Book: "Raymond or Life and Death"

Author: Sir Oliver Lodge FRS

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- (Part 2) Chapter 9 - Supernormal Portion -

Attempts at Stricter Evidence


          IN a Table Sitting it is manifest that the hypothesis of unconscious muscular guidance must be pressed to extremes, as a normal explanation, when the communications are within the knowledge of any of the people sitting at the table.

Many of the answers obtained were quite outside the knowledge of the medium or of Mrs. Kennedy, but many were inevitably known to us; and in so far as they were within our knowledge it might be supposed, even by ourselves, that we partially controlled the tilting, though of course we were careful to try not to do so. And besides, the things that came, or the form in which they came, were often quite unexpected, and could not consciously have been controlled by us. Moreover, when the sentence spelt out was a long one, we lost our way in it and could not tell whether it was sense or nonsense; for the words ran into each other. The note-taker, who puts each letter down as it is called out to him by the sitters at the table, has no difficulty in reading a message, although, with the words all run together, it hardly looks intelligible at first sight, even when written. For instance


which was one message, or--


which was part of another. Neither could be readily followed if called out slowly letter by letter.

Still, the family were naturally and properly sceptical about it all.

Accordingly, my sons devised certain questions in the nature of tests, referring to trivial matters which they thought would be within Raymond's recollection, but which had happened to them alone during summer excursions or the like, and so were quite outside my knowledge. They gave me a few written questions, devised in conclave in their own room; and on 12 October I took them to London with me in a sealed envelope, which I opened in the train when going up for a sitting; and after the sitting had begun I took an early opportunity of putting the questions it contained. We had already had (on 28 September, reported in last chapter) one incident of a kind unknown to us, in the name 'Norman,' but they wanted more of the same or of a still more marked kind. I think it will be well to copy the actual contemporary record of this part of the full:

Second Table Sitting of OJL. and M. F. A. L. with Mrs. Leonard, 12 October 1915, 5.30 p.m.

Present.-O. J. L., M. F. A. L., K. K., 

WITH Dr. Kennedy As Recorder

At the beginning of the sitting OJL. explained that they were now engaged in trying to get distinct and crucial evidence; that preparations had been made accordingly; and that no doubt those on the other side approved, and would co-operate.

A pause of three and a half minutes then ensued, and the table gave a slow tilt.

OJL.- IS Paul there?


OJL.-Have you brought Raymond?


OJL.-Are you there, Raymond?


OJL. (after M. F. A. L. had greeted him).-Well now, look here, my boy, I have got a few questions which your brothers think you will know something about, whereas to me they are quite meaningless. Their object is to make quite sure that we don't unconsciously help in getting the answers because we know them. In this case that is impossible, because nobody here knows the answers at all. Do you understand the object?


OJL.-Very well then, shall I begin?


OJL.-Oh! You want to say something yourself first?


O.J. L.-Very well then, the alphabet.


[Taking these long messages down is rather tedious, and it is noteworthy that the sitters lose their way sooner or later-I had no idea what was coming or whether it was sense-but of course when it is complete the recorder can easily interpret, and does so.]

O.J.L.-Is that the end of what you want to say yourself?


O.J.L.-Well then, now I will give you one of the boys' questions, but I had better explain that you may not in every case understand the reference yourself. We can hardly expect you to answer all of them, and if you don't do one, I will pass on to another. But don't hurry, and we will take down whatever you choose to say on each of them. The first question is

O. J. L.-"Do you remember anything about the Argonauts?"

(Silence for a short time.)

OJL.-'Argonauts' is the word. Does it mean anything to you?

Take your time.


OJL.-Well, would you like to say what you remember?


Then, by repeating the alphabet, was spelt


OJL.-IS that the end of that answer?


OJL.-Well, now I will go on to the second question then. "What do you recollect about Dartmoor?"

The time for thought was now much briefer, and the table began to spell pretty soon:


OJL.- Is that all?


OJL.-Very well then, continue.


OJL.-Is that the end of the answer?


OJL.-Very well then, now I will go on to the third question, which appears to be a bit complicated. "What do the following suggest to you:

Evinrude O. B. P.

Kaiser's sister."

(No good answers were obtained to these questions: they seemed to awaken no reminiscence.

Asked the name of the man to whom Raymond had given his dog, the table spelt out STALLARD quite correctly. But this was within our knowledge.)

(End of extract from record.)

Note on the Reminisences Awakened by the Words 'Argonauts' and 'Dartmoor'

On reporting to my sons the answers given about 'Argonauts' and 'Dartmoor' they were not at all satisfied.

