Dr. Charles Richet - 1913 Nobel Laureate for Physiology
(a) On Fraud in Ectoplasmic Experiments
In metapsychic experiments the possibility of fraud must never be lost sight of. Other sciences do not suffer from this evil; they evolve peaceably, having only material difficulties to face, whereas scientists who experiment with mediums are always liable to be basely deceived. This makes their task one of great difficulty, demanding careful and vigilant attention.
The difficulties that confront research into objective metapsychics and subjective metapsychics are not of the same kind. We have already noted what precautions must be taken against the trickeries, whether conscious or unconscious, that render the study of cryptesthesia so complex-errors of memory, defects in testimony, and paramnesia. We have shown the risk that the experimenter himself, in spite of all good faith, may involuntarily assist the medium. When studying objective metapsychics the precautions to be taken are different, though they must be equally stringent.
Soon after the Fox sisters had started spiritualism, and had begun to make their mediumistic faculties a source of profit, there arose everywhere, but especially in America, persons who began to traffic in it. Everywhere the credulity of the public aroused the cupidity of swindlers. Public séances were held and money taken for entrance at which spiritualist exhibitions were given, like performances at a circus or by a conjurer. Phantoms appeared on the stage, and, profiting by the simplicity of the sitters, came down from the platform to be recognized by some unhappy mother who had lost a child.
Shops were opened by spirit-photographers, who presented to their clients vague faces on the negative which the credulous sitter always ended by recognizing. The medium who organized these exhibitions would also take engagements to give séances at people's houses for high fees.
The better to attract the favour and money of the public, these mediums and photographers pretended to be genuinely scientific researchers, and craftily invested their exhibitions with some vague kind of religion, so that the whole thing became an actual trade-the trade of mediumship, sometimes lucrative, but always dangerous and in any case dishonourable.
This ugly trade and the consequent development of spiritualism was made possible by the fact that very frequently these professionals had at first some real powers, and vestiges of genuine phenomena were admixed with their fraudulent practices.
The number of adherents to spiritualist doctrines steadily increased; journals sprang into being to celebrate the exploits of professional mediums.
These insanities, encouraged by the blindness of the public and by the credulity of some honourable scientific men, brought about an inevitable reaction. In England, and especially in America, a whole literature strained every nerve 1 to unmask the strange simplicity of spiritualists and the perverse ingenuity of professional mediums.2
Disgusted by these sham prodigies, and fully informed as to the machinery of fraud employed by these pseudo-mediums, scientific men in America and England obstinately refused to accept the facts of telekinesis and materialization. It became almost an article of faith among them-a faith perhaps as blind as that of the spiritists-that there are no material phenomena.
The affirmations of honourable men, highly placed in public esteem, such as Judge Edmunds, Dale Owen, and even so great a man as Alfred Russel Wallace, were insufficient to outweigh the nauseous impressions produced by the American trade in mediumship.
Even the admirable work of William Crookes (1872) brought no conviction; he, like Zollner, remained isolated. No one would believe what these two eminent men of science asserted;
1 I will cite only a few: Abbott, Behind the scenes with mediums, Chicago, 1907. Fr. Podmore, Modern spiritualism, a History and a criticism, London, Methuen, 1902, 2 vols. Schakleton, Spookland, a record of Research in the much talked realm of mystery. Carrington, The physical phenomena of spiritualism, Boston, Turner, 1907. Rainaly, Procès d'un escamoteur, Paris, 1894 Rémy, Spirites et illusionnistes, Paris, Leclercq, 1911.
2 Morselli quotes the writings of professional conjurers who have unmasked the tricks of spirit-mediums (A. S. P., 1908, xviii, 157, Hopkins, Keller, Snaw, Williams, and others).
it was said that they had been deceived, illusionized, that they knew nothing of legerdemain and had been humbugged:
The Society for Psychical Research, together with E. Gurney, Myers, H. Sidgwick, and Podmore, started with the axiom and fundamental principle that there are no material phenomena, that everything is subjective. But in the forty years from 1880 to 1920 ideas have evolved. Sidgwick died without admitting either telekinesis or ectoplasms. Myers, at first hostile, ended by fully accepting and resolutely maintaining their objectivity. F. Podmore, it would seem, could never resign himself to believe in them, while Sir Oliver Lodge, who at first only recognized the full reality of subjective phenomena, accepts now the objectivity of material phenomena.
By a singular evolutionary process, R. Hodgson, after having cleverly unmasked in India the frauds of Mme. Blavatsky, was completely converted to subjective spiritualism by his experiments with Mrs. Piper; but if Hodgson admitted the incarnations of George Pelham, he would not admit the telekinesis shown by Eusapia. He it was who, at Cambridge, claimed to have exposed Eusapia, while in fact his experiments were deplorably defective, assisting, facilitating, and even provoking the clumsy, unconscious frauds of that unfortunate medium. Hyslop, who succeeded Hodgson at the American S. P. R., refused, like Hodgson, to admit materializations.
This scepticism is comprehensible when one reads the descriptions of the extraordinary séances given by some mediums. Miller, Bailey, Mrs. Williams, Eldred, Sambor, and A. Roth have all been exposed. Eldred had an armchair in which he had collected a whole arsenal of trick properties. The photographer Boursnell, although he had the support of W. T. Stead, was convicted of cheating. So likewise was the French photographer Buguet, though simple-minded persons, even after his trickeries had been exposed, persisted in believing in the genuineness of these phantoms. Mrs. Williams was unmasked at a séance in Paris; there were found on her various things used to simulate phantoms, as in Eldred's case. Sambor's case is very strange; one of the friends of Petrovo Solovovo was actually his accomplice, though seemingly an honourable man. According to Grasset, Ebstein made up a phantom with a painted doll.1
1 See Paul Mathiex, Lex faux médiums. Echo du Merveilleux, 1906, 249.
Bailey, who claimed to make apports of living birds, was caught at Grenoble buying the flame-coloured birds that he was supposed to bring from India by magical means. Maddock was condemned for cheating. I was able to show up Anna Roth who brought concealed flowers. Before the séance she weighed one hundred and sixteen pounds, but only one hundred and fourteen afterwards; the weight of the flowers she brought was two pounds. Maxwell 1 cites the very suspicious cases of Mrs. Wood and Lemb.
Haxby cheated impudently. I could heap up cases if need were; and indeed honest spiritualists recognize that these scoundrels are the worst enemies of spiritualism, and all of us who believe in ectoplasms and telekinesis are equally interested in getting rid of these wretches.
But the question is not as simple as it seems: indeed no question is simple when people will condescend to go into it deeply. Along with fraudulent mediums having an outfit prepared in advance, there are true, genuine, and powerful mediums who have recourse to fraud when their powers diminish or they find an experiment fail.
This probably came to pass in some degree even with Florence Cook, with Slade, Eglinton, Eusapia, Linda Gazzera, Marthe Béraud, and Mme. d'Espérance. It is necessary, however, to understand clearly what is meant by the exposure of a medium (in French, démasquer; in German, entlarven).
In the first place, simple rustics like Eusapia do not understand that simulation of a phenomenon is a serious crime; they do not recognize the enormity of the fraud. They say, People want phenomena; well, we'll give them what they want. A lengthy education is needed before they can be made to understand how odious and unpardonable is a lie that brings willful error into our poor efforts at truth, where there are so many involuntary errors.
In the second place, mediums are in a state of semi-unconsciousness which takes away much of their moral responsibility. Trance turns them into automata that have but a very slight control over their muscular movements. When a medium is nearly or quite insensible, his eyes shut, sweating and making convulsive movements, unable to answer questions put to him, I do not think he ought to be reproached for anything he may do. He is not himself; he has not that poised and quiet consciousness which can decide between right and wrong. He has forgotten who he is and what he ought to do.
1 Les phénomènes psychiques, 1903, p. 263.
Completely criminal are such acts as those of Eldred or Mrs. Williams preparing paraphernalia for deliberate fraud, hidden in a chair or upon their person; this is radically different from the suspicious movements of an entranced medium.
Not only are mediums irresponsible, but telekinetic or ectoplasmic movements are generally beyond their control. Little Stasiathe guide of Stanislawa Tomczyk-often amused herself by playing tricks on Stanislawa herself to mystify Ochorowicz. Similarly in the case of duplicated personality so well studied by Dr. Morton Prince, the personality A., dissevered from the normal personality B., was actively hostile to B., causing her pain and distress. The ectoplasmic arms and hands that emerge from the body of Eusapia do only what they wish, and though Eusapia knows what they do, they are not directed by Eusapia's will; or rather there is for the moment no Eusapia.
It is also quite easy to understand that when exhausted by a long and fruitless séance, and surrounded by a number of sitters eager to see something, a medium whose consciousness is still partly in abeyance may give the push that he hopes will start the phenomena.
At one of the conversaziones at the Paris Psychological Institute, d'Arsonval told an amusing story of the celebrated electrician Ampère. A new electrical demonstration was being given before a scientific committee, and as the galvanometer needle failed to move at the critical moment, he gave it a touch with his finger. Repeating the experiment, successfully this time, he said triumphantly, pointing to the needle, This time it goes of itself!
There is a quasi-identity between the medium and the ectoplasm, so that when an attempt is made to seize the latter a limb of the medium may be grasped; though I make a definite and formal protest against this frequent defence of doubtful phenomena by spiritualists. More frequently the ectoplasm is independent of the medium, indeed perhaps it is always so; though I do not mean to imply that the severance or capture of the ectoplasm can be effected without danger to the medium (?). The case of Mme. d'Espérance (though she was open to suspicion) is on record to show that a medium may incur a long illness by reason of such an attempt.
In view of the known cases of fraud, the question is to decide what confidence can be placed in the more or less marvelous accounts that are given us.
To sum up the conditions which seem necessary: they apply equally to fraudulent and to honest mediums, if there are any who can always be depended upon. The precautions must be as strict in the one case as in the other, and if these precautions have not been taken no scientific inference can be drawn.
Although Boursnell and Buguet found many disciples, and although there have been many frauds that have been accepted as genuine phenomena, it is consoling to know that fraud always fails in the long run; it cannot defeat prolonged and careful experiment. Fraudulent mediums, as soon as they leave the narrow circle of the credulous, soon find careful observers that unmask them. If they refuse just and reasonable conditions of experiment, that is in itself a just ground for suspicion, and a reason for re fusing to make experiments under bad conditions. But even so, under bad conditions, fraud always ends in detection. It is not as difficult as may be supposed to detect trickery; and I do not think that any instance can be quoted of a medium behaving fraudulently for two years without being detected in flagrante delicto.
1. The sitters must be few-three, four, or five at most. Even five seems to me too many. Very good observations can be made by one person only; for the hypothesis that the observer is hallucinated is absurd. If six are present, there will certainly be among them some who are inattentive, unskilful, or practical jokers. Each one will have his own fancies and will exact compliances which will disturb the even course of the phenomena.
The good faith of all persons present must be absolutely unquestionable. Petrovo Solovovo was betrayed by one of his friends, and no one should be admitted to an experiment of whose honesty and good sense one cannot be as assured as of one's own.
Further, a certain competence is essential: it is not by any means every one who is capable of observing well; that is, of observing everything that takes place. To hold the right hand of a medium for a whole hour so as to be quite certain that the hand has not been released for a single second is not so very easy, especially if the hand twists about and struggles. The sitters must be such persons as are not liable to fear, nor to weariness, nor (which is rare) to inattention, and who will also leave the experimenter to follow his own line, merely giving their assistance without pretence of directing the experiment.
2. Photographs, impressions on blackened paper, on clay, on plaster, or on paraffin wax have no value in themselves: everything depends on the conditions. There are photographs so skilfully counterfeited that I should make no conclusions at all on any such shown to me unless the circumstances under which they were produced were given with such precise detail as to make all trickery impossible.
