From the book "My
MY FIRST SEANCE
INSTEAD of reaching London on Monday, February 19th., as scheduled, I arrived at midnight on Wednesday, via Boulogne. Sir Arthur had left town on a brief speaking tour; and, having got in a bit of a funk over my continued non-appearance, he had cancelled my engagements for the week. With the aid of Mr. Engholm one of these was re-established; so my campaign opened with seances on Friday the 23rd. and Tuesday the 27th. with Mr. Sloan. Both these dates were among Mr. Sloan's regular engagements at the College, and not at all special sittings arranged for my benefit.
There were twelve present including the medium at Friday evening's gathering. Mr. McKenzie, who acted as master of ceremonies to the extent that the occasion demanded one, is the only sitter whom it is necessary to name. Though he had had correspondence with me as Associate Editor of the Scientific American, he had not been informed that I was the same Bird, and had not connected me up. To nobody else was I introduced as other than Mr. Bird, a friend of Sir Arthur's from the States.
The medium expressed a desire to shake hands all around. Some of the sitters he knew by name, others not. I was introduced not even by name, but simply as Sir Arthur's friend, no mention being made of my nationality. So far as Sir Arthur and the McKenzies were aware, nothing had been said in the medium's presence indicating my coming, or my origin.
The seance room was rather longer than wide; in the center of one of the long sides, two pillars stood out several feet from the wall. These were so equipped with curtains that the space between them and the wall could be cut off from the rest of the room for use as a "cabinet." Mr. Sloan, however, is not a cabinet medium; so the curtains were furled, and the bare bones of the cabinet stood there, just like the mantel or any other of the furniture. The medium sat in the open circle with the others, his place being directly in front of the cabinet space, but apparently out of reach of the furled curtains. In any event, there seemed no stage of the seance in which the cabinet might have played a role.
A central chandelier carried a group of white lights, and a single red bulb. These were controlled from a switchboard in the corner of the room, to which one of the ladies had to go whenever a change of lighting was desired, leaving her seat and crossing the room outside the circle. Opposite the cabinet space was a fireplace, with a dull fire burning in it; and at the end remote from the door stood a small cottage organ.
The medium brought in with him a long collapsible tin horn of two sections—the "trumpet." It, and all the furniture and fixtures of the room, were mine to examine as critically as I desired. There was nothing to report here.
The sitters were assigned places around the circle (see page 83) ladies and gentlemen alternating as is usual when numerical equality of the sexes permits. For the moment, a place was merely reserved for the medium; he was at the organ. Suggestions were asked for regarding hymns. "Lead, Kindly Light," "Onward, Christian Soldiers," and a third which I did not recognize, were named and sung. The general effect of the singing was extremely perfunctory; whatever its reaction upon the medium, it could have had none of any importance upon the sitters. This is a point that should be stressed, since it is customary to picture a seance circle as worked up to a high pitch of fervor by the songs.
The medium, though he is no musician, has apparently learned a few of the hymns by rote, and made shift to accompany them on the organ. After the three that I have mentioned were finished, he became very restless. He arose and resumed his seat repeatedly, rubbed his hands together loudly, and emitted a series of noises that I was not able to catalog. They might have been just weird sounds, and they might have been incoherent jabbering in Scotch dialect. Presently he attacked the organ again, without getting anything resembling a tune out of it; then he wandered about some more; and finally he made his rather blundering way to the seat in the circle that awaited him. This was the signal that his "control," White Feather, had taken possession.
The "control" is a standardized feature of practically all seances. According to the spirit doctrine, he is a deceased person who comes to the seance and takes charge from the other side. The general idea is that on the other side as on this, communication presents great difficulties; and that, just as we have only our few mediums through whom it can be done, so the departed have only their few mediums through whom it can be done. For the sake of clarity, the medium on the other side is called the control. Spirits flock to the room to communicate with the people, just as people flock there to communicate with the spirit. Sometimes the control actually relays the messages, sometimes they appear to come direct from the communicating spirit. But always the control's catalyzing presence is believed to be essential. I had almost said "as essential as the medium's;" but strictly speaking, the medium is not there at all, at a seance of this type. Perhaps the mediumistic ability may be defined simply as the ability thus to step out and make room for the personality of the control. Whatever we believe about his source and true character, the control is recognizable as a personality. He comes in when the medium goes into trance, stays throughout the sitting, and goes out when the medium comes back.