I found, however, from the rest of the family that the word TELEGRAM had a meaning in connexion with 'Argonauts'--a meaning quite unknown to me or to my wife-but it was not the meaning that his brothers had expected. It seems that in a previous year, while his mother and I were away from home, the boys travelled by motor to somewhere in Devonshire, and (as they think) at Taunton Raymond had gone into a post office, sent a telegram home to say that they were all right, and had signed it 'Argonauts.' The girls at home remembered the telegram quite well; the other boys did not specially remember it.

The kind of reference they had wanted, Raymond gave ultimately though meagrely, but only after so much time had elapsed that the test had lost its value, and only after I had been told to switch him on to "Tent Lodge, Coniston," as a clue.

Now that I know the answer I do not think the question was a particularly good one; and the word 'telegram,' which they had not expected and did not want, seems to me quite as good an incident as the one which, without a clue, they had expected him to recall in connexion with 'Argonauts.' Besides, I happened myself to know about an Iceland trip in Mr. Alfred Holt's yacht 'Argo' and its poetic description by Mr. Mitchell Banks and Dr. Caton in a book in the drawing-room at Tent Lodge, Coniston (though the boys were not aware of my knowledge), but it never struck me that this was the thing wanted; and if it had come, the test would have been of inferior quality.

Concerning the answer to 'Dartmoor,' his brothers said that COMING DOWN HILL was correct but incomplete; and that they didn't remember any FERRY. I therefore on another occasion, namely, on 22 October, during a sitting with Feda (that is to say, not a table sitting, but one in which Mrs. Leonard's control Feda was speaking and reporting messages), said-still knowing nothing about the matter beyond what I had obtained in the table sitting "Raymond, do you remember about 'Dartmoor' and the hill?"

The answer is recorded as follows, together with the explanatory note added soon afterwards-though the record is no doubt a little abbreviated, as there was some dramatic representation by Feda of sudden swerves and holding on.

From Sitting of OJL. and M. F. A. L. on 22 October 1915 - 'Feda' speaking

OJL.- Raymond, do you remember about Dartmoor and the hill?

Yes, he said something about that. He says it was exciting. What is that he says? Brake something about a brake-putting the brake on. Then he says, sudden curve-a curve-he gives Feda a jerk like going round a quick curve.

[I thought at the time that this was only padding, but subsequently learnt from Alec that it was right. It was on a very long night-journey on their motor, when the silencer had broken down by bursting, at the bottom of an exceptionally steep hill, and there was an unnerving noise. The one who was driving went down other steep hills at a great pace, with sudden applications of the brake and sudden quick curves, so that those at the back felt it dangerous, and ultimately had to stop him and insist on going slower. Raymond was in front with the one who was driving. The sensations of those at the back of the car were strongly connected with the brake and with curves; but they had mainly expected a reference from Raymond to the noise from the broken silencer, which they ultimately repaired during the same night with tools obtained at the first town they stopped at.]

OJL.-Did he say anything about a ferry?

No, he doesn't remember that he did. OJL.-Well, I got it down.

There is one: all the same there is one. But he didn't mean to say anything about it. He says it was a stray thought that he didn't mean to give through the table. He has found one or two things come in like that. It was only a stray thought. You have got what you wanted, he says. 'Hill,' he meant to give, but not 'ferry.' They have nothing to do with each other.

On a later occasion I took an opportunity of catechising him further about this word FERRY, since none of the family remembered a ferry, or could attach any significance to the word. He still insisted that his mention of a ferry in connexion with a motor trip was not wrong, only he admitted that "some people wouldn't call it a ferry." I waited to see if any further light would come; and now, long afterwards, on 18 August 1916 I receive from Alec a note referring to a recent trip, this month, which says:

"By the way, on the run to Langland Bay (which is the motor run we all did the year before the run to Newquay) we pass through Briton Ferry; and there is precious little ferry about it."

So even this semi-accidental reminiscence seems to be turning out not altogether unmeaning; though probably it ought not to have come in answer to 'Dartmoor.' (See more about Dartmoor on p. 211.)

General Remarks on this Type of Question

It will be realised, I think, that a single word, apart from the context, thus thrown at a person who may be in a totally different mood at the time, is exceedingly difficult; and on the whole I think he must be credited with some success, though not with as much as had been hoped for. If his brothers had been present, or had had any interview with him in the meantime, it would have spoilt the test, considered strictly; nevertheless, it might have made the obtaining of the answers they wanted much more feasible, inasmuch as in their presence he would have been in their atmosphere and be more likely to remember their sort of surroundings. Up to this date they had not had any sitting with a medium at all. In presence of his mother and myself, and under all the circumstances, and what he felt to be the gravity of some of his recent experiences, it is not to me surprising that the answers were only partially satisfactory; though, indeed, to me they seem rather good. Anyhow, they had the effect of stimulating his brothers to arrange some sittings with a table at home on their own account.



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