THE RENOWNED consulting electrician of the Atlantic Telegraph Company and of the Electric and International Company was first attracted to spiritualism in 1850. He investigated the hypothesis that table rapping is the result of an electrical force and demonstrated that this hypothesis was altogether unfounded. In later years he had many curious psychic experiences, discovered that he possessed mesmeric healing power and effected cures on his wife. Mrs. Varley had clairvoyant visions and spells of trance in which she foretold the exact course of her illness. After the birth of a son, Varley was one night aroused by three tremendous raps. He felt impelled to go into his wife's room where he found the nurse intoxicated and Mrs. Varley rigid and in a cataleptic state.
He made the acquaintance of D. D. Home. Narrating his experiences before the Dialectical Society in 1869 he concluded:
"Still, I was too much astonished to be able to feel satisfied. Fortunately, when I got home, a circumstance occurred which got rid of the element of doubt. While alone in the drawing room, thinking intently on what I had witnessed, there were raps. The next morning I received a letter from Mr. Home, in which he said
'When alone in your room last night you heard sounds. I am so pleased.' He stated the spirits had told him they followed me, and were enabled to produce sounds. I have the letter in my possession now, to show that imagination had nothing to do with the matter."
Of other personal occurrences he gave very impressive accounts. In the winter of 1864, at Beckenham, he was waked up during the night by raps. Mrs. Varley was lying by his side in trance and he saw the transparent phantom of a man in military dress in the air. He asked him, through the voice of his wife, to deliver a message to his brother in Birmingham. Still more curious experiences were in store for him. In a dream state he saw and heard the double of his sister-in-law. Next morning she confirmed everything by narrating her own dream experience. At another time, having accidentally chloroformed himself he had vivid out-of-the-body experiences which were similarly confirmed by his wife. In 1860 at Halifax, his double, anxious to wake his physical self, made him dream of a bomb explosion and when the shock woke him he found the scene outside his window exactly corresponding to what his double saw.
In New York he made the acquaintance of several mediums and made many experiments in the home of C. F. Livermore, the banker, with
Miss Kate Fox. His efforts to find out the laws that govern the physical phenomena were fruitless. He began to suspect that powers other than electricity and magnetism are at work. On the basis of his varied experiences he was led to believe:
"that we are not our bodies; that when we die we exist just as much as before, and that under certain conditions we are able to hold communications with those on earth; but I also believe that many of the phenomena are often caused by the spirits of those whose bodies are present."
When William Crookes started his famous investigation into the phenomena of spiritualism Varley assisted him in devising means of electric control. For his outspoken stand he was subject to abuse from Dr. Carpenter who, in October, 1871, in the
Quarterly Review assured the readers that there were grave doubts of his scientific ability and that these misgivings of the learned world had kept Mr. Varley out of the Royal Society. At the time of this attack Varley had been for more than three months a fellow of the Royal Society.
Source (with minor modifications):
An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).