So far as external appearances go, he inhabits the medium's body in the same sense that the medium's own personality does. He speaks quite frankly through the medium's vocal apparatus, he gets up and walks about the room in the medium's shoes and in the medium's flesh and bones, etc., etc. He is self-consistent, and quite inconsistent with the medium. He is continuous from one sitting to another, recalling the events and persons of previous seances, and in every way he behaves in consonance with the claim that he is an intruding personality, temporarily housed in the medium's corporeal rind. He even develops to a reasonable degree as a series of sittings proceeds. Thus, White Feather's vocabulary and his general mastery of English, I was told, were much better now than when he began to work through Mr. Sloan.
White Feather is an American Indian. So are most controls; and the skeptic finds this a suspicious circumstance, suggesting that the mediums are copying from a standard. The believer, on the other hand, finds the persistence of the Indian type rather convincing than otherwise. He says that the Indian temperament, the Indian simplicity of life, the Indian closeness to Nature, combine to give the qualities of understanding and power which the control must have. I must confess that I don't know which argument is the more plausible.
White Weather greeted "Kenzie Chief" in broken English that improved as the seance proceeded. This is not itself suspicious; everything that occurs at a seance occurs feebly at first, and gains in clarity as it is repeated. The "power" is weak at the beginning, and gets worked up slowly to the proper pitch. Suspicion must attach, if anywhere, to this claim and to the generality of the crescendo effect which it covers, rather than to specific instances like White Feather's inability to parade his best English while the seance is cold. His voice was a shrill whine, maintained always in its characteristic pitch, and with no trace of the medium's Scotch.
"Whitey," as he prefers to be called, complained that his "old box"—the medium, for whom he has no other designation—was not working well tonight. When we first sat down, with Mr. Sloan still one of us, the white lights had been replaced by the red bulb. Whitey now ordered this out; then he complained querulously about the light from the fireplace. After much fumbling in the dark, a large opaque screen was located and placed so as to blanket the fire completely. Whitey's satisfaction over the absolute darkness that resulted was keen.
Just a word about this "absolute darkness." It means exactly what it says. Into the darkest room, ordinarily, some light leaks; and after one has been there a few moments, the dim outlines of objects begin to be perceptible. On the darkest night outdoors the same thing occurs, through the agency of starlight, or of diffused light from the universe at large, whose amount is surprisingly great when the astronomer comes to measure it. But the darkness of a sealed seance room is another thing altogether. One can stay there till kingdom come, and visibility will remain at the zero mark. One who has never attended a dark seance has in all probability never been in this sort of darkness.
White Feather had a rough time with his spirit communicators. They kept crowding one another and usurping one another's places, like commuters at the sole telephone booth after a wreck. Frequently Whitey called them down sharply, and apologized to us for their impatience. Whitey himself was decidedly conversational. At all times Mr. McKenzie, and less freely the other sitters, addressed remarks of their own to him, responded to his, and were appropriately answered. Every once in a while Whitey would get stranded on a word that one of the sitters or one of the spirits had used; and the seance was not permitted to proceed until he had mastered it. On these occasions he would sometimes apologize for his poor English, whereupon one of the sitters would assure him that he was doing famously. At one point somebody complimented him upon his greatly increased "vocabulary," and Whitey demanded that this word be repeated. I tried to give him a substitute by telling him that it meant that he knew a lot of words, but he would have no substitute. He insisted on having the word itself, wrestled manfully with it, nearly strangled the medium on it, and finally got it. Thereafter he used it several times, with conscious pride. All of his conversation was characterized by the use of "me" for "I" and by the numerous other errors that, with what accuracy I know not, are usually associated with the red man's efforts to talk the pale-face tongue.
After Whitey had been struggling with the situation for some time, voices began to come from the trumpet. At the beginning this had been stood on end, in the center of the circle. I was pretty sure it was out of the medium's reach, if he remained in his chair. Whether it was picked up or moved about in the production of voices I could not judge; the general belief of the spiritist is that it is. In any event, it stayed in the center of the circle.