If the conditions are unsatisfactory, the very best photographs are valueless as evidence, and I do not care to see them. But if the conditions are unexceptionable, even poor photographs are decisive; they reveal details that may escape the sight. Stereoscopic photographs are more instructive than those which do not show the relief they show relative distances. After the admirable photographs by Schrenck-Notzing, Mme. Bisson, and G. de Fontenay, it is not allowable to study materializations without the help of one or two cameras; but it must always be remembered that the value of photographs is strictly dependent on the conditions of the experiment.
3. The experiments should not be made in a very large room; the smaller the room, the greater the facility of close observation. All the furnishings should be most carefully examined, turned over, and searched; the doors must be locked so that no stranger can come in. No appurtenances or objects of any kind soever must be brought by the medium: a conjurer can do anything he likes with his table, his pack of cards, his chair, or his stick; but if he is given my table, my chair, and my pack of cards, and has no other at his disposal and can make no interchange, he is powerless.
4. Hence arises the absolute necessity that the medium be scrupulously searched, dressed only in garments provided, and never let out of sight from that moment. His every movement should be followed till he is seated. He should then be tied (or not, if he declines this). Then only can darkness be allowed. It matters little that he should be behind a curtain, since he has no mask, no appliance, and no stuff of any kind. If under such conditions a form enveloped in a white veil comes out from the curtain, I shall conclude with certainty that there has been a materialization of a white veil, presuming, of course, that the search has been so thorough that it has been impossible for the medium to conceal any such veil.
The whole point, then, is to know whether one can be certain whether anyone, medium or no medium, has concealed a large white veil. It seems to me not impossible to ascertain this.
If all the prescribed conditions are fulfilled, and they can be and have been fulfilled-the experiment is valid.
In some cases all the precautions enumerated are not indispensable. If, for instance in a locked room which has previously been thoroughly searched, a living form is seen moving by the side of the medium, there is no ground for doubt, since no one could have entered. Obviously, then, we have to be sure that the form is not a dummy, and that the entranced medium is not a dummy. When Crookes saw Katie King by the side of Florence Cook, two living beings were both present.
Again, if I hold the two hands of Eusapia in my two hands, and I feel a hand stroke my face, pull my hair, and strike my shoulder, I can be certain that it is not the hand of Eusapia ; and I am not going to suppose that Myers, Sir Oliver, or Ochorowicz played such a criminal practical joke on me.
There is, however, a point that seems to me highly important, and I therefore insist upon it. Even if all the precautions above named have not been taken, that is not a reason for refusing to experiment; it is, however, a reason for making special observations in each special case and looking very closely into everything before drawing any conclusions. It is necessary to repeat experiments again and yet again. One séance counts for nothing, two count for very little. To carry conviction I could not be satisfied with less than five or six, or more. At each, one learns something fresh and corrects some defect in the preceding ones. No doubt this is troublesome, difficult, and tedious, but science is not served by single observations; they must be repeated. It may be said that the first time one sees nothing; the second time one sees imperfectly; in a third, one sees fairly well; the fourth time one sees accurately.
For telekinesis the matter is simpler; there is no need of so many precautions to be sure that an object is moved without contact. A good light is sufficient, for in the dark the affair becomes much more complicated. If, however, there is a distinct movement of the object in the light that is in itself sufficient, and enough instances have been given to make it unnecessary to refer to them again.
But for materializations which, with some exceptions, are only produced in the dark, it is necessary to be very exacting as to the conditions.
Among the numerous accounts published, which are those that are worthy of acceptance?
A primary distinction, which is fundamental, must be made between professional and non-professional mediums; that is, between those who give paid séances to which the public are admitted, and those who do not.
1. It is quite obvious that no séances to which all and any persons are admitted on payment count for anything. However astonishing the cabinet of the Davenport brothers may be it is very certain that this cabinet does not differ from the trunk of metal or even of glass in which Robert Houdin or any other conjurer places a person who has been tied up by the audience. The trunk is covered with a rug, and after a little patter to pass the few minutes required for the trick, the rug is removed, the trunk opened, and the bound man is no longer there but is found untied in another box that was previously empty. This is an amusing trick, like the cabinet of the Davenports, the thought-reading by the Zancigs, by Lully, and others, but is no more scientific than the witches' dance in Faust.
Maskelyne and other clever conjurers have taken much pains to show so-called spiritist phenomena on the stage. It is easy for the operators and amusing for the public. By a system of skilfully disposed glasses the magician causes phantoms to appear. He pierces them with a sword and finds empty air: the illusion is complete. But these scenes in no way resemble our experiments: within the four walls of a chamber that has been duly searched a medium who has been undressed and clothed in a black smock can do nothing like that.
Professor Grasset has written a book on occultism,1 very full of detail. Though he does not believe in any metapsychic phenomena, whether subjective or objective, he makes a great effort to be impartial, and his impartiality compares favourably with the scepticism of the official scientists who refuse even to examine the facts. Neverthless Grasset is certainly unjust; he omits the experiments by Gibier, by Home, and by Florence Cook. He thinks,
1 L'occultisme hier et aujourd'huiLe merveilleux préscientifique, Montpellier, Contet,1908
like the ignorant public, that at the Villa Carmen, the coachman Aresky got into the room, that the experiments with Eusapia were nearly always fraudulent if not invariably so; he thinks Maskelyne right against Archdeacon Colley, though Maskelyne lost his case in a court of law. It is true that the second edition of Grasset's book dates from 1908, and great progress has been made in the last fourteen years and the experiments of the present day in no way resemble conjuring tricks. In some recent cases there seems to me no room at all for fraud.
2. Professional mediums who give private séances, for remuneration, more or less accessible to the public, are not to be trusted much more than those who give public séances. Even if the circle is a limited one, and composed of sincere and honourable persons, it is possible that some of these persons may be childishly credulous. The medium can then do as he likes; the circle believes in him and indeed no one who does not believe in him is allowed to be present. Under plea that the health of the medium must not be imperilled nor the brilliancy of the phenomena impaired, no investigation is permitted. These private séances are not, of course, absolutely of no account, but their results amount to very little, precise conditions being wanting. The best that can be said is that when a paid medium like Mme. Salmon with P. Gibier gives a series of séances before a small number of experimenters, in a room that does not belong to her, and submitting to rigorous conditions, safe conclusions may be drawn, though still under distinct reservations. When Miller came to Paris he would not accept the conditions imposed; nor would Bailey, nor Anna Roth.
For my own part I am inclined to think that the notable professional mediums have some real powers, for if they had not, they would never have chosen this singular profession. They are generally very ordinary men and women who have discovered in themselves strange capabilities which surprise them at first, and then are turned to a source of profit and made into a trade. The Fox sisters did this from the very beginning of their surprising manifestations.
It is therefore a mistake to neglect professional and paid mediums under the pretext that they make a trade of mediumship. They have to live, and it would be very unjust to reproach a medium for not giving time and health gratis. A medium has a right not only to considerate treatment but to payment, and this
payment is no more to be condemned than that accepted by a physician who cures us or by a musician who teaches us music. Powerful professional mediums are exceedingly few, though there are many who have some moderate powers. In all countries there are now private spiritist séances, to some of which it is exceedingly difficult to gain access, at which some man or woman endowed with certain powers gives regular séances to a small group of initiates. The number of such spiritualist circles is difficult to estimate; there are probably many more than is usually supposed.
The phenomena are sometimes very striking, but the credulity of the circle is such and the imprecision of observation so great, that these phenomena are lost to science. They are talked of here and there inaccurately, imperfectly, and without the needful detail. In order to judge of them fairly we must go to such incomplete accounts as are published, and these ought to be very strictly criticized. If all that is printed were accepted, to what illusions and follies should we not be committed; if all is rejected we may be neglecting important essential facts, useful to the advance of metapsychic science.
Fortunately when a medium is very powerful he soon gets a reputation, perhaps in spite of his own desires and those of his own circle: really striking and dazzling mediumship cannot remain secret. It is then the duty of experimentalists and men of science to make researches. Then experiments can be carried out scientifically like those conducted by Imoda, Schrenck-Notting, and Mme. Bisson, by Crookes and Varley, by General and Mme. Noel, and numerous other observers such as A. de Rochas, Lombroso, Finzi, Morselli, Foa, Oliver Lodge, Dariex, Maxwell, Schiaparelli, Ochorowicz, Bottazzi, who experimented with Eusapia, and Ochorowicz, with Stanislawa Tomczyk.
A true account of materializations is specially difficult because of all experiments it is these that most lend themselves to fraud. Thinking that they have a spirit before them, credulous persons lose their presence of mind; they are inclined to accept everything and to be indignant at precautions to avoid trickery. For my own part, having seen many materializations, I can declare that I have never felt the very slightest awe. My only preoccupation, and one that filled my whole being, was always not to be duped; and I found it hard to understand the emotion of some sitters when they have witnessed a good materialization.
Since fraud is the great danger in all such experiments, every possible precaution must be taken against it; the medium must be under the closest observation from which nothing distracts the watchers, all his clothes must be searched minutely, as also every object within his reach; no medium who has once been detected in gross fraud should ever be experimented with; photography should be used to show the exact conditions under which the apparition has occurred; the experiment must be often repeated; the control must never be relaxed; and the idea that the medium may be making efforts to deceive never be lost sight of and should dominate the mind of the observers.
The only decisive proof is to be able, after making quite certain that no stranger can have entered the séance room, to see, to touch, and especially to photograph the medium and the apparition on the same plate. Experiments of this kind are very few; it is therefore desirable that there should be more of them. Unfortunately, materialization is a phenomenon that few mediums can present with such perfection that both medium and apparition can be photographed on the same plate.
However, even when for various reasons it is impracticable to have the photographic confirmation which gives certainty, very good proofs can be obtained; and among these I will cite the following, which, after mature consideration, seems to me perfectly valid.
At Ribaud Island, experimenting with Eusapia in company with Sir Oliver Lodge, Frederic Myers, and J. Ochorowicz-three observers whose competence and honesty cannot be called in question—I held one of Eusapia's hands firmly in each of mine. I then felt a third hand touch my shoulder, my head, and my face. This was not in darkness; there was a lighted candle in the room.
All kinds of absurd hypotheses must here be eliminated: first that I was hallucinated-that is, disposed of by the fact that the slap on the shoulder given by John King was heard by all present; then that Myers, Lodge, or Ochorowicz should have perpetrated this bad joke; then that I had let go one of Eusapia's hands, which could not be, for my friends could all see her hands held far apart, one in each of mine. Further, the same phenomenon of the materialization of a hand while Eusapia's hands were held separate by one person has been observed by Oliver Lodge, by Myers, and by Ochorowicz.
I will cite, later, other cases of materialization equally decisive; I mention here only this one which seems to me to defy criticism.
It is interesting to study the conditions under which materializations are produced
Firstly the need of darkness. For one reason or another, none, or scarcely any, are produced in full light. This does not apply to Home who gave astonishing materializations in the light; but in most cases darkness is essential. Sometimes red light, such as is used by photographers, can be used, and when the medium is very powerful flashlight photographs can be taken. Nevertheless, darkness is usually so necessary that the medium must be protected by a curtain, notably at the beginnings of the phenomena. Only behind this curtain, even when the room is darkened, can the preliminary changes take place. This will cause sceptics to smile; but in point of fact what does darkness matter? Can darkness create a living face and produce a white veil?
As for the necessary physiological conditions, these are so inconstant, irregular, and fugitive that they cannot be indicated with any precision. Before the séance it is impossible to know whether the medium is in a satisfactory state to produce the phenomena or not. On one day the results will be excellent, and on the next, under the same conditions, nothing may occur.
