of the table at the right letter conveys by touch a sort of withholding feeling-a kind of sensation as of inhibition-to those whose hands lie flat on the top of the table. The light was always quite sufficient to see all the hands , and it works quite well in full daylight. The usual method is for the alphabet to be called over, and for the table to tilt or thump at each letter, till it stops at the right one. The table tilts three times to indicate "yes," and once to indicate "no"; but as one tilt also represents the letter A of the alphabet, an error of interpretation is occasionally made by the sitters. So also C might perhaps be mistaken for "yes," or vice versa; but that mistake is not so likely.

Unconscious guidance can hardly be excluded, i.e. cannot be excluded with any certainty when the answer is of a kind expected. But first , our desire was rather in the direction of avoiding such control; and second, the stoppages were sometimes at unexpected places; and third, a long succession of letters soon becomes meaningless, except to the recorder who is writing them down silently, as they are called out to him seriatim, in another part of the room.

It will also be observed that at a table sitting it is natural for the sitters to do most of the talking, and that their object is to get definite and not verbose replies.

On this occasion the control of the table seemed to improve as the sitting went on, owing presumably to increased practice on the part of the communicator, until towards the end, when there seemed to be some signs of weariness or incipient exhaustion; and, since the sitting lasted an hour and a half, tiredness is in no way surprising.

No further attempt was made to keep our identity from Mrs. Leonard: our name had been given away, as reported near the end of Chapter VI.

Table Sitting with Mrs. Leonard, Tuesday, 28 September 1915, at 5.30 P.M.


A small partly wicker table with a square top was used, about 18 inches square. OJL. and M. F. A. L. sat opposite to each other; K. K. and Mrs. Leonard occupied the other positions, Mrs. Leonard to the right of OJL. After four minutes' interval, the table began to tilt.

Medium. - Will YOU tilt three times to show you understand?

(It did.)

Medium. - Will You like to give your name? (It gave three tilts indicating YES.)

Medium. - Very well, then, the alphabet. Spell it, please.

(Mrs. Leonard here repeated the alphabet fairly quickly, while the table tilted slightly at each letter as it was said,

stopping first at the letter P
then at the letter A
then U
then L.

OJL.-Yes, very well, Paul; we know who you are, and you know who we are, and we know that you have brought Raymond, and have come to help.


OJL.-We that are here know about this, and you have given us evidence already, but I am here to get evidence for the family.


OJL.-Would you like to say something first, before I ask a question?


Then the table moved and shook a little, indicating that it wanted the alphabet; and when the medium recited the letters, it spelt out in the same manner as before, i.e. by stopping at the one desired by whatever intelligence was controlling the table:


Here M. L. ejaculated: "Dear Raymond," and sighed unconsciously.

The table spelt-it being understood that Raymond had now taken control:


M. F. A. L.-Was I sighing?

OJL.-Yes, but you must not be so distressed; he doesn't like it. He is there all right, and I am glad to have some one on the other side.


OJL.-Raymond, your mother is much happier now.


OJL.-Now then, shall I ask you questions?


OJL.-Well now, wait a minute and take your time, and I will ask the first

"What did the boys call you?" 

The medium now again repeated the alphabet, the table tilting to each letter as before, first stopping at P, then at A, then at P again; it then shook as if something was wrong. 

0. J.L.-Very well, try again, begin once more. 

Again it Spelt PAP, but again indicated dissent and tried again: at the third trial it appeared to spell PAS.

M. F. A. L.-Raymond dear, you have given two letters right, try and give
the third.

It now stopped at T; making PAT.

M. F. A. L_Yes that is right.

[This was, of course,well in our knowledge and therefore not strictly evidential, but it would not be in the knowledge of the medium.)

YES. (Cf- P. 148.)

OJL-Well, now, you have done that, shall I ask another?


OJL.-Will you give the name of a brother?

The alphabet was repeated as usual by the medium in a monotonous manner, the table tilting as before and stopping first at N then at 0 then going past E, it stopped at R and the next time at M then, by a single tilt, it indicated A or else "No.

OJL., thinking that the letters R and M were wrong, because the (to him) meaningless name NORMAN was evidently being given, took it as "No, and said:

OJL.-You are confused now better begin again.

The name accordingly was begun again, and this time it spelt NOEL.

OJL.- That is right. [But see appended Note, p. 147]

A slight pause took place here; the table then indicated that it wanted the alphabet again and spelt out an apparently single meaningless word which Dr Kennedy, as he wrote the letters down, perceived to be FIRE AWAY.

OJL.-Oh! You want another question! Would you like to say the name
of an officer?


OJL-Very well then, spell it. Table spelt: MIP, then indicated error.

OJL.-Not P? 


OJL.-Well, begin again.