There is never any doubt in any sitter's mind as to whether a given voice is from the trumpet. When it is, it has always a curious hollow sound that is quite unmistakable. The question interested me, whether this sound would be obtained if one spoke through the trumpet as through a megaphone, or whether it would be necessary for the voice to be produced actually within the trumpet. The muffled effect is so marked that one might be pardoned for leaning toward the latter hypothesis; but experiment with the trumpets of several mediums leaves no doubt that all the trumpet voices I have heard could be produced by talking into the trumpet in normal fashion. Any extraordinary muffling would be due to the complete or partial closing of the large end by the floor, etc.
Like everything else, the trumpet voices were weak and indistinct at first, and got better as they proceeded. Several attempts were made to give names, but there was no unanimity among the sitters as to what these were. Before very long, however, the trumpet gave forth a distinct sentence, clearly understood by all. The medium, on taking his permanent seat had grasped the hands of the ladies on his either side; and save for short periods, when he withdrew his hands to rub them together or indulge in other types of mild convulsion, he had apparently been thus in contact at all times when not admittedly out of the chair. From time to time the ladies in question would announce that they had, or had not, his hands.
When the trumpet delivered its first definite sentence, I asked, in the interest of fuller information, whether both hands had been held at the critical moment; and I was assured that they had. Whitey then spoke up and invited me to exchange seats with the lady at his right. We effected the shift without upsetting anything, and my hand was firmly grasped, and with slight interruptions held throughout the next stage of the sitting. There was no substitution here; what I had was emphatically the medium's hand-hard, rough, and larger than his short stature and slight build would imply.
When the exchange was offered, Whitey promised the lady that she should have the seat back, later; and after a time I had an opportunity to offer it back to her. She declined, and Whitey accused me of lacking gallantry, toward himself. I explained that I had been trying to be gallant to the lady, and this he accepted. Stuff of the sort was continually passing between the sitters on the one hand, and the control or even the communicating spirits on the other. It seemed clearly beyond the normal mental horizon of the medium; the last thing I should expect from him would be a joke.
This conversational aspect of the sitting seemed to me of large significance. One rather expects, on going to such a gathering for the first time, to find much emotional tommyrot. There was a notable absence of this at all my seances. There was no emotion, no atmosphere of mystery, no hocus-pocus of any description. There was music, presumably to get the medium into trance; and darkness, presumably to keep him there. The music and the darkness and the detached voices, however, do not seem to have any reaction upon the nerves of the sitters. Neither regulars nor casual sitters hang with bated breath waiting for something to happen; the whole idea of a seance as a place where silence reigns, broken only by singing and sobbing until the voices come, is absurdly false.
Particularly impressive is the manner in which everybody chats with his neighbors. There is nothing suggesting silence or suspense. You talk with the other sitters, with the control, with the spirits when they come. From the viewpoint of the believer, the occasion is simply an informal gathering of friends, some of whom happen to be dead. Those who are so, participate on a footing of absolute equality with those who are not. The sitters comport themselves exactly as though their friends had dropped in for a chat from the other side of the Thames or the Channel or the Atlantic, rather than, as they believe, from the other side of the Styx. From time to time the conversation actually prevents one from hearing the trumpet clearly !
One thing the outsider must not do, however, he must not refer to the spirits as "dead." I do not see any reason why that word, as well as any other, cannot by agreement serve to define the state of being of those who have terminated this life,—without any unwelcome implications as to what that state may be. But in the seance room it is not tolerated, and this is especially the case on the part of those to whom the word applies. Ask them when they died and they will inevitably reply that they are not dead, refusing further particulars until you substitute, of your own motion, the more welcome expression "passed over."
Well : to get back to the seance in hand. When it first entered the stage where the trumpet voices took extensive part, there was every indication that a directing intelligence was at work, concerning which the smallest assumption that would meet the facts would be, that it had telepathic access to the minds of the sitters. In my judgment this assumption would completely meet the facts; but I am more ready than most critics to extend the telepathic hypothesis to its extremes. The trumpet began to talk distinctly and coherently, in a voice that had not been heard before. Mr. Sloan's mediumship is not pre-eminently physical in its trend, but if all was as it seemed this voice was a physical phenomenon calling for an explanation. It came without question from the trumpet, well out toward the center of the circle; and I had one of the medium's hands while his left-hand neighbor said that she had the other. The bare physical possibility of his manipulating the trumpet with knees, feet or legs did not impress me strongly, even if we say nothing about the amount of noise he would likely make in attempting this. As far as the hypothesis of confederacy is concerned, I shall have to withhold comment; the major drawback of a circle of twelve people, or anything like twelve people, lies in the impossibility of having real assurance against this.