Further, a considerable time, often a long time, is needed before anything appears; it may be necessary to wait for an hour, two hours, or even three hours before there is any manifestation. Sometimes, though seldom, the appearances begin as soon as the curtain is drawn. The materialized object is nearly always a shape of something human-a phantom. Sometimes, as with Eusapia, only a hand; sometimes, as with Florence Cook and Marthe Béraud, they are entire figures. Although the appearance of a whole figure is more dramatic than that of a stump taking shape behind a curtain, both phenomena are essentially the same. A warm, supple, resisting, articulated, and apparently living hand identical with a human hand in all points is not more extraordinary than a human personality that looks, walks, and speaks. The difficulty is the same: the abyss between normal and metapsychic science is as great whether there be the big, half-formed hand of John King behind the curtain or Bien Boa rising from the floor in front of it.
I shall not waste time in stating the absurdities, almost the impossibilities, from a psycho-physiological point of view, of this phenomenon. A living being, or living matter, formed under our eyes, which has its proper warmth, apparently a circulation of
blood, and a physiological respiration (as I proved by causing the form of Bien Boa to breathe into a flask containing baryta water), which has also a kind of psychic personality having a will distinct from the will of the medium, in a word, a new human being! This is surely the climax of marvels! Nevertheless it is a fact.
The criticisms that have been directed against my experiments and those of Crookes and of Stainton Moses are entirely ineffective. All that can be seriously alleged against them is that the phenomena are so exceptional that if they have been thought to be substantiated the experimenters must have been the dupes of an illusion.
I do not think this objection well founded. Crookes observed Katie King for a long time; Eusapia lent herself with admirable goodwill for twenty-five years to scientific investigation, even when it took absurd forms. More than thirty very sceptical scientific men were convinced, after long testing, that there proceeded from her body material forms having the appearances of life, which I shall describe farther on under the name of ectoplasms. Marthe Béraud, as good-natured as Eusapia, has been experimented with by General Noel, by G. Delanne, and myself at Algiers, by Schrenck-Notzing, J. Maxwell, Mme. Bisson, Dr. Geley, Dr. Bourbon, and many others. Home gave extraordinary phenomena of materializations for twenty years, verified by most illustrious personages, without ever having been detected in trickery.
The alternative, then, is that the phenomena are genuine or that they are due to fraud. I am very well aware that they are extraordinary, even so monstrously extraordinary that at first sight the hypothesis of immeasurable, repeated, and continual fraud seems the more probable explanation. But is such fraud possible? I cannot think so. When I recall the precautions that all of us have taken, not once, but twenty, a hundred, or even a thousand times, it is inconceivable that we should have been deceived on all these occasions.
It is true that some scientists say, I do not want to see or to study these things, for I know beforehand that they are not possible, therefore a priori, you have all been taken in by impostors.
This, however, involves two inadmissible assumptions. In the first place, it is not sufficient to say, You have been deceived; it is necessary to show how we have been deceived. When I hold both of Eusapia's hands and a third hand touches my forehead
and my shoulder, how can this miracle have taken place? Tell me that, and I may revise my opinion; till then it is unshakable. In the second place no one can rightly say a priori It is impossible. Human knowledge is so uncertain, so limited that the word impossible should never be used.
I say that tinder certain exceptional conditions-and I admit that these conditions are extremely exceptional-the semblance of a living hand is formed which has all the properties of a living hand and seems to belong to a being similar to a human being (!!). The new data contradict absolutely nothing that is taught us by science. It is a strange and astounding fact; but it is not absurd, it is only unusual.
Assuredly it is possible that I may be mistaken, even grossly mistaken, along with Crookes, De Rochas, Aksakoff, Myers, William James, Schiaparelli, Zollner, Fechner, and Oliver Lodge. It is possible that all of us have been deceived. It is possible that some day an unexpected experiment may explain our prolonged deception quite simply. So be it! but till it has been explained how we have all been duped by an illusion, I claim that the reality of these materializations must be conceded.
After all, on careful consideration, the absurdity does not seem so portentous as it appears at first sight. When I place my hand before a mirror, its image appears-reflection of light: the thermometer shows a reflection of heat; and a galvanometer, reflection of electricity. It is true that no effect is produced on a balance: but is it so very unreasonable to suppose that the projection of light, heat, and electricity might be associated with a projection of mechanical power? For the problem essentially and definitely works down to that. If the hand can act at a distance on a balance as it does on a thermometer, a mirror, or a galvanometer, it may give the sensation of contact to another person close by. Materialization is a mechanical projection: we already know the projection of light, of heat, and of electricity; it is not a very long step to think that a projection of mechanical energy may be possible. The remarkable demonstrations of Einstein show how close mechanical and luminous energy are to one another.
Many curious facts on the genesis of the materializations are observable, for only very rarely do materializations appear abruptly. They form by a concentration of matter round a central nucleus; much as a planet forms in a nebula, or cells by concentration of protoplasmic material.
It is probable, or rather it is certain, that the genesis differs with different mediums and according to conditions as yet illunderstood. I will endeavour to give an analytical summary, based on the materializations given by Miss Goligher, Marthe Béraud, and especially by Eusapia in whose case I have frequently and for a long time studied the process.
There first appears a more or less formless mass, which may not be even visible, but which can be felt and seems capable of mechanical action. One can hardly help imagining that movements of the table are due to this mechanical energy, this halfinvisible hand which presses out the curtain and whose resistance can be felt, while it persists in remaining in shadow. When the table is raised off all four legs, there is always one leg that remains in the shadow. These are the formations that I call ectoplasms, for they seem to emanate from Eusapia's actual body.1
This observation, which is a fact and not a hypothesis, has been confirmed at all points by Crawford's excellent work.
Sometimes these ectoplasms can be seen in process of organization; I have seen an almost rectilinear prolongation emerge from Eusapia's body, its termination acting like a living hand. Similarly in the formation of Bien Boa, at first the limbs appeared thin and stiff, like narrow stalks; little by little they thickened, taking the form of more or less solid limbs similar to normal limbs.
I have also, like Geley, Schrenck-Notzing, and Mme. Bisson, been able to see the first lineaments of materializations as they were formed. A kind of liquid or pasty jelly emerges from the mouth or the breast of Marthe which organizes itself by degrees, acquiring the shape of a face or a limb. Under very good conditions of visibility, I have seen this paste spread on my knee, and slowly take form so as to show the rudiment of the radius, the cubitus, or metacarpal bone whose increasing pressure I could feel on my knee.
These materializations are usually gradual, beginning by a rudimentary shape, complete forms and human faces only appearing later on. At first these formations are often very imperfect. Sometimes they show no relief, looking more like flat images than bodies, so that in spite of oneself one is inclined to imagine some fraud, since what appears seems to be the materialization of a semblance and not of a being. But in some cases the materialization is perfect.
1 Sir Oliver Lodge published in Light (April 27, 1921) a very interesting observation formerly made on this fact.
At the Villa Carmen I saw a fully organized form rise from the floor. At first it was only a white, opaque spot like a handkerchief lying on the ground before the curtain, then this handkerchief quickly assumed the form of a human head level with the floor, and a few moments later it rose up in a straight line and became a small man enveloped in a kind of white burnous, who took two or three halting steps in front of the curtain and then sank to the floor and disappeared as if through a trap-door. But there was no trap-door.1
And now to conclude, and having indicated the conditions necessary to a reliable experiment, to decide formally on an answer to the urgent and disturbing question
Is there such a thing as objective metapsychics?2
Strong arguments can be adduced for the reply, No, there are no objective metapsychics; no physical phenomena unknown to normal physics are ever produced. The arguments advanced to maintain this opinion may be stated as follows:
1 I claim here to refute an absurd legend. I was in no way tricked as some little newspapers of Algiers maintained. In the memorandum in which I gave the facts I made some formal reservations, showing some of the more serious objections that I myself made. But no notice was taken either of what I affirmed or of my objections, so that the criticisms that I myself put forward remain. They do not, however, seem decisive to me. As for the objections made by others, they count for nothing.
I conclude, as did my illustrious precursor, Sir William Crookes, I have nothing to withdraw from what I said in 1904; but on the contrary, the excellent experiments subsequently made with the same medium, Marthe, by Mme. Bisson, Schrenck-Notzing, and Geley strikingly confirm our experiences at the Villa Carmen.
As to Eusapia, who has often been suspected of fraud, nothing was ever proved against her. On the contrary, after some doubtful experiments at Cambridge, I asked Myers to come back to see her. He came to my house, and there was then a memorable sitting at which the phenomena were so distinct that I solemnly adjured Myers to declare that there was no trickery, and that the movement of objects at a distance without contact was authentic and undeniable. My lamented friends, Professors Boirac and Flournoy, both of them experienced men of science, were present at that séance and were completely convinced of the reality of movements without contact, i.e., of a materialization, since according to all likelihood, raps and movements of objects are the first stages of materializations in their invisible aspect.
2 See the remarkable study by Petrovo Solovovo, Les phénomènes physiques du spiritisme, quelques dificultés, P S P R., 1911, 413-447, with a reply by Oliver Lodge, A priori arguments against physical phenomena, ibid., 447454. But it is permissible to think that Petrovo Solovovo was strongly influenced by the deception he had resented when, in his experiments with Sambor, it was proved that one of his own personal friends had deceived him; a thing that is both unpleasant and infrequent. In most cases there are no confederates.
1. As Laplace said, the more extraordinary the fact, the more rigorous should be the demonstration. In this case the stricter the conditions the fewer the phenomena become.
2. The more latitude there is for fraud (liberated hands, darkness, absence of scrutiny) the more apparent are the phenomena.
3. All mediums have tricked, perhaps even Home. In any case, if they have not consciously deceived, they have done so unconsciously during their trances. Therefore fraud is always possible.
4. Conjurers, even those of quite moderate ability, can produce much more remarkable illusions than the most powerful mediums. Unless very well versed in legerdemain no one can imagine how completely an ordinary trick conjurer can illusionize.
None of the experiments in direct writing carried out with mediums are of value by reason of the many very easy tricks worked every day, which have grossly deceived even distrustful persons.
5. No observers can maintain continuous attention and observation for two or three hours.
6. All the wonders attributed to the Fox sisters, to Mme. d'Espérance, Florence Cook, Eglinton, Slade, Bailey, Eldred, Miller, and A. Roth must be eliminated, for with them there was evident fraud. There then remain only the experiments with Home, Stainton Moses, and Eusapia. Now these with Eusapia were vehemently contested at Cambridge and in America. The facts recorded of Home were observed by Crookes only; and those alleged of Stainton Moses are derived entirely from himself and from Mr. and Mrs. Speer, who were his intimate friends and much prepossessed in his favour.
In the final analysis, nothing at all remains where everything is so strange and unlikely that multiplied and superabundant proofs are necessary. In proportion as the control increases in severity the phenomena diminish.
Conclusion: In the matter of objective metapsychics, the unlikely phenomena of telekinesis, ectoplasms, and apports have so far never been proved. If anything is proved, it is that there are no such things.
Such are the objections that can be alleged against objective metapsychics ; and it will be granted that I have not minimized them. These doubts have occurred to me hundreds of times, and I know, better than anyone else, the full force of these arguments. Nevertheless, I do not think them well founded, and I am firmly convinced that there are real physical metapsychic phenomena.
(1) Negative evidence can establish nothing. Certain and positive facts, if substantiated, carry formal proof. When Crookes saw, in full light, a pencil rise and write; when Ochorowicz, also in full light, saw a chair come towards him; when a third hand stroked my face while I held both of Eusapia's hands; no doubt is possible, and the demonstrations are valid per se. I quote only these three facts; there are hundreds of others, some of which I shall mention later on.
(2) Mediums are not, unless by some rare exception, skilled in legerdemain. Movements of objects and raps have been verified under unexceptionable conditions so often that even Petrovo Solovovo, despite his scepticism, says (p. 415) a truly impartial investigator cannot reject them. And if telekinesis and raps are admitted, other physical phenomena are possible.
