From the book People From The Other World Henry Steele Olcott
On the following evening I tried an experiment that I think is unprecedented in the history of scientific inquiry. It occurred to me, that if the assertion of the spirits that in materializing themselves they accreted matter from the atmosphere by the operation of their own will were true, and that the relative solidity of their materialization is under their control, the thing might be tested by familiar mechanical appliances. I could not conceive of solid matter without weight, and I had had too many proofs of the materiality of the visible spirit-forms to fancy them imponderable and unsubstantial. I had not only heard the shock of Honto's feet upon the floor when she leaped over the railing and when she jumped high from the floor in some of her capering; but, both in the dark and light circles, had shaken hands with them, and been touched and playfully struck many times. To my sense of touch they appeared as substantial as any human being in the flesh, the only difference being in their temperature, which was invariably lower than my own, and the skin, which was ordinarily covered with a clammy sweat.
To put my theory to the proof, I procured in Rutland one of Howe's Standard platform scales, the capacity and accuracy of which are attested in the following certificate:
RUTLAND, Vt., October 6th, 1874
Henry S. Olcott, Esq.,
I hereby certify that the platform scale you procured from me for your weighing experiments, was one of Howe's best Standards, set true and in perfect order. It will weigh from one ounce to 500 pounds. Its own dead weight is 110 pounds. Respectfully, I. G. KINGSLEY
I caused it to be placed upon the platform, to the right of the cabinet door, and just in front of the chair in which Mr. Pritchard sits. Being denied the privilege of sitting there myself, in consequence, as I am told, of my being of so positive a nature as to affect and repel the spirits (in which particular neither Mr. Pritchard nor Mrs. Cleveland resemble me at all) I had to rely for my experiment upon the gentleman in question. Accordingly, I rehearsed the operation with him thoroughly, until he was able, in the dark, to quickly weigh a person stepping upon the platform and stopping there but a moment. I supplied him with parlor-matches, and after some last instructions waited the auspicious moment.
When Honto came out she saluted us as usual, and then turned and scrutinized the strange machine with Indian-like hesitancy. I told her what was desired, and she then stepped boldly upon the proper spot, and bent forward to look at the movements of Mr. Pritchard, as his hand moved the poise along the beam. The balance being attained, as we could all plainly hear by the sound of the beam against the pad, she stepped off and passed into the cabinet. A match being struck, Mr. Pritchard read the scale at 138 pounds, which caused the audience no surprise, for, as the reader will observe, by reference to the several pictures of Honto that appear in this volume, she looks like a woman who would weigh from 135 to 145 pounds. But the counter-poise at the end of the beam appeared to me too thin for the l00-pound weight, and upon lighting a second match Mr. Pritchard found that it was only the 50-pound weight, and consequently that the squaw had only weighed 88 pounds. Honto now reappeared, and I asked her to make herself lighter. She again mounted the platform, and this time it was found that she weighed but 58 pounds. The experiment was repeated a third time, and her weight stood the same as before—58 pounds. The fourth time the reading of the beam showed 65 pounds. Thus, without any change of clothing, and all within the space of ten minutes, this spirit, who weighed at the beginning at least 50 pounds less than any mortal woman of her size and height should weigh, reduced her materiality to the extent of 30 pounds, and, after holding it there several minutes, increased it 7 pounds.
Of course it would have been infinitely more satisfactory if I could have first peeped into the dark cabinet and then managed the scale myself, for in such case I would not have to report, as to a portion of the facts, upon hearsay testimony; and I leave to Mr. Crookes, Mr. Wallace, and other intelligent observers, more favorably conditioned than I, the task of following up this novel and suggestive inquiry.
