Book: "Raymond or Life and Death"

Author: Sir Oliver Lodge FRS

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- (Part 2) Chapter 18 - Supernormal Portion -

First Sitting of Alec with Mrs Leonard


          It had been several times indicated that Raymond wanted to come into the family circle at home, and that Honor, whom he often refers to as H., would be able to help him. Attempted private sittings of this kind were referred to by Raymond through London mediums, and he gave instruction as to, procedure, as already reported (pp. 160 and 190). 

After a time some messages were received, and family communications without any outside medium have gradually become easy.

Records were at first carefully kept, but I do not report them, because clearly it is difficult to regard anything thus got as evidential. At the same time, the naturalness of the whole, and the ready way in which family jokes were entered into and each new-comer recognised and welcomed appropriately, were very striking. A few incidents, moreover, were really of an evidential character and these must be reported in due course.

But occasionally the table got rather rampageous and had to be quieted down. Sometimes, indeed, both the table and things like flower-pots got broken. After these more violent occasions, Raymond volunteered the explanation, through mediums in London, that he couldn't always control it, and that there was a certain amount of skylarking, not on our side, which he tried to prevent (see pp. 182, 194 and 273) ; though in certain of the surprising mechanical demonstrations, and, so to speak, tricks, which certainly seemed beyond the normal power of anyone touching the table, he appeared to be decidedly interested, and was represented as desirous of repeating a few of the more remarkable ones for my edification.

I do not, however, propose to report in this book concerning any purely physical phenomena. They require a more thorough treatment. Suffice it to say that the movements were not only intelligent, but were sometimes, though very seldom, such as apparently could not be accomplished by any normal application of muscular force, however unconsciously such force might be exerted by anyone-it might only be a single person-left in contact with the table.

A family sitting with no medium present is quite different from one held with a professional or indeed any outside medium. Information is freely given about the doings of the family; and the general air is that of a family conversation; because, of course, in fact, no one but the family is present.

At any kind of sitting the conversation is rather one-sided, but whereas with a medium the sitter is reticent, and the communicator is left to do nearly all the talking, in a family group the sitters are sometimes voluble; while the ostensible control only occasionally takes the trouble to spell out a sentence, most of his activity consisting in affirmation and negation and rather effective dumb show.

I am reluctant to print a specimen of these domestic chats, though it seems necessary to give some account of them.

On Christmas Day, 1915, the family had a long table sitting. It was a friendly and jovial meeting, with plenty of old songs interspersed, which he seemed thoroughly to enjoy and, as it were, 'conduct'; but for publication I think it will be better to select something shorter, and I find a description written by one to whom such things were quite new except by report-a lady who had been governess in the family for many years, when even the elder children were small, and long before Raymond was born. This lady, Miss F. A. Wood, commonly called 'Woodie' from old times, happened to be staying on a visit to Mariemont in March 1916, and was present at two or three of the family sittings. She was much interested in her first experience, and wrote an account immediately afterwards, which, as realistically giving the impression of a witness, I have obtained her permission to copy here. 

At this date the room was usually considerably darkened  for a sitting; but even partial darkness was unnecessary, and was soon afterwards dispensed with, especially as it interfered with easy reading of music at the piano.

Table Sitting in the Drawing-room at Mariemont, Thursday, 2 March 1916, about 6 p.m.

Sitters - LADY LODGE, NORAH, and WOODIE; later, HONOR

Report by Miss F. A. Wood

As it was the first time that I had ever been at a sitting of any kind, I shall put down the details as fully as I can remember them.

The only light in the room was from the gas-fire, a large one, so that we could see each other and things in the room fairly distinctly; the table used at this time was a rather small octagonal one, though weighty for its size, with strong centre stem, supported on three short legs, top like a chess-board. Lady Lodge sat with her back to window looking on to drive, Norah with back to windows looking on to tennis-lawn, and I, Woodie, had my back to the sofa.

As we were about to sit down, Lady Lodge said: "We always say a little prayer first."

I had hoped that she intended to pray aloud for us all, but she did it silently, so I did the same, having been upstairs before and done this also.

For some time nothing whatever happened. I only felt that the table was keeping my hands extremely cold.

After about half an hour, Lady Lodge said: "I don't think that anyone is coming to-night; we will wait just a little longer, and then go."

