Robert Chambers

Robert Chambers


     BRITISH WRITER and publisher, played no public part in Spiritualism, but his conversion and anonymous activity was no secret to his contemporaries. According to William Howitt, he contributed the description of a haunted house at Cheshunt in Mrs. Crowe's Night-Side of Nature. It was this house which Dickens wanted to investigate. But it was partly pulled down and altered at the time and he could not find it. The article in "Chambers' Journal" on May 21st, 1853, on Mrs. Hayden's phenomena, was understood to have been written by Robert Chambers. He also gave an account of the sťances of another American visitor, Mrs. Roberts, concluding that it is difficult to formulate an opinion, but on the whole the phenomena appear to be natural and the medium the victim of self-deception. A few weeks later, however, his opinion underwent a decided change. He obtained movements of the table and answers by it in his own family circle on matters known only to himself and he wrote: "I am satisfied, as before, that the phenomena are natural, but to take them in I think we shall have to widen somewhat our ideas as to the extent and character of what is natural." His pamphlet: "Testimony: Its Posture in the Scientific World", 1859, examined the scientific idea of evidence with special relation to psychical phenomena.

He had many experiences with D. D. Home. The anonymous preface to Home's "Incidents in My Life" and the appendix, "Connection of Mr. Home's Experiences with those of Former Times" were written by Dr. Robert Chambers. During the Home-Lyon trial he gave an affidavit in Home's favour. In 1860, in company with Robert Dale Owen, he sat with the Fox sisters in America. They suspended a dining table from a powerful steelyard. Under bright gas light and perfect control the table was made heavier and lighter on request, showing variation of weight between 60 and 134 lbs. He had puzzling experiences with Charles Foster who produced inscriptions on his skin, and sat with judge Edmonds' daughter, Laura. In February, 1867, he wrote to Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace: "I have, for many years, known that these phenomena are real, as distinguished from impostures; and it is not of yesterday that I concluded they were calculated to explain much that has been doubtful in the past; and, when fully accepted revolutionise the whole frame of human opinion on many important matters." He retained his interest until his death in 1871. A record of a sťance drawn up by Robert Chambers is published by Violet Tweedale, his grand-daughter in "Mellow Sheaves". Extracts from further records, as preserved by another granddaughter, Mrs. Edward Fitzgerald, were published by A. W. Trethewy in "Light", January 6, 1933.

Source (with minor modifications): An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).



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