(3) Even if Home and Eusapia were the only mediums, telekinesis would have to be admitted. Thanks to these two excellent mediums, we have such an assemblage of documents, proofs, and rigorous experiments, conducted by so many different men of science, that no doubt can outweigh them. Myers, Feilding, and Carrington, all sceptical, have accepted them after careful examination. In the whole of physics and physiology, there is no phenomenon that has been more rigidly and repeatedly tested.
There are many other incontestable instances of telekinesis: for instance, if all that Mr. and Mrs. Speer have written concerning Stainton Moses is to be rejected, we must suppose that they were not merely illusionized but were impostors; which is absurd.
(4) There are so many records of collective hallucinations, collected with such care and attested with such exactitude by persons of unquestionable good faith, that it is not possible to reject them, any more than the non-collective hallucinations. Now from the moment that there is collective perception, there is some degree of objectivity.
(5) The facts of experimental (ectoplasmic) materializations have been observed too often and with too much precision to reject them all.
The question is not properly framed; it is said, It is for you to prove that a materialization has taken place. I reply, It is for you to prove in any given case that there was fraud. It is not sufficient to say, Fraud was possible, therefore there was fraud. The fraud must be proved, and this has hardly ever been done. The onus probandi lies on those who discredit a given experiment.
(6) It is absurd, because the physical phenomenon occurring in a direct experiment is not understood, to aver that all physical phenomena are false. Taking the example of the attraction of the magnet for iron, Cicero had already said, Fiat, necne fiat id quaeritur . . . si rationem cur id fiat afferre nequeam, fieri omnino neges. Must a phenomenon be denied because we do not understand its mechanism? This seems to me contrary to all sound scientific method.
(7) That there are doubtful and even fictitious phenomena is no reason for rejecting all. There might be telekinesis without ectoplasms. There may be ectoplasms without apports. There is no need to consider these phenomena indissolubly connected doubt with regard to one of them does not invalidate others. Proofs of telekinesis that seem to me sufficient and even superabundant, exist. Ectoplasms seem to me to be demonstrated with equal rigor, though these phenomena are more dramatic and extraordinary. On the other hand, apports, levitations, and bilocations are doubtful. Slate-writing is almost always produced by skilful legerdemain. Photographs of phantoms and moulded impressions in paraffin still call for more thorough study.
In fine, there are incontestable physical phenomena in metapsychic science.
To deny them at the present time is to ignore phenomena fundamentally new that open up a promising avenue to new discoveries in science; and to remain in the old ruts with which blind official science has so long been satisfied.
And a definite conclusion follows. Since the proofs for some phenomena of objective metapsychics (though not for all) are insufficient, experimentation must be started ab ovo, from the very beginning.
Following the example of Descartes, we ought to make a clean sweep of all that has been said and written on the subject. The facts of ectoplasms and telekinesis are certain; but their mechanism is profoundly mysterious; therefore let us experiment again and again. We shall certainly reap the reward.
One of the most characteristic phenomena, which, when well observed by a cool-headed experimenter, brings absolute conviction is that the materialized hand melts in the hand of the observer (Delanne, chapter on phantasmal hands that melt, ii, 695).
Damiani, holding the hands of Eusapia, has felt the fluidic hands of John melt and dissolve (Delanne, Apparitions matérialisses ii, 163).
Once, says Crookes, I held one of Katie's hands in mine, resolved not to let it go. No attempt or effort was made to release it, but little by little the hand seemed to dissolve into vapour, and it thus disengaged itself from my grasp (Delanne, ibid., 167).
I have unfortunately never been able to verify this decisive phenomenon. With Marthe Béraud and with Eusapia I have several times endeavoured to obtain it, but always in vain; but that is no reason for denying the fact verified by Crookes, Damiani, and others.
Morselli, experimenting with Eusapia, says, If one grasps the (fluidic) hands one feels the skin, the warmth, the mobile fingers and then the hand seems to dissolve.
Venzano (also with Eusapia) says that the members are in all respects similar to human members, but vanish from the grasp without leaving a trace.
F. Bottazzi, a learned physiologist whose testimony is that of an observer well used to delicate analysis of all experimental conditions, says that a hand (from Eusapia) melted and dissolved in his grasp. A little later, another hand placed on his head vanished from his hold. Again with Eusapia, M. Barzini, the distinguished journalist of the Corriere della Sera, says, The hands did not escape me, they seemed to melt; they failed from between my fingers, and collapsed, like hands that softened and vanished. M. Falcomer, observing a medium named Rostagno, seized a fluidic hand which collapsed. In an experiment that Crookes was making with Florence Cook, Mr. Tapp took hold of Katie's wrist. He says, Her wrist gave way under my grasp like a piece of thin card or paper, and my fingers met through her arm as if it were fluid.
In a séance described by De Rochas (A. S. P., 1908, xviii, 280) the circle joined hands round the medium, F. M. Montorgueil, taking hold of a hand that was touching his face with some fabric, called for light. The hand melted in his, and all of us, says De Rochas, thought we saw a luminous trail from his hand to F.'s body. If one could be rigorously certain of M. Montorgueil's observation, that would be first-rate evidence.
These phenomena are very remarkable, not only from the theoretical point of view with respect to ectoplasms, but because they furnish decisive proof of their objectivity. No legerdemain can produce a living hand that melts in the hand that holds it. I have seen the form of Bien Boa disappear into the floor under my eyes, but a visual sensation is not nearly so certain as a tactile one.
Many other observers have seen dematerializations ; the best known and best verified is still that of Katie King.
Mr. Oxley, experimenting with a medium named Mrs. Firmin, claims to have seen the apparition of the materialized Betty which seemed to dissolve: first the feet, then gradually the whole body and the head disappeared leaving only a small white spot which soon vanished (Delanne, loc. cit., ii, 268).
In a remarkable series of experiments, Dr. P. Gibier saw the form of Lucie, which had grown under his eyes, subside at his feet like a house of cards, disappearing exactly as Bien Boa disappeared before my own eyes. Lucie disappeared by degrees in two seconds at most as she had come, but this time some twenty inches in front of the curtains beside which I was standing. The curtains did not move. . . . Just as the last white spot was disappearing from the carpet where the figure had been, I stooped down and put my hand upon it, but could feel nothing.
It is absurd to imagine a hallucination; and the only possible normal explanation would be that the figure was an image reflected by a mirror. But this will not hold, for this phantasm of Lucie breathed and spoke; she even caused the light veil that enveloped her like a cloud to touch Dr. Gibier and Dr. L.
Materialized phantoms therefore disappear just like the subjective visions that so often accompany monitions of death. Are they both constituted of similar substance? -if we may speak of substance which vanished without leaving a trace.
But the fundamental (not invariable) difference between accidental and experimental ectoplasms is that in these latter there is real matter, capable of exerting mechanical force, whereas in the former (accompanying monitions of death) it would seem that in the vast majority of cases there is nothing but a shade in the popular sense of the word, a reflection, or simulacrum. The experimental ectoplasms are in no sense shadows.
It has been asked how there can be materializations of clothes? This objection is somewhat naïve, for the materialization of a hand is no easier to understand than of the glove that covers it. It is, however, clear that materialization may be of inanimate objects and not of the human body only. The garments are usually veils or draperies, usually white, like muslin, produced by the
gradual transformation of the whitish and more or less luminous cloud with which the apparition begins. The striking experiments of Mme. Bisson and Schrenck-Notzing give us valuable information on these ectoplasmic forms: there seems to be a genesis from an embryo.
It would seem that the materialization of garments discredits somewhat the hypothesis that a deceased human being should materialize. Prima facie it was unlikely that a body dissolved by putrefaction or disintegrated by cremation should be reconstructed, though the wild hypothesis of an astral body (!) might be advanced. But what about the astral presentment of a garment, a hat, an eye-glass, or a walking-stick? This is the height of folly. It seems to me much wiser to verify without pretending to understand, and to admit that any explanation we can give can hardly escape being ridiculous.
Instead of claiming that unknown powers pertaining to deceased humanity are capable of producing these phenomena, it is better to admit that we are dealing with facts as yet inexplicable, and await further elucidation.1 But there is no reason to deny a fact because it is inexplicable. Can anyone have the unpardonable presumption to claim to give an adequate explanation of all natural phenomena? In metapsychics we come up against the inexplicable at every turn. True, but is it not much the same in physics, in chemistry, and in physiology? Why, then, always try to put forward a theory which is foredoomed to futility? We must wait till new facts and fresh observations enable us to adopt some new interpretation, which will doubtless be an unexpected one.
As regards the substance of materializations our ignorance is painful. Some facts (too infrequent to allow of definite conclusions) would seem to imply that this substance can outlast a materialization. Katie gave Crookes a lock of her hair. I kept the hair that Phygia permitted me to cut from her head. Mme. d'Espérance allowed sitters to cut off pieces of the drapery surrounding her.
Equally obscure is the question of apports. Either matter can pass through matter, or matter can be created; and both of these two statements are equally extraordinary.
As to the passage of matter through matter the most striking
1 In the childhood of the race lunar eclipses were ascribed to a dragon devouring the moon. Our notion that materializations are produced by supernatural beings is not much more reasonable
experiment is that made by P. Gibier, who having shut Mme. Salmon in a cage constructed by himself, saw her come out from it. Sundry alleged facts of the same kind are given in the spiritualist journals and in Mme. Frondoni-Lacombe's book. They are all very doubtful; possible, perhaps, but as yet unproven; the accounts by Stainton Moses notwithstanding.
The same or greater uncertainty pertains to apports. Up to the present there is not a single case whose genuineness has been established. On the contrary, as soon as close analysis is brought to bear, fraud is disclosed, as in the cases of Bailey and Anna Roth.
I do not deny apports. It would be rash to deny anything in metapsychics : I only say they are unproven.
The materialization of hands is absolutely certain, and likewise that of faces and whole bodies, though hands alone have been seen much more often; but no satisfactory proof of apports or of the passage of matter through matter has been brought forward and it is wise to reserve judgment.
What does seem to be proved (and it is a relief to find a positive fact in the midst of so much uncertainty), is that the ectoplasms in most cases emerge from the body of the medium; hence the word ecto-plasm. The experiments of Mme. Bisson and Dr. Schrenck-Notzing establish this important fact. Gelatinous projections come from the mouth or the shoulders of Marthe. I saw the arm of Bien Boa formed in this way. At first it resembled a thin, rigid rod covered with drapery. Little by little this rod thickened under the drapery and became a stretched-out arm. The same phenomenon was very clearly observable with Eusapia. A kind of supplementary arm seemed to come from her body. Once I saw a long, stiff rod proceed from her side, which after great extension had a hand at its extremity-a living hand warm and jointed, absolutely like a human hand.
The ectoplasmic formations with other mediums were doubtless of the same nature.
Russel Wallace, experimenting with Dr. Monck, saw a light, whitish vapour appear on the left side of Monck's coat. Its density increased. White flakes, like snowflakes, moved in the air extending from the floor to the height of his shoulder. Then this cloud separated from the medium sufficiently to take on the semblance of a woman in flowing white draperies. Then all returned into the body of the medium (Delanne, loc. cit., 644).
Mr. Mitchiner observed a white vapour emerge from Eglinton's side, wreathe itself round his feet, then gradually form a column which took on the aspect of a tall, fine-looking man with a black beard. Eglinton was perfectly visible during the whole time, and a kind of umbilical cord connected him with the nebulous form. After a short time, Eglinton being seated, the form seemed to dissolve into his body at the level of the chest. A. de Rochas, experimenting with Mme. d'Espérance, saw a luminous vapour, like the Milky Way, emerge from her breast.