O.J.L.,--Then the officer's name is Mitchell?


OJL.-Was he a captain?


OJL.-Was he a lieutenant?


OJL - Was he a second lieutenant perhaps?

(Apparent assent, but nothing forcible.)

OJL.-I am now going to give a name away on purpose; I am going to ask - Do you remember Case?


OJL.-Would you like to say anything about him?


OJL.-Very well then, let us have the alphabet.


[Erasures signify errors which were made either by the communicator or the interpreter, and are in accordance with the record. The method was that each letter, as understood, was called out, usually by me, to the recorder. When a wrong letter was indicated, or when there was obviously a duplication, it was scratched out as above.]

(After a short silence the spelling began again, it being easy for the table to indicate to the medium, by shaking or fidgeting, that she is wanted to repeat the alphabet.)


OJL. - What, on your side?

[Thinking it referred to Lieutenant Case.]

A loud "No."


K. K.(interpreting for us).-It only means Raymond is here and waiting.

OJL.-Under what circumstances did you see him last?

(The answer was apparently a faint "YES.")

OJL.-Have you any special message, or did you give Case a special message?


OJL.-What was it?


(Here some confusion was indicated; and M. F. A. L. said, "Try and spell the name"-meaning for whom the message was, if it was a message that was intended, which was very doubtful.

It seemed to me that he was trying to say, or remember, what he had said to Lieutenant Case, who saw him after he had been struck; and that what he thought he had said was "So I'm wounded"; but I thought it unadvisable to continue on this tack, and rather regretted that I had begun it, since it was liable to put him back into a period of reminiscence which his friends would prefer that he did not dwell upon. Moreover, these last few questions did not seem particularly to interest him, and the responses were comparatively weak . Accordingly, I decided to switch him on to a topic that would be more likely to interest him.)

OJL.- Would you like your mother to go and see a friend of yours?

(Some names of friends of his were now correctly given, but as we knew them I need not reproduce this part.)

OJL . I say, Raymond, would you like a Ford? [motor].

(After a moment's apparent surprise:-) YES.

OJL.- Aren't you tired now?

Loud "No. 

M. F. A. L.-Raymond, I don't know Mitchell. 


OJL - Well, that will be better evidence.


O. J. L.-Is that why you chose it? 


Medium (sotto voce).-No, that can't be right

OJL. (ditto).-I don't know; it may be. Go on.


OJL-You mean that Mitchell is an aeroplane officer?

"YES" (very loud).

M. F. A. L. (misunderstanding, and thinking that he had said that he would like an aeroplane in preference to a Ford). Still at your jokes, Raymond!


(Then again the table indicated, by slight rocking, that the alphabet was wanted; and it spelt:-)


(The sitters here made a little explanatory comment to each other on what they understood this unimportant sentence to mean; after which OJL. appears to have said:-)

OJL.- I don't like bothering you.

Table moved, indicating that it was no trouble.

M. F. A. L.-Raymond, can you seeus?


M. F. A. L-Can you see that I have been writing to you? [See Part 1, p.10.]


M. F. A. L.--Can you read what I am writing?


M. F. A. L.-How do you read it? By looking over my shoulder? Table again called for alphabet and spelt: SENSE IT.

M. F. A. L.-Shall you ever be able to write through my hand do you think?


M. F. A. L.-Well, anyhow, you would like me to try?


OJL.- Raymond, haveyou plenty to do over there?

Loud "YES."

OJL.- Well, look here, I am going to give another name away.


OJL.- Oh! You prefer not! Very well, I will ask you in this way: Have you met any particular friend of mine?


OJL.- Very well then, spell his name.

The table spelt:


Here OJL. thought that he had got wrong-rather suspected that the A meant "No," and stupidly said:

OJL.-Well, it doesn't matter, it won't be evidential, so I may as well guess what you mean: Is it Gurney?'

The table assented. But it still went on spelling. It again spelt:

GRA and then ND,at which OJL. queried: Grand men?

The table dissented, and went on and spelt:-


OJL.-Oh! You mean Grandfather!


M. F. A. L.-Is he with Myers and Gurney?

Emphatic "No."

M. F. A. L.-Which grandfather is it that you mean? Give the first letter of his Christian name.


M. F. A. L.-Dear Grandpapa! He would be sure to come and help you!

OJL.-I say, do you like this table method better than the 'Feda' method?


OJL.-But you remember that you can send anything you want specially through Paul always?


OJL.-That was a grand sitting yesterday that your mother had! [i.e. the one with Peters.]


M. F. A. L.-Do you remember showing olives?


M. F. A. L.-What did you mean by them?


M. F. A. L.-Then we now understand-A Roland for an Oliver.


OJL.-You intended no reference to Italy? [We had been doubtful at first of the significance of the olives; see P. 131.]