Mr. Pritchard is a reputable citizen of Albany, N. Y., retired from business in which he accumulated a competency, and I give his affidavit in corroboration of the facts I have narrated :
MR. PRITCHARD'S AFFIDAVIT. State of Vermont, County of Rutland, ss.—Edward V. Pritchard, of the City of Albany, State of New York, being duly sworn, deposes and says that on the evening of September 23rd instant, he attended a séance or circle at the house of the Eddy family, in the town of Chittenden, in the county and State aforesaid : that he was invited to occupy a chair on the platform in a room known as the circleroom, where certain mysterious phenomena known as spirit materializations occurred ; that among other forms presenting themselves and identified by persons in the audience as the shapes of deceased friends and relatives, there appeared the figure of an Indian woman known as Honto, who approached so close to deponent that he distinctly saw every feature of her countenance, and her entire body ; that he is well acquainted with William H. Eddy, and avers that the said Honto bore no resemblance whatever to him in any particular. And deponent further says, that a pair of platform scales being previously placed convenient to his reach, the said Honto stood thereupon four separate times for deponent to weigh her, and that, without having apparently changed her bulk:, or divested herself of any portion of her dress, she weighed respectively 88 pounds, 58 pounds, 58 pounds, and 65 pounds at the several weighings. And deponent further says that, having weighed the said William H. Eddy upon the same scales, he finds his weight to be 179 pounds.
E. V. PRITCHARD. [Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 30th clay of September, A. D. 1875 — H. F. Baird, Justice of the Peace.]
In his famous first article in the Quarterly Journal of Science for July, 1870, Mr. Crookes, in enumerating the results that he shall expect the Spiritualists to help him to attain, before he can ask his scientific brethren to investigate the phenomena, says :
The Spiritualist tells of bodies weighing 50 or 100 pounds being lifted up into the air without the intervention of any known force; but the scientific chemist is accustomed to use a balance which will render sensible a weight so small that it would take 10,000 of them to weigh one grain ; he is, therefore, justified in asking that a power, professing to be guided by intelligence, which will toss a heavy body up to the ceiling, shall also cause his delicately poised balance to move under test conditions.
Again, he says in the same article : The first requisite is to be sure of facts; then to ascertain conditions ; next, laws. Accuracy and knowledge of detail stand foremost among the great aims of modern scientific men. No observations are of much use to the student of science unless they are truthful and made under test conditions ; and here I find the great mass of spiritualistic evidence to fail. In a subject which, perhaps, more than any other, lends itself to trickery and deception, the precautions against fraud appear to have been, in most cases, totally insufficient, owing, it would seem, to an erroneous idea that to ask for such safe- guards was to imply a suspicion of the honesty of some one present. I quote these sensible words, not to help me in my investigations at this place, for my researches are completed, but to call the attention of other investigators in various other portions of the country who may happen to read these lines, to the true method which should guide their researches. The absolute ponderosity of a materialized spirit has at least been suggested by the weighing experiments at Chittenden, and it remains only for those who have access, say, to such compliant and intelligent spirits as Mr. Crookes' Katie King, or Miss Showers' Florence and Lenore, to make careful supplemental experiments, under test conditions, and thus solve one of the most important problems ever broached to the scientific world.
I saw Honto, on one evening (October 15th), melt away as far up as her waist, just as she was ready to pass into the cabinet; once I saw a long lance, with a tapering steel head and a tuft of drooping ostrich plumes below it, suddenly materialized, in the hand of a male spirit; once, one of Honto's knitted shawls instantly formed, in a pile, on the floor, before she even stretched her hand towards the place to pick it up ; and once a little animal, like a squirrel or a large rat, suddenly appeared, walked about, and disappeared on the platform, almost frightening poor old Mrs. Cleveland out of her wits. If I ask Mr. Crookes to tell me by what law these things happen, he would undoubtedly answer: Show me fifty such cases, happening under test conditions, and then we will weigh these things on our scales and try to discover the law.
George Dix, the sailor-spirit, tried to enlighten me upon the subject, one evening. He said that man, in his earth-life, is nothing but a materialized spirit, a living entity encased in a covering of flesh. To keep himself and this case together, he must consume and assimilate tons of the material portions of animal and vegetable food. If he stops the process he becomes dematerialized, or uncased, in a very brief time. On the other hand, spirits can do in a moment what before death it took them years to accomplish—materialize a body to cover them. In the atmosphere they find ready for use, an inexhaustible supply of the same matter as that which exists in the animal and vegetable, only in a diffused and sublimated form; and by a supreme creative effort of the will they instantly collect the scattered particles into such shapes as they choose.
What shall we say to all this? That it is silly, useless even if true, impossible, unscientific? Lord Bacon sets it down as a law unto himself, never to reject upon improbabilities until there hath passed a due examination;