It is not necessary that the sequence of materializations should always be the same; there may be differences of power in various mediums. With the exceptionally powerful, such as Home and Florence Cook, the materialization is rapid and complete, and the ectoplasm is separate from the first; with others, also very powerful, like Eglinton, Mme. d'Espérance, and Marthe Béraud, separation from the ectoplasm does not take place at once and the reality of the phantom is very transitory. With Eusapia and Stainton Moses the forms are much less defined; only very rarely can an independent apparition, autonomous and separate from the medium, be seen.
Provisionally, the sequence of materialization phenomena, as observed with Eusapia, may be stated as follows: At first, touches and raps produced both easily and frequently; this is the first stage, in which nothing is visible, for the material energy disengaged from her body is formless. In the second stage the hand is formed, but still cannot be seen, though it can execute well-defined mechanical actions, can take hold of a bell or a book, and can touch one's head with fingers that are felt to be warm and jointed. Finally in the third stage, which was rarely reached in my experiments with Eusapia, the hand becomes visible and can be photographed.
In a still rarer, fourth stage, not only a hand but a whole body is formed and detached. Vassallo, Porro, Morselli, and Bottazzi have been able to witness these complete materializations.
Luminous phenomena are relatively frequent. I know that these lend themselves to simulation, at least when they take the form of wandering lights which move like sparks before the sitters and disappear. I know that these can be imitated with little phosphorescent projections, but no one has perceived any odour of phosphorus after these lights, and the trick is not easy when both hands of the medium are held as Eusapia's were, and she continues
to talk. This excludes the hypothesis of little particles of phosphorus held in her mouth, which has actually been advanced (??).
Such a use of phosphorus is, as a matter of fact, impossible when the medium has been searched, undressed, her hands held, and when, as with Eusapia at Ribaud Island, there was no phosphorus at her disposal. On some occasions (though not very often) Ochorowicz and I have seen small green lights, like eyes, oblique in shape, floating about in the air. In Paris, in Milan, in Rome, and Montfort-l'Amaury, other observers have verified the same. I have myself recently seen it at Warsaw with several mediums under unexceptionable conditions.
Nearly all noted mediums—Eglinton, Mme. d'Espérance, and Florence Cook—have produced luminous phenomena.
Mr. Livermore, experimenting with Kate Fox (a medium open to suspicion), thus describes the phenomenon: 1
A spherical ovoid of light rises from the floor as high as our foreheads and places itself on the table in front of us. At my request the light immediately became so bright as to light up that part of the room. We saw perfectly the form of a woman holding the light in her outstretched hand. Livermore does not say if Kate Fox was herself also seen at this moment.
With Home, luminous phenomena were very frequently observed.2 Sometimes it was a small luminous ball floating in the air; sometimes small phosphorescent lights, occasionally much brighter effects.a bright beam of sunshine flooding us with light, and a beautiful rainbow appeared in the heavens, sometimes wandering lights touched the sitters and gave the impression of contact with a foreign body. In one remarkable case Lindsay and Charlie saw, as it were, tongues of fire on Home's head.
1 At this point there occurred a singular instance of cryptesthesia. I had broken off my writing at the word phenomenon above, on Monday, February 9th, at 4.30 P.m. Leaving the paper on my desk, I went out to make an experiment with Stella, who had never been into my house. She knew in a general way that I was engaged on a treatise on metapsychics, but had, of course, never seen a line of it. That day I interrogated her with the planchette on a lost will (result absolutely nil), and instead of an answer on this subject I received Helios I make by radiation, a phrase which applies curiously to the last sentence I was writing at my own house.
This may be a coincidence, though I do not think so, but even so it is worth noting. My hands were not on the table and the word Helios surprised me greatly. Stella knows no Greek, but knows the meaning of Helios. The Phrase given by the planchette seems to be the logical sequel to the interrupted sentence in my MS.
2 Experiments on spiritualism by Viscount Adare, s. l. n. d. (London, 1869), PP. 13, 38. 52. 6o, 65, 76, 83, 88, 89, 114, 124.
With Stainton Moses the lights were frequent, sometimes very bright,1 appearing like reflected lights (from what source?) columns of phosphorescent vapour or diffused light like that of a comet, or like stars; in short, most varied forms. These lights were observed sometimes by S. Moses himself, sometimes by Mr. and Mrs. Speer. The good faith of these observers is not to be impugned; though we may suppose that Stainton Moses, when alone, may have been liable to visual hallucinations.
Hyslop (Am. J. S. P. R., 1912, 190) has reported that Anna Burton produced lights when in a state of trance. Such lights could not have appeared four feet away from her even if she had had lucifer matches of phosphorized oil, for she had been carefully undressed and clothed in special garments before the experiment. It was, however, noticed that in one case her saliva was phosphorescent, which detracts somewhat from the authenticity of the phenomenon, though in view of the very poisonous nature of phosphorus, it is difficult to imagine that she could keep phosphorous matches in her mouth. Besides, even if this were admitted, it is not easy to see how lights of the kind described could appear.
E. Bozzano (A. S. P., 1909, xix, 82) has observed thin whitish fluidic filaments proceeding from each of the joints of Eusapia's fingers.
J. Ochorowicz has insisted on the luminous flashes that proceeded from Stanislawa Tomczyk, with whom he made some very good experiments. He reminds us that MacNab had obtained them also. Wandering lights are often seen with Eusapia, small green lights which I have seen sometimes, but rarely. It is improbable that these lights are akin to the luminous aureole more or less like that of the saints, which emanates from the body of some mediums. Commandant Darget has studied these lights and tried to photograph them, but, as G. de Fontenay has shown, it is likely that there are photographic errors. The same holds good for H. Baraduc's negatives.
1 Consult especially The experiences of W. Stainton Moses, P. S. P. R., x 1895, 24-114.
Photographic studies of luminous emanations from mediums, resembling clouds, flashes, or bright vapour, are still too uncertain to allow of any definite conclusions. It seems, however, especially since Ochorowicz's able work, that a series of valuable researches might be undertaken on this; but there are two necessary conditions; both difficult to secure-a powerful medium (for it is averred that only mediums have this power) and an experimenter who is at once a good psychologist and a skilled photographer.1
In certain cases, loud and extraordinary sounds, which are assuredly objective, are heard. Near Stainton Moses very loud sounds are described by Dr. and Mrs. Speer. The sounds that Grocyn (the so-called guide of Stainton Moses) drew from his invisible instrument were so powerful as to resemble those that a giant might draw from a huge violoncello . . . they were sometimes such as to produce terror . . . they were like a double bass played on a big drum and plucked like a guitar. Dr. Speer says, Up to then we had not heard the sound of wind-instruments, when there resounded a loud trumpet-call between Stainton and myself. This sound was repeated several times. . . . One evening we heard the sound of bells in the garden following us about . . . in the room, where there were no
1 To show the extreme difficulty of good photographic experiments, it is sufficient to recall the fruitless and laborious endeavours of G. Le Bon, an experienced photographer, with what he calls dark light. So also the N-rays, which have not been demonstrated, though studied and described by eminent physicists. In such matters experientia fallax, judicium ductile I shall therefore not consider the photographs received by A de Rochas from one of his relations, a very sincere person, M. de B. (A. S. P., 1905, xv, 582). Is it certain that M. de B.'s brother-in-law has not imagined a spirit-photograph? which is so easy to make. Regarding faked photographs, consult A. de Rochas (A. S. P., 908, viii, 9-15) ; Darget (A. S. P., 1909, xix, 20-26) ; Julia Rosenkrantz (A. S. P., 1909, xix, 361-365). E. Morselli has published an erudite and witty article on this subject, with some amusing photographs (A. S. P., 1908, xviii, 1 159
The genuineness of so-called psychic photographs is still a matter of dispute, for there have been lamentable trickeries. Mr. Allerton S. Cushman obtained An Evidential Case of Spirit Photography (published under that title in the J. S. P. R., April, 1922, pp. 132-147). Mr. and Mrs. Cushman of Washington came to England quite unexpectedly without making their intention known to anyone. They went to the British College of Psychic Science at 59 Holland Park, London, and not finding Mr. Hope of Crewe, they had an interview with Mrs. Deane, another psychic photographer. On one of the negatives taken there appears a face very like that of a young daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cushman who had died eighteen months before. It cannot be supposed that this portrait is a reproduction of any existing portrait for none such was taken to the College, and the attitudes are different, especially the direction of the eyes. The whole question is the degree of resemblance between the psychic image and the dead girl. It must be admitted that the resemblance to the normal portrait is so close as to be almost identical (Second edition).
musical instruments, the carillon continued, giving the effect of a brilliant concerto on the piano.1
Stainton Moses showed many other objective phenomena which must be considered genuine unless we admit the absurd hypothesis of willful deceit on the part of three honourable persons who risked persecution, ridicule, and hostility by publishing them and could get nothing by doing so but abuse and calumnies.
Sometimes perfumes exuded from his head, and the more they were wiped away the more abundant they became.
Direct writing was obtained. Dr. Speer, being alone in the room, took a sheet of music paper, placed it on a bureau with a pencil, and left the room, locking the door after him. He never lost sight of the door, and no one could enter the room; but on his return the paper was covered with writing. This instance of direct writing, he says, is one of the most satisfying proofs we have ever received.
There were also lights, weak at first, but gradually becoming very bright, like torches. Mrs. Speer says that one of these luminous nuclei came on to the table, skimmed round the heads of the sitters, struck against the ceiling, and went to the top of the door, giving out a sound whenever it touched anything. Sometimes a hand could be seen holding the light, a hand quite different from that of Stainton Moses. One day one of these lights rose from the floor through the table as if it were no obstacle. Once such a light remained visible for half an hour.
Mr. Podmore, convinced that there are no objective phenomena and that there cannot be any, has tried, without adducing the semblance of proof, to maintain that Stainton Moses was a great neuropath, a hysteric, deceiving for the sake of deceiving, moved by a kind of half-morbid, half-unconscious knavery. These insinuations against the good faith and honesty of Stainton Moses will not hold. F. Myers had a great admiration for him. Dr. Johnson, his medical attendant, states that he was a man of great intellectual capacity, methodical, well balanced, and a steady worker. It would be necessary also to incriminate Dr, and Mrs. Speer and other honourable witnesses.
In fine, it is not to be imagined that these luminous phenomena are explicable as hallucination or as fraud. Hallucination is one of those ridiculous hypotheses which are as inadmissible in meta
1 Bozzano, Pour la défense de Stainton Moses, A. S. P., 1905, xv, 76-129
psychics as in any other science. An observer is never hallucinated. When he reads 38.55 on a thermometer it is because that is the temperature indicated. If he sees a light or hears a sound, or perceives an odour, it is because there is an objective fact that produces these sensations.
Fraud, of course, is always possible; but phosphorescent balls which give no odour of phosphorus, luminous appearances round the head, or luminous hands are phenomena that no medium can produce by trickery after he has been carefully searched.
Nevertheless, luminosity is so strange a fact that further proofs must be required; methodical research is necessary. We must wait till we have mediums capable of producing luminous phenomena, like Home, Eusapia, Stainton Moses, and Eglinton, and then endeavour to scrutinize the conditions yet more closely than our illustrious predecessors did.
The production of sounds and scents belongs to the same group of physical phenomena as ectoplasms. Again it is from Home and Moses that most of the data are drawn, and again new experiments to verify and intensify the effects produced by these celebrated and powerful mediums are desirable.
It would have been valuable that these luminosities should have been established by photography, but up to the present, apart from the experiments by Crookes, Mme. Bisson, Schrenck-Notzing, Imoda, and Ochorowicz, the results in this direction are but poor.
The painful imperfection of the old spiritist photographs may be seen from the book published by Dr. Foveau de Courmelles at the instigation of M. Emmanuel Vauchez. Despite all my goodwill I cannot consider most of these faces as authentic.