The hypothesis of ventriloquism, I would observe, hardly covers the ground. It is one of those very convenient blanket explanations that really explain nothing. The ventriloquist cannot work effectively in the dark. He does not deceive the ears so much as he does the eyes and the expectations, by getting his audience to think of and look at the quarter of the room whence he wishes them to infer that the sound is coming. When eyes are out of action, his best weapon is gone; he can only deceive the expectations, and if one exercises any reasonable degree of caution, one's ears will tell the truth, contradicting one's expectations if necessary.
The voice from the trumpet announced itself as that of one Cornelius Morgan, a name that meant nothing to anyone present. No details of his alleged life were offered, but it was ultimately clear that he was an American. After a few remarks of no particular interest, he stated that someone was present from a great distance. There was another New Yorker in the circle, present for the first time; he remained silent, and I pleaded guilty to the indictment. Cornelius then went on to particularize New York as my home, or my point of origin—I am not sure which, or whether he made the distinction. On strict interpretation it would make a difference; though I am as much of a New Yorker as anybody, I live in New Jersey.
Whitey broke in here, to ask whether New York was in his country. Then he inquired how far it was from the Rocky Mountains. Speaking to me directly, he explained that he was a Crow, and that his home was at the foot of these; did I know what a Crow was? Whitey then turned the line over to Cornelius again; and the real show began.
Cornelius stated, categorically and without hesitation or prompting, and addressing me unmistakably, that about three weeks previously, on a Friday afternoon, at about 7.30 o'clock, I had been walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with a lady and a gentleman. This was getting pretty thick! I do not ordinarily get on the Bridge twice a year; since I moved from Brooklyn in 1914, I surely have not walked over it half a dozen times. But not long before sailing for Europe, I had been in New York with an hour or more to spare, in the company of two friends who live in Brooklyn and were about to start home. I suggested that if they would walk, I could accompany them, ride back, and still catch my train; and this was done. Assuredly this was the only time within a year when I had walked the Bridge.
I made Cornelius repeat his statement. Then I told him that, if I were to speak without stopping to think very carefully, I should place the expedition in question on a Saturday, and a bit earlier than 7.30; and that I knew for certain that it was with two gentlemen. The communicator at once rebuked me unmercifully for contemplating the cardinal sin of speech without thought, and read me a long lecture designed to show me what a peck of trouble such a vicious habit would get me into. Quite a bit of repartee passed here, but I finally convinced him that I had simply adopted an unhappy phrase, and that all I meant was that to my very best honest opinion of the moment, the facts were with me and not with him. He thereupon insisted vehemently upon his version, including the lady.
Now one of my companions on this promenade, Mr. C. S. Branderbury of the Associated Press, is a diarist of a degree of faithfulness that would discourage a very Pepys from emulation. His little brown book gives the date of Saturday, January 20th., and his memory was very clear regarding the hour of 4.00 P. M. About the third person's having been a man there was never any doubt.
This would seem, then, to be one of those miserable ambiguous cases, where it is impossible to get any two critics to agree as to just what percentage of success and what of failure has been recorded. It must be admitted that a Briton would easily exaggerate the probability of a New Yorker's walking over Brooklyn Bridge; that if a Briton guessed that such a walk had been taken by one with regular employment, 7.30 PM. on a weekday would be a very rational hour to guess; and that if a Briton were called upon to name at random a bridge in America, he would surely have heard of the Brooklyn Bridge, and quite likely of no other, by name. On the other hand, the elapsed time since the walk was remarkably accurate, the number of people was correct, and the time was not seriously in error. Moreover, if one were guessing, it would be quite absurd to guess so many details at once; and one could certainly find, even at 3,000-mile range, a more likely performance than a specific walk at a specific hour. It strikes me, on the whole, that it is rather crowding the mourners to attribute all the correct elements here to chance; and whatever else they may have been, they certainly were not the result of clandestine information.
Hoping to test him out further, I asked Cornelius whether he could make any estimate of the last previous time when I had tramped the Bridge. He got highly indignant, and stated with heat that he was no walking encyclopedia. I replied that this was a perfectly good answer to my question, which on its face had been aimed merely at learning whether he knew this. Thus mollified, he explained how he happened to know about the one walk. He had become aware of my intended trip, had appreciated its importance to himself and his friends on both sides, and had been following my movements closely for some time before I sailed. This made sense, to the extent that the trip was planned and the tickets bought before January 20th.