OJL.-But you were interested inItaly? YES

OJL.-Do you remember anyone special in Italy?


OJL.-Well, spell the name.

(A name was spelt correctly.)

OJL.-You are clever at this!

Loud "YES 

O.J.L.-You always did like mechanical things.


O.J.L.-Can you explain how you do this? I mean how you work the table?

The table then spelt with the alphabet for a long time, and as the words were not divided up, the sitters lost touch, one after the other, with what was being said. I, for instance, lost touch after the word "magnetism," and, for all I know, it was nonsense that was being said; but the recorder put all the letters down as they came, each letter being called out by me according to the stoppages of the table, and the record reads thus:


[The interest of this is due to the fact that the table was spelling our coherent words, although the sitters could hardly, under the circumstances, be exercising any control. Naturally, this does not prevent the medium from being supposed to be tilting out a message herself, and hence it is quite unevidentiaI of course; but, in innumerable other cases, the things said were quite outside the knowledge of the medium 

OJL. It is notwhat I should call "magnetism," is it?


OJL-But you do not object to the term?


OJL.-Paul's mother offers to take messages from you, and if she gets
them, she will transmit them to us.


OJL.-So when you want to get anything special through, just speak to Paul.


OJL.-And sometimes I shall be able to get a message back to you.

Loud "YES."

(In answer to a question about which of his sisters were at school with a specified person, the names of the right two sisters were now spelt out:-)


[We generally spell the name Rosalynde, but it was spelt here Rosalind as shown.]


M. F. A. L.-Isn't it clever of him?

Loud and amusing "YES."

OJL.- I never thought you would do it so quickly.


OJL.-Can you still make acrostics? [OJL. immediately regretted having asked this leading sort of question, but it was asked.]


K. K.-You are not going to make one now?


M. F. A. L.-Can you see me, Raymond, at other times when I am not with a medium?

Alphabet called for, and spelt-


M. F. A. L.-You mean when I think of you?


OJL.-That must be very often.

Loud "YES."

[When a 'loud' YES or No is stated, it means that the table tilted violently, bumping on the floor and making a noise which impressed the recorder, so that the words "loud bumps" were added in the record.]

[I then asked him about the houses (of which he had specified some identifying features at a previous sitting through Peters on 27 September). He seemed to regret that there had been some confusion, and now correctly spelt Out GROVEPARK as the name of one house, and NEWCASTLB as the place where 'Mother's home' was. But I omit details, as before.] (See p. 135.)

OJL.-Tell Mr. Myers and Mr. Gurney that I am glad to hear from them and that they are helping you.


M. F. A. L.-Give my affectionate regards to Mr. Gurney for a message which he got through for me some time ago.


OJL.-Now you must rest.


M. F. A. L.-One of your record sleeps. Loud


OJL.-Good-bye, I will tell the family to-morrow.


OJL.- Alec especially.


M. F. A. L.-Noel will love to have his name spelt out.


OJL.-Well, good-bye, old man, we shall hear from you again.

M. F. A. L.-

Good-bye, Raymond darling.

OJL.-Before we stop, does Paul want to say a word?

(Paul was then understood to take control, and spelt out:-)


(We then thanked Paul for helping, and said good-bye.)

(End of sitting.)

To complete the record I shall append the few annotations which I made a couple of days afterwards, before I supplement them with later information.

Contemporary Annotations for Table Sitting on 28 September

Very many things were given right at the sitting above recorded, and in most cases the rightness will be clear from the comments of the sitters as recorded. But two names are given on which further annotation is necessary, because the sitters did not understand them ; in other words, they were such as, if confirmed, would furnish excellent and indeed exceptional evidence.

The first is 'Norman,' about which a very important report could be made at once; but I think it better not to put anything in writing on that subject even now, at the present stage, since it is quite distinct, unforgettable, and of the first importance.

The other is the name 'Mitchell,' which at present we have had no opportunity for verifying; hence annotation on that must be postponed. Suffice it to say that today (6 October 1915) it remains unknown. Whether an Army List has been published this year seems doubtful, and on the whole unlikely; and no Army List later than 1909 has been so far accessible. Such few inquiries as have up to now been made have drawn blank. [See, however, three pages further on.]

Later Information

On 10 October Mrs. Kennedy, alone, had some automatic writing as follows:

Mother, Paul is bringing Raymond. I have him here; he will speak to you. -

"Please listen carefully now I want to speak to you about NORMAN. There is a special meaning to that because we always called my brother Alec Norman I the (muddle . . .

(K. K. said that she couldn't get the rest clearly.)

On 12 October we had a sitting with Mrs. Leonard, K. K. also present, and I said to 'Raymond'-.