Only very simple-minded persons could accept the photographs by Dr. Th. Haumann of Washington. Almost all the photographs which show doubles result either from photographic errors or from a very easy trick. Double exposure, easily done by the least skilful, gives a very good imitation of a phantom or a materialized face.
Photographs of a form that is visible to the experimenters is totally different from these. Unless there is gross trickery (as in the case of Ofélia Corralès at Costa Rica), photography has the great merit that it defines the phenomenon and registers details that a rapid glance may have passed over. However, in certain
cases, methodical, prolonged, and conscientious observation is nearly as valid as photography. The shock of the flashlight often arrests the phenomena and then the successive stages of their production cannot be followed, as I was able to do with Marthe Béraud.
But as to doubles, effluvia, portraits of the deceased, of phantoms invisible to the sitters and perceptible only on the photographic plate, I do not think that anything decisive has yet been produced. What the eye does not see the plate rarely registers. The whole question of human effluvia, thought forms (as Commandant Darget has endeavoured to demonstrate them) must be studied anew from the very beginning. Whatever Sir A. Conan Doyle may claim, it must be stated that, despite many attempts, nothing reliable has been proved.1
Photographic evidence of this kind is always to be received with caution, unless the exact conditions under which the negative was taken are known. Mr. Arthur Hill, in the Occult Review of March, 1910, gives a remarkable case, though he raises some doubts and with some reason. A photographer at S in Lincolnshire, named Binns, not a spiritualist and making no pretensions to anything of the kind, when developing the photograph of a client-a farmer named Warren-saw the superimposed face of a certain Mr. Ground, a cousin of Warren's, of whose existence Binns did not know. This man Ground was dying in a hospital about fifteen miles away. The plate was taken from a fresh packet. Mr. Ground had never been photographed since his childhood. Everything seems to point to an authentic fact. But we can scarcely draw this conclusion without further proof.
After a detailed study which is a model of methodical argument, Mr. Walter F. Prince concludes that the number of so-called spirit photographs representing Mr. Bocock are due to fraud: and he adds, very justly, that there is not as yet any completely satisfactory proof of spirit photography (Am. S. P. R., March, 1920, 585).
It is difficult to contest that pronouncement, but it applies only to the cases when the head or the form is invisible to the sitters; in these latter cases criticism should be directed to the control of the medium and not to the photographic process.
1 To judge of the extreme difficulty of transcendental photography, the book by Gde Fontenay, La Photographie et l'étude des phénomènes psychiques, Paris (Gauthier Villars. 1912) may profitably be read.
After treating of ectoplasms, some other peculiar facts should be mentioned that find no place among ordinary ectoplasmic phenomena. These are mostly due to Home.
The most astounding experiments with Home, prior to those by Crookes, are described in a very rare book 1 of which only fifty copies were printed. I owe my knowledge of it to J. Maxwell.
It deals with private experiments made by Viscount Adare in 1867 and 1868, when Home was at his house. Viscount Adare did not intend these reports, which were letters addressed to his father, for general circulation. In his introduction he says, I have omitted mention of the precautions taken against trickery, collusion, and other fraudulent acts; for I have been convinced that precautions were needless, having invariably found that the phenomena were such as could only be produced by an intelligence invisible indeed but active and acting from reason.
The absence of such indications of the precautions taken against conscious or unconscious fraud by Home causes some misgivings, but as all the details have been very carefully noted by Viscount Adare these wonderful séances can be reconstructed and we can suppose that deceptions difficult, and by the nature of the phenomena, almost impossible, were not practised. We may admit that Viscount Adare, Lord Dunraven, Mr. Jencken, Major Blackburn, and the other honourable and educated sitters would have needed to be terribly blinded by credulity to have failed in unmasking gross and palpable frauds continued for two years. And it must be remembered that when Crookes took many and rigorous precautions nearly the same phenomena were produced.
To adhere strictly to the plan of the present book as a treatise on metapsychics, the telekinesis, raps, levitations, and other singular phenomena reported by Viscount Adare should be treated in separate chapters ; but it is perhaps better, at the risk of departing from the logical order, to summarize in one place the extraordinary facts that he narrates.
Movements without contact were frequent; an accordion, of which Home only held one side, played a melody singularly well. This was in the light. Raps were heard over the whole room at the same time (pp. 2-4).
In a room completely darkened (p. 13) Home sat at the piano,
1 Experiences in spiritualism with Mr. D. D. Home, by Viscount Adare, with introductory remarks by the Earl of Dunraven. London. Thomas Scott, 1869 (?).
and this piano rose from the ground, first about an inch, and then about fifteen inches. That day Home's body was elongated (??), Viscount Adare says that no error was possible. His ordinary height is five feet eight inches; he elongated to six feet five and one-half inches.
The table rose into the air seventeen times, as stated in the index to the chief phenomena at the beginning of the book (xxivxxv). Once it rose seventeen inches and remained at that height for a considerable time (p 109). In the experiment of March 12, 1869, a table with four legs placed twenty-one inches from Home's chair rose in the air while no one was touching it and settled gently on another table on which were a number of objects, without touching any of them. During all that time strange noises were heard, like voices, and the table was shaken by strong vibrations. On the 29th of March, in the light, the table rose to a height of twenty-three inches, swaying in the air, and after remaining at that height for a few seconds rose farther to at least five feet and then came down with a noise like a railway train.
Levitations were frequent, and still more frequent the elongations, this latter a singular phenomenon very susceptible of mistake, for which we have no parallel. Home was placed against the wall, Adare being in front of him; then his arms seemed to lengthen and his breast to swell. Home said to me, 'Adare, you see the extension is from the chest.' He again placed himself against the wall and extended his arms to their ordinary stretch. I made a pencil mark on the wall at the ends of his fingers. He then lengthened his left arm and I made a fresh mark; then his right arm, which I also marked. The total elongation, measured in this way, was nine and one-half inches.
This experiment is much less conclusive than would appear at first sight; for the voluntary power of extension of the arms is variable so that this elongation is far from being an authentic fact, and it is better not to make much of it.
Apparitions of hands, touches, and lights round the head were frequent.
I will give only a few details of a levitation and a fire test, from Adare's book, slightly abridged.
On the 16th of December, at Buckingham Gate (p. 82) in presence of Viscount Adare, Captain Charlie Wynne, and the Master of Lindsay, Home elongated and rose into the air. Then he said, Do not be frightened, and on no account leave your
chairs. Then Lindsay said, It is too horrible. He has passed through the window to the next room, and is coming in at that window. Then, says Viscount Adare, we heard Home in the next room; he came back through the window, sat down, and began to laugh. I laugh, said he, to think that if a policeman had seen me how surprised he would have been to see a man come through the window and float along the wall. Adare, come with me. We went into the adjoining room. I opened the window which he went through headfirst, his body being nearly horizontal and apparently rigid. Then he returned and we went into the next room. The rooms were on the third floor.
Other strange things were seen-a form like a bird flying and whistling in the room, tongues and jets of fire from Home's head; then as it were the blast of a strong wind, the most weird thing I ever heard.
The fire test is more astonishing still. At Norwood in the house of Mrs. Hennings (p. 68), Home first gave Adare the power to raise a book by placing his hand flat above it: at one moment there was an interval of more than two inches between the hand and the book. Then he went to the fireplace, took out a burning coal twice as large as an orange, put it on his hand and walked about the room showing it. He then gave us his hands to smell, which instead of having any odour of burning were scented; he replaced the coal in the fire, and kneeling down placed his face right among the burning coals, moving it about as though bathing it in water!! Then he held his hands some time over the flame of a candle. He took the lighted coal again into his hands and blew on it to quicken it. He asked me to touch it: I did so and took it into my two hands, he put his hands over it, and we held the lighted coal in our four hands; I hardly felt any heat.
The same astounding experiment was repeated on April 3d at Astley House (p. 147). This séance was remarkable; it is corroborated by Mr. S. C. Hall. A lighted coal was placed on Mr. Hall's head, and his white hair was combed over the coal, and left four or five minutes (p. 178) : the hair was not burned: a few moments later this coal was so hot that one could not bear one's face near it.
We must hold in suspense belief in these unheard-of facts till new proofs have been given; but there have been so many rash denials already in metapsychic matters that we ought to be cautious in our negations. These experiences are not comparable to
the celebrated ordeal by fire that certain fakirs provide for the delectation of the public, for to them all verification is wanting, and the precise conditions are not revealed. Possibly abundant perspiration after quick walking might suffice to prevent burning (??).
In any case, if the narrative of Lord Adare, corroborated by Mrs. Hennings, Mr. and Mrs. Jencken, Mr. Saal and Mr. Hart, is correct, no natural explanation seems possible
It is beyond doubt powerful mediums produce peculiar and nearly unique phenomena which can hardly be classified. For instance: In a séance at Paris in the house of C. Flammarion, I was holding Eusapia's right hand, and Flammarion her left. I repeatedly felt with my right hand John's large hand through the curtain. I said to Eusapia, I am going to prick that hand to see whether it is really a living hand. The room was in half-light, and a pin was given me. Taking the pin in my right hand I pricked John's hand through the curtain. I then felt a prick on my left shoulder through my clothes, as if a pin were thrust in, without hurting me much, but enough to stop me, and I ceased to prick the hypothetical fluidic hand. The prick I felt on my shoulder was no hypothesis. Obviously no explanation can be attempted.
Another strange phenomenon, unique up to the present, is the case of the letter announcing a serious event, which when placed on the mantelpiece gave raps loud enough to call attention (p. 447).
The verification of such unique and isolated phenomena must depend on a knowledge in minute detail of the lives of powerful mediums. All hagiographies are certainly not illusions or impostures; but it is impossible to distinguish what is true from what is false. It would be folly to accept all that is said in the lives of the saints; but it would be equally rash to deny everything. As there really are rare and well-nigh unique phenomena of which verification is always more or less defective, it is well to wait before forming a decided opinion. There are more surprises in reserve in metapsychics than in any other science.
Meanwhile we must base our conclusions, not on exceptional phenomena, but on the ectoplasmic facts that are, so to say, commonplaces of metapsychics.
Telekinesis and ectoplasms are degrees of the same thing-the objectification or projection of an intelligent mechanical energy. This mechanical energy is sometimes invisible, as when an accordion moves without apparently being touched: sometimes visible when the energy takes the form of a living moving hand. But both are exteriorizations of motive power-extériorisations de la motricité—to borrow the excellent term devised by DeRochas.
The fact that intelligent forces are projected from an organism, that can act mechanically, can move objects and make sounds, is a phenomenon as certainly established as any fact in physics. The only difference between this telekinesis (revealed by movements and raps) and ordinary commonplace mechanical effects is that the former is exceptional, only producible by a very small number of persons, and even by them only occasionally and with difficulty.
All the same it is an assured fact-the experiments with HomeEusapia, Stainton Moses, and Miss Goligher prove it definitely It is doubtless grievous to a scientific man to have to admit that there are exceptional phenomena; yet the magnet attracts iron. That is exceptional, but no one denies it.
The materialization of a hand, of a body having all the semblance of life, of a face, or of a phantom, is a fact as assured as telekinesis; and this makes it all the more difficult to understand, for these forms seem to have all the attributes of life. Materialized forms are intelligent, and have, at any rate in appearance, a personality: the hand is warm and living, the eyes move in their orbits and look, the voice speaks, the respiration disengages carbon dioxide, the legs move, and the hands take hold of objects.
The genesis of seemingly living forms has been observed; they begin like a nebula, they consolidate in the same way as a nebula condenses into a planet. Garments, veils, and accessories are formed simultaneously, and all have usually but a transitory existence, vanishing as they came-ceu fumus in auras.
To affirm all this is to affirm a great deal. Is it possible to go farther? It may be possible in the future, but today it would be imprudent to go beyond. Let us pause before the Beyond!