Cornelius was far from through with me. By way of support for his claim of prior knowledge regarding my trip, he went on to state that he had known of my "reserving rooms" on two ships. This was the literal truth in a peculiarly apt form. After fixing February 10th as my sailing date, we found two ships were to go on this date, the Olympic and the Noordam; and we had a specific stateroom reserved for me on each, pending advice from England as to the date on which I must arrive. This state of affairs held for about two weeks, after which it became clear that the slower boat would get me across in time; and only then was the Olympic reservation cancelled and the one for the Noordam taken up. Ordinarily if one were describing simultaneous dealing with two vessels, one would speak of having taken tentative passage on both; the very unusual, and explicitly correct, statement about having reserved rooms on both struck me as distinctly evidential. The possibility of guessing this, at a season when the Noordam was forced to sail with only 38 first-class passengers, is too remote for discussion ; it would be idiotic to suppose that at such a season one would feel called upon to make a double reservation. As for information, I think that can be ruled out quite categorically.
For whatever bearing it may have on the hypothesis of telepathy, I mention that at the moment when this message came through, I was thinking, not at all about the circumstances of my trip, but about Mr. Branderbury's diary and the certainty that it would settle the disputed date. In my own mind there is no question that telepathy is usually subconscious, on the part both of the sender and of the recipient.
Cornelius now turned away from me momentarily, but came back again, identifying me unmistakably as "the gentleman at the medium's right." "Friend, you are a writing man, are you not?" he asked. This alone, if a guess, would have been a mighty shrewd one. Sir Arthur had very shortly before got into all kinds of hot water through ill-advised confidence in the potential good behavior of several newspaper men whom he had introduced into seances much as he had introduced me; and it might almost have been hazarded that the next stranger under his wing would not be a writing man! But upon my pleading guilty to this charge, he went on to state that I had been writing something before I came to the seance—a letter, he thought. I decided that it would not be giving him a lead if I informed him that I had been that morning engaged on a letter, but had finished and mailed it.
Cornelius expressed complete willingness to be corrected to this extent; but he insisted that I had been writing something immediately before coming to the seance—that I had, in fact, got up from it to come, leaving it unfinished. This was the literal truth; the paper was still in my portable typewriter on my writing table, half fed through and waiting for me to return and strike the next key. It was not exactly a literary composition; my two days' experience in Boulogne had brought home to me more clearly than ever the fact that my French vocabulary runs on a one-track line, and I had been drawing up a list of a few hundred useful French words which I planned to add to my independent speaking equipment before crossing the Channel again. If anyone is prepared to include my chambermaid in a gigantic plot to mislead me, this item could have been the result of clandestine information, but I really hope that nobody will go as far as that.
We have, then, a series of statements concerning my point of origin, my promenade of January 20th., the circumstances attending my engaging passage for Europe, my profession, and my actions prior to coming to the seance. No exact count can be made of the percentage of right and wrong here; no count can even be effected, in which all critics will agree, of the number of distinct statements made. Much, however, of what the alleged Cornelius Morgan told me was correct; and of the correct items, hardly any two could have come to the medium from the same source, while to some extent at least it seems that not all of them could have come to him even in the same general manner. None of these statements would check Cornelius' identity. But that they do indicate some channel, telepathic or otherwise supernormal, through which information which Mr. Sloan did not possess in his own right passed into the physical shell of his brain, seems to me fairly safe—if the reader will remember that I have said "indicate" and not "prove."
Cornelius next started to talk about some numbers, and Wall Street. We could not quite make out whether he were telephoning or simply giving an address; but in any event, the numbers which were audible meant nothing to me or to any other sitter. He then asked me if I had ever been in Waupaca, Wis. (it is at least worthy of passing note that he pronounced this correctly), or Denver. The mention of Colorado's metropolis was followed by that of Riverside. I was contradicted in my inference that he meant Riverside, Cal.; whereupon one of the ladies spoke up and identified it as a section of Denver where she had lived or visited. Nothing further developed here, and Cornelius went away for good.