LADY LODGE, - Is anyone here tonight to speak to us? Do come if you can, because we want to show Woodie what a sitting is like. Raymond, dear, do you think you could come to us? 

(No answer.)

During the half-hour before Lady Lodge asked any questions I had felt every now and then a curious tingling in my bands and fingers, and then a much stronger drawing sort of feeling through my hands and arms, which caused the table to have a strange intermittent trembling sort of feeling, though it was not a movement of the whole table. Another 'feeling' was as if a 'bubble' of the table came up, and tapped gently on the palm of my left hand. At first I only felt it once; after a short interval three times; then a little later about twelve times. And once (I shall not be able to explain this) I felt rather than heard a faint tap in the centre of the table (away from people's hands).

Nearly every time I felt these queer movements Lady Lodge asked, "Did you move, Woodie?" I had certainly not done so consciously, and said so, and while I was feeling that 'drawing' feeling through hands and arms, I said nothing myself, till Lady Lodge and Norah both said, "What is the table doing? It has never done like this before." Then I told of my strange feelings in hands and .arms, etc. Lady Lodge said it must be due to nerves, or muscles, or something of the sort. These strange feelings did not last long at a time, and generally, but not always, they came after Lady Lodge had asked questions (to some one on the other side).

After a bit, when the 'feelings' had gone from me at least, Lady Lodge suggested Norah's going for Honor, who came, but said on first sitting down that the table felt dead, and she did not think that anyone was there.

LADYL.- Is anyone coming? We should be so pleased if anyone could; we have been sitting here some time very patiently.

Nothing happened for a bit, and Lady Lodge said, "I don't think it is any good."

But I said, "Oh, do wait a little longer, that tingling feeling is coming back again."

And Honor said, "Yes, I think there is something."

And then the table began to move, and Lady Lodge asked:

LADY L.- Raymond, darling, is that you?

(The table rocked three times.)

LADY L.- That is good of you, because Woodie did so want you to come.

(The table rocked to and fro with a pleased motion, most
difficult to express on paper Woodie - Do you think that I have any power? No.

[Personally, I do not feel so sure of this. After the sitting and during it, I felt there might be a possibility.- Woodie.]

LADYL.- Lorna has gone to nurse the soldiers, night duty. They are
typhoid patients, and I do not like it. Do you think it will do her any harm?

LADY L.- Do you like her doing this? YES.

LADY L.- You are rocking like a rocking-horse. Do you remember the
rocking-horse at Newcastle?


LADY L.-Can you give its name? (They went through the alphabet, and it spelt out:-)


[It used to be called Archer Prince.]

(Soon after this the table began to show signs of restlessness, and Honor said: "I expect he wants to send a message." So Lady Lodge said:-)

LADY L.- Do you want to send a message?


HONOR - Well, we're all ready; start away.


HONOR.- Raymond, that is wrong, isn't it? Was "Your love to my" right?


HONORL - Very well, we will start from there.

(The message then ran:-)


Before the whole of 'sister' was made out, he showed great delight; and when the message was repeated to him in full to see if it was right, he was so pleased, and showed it so vigorously, that he, and we, all laughed together.

I could never have believed how real the feeling would be of his presence amongst us.)

LADY L.- Do you mean Lily?


LADY L.- Is she here?


LADY L.- Are you here in the room?


LADY L.- Can Lily see us?


LADY L.- Lily, darling, your mother does love you so dearly. I have wanted to send you my love. I shall come to see you some time, and then we shall be so happy, my dear, dear little girl. Thank you very much for coming to help Raymond, and coming to the table sometimes, till he can come himself. My love to you, darling, and to Brother Bill, too.

(Raymond seemed very pleased when Brother Bill was mentioned.)

(The table now seemed to wish to get into Lady Lodge's lap, and made most caressing movements to and fro, and seemed as if it could not get close enough to her.

Soon we realised that be was wanting to go, so we asked him if this was so, and he said:-)


(So we said 'good night' to him, and after giving two rather slight movements, which I gather is what he generally does just as he is going, we said 'good night' once more, and came away.)

(Signed) WOODIE


One other family sitting, a still shorter one, may be quoted as a specimen also; though out of place. A question asked was suggested by something reported on page 230. It appears that Miss Wood was still here, but that on this occasion she was not one of those that touched the table.