Photographs, direct writing, apports, the production of musical sounds and of lights cannot be held to be established, fraud being easy and frequent. Metapsychics presents so many strange facts, that these also may be possible, and even for the most part admissible. No one would have thought of simulating them if they
had never really occurred. I do not hesitate to think them fairly probable, but they are not proven. We must stop short, being in the domain of strict science, and on the threshold of a mystery, and we can affirm telekinesis and materializations, but nothing more.
In speaking of lucidity it was said that experiences of lucidity were of themselves insufficient to prove survival scientifically; for cognition of things inaccessible to our senses is a simpler hypothesis than the survival of a dead person. We will now consider whether materializations give the proof of survival that lucidity alone cannot give.
In the first place the affirmation of a phantom that he is such and such a person counts for little or nothing. When the phantom of Bien Boa appears and claims to be an Indian prince, although the objective reality of the apparition is certain in the given conditions, there is nothing to prove that this phantom is animated by the mind of a deceased Indian prince who remembers all his past. Helen Smith says she is Marie Antoinette, but that does not convince me that Marie Antoinette has returned to earth and speaks by Helen's vocal organs: the affirmations of Bien Boa and John King have no more value. Up to the present the ideas, gestures, and words of materialized forms do not entitle us to say that their personality differs from that of the medium more than the personalities evoked by Alice, when hypnotized, differ from Alice in her normal state. It is therefore very rash to assume that the consciousness of Bien Boa, Marie Antoinette, or John King returns to us.
Unfortunately for the spiritualist doctrine no proof can be given, or at any rate it has not yet been given. The case of George Pelham, though there was no materialization, is vastly more evidential for survival than all the materializations yet known. I do not even see how decisive proof could be given. Even if (which is not the case) a form identical with that of a deceased person could be photographed, I should not understand how an individual two hundred years dead, whose body has become a skeleton, could live again with this vanished body any more than with any other material form.
Materializations, however perfect, cannot prove survival; the evidence that they sometimes seem to give is much less striking than that given by subjective metapsychics.
We must not be appalled at the idea of the materialization of complete form. The problem is the same in the case of a hand or of a whole body; it is as difficult to understand the materialization of a living hand, warm, articulated, and mobile, or even of a single finger, as to understand the materialization of an entire personality which comes and goes, speaks, and moves the veil that covers him. The improbability is the same.
Have these forms a personal psychological existence? If we had only experimental materializations on which to answer this question, we should be inclined to reply in the negative; for the personalities that appear in the course of experiment do not seem more conscious of themselves than those which manifest by automatic writing. They seem to pertain more or less to the conscious or unconscious fancy of the medium.
But experimental materializations cannot be separated from accidental materializations. There are haunted houses in which a form appears that seems independent of the will or imagination of persons there present. There are monitions that are not entirely subjective, since they are perceived collectively, so that if the existence of beings independently of human beings cannot be proved, neither can it be disproved.
It is extremely disappointing to find that our reasoning always ends in uncertainty. But at least the uncertainty extends only to the explanation and not to the facts of telekinesis and materialization.
In any case we can, thanks to the experiments of Crawford, Ochorowicz, Mme. Bisson, and Schrenck-Notzing, form some idea on the genesis of these phenomena, and sketch out a kind of embryology. This embryogenesis may not be identical in all cases, but in some that have been very exactly observed and illustrated by photography, a kind of nebulous, gelatinous substance exudes from the medium's body and gradually is organized into a living, moving form. The ectoplasmic cloud would seem to become living substance while at the same time veils develop around it that conceal the mechanism of its condensation into living tissues.
M. P. Lecour has compared the process to the condensation of a nebula (A. S. P., June, 1913, 162). There is at first a condensation of cosmic matter into a more or less compact mass, in spirals, sometimes in rings; it then condenses further into sans, or, in the larger nebulae and under central forces, into planets. Ectoplasmic formations are very similar to this; and M. Lecour reproduces
photographs by Ochorowicz and Aksakoff. Similar clouds appeared at the Villa Carmen, and condensed; and likewise with Linda, Eusapia, Mme. d'Espérance, and at experiments by Florence Marryat, Dr. Gibier, and Stainton Moses. The identity of process in the condensation of whitish clouds and luminous vapours is striking. Venzano describes a mass of vapour at the side of Eusapia, in rapid swirling movement. One of the observers at Algiers saw white flakes of vapour of differing brightness that gradually condensed. Imoda describes a white cloud floating round Linda. Courtier at the Psychological Institute saw phosphorescent lights moving in the cabinet round Eusapia, which came to the opening between the curtains and seemed to rise vertically as they condensed. M. Lecour observed round an unnamed medium, luminous masses which gradually assumed ill-defined corporeal forms, appearing and disappearing.
Further scientific knowledge will take us farther, and doubtless metapsychic science has great surprises in store.
(b) Leading Ectoplasmic Experiments
Under this head we shall consider various cases of materialization.1
Experimenting with Home, Crookes saw materializations. Mere touches were frequent, but visible materializations were rarer. His experiments are most decisive and it seems impossible to doubt them. In a fair number of cases hands were seen in full light. Home wished that all phenomena should take place in the light. His powers were sufficient, says Crookes, to overcome this adverse influence. With two exceptions, everything that I witnessed with him took place in the light.
A little hand, very beautifully formed, rose from the table in the dining-room and gave me a flower. It appeared and disappeared three times, giving me every opportunity to convince myself that it was as real as my own; this took place in the light, in my own room, while I was holding the medium's hands and feet.
1 When an experiment is described with too few details to allow anyone who did not see it to form a decided opinion, I am careful to say so; and a fortiori, when an experiment seems to me defective I do not hesitate to indicate this. If, on the contrary, the experiment seems to me evidential, I make this clear; but I shall usually cite the facts with their bibliographical references and leave the reader to judge of them.
Many times I and other persons have seen a hand pressing the keys of an accordion while we could see the hands of the medium, or when they were held.
A finger and a form were seen plucking the petals from a flower in Mr. Home's button-hole.
The hands and fingers did not always seem solid and as though alive. Sometimes they rather resembled a condensed vapour; a luminous cloud seemed to form round an object; it then condensed and took the form of a beautifully shaped hand, the flesh of which seemed as human as that of any person present. At the wrist or the arms it became vaporous and ended in a luminous cloud.1
I have held one of these hands in mine, resolved not to let it go; no effort or attempt was made to make me release it; but the hand seemed to dissolve into vapour and so disengaged itself from my grasp.2
Another time in my own house I saw the window curtains some eight feet distant from Home shaking, and a semi-transparent dark shape resembling a human form was seen by all the sitters standing up by the casement holding the curtain in its hand. While we were looking at it, it vanished and the curtains ceased to move. On another occasion a phantom form advanced from one corner of the room, and, taking an accordion, moved forward into the room playing the instrument. This form was visible for several minutes by all present. We could see Mr. Home also. The phantom approached a lady who was sitting near; she gave a little cry and the shade vanished.
In a memorable letter (March, 1874) Crookes says: I have at last obtained the absolute proof I have been seeking. On March 2d during a séance at my house, Katie (the apparition), having moved among us, retired behind the curtain and a moment later called me, saying, Come into the cabinet and raise my medium's head. Katie stood before me in her usual white robe and wearing her turban. I went towards the bookcase to raise Miss Cook, and Katie moved aside to let me pass. Miss Cook had slipped
1This is exactly what I observed in the materializations at the Villa Carmen -a luminous cloud whose outlines became more defined and took on human substance and form. In certain photographs taken by Aksakoff (perhaps the only ones which have some value among the old spiritist photographs), a luminous cloud is seen which finally organizes itself and develops into a nude human shape.
2 'This truly crucial experiment did not succeed with me. Contrary to what Crookes found with Home, the fluidic hands from Eusapia and Marthe made great efforts to release themselves.
down, and I had the satisfaction of seeing that she was not dressed like Katie but was wearing her usual dress of black velvet . . , Not more than three seconds had elapsed between the time when I saw Katie before me till I raised Miss Cook again on the sofa. . . . The gas was then turned out, and Katie asked for the phosphorus lamp; and after having shown herself by its light for several seconds, she put it back in my hands, saying, Now come in and see my medium. I went in and saw Miss Cook on the sofa.
Another day Katie said that she would show herself at the same time as Miss Cook. . . . I saw Miss Cook, dressed in black velvet, apparently asleep; she did not move when I took her hand. Raising the lamp I looked round and saw Katie standing close behind Miss Cook. She was clothed in flowing white draperies. Holding one of Miss Cook's hands and kneeling down by her I raised and lowered the lamp so as to see Katie's whole figure and to convince myself that it was really Katie. She did not speak
but moved her head. Three times I examined Miss Cook carefully to be sure that the hand I was holding was really the hand of a living woman, and three times I turned the light on Katie and regarded her attentively. At last Katie signed to me to leave. I went to another part of the cabinet and ceased to see her, but did not leave the room till Miss Cook had waked up and two of the sitters had brought in a light.
Katie is six inches taller than Miss Cook; yesterday, with bare feet, she was four and one-half inches taller. Her neck was bare and did not show the cicatrice that is on Miss Cook's neck. Her ears are not pierced, her complexion is very fair, and her fingers much longer than those of Miss Cook.
Later, Crookes says (p 193) : I have often raised one side of the curtain and then the seven or eight persons in the laboratory could see both Katie and Miss Cook in the full light of the electric lamps. We could not see the medium's face because of the shawl covering it, but we could see her feet and her hands: we could see her moving as if in pain and could bear her moans.
Katie King had long before announced that she would be able to remain with her medium only for a short time, and that she must soon bid her farewell. The last séance was on May 21, 1874. There was then a dramatic scene at which Sir William Crookes was present. Katie gave her last instructions, and went to Miss Cook who was lying insensible on the floor. Katie touched her and said, Wake up, Florence, I must now leave you. Miss Cook awoke and with tears besought Katie to remain with her, but in vain; Katie of the white robe disappeared. Crookes held up the fainting medium and Katie was seen no more.
Other interesting experiments were made with Miss Cook by various persons. Florence Marryat (quoted by Erny, p 145) says: Katie King stood by the wall of the room, with both arms extended as if crucified. Three gas-jets threw a bright light upon her. The effect was stupefying. She remained so for about one second, then began to disintegrate; her features became nebulous, the eyes retreated into their orbits, the nose disappeared, and then the brows, then the limbs seemed to drop apart to the floor; at last only part of the head and some white garments remained, then all vanished.
In a séance at Mr. Luxmore's house, a Mr. Volkmann seized Katie by the waist, crying, It is the medium. Henry Dunphy remarked that Katie lost her arms and legs; she escaped from Mr.
Volkmann, slipping from his grasp and leaving no trace. Immediately after, Miss Cook was found, tied, with the knots intact. Mr. Varley attached a galvanometer to Miss Cook, so that any movement made by her would be shown by a deflection of the instrument; but there was no indication when Katie appeared, showing only the upper part of her body, though Mr. Varley was able to grasp her hand.
Eusapia's materializations have been fully observed by many competent experimentalists. I will speak of them at some length, for I have been present at close on two hundred séances with Eusapia.
Visible materializations are rare with her and in all my long experience I have seen none; I cannot remember having ever seen in these séances any human form, in whole or in part. Once I saw a kind of prolongation from her body, a kind of rod that touched my side, but this was in half-light and very fugitive. Per contra, I have been touched more than two hundred times when the control was excellent, by a seemingly human hand on my hands, my face, forehead, neck, and shoulders.
One such case, which seems to me perfect at all points, is the following-it took place at the Psychological Institute at Paris. There were present only Mme. Curie, Mme. X., a Polish friend of hers, and P. Courtier, the secretary of the Institute. Mme. Curie was on Eusapia's left, myself on her right, Mme. X. a little farther off, taking notes, and M. Courtier still farther, at the end of the table. Courtier had arranged a double curtain behind Eusapia ; the light was weak but sufficient. On the table Mme. Curie's hand holding Eusapia's could be distinctly seen, likewise mine also holding the right hand. Long practice had taught me to hold the hand firmly, and I could also see both of Eusapia's white cuffs.
