Mr Holmes and Mrs Nelson
Philadelphia, materialisation mediums who claimed Katie King and John King as their controls. The claim was supported by Dr. Henry Child, another medium, who published particulars of their earth-life as privately communicated to him in his study. They had a good reputation and in 1873 they came to
Britain. Here they were charged with dishonourable attempts to raise money. The accounts, as regards their powers of mediumship, varied. Dr. and Mrs. Speer and the latter's brother recognised in a sitting a spirit face as that of a departed relative, and
Stainton Moses, in giving an account in The
Spiritualist, stated that the light was good and the face was but a few feet away from the sitters. After their return to America, General Lippitt publicly endorsed their mediumship in The Galaxy of December, 1874. They found another powerful advocate in Robert Dale Owen.
"I have seen Katie," he wrote, "on seven or eight different occasions, suspended, in full form, about two feet from the ground for ten or fifteen seconds. It was within the cabinet, but in full view; and she moved her arms and feet gently, as a swimmer upright in the water might. I have seen her, on five different evenings, disappear and reappear before my eyes, and not more than eight or nine feet distant. On one occasion, when I had given her a calla lily, she gradually vanished, holding it in her hand; and the lily remained visible after the hand which held it was gone; the flower, however, finally disappearing also. When she reappeared the lily came back also, at first a bright spot only, which gradually expanded into a flower."
On November 2, 1874, Owen yet wrote:
"I stake whatever reputation I may have acquired, after eighteen years' study of spiritualism, as a dispassionate observer upon the genuine character of these phenomena."
Nevertheless, on December 6, 1874, he declared in
The Banner of Light:
"Circumstantial evidence, which I have just obtained, induces me to withdraw the assurances which I have heretofore given of my confidence in the genuine character of certain manifestations presented last summer, in my presence, through Mrs. and Mr. Nelson Holmes."
A similar notice was published by Henry T. Child.
The reason for the sudden change was the revelation of Eliza White, the landlady of the HoImeses that she impersonated Katie King by slipping in through a false panel of the cabinet. A demonstration of the impersonation was given to Robert Dale Owen and Dr. Child. The Press made a great sensation of the exposure. The Holmeses appeared to have been ruined. Col. Olcott came to the rescue. He investigated and soon discovered very serious discrepancies in Eliza White's story. Affidavits were handed to him proving the bad moral reputation and lying character of this woman. Mr. Allen, Justice of Peace of New
Jersey, testified to having heard Eliza White sing in the neighbouring room while Katie King appeared before them. General Lippitt told of a thorough investigation of the cabinet, once with a professional magician who was perfectly satisfied that there was no chance of any trick. Letters were produced by the Holmeses which spoke against the probability of a conspiracy between them and Eliza White. On the other hand they proved that Eliza White tried to blackmail them much earlier by alluding to promises made to her if she were to confess that she impersonated Katie King. The final proof was obtained in this form: At the time of the mock
sťance before Dr. Child and Robert Dale Owen the Holmeses had a real sťance
with twenty people at which the spirits appeared just the same. On the basis of all these and also making allowance for the dubious part which Dr. Child appeared to have played in the affair Col. Olcott concluded that the conflicting nature of the evidence justified them in giving a chance to the Holmeses and to test them without reference to the past.
This he did. He netted a cabinet to make it proof against surreptitious entry and put Mrs. Holmes into a bag tied around her neck. The experiments were repeated in his own room. He became satisfied that Mrs. Holmes was a genuine and powerful medium for materialisations. General Lippitt shared his
Source (with minor modifications):
An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).