At this date the table generally used happened to be a chess-table with centre pillar and three claw feet. After this table and another one had got broken during the more exuberant period of these domestic sittings, before the power had got under control, a stronger and heavier round table with four legs was obtained, and employed only for this purpose.

Table Sitting in the Drawing-Room at Mariemont, 9 p.m., Monday, 17 April 1916


Music going on in the drawing-room at Mariemont.

The girls (four of them) and Alec singing at the piano. Woodie and Honor and I sitting at the other end of the room. Lionel in the large chair.

The Shakespeare Society was meeting in the house, and at that time having coffee in the diningroom, so OJL. was not with us.

Woodie thought Raymond was in the room and would like to hear the singing, but Honor thought it too late to begin with the table, as we should shortly be going into the dining-room.

However, I got the table ready near the piano and Honor came to it, and the instant she placed her hands on it, it began to rock. I put my hands on too.

We asked if it was Raymond, and if he had been waiting, and he said:


He seemed to wish to listen to the music, and kept time with it gently. And after a song was over that he liked , he very distinctly and decidedly applauded.

Lionel came (I think at Raymond's request) and sat at the table with us. It was determined to edge itself close to the piano, though we said we must pull it back, and did so. But it would go there, and thumped Barbie, who was playing the piano, in time to the music. Alec took one of the black satin cushions and held it against her as a buffer. The table continued to bang, and made a little hole in the cushion.

It then edged itself along the floor, where for a minute or two it could make a sound on the boards beyond the carpet. Then it seemed to be feeling about with one foot (it has three).

It found a corner of the skirting board, where it could lodge one foot about 6 inches from the ground. It then raised the other three level with it, in the air; and this it did many times, seeming delighted with its new trick.

It then laid itself down on the ground, and we asked if we should help it and lift it up, but it banged a


on the floor, and raised itself a little several times without having the strength to get up. It lifted itself quite a foot from the ground, and was again asked if we might not lift it, but it again banged once for


But Lionel then said -

LIONEL.- Well, Pat, my hand is in a most uncomfortable position; won't you let me put the table up?

It at once banged three times for


So we raised it.

I then said -

M.F.A.L.- Raymond, I want to ask you a question as a test: What is the name of the sphere on which you are living?

[I did this, because others beside Raymond have said, through Mrs. Leonard, that they were living on the third sphere, and that it was called 'Summerland,' so I thought it might be an idea of the medium's.(1) I don't much like these 'sphere' messages, and don't know whether they mean anything; but I assume that 'sphere' may mean condition, or state of development.

(1) The statement will be found on page 230, in the record of a sitting preceding this in date.

We took the alphabet, and the answer came at once


We asked, after the second R, if there was not some mistake; and again when 0 came, instead of the A we had expected for 'Summerland.'

But he said No.

So we went on, though I thought it was hopelessly wrong, and ceased to follow. I felt sure it was mere muddle.

So my surprise was the greater when the notetaker read out, 'Summer R. Lodge,' and I found he had signed his name to it, to show, I suppose, that it was his own statement, and not Feda's.

[Lorna reports that the impression made upon them was that Raymond knew they had been expecting one ending, and that he was amused at having succeeded in giving them another. They enjoyed the joke together, and the table shook as if laughing.]

We talked to him a little after this, and Alec and Noel put their hands on the table, and we said good night.

It is only necessary to add that the mechanical movements here described are not among those which, on page 218,I referred to as physically unable to be done by muscular effort on the part of anyone whose hands are only on the table top. I am not in this book describing any cases of that sort. Whatever was the cause of the above mechanical trick movements, which were repeated on a subsequent occasion for my observation, the circumstances were not strictly evidential. I ought to say, however, that most certainly I am sure that no conscious effort was employed by anyone present.

It may be well to give a word of warning to those who ,find that they possess any unusual power in the psychic direction, and to counsel regulated moderation in its use. Every power can be abused, and even the simple faculty of automatic writing can with the best intentions be misapplied. Self-control is more important than any other form of control, and whoever possesses the power of receiving communications in any form should see to it that he remains master of the situation. To give up your own judgement and depend solely on adventitious aid is a grave blunder, and may in the long run have disastrous consequences. Moderation and common sense are required in those who try to utilise powers which neither they nor any fully understand, and a dominating occupation in mundane affairs is a wholesome safeguard.



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