Do you want to say anything more about that name 'Norman'? You gave a message about it to Mrs. Kennedy, but I don't know whether she got it clearly. Perhaps you want to amplify it? If so, now is your chance. (The reply
spelt out was:-)


On which K. K. said: "I am afraid I often get names wrong. I suppose I got the name of the wrong brother."

Note by OJL About the Name 'Norman'

It appears that 'Norman' was a kind of general nickname; and especially that when the boys played hockey together, which they often did in the field here, by way of getting concentrated exercise, Raymond, who was specially active at this game, had a habit of shouting out, "Now then, Norman," or other words of encouragement, to any of his other brothers whom he wished to stimulate, especially apparently Lionel, though sometimes Alec and the others. That is what I am now told, and I can easily realise the manner of it. But I can testify that I was not aware that a name like this was used, nor was Lady Lodge, we two being the only members of the family present at the Leonard table sitting where the name 'Norman' was given. (See p. 140.)

It will be remembered that at that sitting I first asked him what name the boys had called him, and, after a few partial failures, obviously only due to mismanagement of the table, he replied, 'Pat,' which was quite right. I then asked if he would like to give the name of a brother, and he replied 'Norman,' which I thought was quite wrong. I did not even allow him to finish the last letter. I said he was confused, and had better begin again; after which he amended it to 'Noel,' which I accepted as correct. But it will now be observed that the name 'Norman' was the best he could possibly give, as a kind of comprehensive nickname applicable to almost any brother. And a nickname was an appropriate kind of response, because we had already had the nickname 'Pat.' Furthermore, on subsequent occasions he explained that it was the name by which he had called Lionel; and, through Mrs. Kennedy-if she did not make a mistake-that it was a name he had called Alec by. It is quite possible, however, that he had intended to say 'Lionel' on that occasion, and that she got it wrong. I am not sure how that may be. Again, at a later stage, in a family sitting-no medium present-one of the boys said, "Pat, do you remember 'Norman'?" at which with some excitement, the girls only touching the table, he spelt Out 'HOCKEY'; thus completing the whole incident.

The most evidential portions, however, are those obtained when nobody present understood what was being said namely, first, the spelling of the name 'Norman' when those present thought that it was all a mistake after the first two letters; and secondly, the explanation to Mrs. Kennedy that it was a name by which he had called one of his brothers, showing that it was originally given by no accident, but with intention.

As to the name 'Pat' (p. 140), I extract the following from a diary of Noel, as evidence that it was very much Raymond's nickname; but of course we knew it:


Sept. 9. Pat goes to L'pool re Commission.

Sept 10. Pat gets commission in 3rd South Lanc's.

Sept 14. Pat collecting kit. We inspect revolvers.

Sept 18. Pat comes up to Harborne for some rifle practice.

Does not find it too easy.

Sept 19. I become member of Harborne Rifle Club

Sept 20. Pat shoots again.

Sept. 23. Patleaves for L'pool to start his training at Great Crosby.

I give up commission-idea for the present.

Oct. 17. Pat comes home to welcome Parents back from Australia.

Oct. 20. Pat returns to L'pool."

Note on the name 'Mitchell' (added later)

It can be remembered that, when asked on 28 September for the name of an officer, Raymond spelt out MITCHELL, and indicated decisively that the word AEROPLANE was connected with him; he also assented to the idea that he was one whom the family didn't know, and that so it would be better as evidence (PP. 141, 142).

After several failures at identification I learnt, on 10 October, through the kind offices of the Librarian of the London Library, that he had ascertained from the War Office that there was a 2nd Lieut. E. H. Mitchell now attached to the Royal Flying Corps. Accordingly, I wrote to the Record Office, Farnborough; and ultimately, on 6 November, received a post card from Captain Mitchell, to whom I must apologise for the, I hope, quite harmless use of his name:

"Many thanks for your kind letter. I believe I have met your son, though where I forget. My wounds are quite healed, and I am posted to Home Establishment for a bit, with rank of Captain. Your letter only got here (Dover) from France this morning, so please excuse delay in answering.



In concluding this chapter, I may quote a little bit of non-evidential but characteristic writing from 'Paul.' It was received on 30 September 1915 by Mrs. Kennedy, when alone, and her record runs thus-

(After writing of other things, I not having asked anything about Raymond.)

"I think it hardly possible for you to believe how quickly Raymond learns; he seems to believe all that we have to fight to teach the others.

"Poor chaps, you see no one has told them before they come over, and it is so hard for them when they see us and they feel alive, and their people keep on sobbing.

"The business for you and me gets harder and harder as the days go on, mother; it needs thousand at it this work, and you are so small.

"I feel that God helps us, but I want Him to find others, darling; there is no time to waste either in your place or mine, but I know you are trying ever so hard."



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