He was followed by an unidentified and unnamed communicator, who passed around the circle with the medium's physical apparatus, giving a message to each sitter. Mine was not merely trivial, but to my way of thinking positively objectionable. A female spirit was present; was my mother on the other side? No? My grandmother, then, perhaps? This attack, of course, was certain to succeed. The communicator went on to address me; it was not clear whether the female ancestral spirit was back of the message or not. I was confronted with a decision. There were two paths. The one that looked so rosy was the rough one, while the one that looked so rough was the easy one. I flatly repudiated this platitudinous atrocity; whereupon the communicator said something about crossed currents, and turned to the lady who was separated from me by the empty chair. She accepted it as hers, and "in response to a query from one of the sitters added that it was of help to her.
It may not be out of order to digress here for a moment. Sir Arthur himself, and all the other spiritists who give the matter serious thought, refrain very carefully from claiming that everything that occurs at a seance is due to the intervention of departed personalities. Sir Arthur, with whom I have discussed the matter more than with anyone else, explicitly denies this claim; so does Mr. Engholm, and so does Mr. Gow. Their idea is that the medium himself makes a fairly large contribution from his own sub-consciousness; that any or all of the sitters may make such contributions, telepathically; I suppose they would admit the possibility of random contributions coming in from outside the circle in the same way; and then they of course believe that contributions are actually made by survived identities—not all of whom, by the way, are necessarily ex-humans, or necessarily benevolent. They are strongly impressed, to quote Sir Arthur, "with the immense difficulty of untangling this complex net of causes," and of identifying just what elements of the seance are to be attributed to this, and what to that. Sir Arthur illustrates this viewpoint by quoting a conversation he had through the mediumship, if I remember correctly, of Lady Doyle, with a very distinguished member of the group that has "passed over." A book had been recently published, purporting to be by this gentleman, through the automatic-writing mediumship of a certain lady. Sir Arthur had found passages of the book strongly characteristic of the alleged author, and others that equally lacked his touch. So he asked him how much of it was really his ; and the answer came, without an instant's hesitation: "Oh, about three-quarters; the rest is the medium."
The bearing of this digression upon what went immediately before is obvious. The spiritists need some such doctrine as this, and need it imperatively; for otherwise, the trifling messages of the sort which I have just quoted, and which occur with every medium, would very shortly oblige them to discredit every medium. But in the presence of this doctrine, every unfavorable episode of the seance room can be explained away without in the least smirching the medium or the main structure of spiritism. Nor is the doctrine so objectionable as this remark might suggest; for if we exclude the action of the discarnate personalities whose existence we do not accept as proved, we must agree with the general notion of a tangled web of causes behind the action of the seance.
The messages delivered to me at this stage of the sitting were not uniquely unsatisfactory; everything that was said during this circuit of the circle was of the same universal applicability. It was at this time that we began to get suggestions of physical phenomena, which is significant in view of the fact that the medium was now known to be up and about, without any check upon his movements other than the fact that his hands were intermittently in contact with the hands of the successive sitters as he stood before them.
Phosphorescent lights began to appear here, there, somewhere else. In each case such a light occurred in the immediate vicinity of the person to whom the message under way at the moment was addressed; but in addition, there were seen lights that were independent of the messages and, apparently, of the location of the medium. None of these lights possessed any illuminating power. Usually they were seen by some of the sitters, and missed by those who had the medium between them and the light; but on one occasion the light was large enough to reveal to me the head and shoulders of the medium very vaguely silhouetted against it. This does not contradict the denial of illuminating power; the silhouette was against the light itself, and not against any area illuminated by the light. Most of them were far too small and dim for any such effect, producing nothing whatever that could be observed by one who sat on the wrong side of the medium or of any other opaque object.
I should have been satisfied of the objective character of these lights, even had Mr. Engholm not informed me, the next morning, that at previous sittings they had been photographed. The camera was left open throughout the seance. In this way the time that would otherwise have been lost in opening and closing the shutter was available for the exposure, and the developed plate showed light tracks, quite analogous to those of the stars across a fixed plate. As this would imply, the lights were not usually stationary; but their range of movement was not usually large.
Most of the lights were approximately round, though perhaps a bit longer one way than the other. They gave very definitely the impression of phosphorescence, rather than of flame or filament; though in retrospect I am unable to give any specific reason for this impression, which may therefore have been due to conscious or unconscious expectation. I watched very carefully for any indication of filament shape, and found none; nor could I observe any change of color value as they faded in and out, such as is seen in the case of the ordinary incandescent lamp. Since these seances, however, experiments with small electric torches draped with colored paper have made these negative observations seem less important than they appeared to be at the time.
One of the lights stood out above all the others. It came when I was well convinced that the medium was holding the hands of the lady in my original seat, while delivering her message. It was a long, snaky affair, quite different from any of the others; it moved clear across the circle, from one side to the other, well behind the medium as I had him located.
Of the messages delivered during this round of the circle, some came from the medium's lips and some from the trumpet. The latter had up
to this time remained with reasonable certainty unmoved in the center of the circle, save for whatever tilting may have been involved in the delivery of the messages. Noting the mixture of the two types of message, I centered my attention upon the question whether at any time both types were being delivered simultaneously. As a general thing they certainly were not, though they followed one another quite closely. But after my attention had been momentarily distracted by one of the brighter lights, I was rather inclined to believe that during this interval of absorption in another thing I had been vaguely conscious of the double message.
The trumpet now began to do considerable traveling. On at least one occasion it was heard inside the circle, outside, inside again, and once more outside, in more rapid succession than I should suppose to be possible by manual dexterity alone. I could not be sure of the medium's place at this moment, but he seemed to be standing at the left arm of his chair. The circle was as small as it could be with twelve sitters none of whom was actually on another's lap; and so far as mere reach is concerned, this motion of the trumpet could doubtless have been done by the medium's hand. But the speed was extreme.
After this, with the medium again apparently in the neighborhood of his seat, the trumpet traveled about the circle, caressing each sitter somewhere about the face or head. Some of us got it sideways, some endways. In my own. case it would have been a matter of no finesse at all for this caress to have been manually directed by the medium; I cannot say where he was when the other sitters were touched. But I can say that whenever the trumpet moved freely he was out of his chair, under cover of delivering a message or of preparing to deliver a message to one of the sitters. This of course made the travels of the trumpet much less impressive than they would have been at another time.
One thing must be said regarding any hypothesis that calls for secret movement of the medium about the circle, however. Save when he had obvious and legitimate business there, I was never able to detect his presence near me, either through personal contact, shuffling or other noises, feeling his breath, etc., etc. Nor did I, at any stage when he was supposed to be still, hear contact between his garments and those of the sitters, or any other sound indicating that he was walking or gliding about. On the other hand, when he was supposed to be in motion, he did make, not enough noise to stand for a deliberate attempt at creating a commotion, but just about enough noise to seem right. This would make it appear that if he does move about with such freedom as to account for the manifestations, he must have an extraordinary sense of location in the dark.
When I sat next him, on the other hand, he must have released and regained my hand a dozen times. Invariably if I left it exactly where he dropped it, he came back to pick it up without fumbling. But if I moved it ever so little, he had to find it just as you and I find things in the dark—by fumbling for it, with more or less resultant disturbance of the entire neighborhood. It cannot be maintained that the circle is always, when he comes back to it, exactly as he left it. As regards feet and legs at least, and heads to a less degree, it is in a state of continual flux. Yet any moving about the circle which the medium does secretly is done with no suggestion of fumbling or groping. I state these contradictory facts without any further attempt to formulate a conclusion from them; but I shall return in subsequent chapters, to this business of navigation in the dark.
After the trumpet performance had been wound up, Whitey took up a lot of time apologizing for the amount of time he had taken up, and for the difficulty which he had had in keeping his communicators in order. At several times one of these had actually broken through and started an unauthorized statement, to be rudely withdrawn and forced to wait his turn. Whitey's regrets having been suitably expressed, a brand new voice took hold, coming from the medium's mouth. We were informed that the speaker was the "director" from the other side—apparently Whitey's superior officer. He spoke in highly cultured tones, which I should almost be inclined to insist were quite outside the medium's normal powers; and he offered an extremely well-worded prayer and blessing—which of course the medium or anybody else could learn by heart. One or two deceased friends of Mr. McKenzie had a few words with him, the voices being apparently recognizable, with reservations. Then, in accordance with what the director had told us, White Feather got out of his box and went away, and the red light was turned on again as a preliminary to the white lights. The lights are always put on thus gradually, in order to avoid dazzle.
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