We saw the curtain swell out as if pushed by some large object behind it. It was said to be John's hand. I asked to touch it, and with my right hand, which was free, I touched this hand projecting through the curtain, high above Eusapia's head. I felt the resistance and seized a real hand which I took in mine. Even through the curtain I could feel the fingers, which seemed to me (though I cannot positively say so) much larger than Eusapia's little hand. I held it firmly and counted twenty-nine seconds, during all which time I had leisure to observe both of Eusapia's hands
on the table, to ask Mme. Curie if she was sure of her control, to call Courtier's attention, and also to feel, press, and identify a real hand through the curtain. After the twenty-nine seconds I said, I want something more, I want uno anello (a ring) on this hand., At once the hand made me feel a ring: I said adesso uno braceletto, and on the wrist I felt the two ends as of a woman's bracelet that closes by a hinge. I then asked that this hand should melt in mine, but the hand disengaged itself by a strong effort, and I felt nothing further (the above is a combination of two separate experiments).
It seems hard to imagine a more convincing experiment, for in twenty-nine seconds the element of surprise is eliminated. In this case there was not only the materialization of a hand, but also of a ring. As all experiments demonstrate, materializations of objects, garments, and woven stuffs are simultaneous with human forms, these latter never appearing naked, but covered by veils which are at first white semi-luminous clouds which end by taking the consistence of real woven fabrics.
Having already described at full length the movements of objects without contact, there is no need to return to them, but it should be noted that the movements and materializations occur together. Everything takes place as though these movements were due to invisible materializations, paradoxical as that term seems. In the course of a séance one is touched ten or twenty times without being able to see anything, even though darkness is not total.
At Milan, two hands were heard in the air, clapping against one another. Raising one's hand very high one could feel what seemed to be a human figure, and on three different occasions one of the observers stated that he could see its hair and beard; the hair being stiff and short, the beard delicate, and the skin like that of a man. A piece of smoked paper was laid on the table, and on restoring the light, finger-marks were found on the paper, Eusapia's hands being quite clean. This was repeated three times, the third impression being that of a whole left hand.
The notes of one of my experiments at Milan read: Eusapia says, 'Hold me firmly'; Schiaparelli on the right and Finzi on the left grip her hands well. I say to Finzi, 'You have hold of the left hand?' 'Yes.' To Schiaparelli, 'You have the right?' 'Yes.' To Finzi, 'You have hold of both feet?' 'Yes.' Then turning my
head slightly to the left I see the curtain swell, and am touched on the shoulder by a hand that seems to be a right hand, presuming that it came from the medium. Nearly at the same moment two fingers pulled my hair at the back of my neck, without hurting me, so that I am certain that a hand touched me on the shoulder and the neck.
At Agnelas, J Maxwell saw a silhouette like that of a head with curly hair outlined against the wall of the room; and also, in the same manner, a hand and arm above the head of M. Sabatier, who felt himself touched at the same moment. The fore-arm was long and thin, coming out of the dark.
At the séances on Ribaud Island and in Paris, visible phenomena were few, the attention of the observers being devoted to observations on movements of objects. They were frequent at Genoa.
Morselli says (vol. i, 255), I sat in a small armchair about two yards away on Eusapia's right. 'The invisible' arrived! Twice I was touched and clearly felt a hand in all respects like a living hand. My senses were fully awake. I can affirm that the thing that touched me was solid, resisting, impenetrable, and, in short, material.
In the eighteenth séance at Genoa, the best of them all, in presence of Morselli, Porro, L. Ramorino, L Vassallo, and Dr. Venzano, of the Minerva Circle, on December 23, 1901, in the dark, two invisible forms manifested which were afterwards seen by weak light. The first was a little deceased daughter of Porro who felt a child under a veil. We heard the child speak in a baby voice; she kissed Porro. This form could not be seen. Then another came, the son of Vassallo who died aged sixteen. This entity became visible; an almost phosphorescent ovoid appeared on Eusapia's right, moved slowly to the left about twelve inches and vanished. By red light an arm and hand were seen to proceed from the cabinet towards Vassallo. A third and a fourth entity appeared. The third was distinctly seen, but identification was doubtful. In a room lit by five candles we all saw the two black curtains of the window near Eusapia stretch and swell out, e avanzarsi verso me e verso Porro come se dietro vi fossero due persone vive agenti con intelligenza e con volonta propria e distinta. These two forms did not come beyond the curtains, but only showed hands and well-formed limbs. Morselli distinguished a right hand visible as far as the second finger: it was short, fat, and grey in colour, opening and shutting.
In another séance, the twenty-third, which was also a very important one, held in M Avellino's house, Eusapia was fastened down on a bed placed behind the curtain. Then an apparition was seen of a young girl; the head, shoulders, and part of the bust being visible and perhaps slightly phosphorescent. A turban hid her ears, chin, and hair; she remained still for some twenty seconds. A second apparition then showed a tall man, with an abundant short beard, large head with prominent bones, and a thick neck. Four more appeared, first the head of a young woman in an oriental garb; the fourth was not completely formed, it seemed imperfect on the right side. Says Morselli, I saw the eyes looking at me; although bright enough for me to see the reflection of the lights on the cornea, they seemed veiled. When I approached her, she made no attempt to retreat, but made a salutation with her arm and went. The fifth and sixth were of a woman of about fifty and a young child; these appeared together.
Previous experiments made with Eusapia at the house of Mme. Peretti should be mentioned, but these showed only imperfect forms, dark silhouettes, with heads hardly formed.
Although these experiments were under perfect control by very well-informed observers, they would be insufficient if they stood alone, but the innumerable instances of movements of objects without contact can be explained in no other way than by invisible materializations, and thus, following the scheme already outlined, we can assign three phases to these exteriorized phenomena, a first stage in which they are invisible, a second in which they begin to be visible but are still more or less amorphous, and a third stage in which they take on the semblances of a living organism surrounded by veils which at first mask the imperfections of form, but become thinner as the underlying form becomes more dense.
The experiments of F Bottazzi, professor of physiology in the University of Naples, are most evidential, and would give, if they were wanting, decisive proofs of materializations and movements without contact. These took place in the presence of Professors de Amicis, Scarpa, Pansini, and Bottazzi himself, provided with all modern instruments as for an experiment in physiology.
There were seen (p 684) splendid levitations of the table to a height of two feet from the floor, swaying in the air, untouched by Eusapia. Unknown to all present, Bottazzi had provided an electric button, which if touched would light a lamp. Eusapia, with her hands well held, repeatedly pressed the button with a fluidic hand and lit the lamp.Similar electric pushes placed in a cabinet behind the curtain were put into action while Eusapia struck blows with her hand on the table.
In another séance, Eusapia's hands and arms were tied with strong cords fastened to iron rings in the floor and secured with leaden seals. The fluidic hand then gave various objects-a trumpet and a vase of flowers-to Bottazzi.
In these séances numerous and striking materializations took place. While Eusapia was bound with strong cords M. Galotti saw two left arms (one natural and one fluidic) proceeding from her shoulder. Bottazzi experienced the crucial test of an ectoplasmic hand melting away in his grasp. He says, I saw and felt at one and the same time a human hand natural in colour, I felt with mine the fingers and the back of a strong, warm, rough hand. I gripped it and it vanished from my grasp, not becoming smaller but melting, dematerializing and dissolving.
Under unexceptionable test conditions not only were there numerous touches, but fingers and hands, some frail and diaphanous, some thick and strong, and diverse figures and shades outlined behind the curtain.1
Bottazzi, who entered on these experiments with a sceptical mind, concludes: The certitude we have acquired is of the same order as that which we attain from the study of chemical, physical, or physiological facts. That the professor of physiology in the University of Naples should express himself so strongly means that he must be absolutely certain.
Mme. Bloch also describes fluidic hands proceeding from Eusapia (A. S. P., vii, 1897, 2-6). She says Eusapia's hands were held and were also in full view, and we saw a hand emerge from the white cloth behind her; an arm without a shoulder touched her head. Then the phenomenon increased, the hand came from below and threw on the table some pieces of music taken from the piano. The hand was not luminous, but was a hand of flesh similar to our own. There would have been plenty of time to photo
1 I saw the apparition, says Bottazzi (p. 691), and shuddered. For my own part, though I have very often. experimented with Eusapia, I have never seen a distinct form. C. R.
graph it. The fore-arm was in a close-fitting sleeve of grey stuff Eusapia had wide sleeves. This hand came from her skirt and not from her shoulder. Her hands were both seen and held the whole time.
M Venzano thus describes the formation of these phantoms (A. S. P., 1907, xvii, 514) : Some eight inches from my face there formed a vaporous, globular, whitish mass which condensed into an oval and gradually took definite shape as a head. The nose, the eyes, the moustache, and a pointed beard could be clearly seen. It came nearer to my face, I felt a warm and living forehead against mine; the pressure of a caress, and a kiss; then the whole dissolved in vapour towards the curtain. The other sitters saw only a vague, luminous appearance, but heard the sound of the kiss.
A. de Rochas narrates the experiments at Choisy, in presence of General Thomassin, J. Maxwell, De Watteville, and A. de Gramont. M de Gramont saw a dark shadow like a hand outlined against the window; and the holding of the medium's hands was then verified. A moment later he felt his hand stroked by warm fingers that he could not take hold of.
These fluidic hands have been photographed under satisfactory conditions. G. de Fontenay, a skilful photographer and experienced man of science, was able to obtain striking photographs, one of which is reproduced here. The two hands are seen above Eusapia's head, her own hands being firmly held at the time. M. Cartier, one of the experimenters, says, I did not for a single moment let go Eusapia's right hand. The other, M. Drubay, says, I can affirm in the most positive fashion that during the whole of the sitting I never let go the left hand. It is therefore quite impossible that Eusapia should have been able to free both her hands just at the moment when control was necessarily strictest. An attentive study of the photograph shows that the hands are notably larger than Eusapia's hands.
Besides these photographs of hands there are others of the luminous mass usually seen in metapsychic photographs. Without insisting on the impossibility of Eusapia's contriving to put a handkerchief on her head and to take it away again while her hands were held, it may be remarked that the contours of this luminous hand are soft and indeterminate, while its brightness is much greater, as De Fontenay observes, than could be given by the handkerchief that it resembles.
Eusapia's materializations have been demonstrated not only by photography, but also by metapsychic moulds.1
Morselli reports one case of a mould of the face (very faint) under test conditions; 2 and he gives a reproduction of a much clearer impression of hands 3, though in this latter case he thinks there may have been unconscious fraud.
Per contra, the plaster impressions obtained by De Fontenay are excellent. In an experiment during which Flammarion continuously controlled Eusapia's head and bust, the impression of a face was taken on plaster. It is manifestly Eusapia's face.
At Naples, E. Chiaja obtained numerous impressions on clay. Nevertheless these experiments are still open to discussion: those made at the Metapsychic Institute with Franek Kluski seem more conclusive, and we shall return to them later.
Traces of light gauze tissue protecting the face or the fingers from direct contact with the plaster or the clay may often be observed. This does not detract from the genuineness of the impress, for materialization of inert tissues always accompanies the materialization of living tissue. Moreover, how could actual gauze be handled and caused to disappear under the rigorous control that is exercised?
The materializations given by Marthe Béraud are of the highest importance. They have presented numerous facts illustrating the general processes of materializations and have supplied metapsychic science with entirely new and unforeseen data.4
After these strange facts had been verified by General and Mme. Noel in a series of experiments lasting nearly two years, M. Delanne, the editor of the Revue du Spiritisme, and myself were invited to Algiers by him. The first experiments 5 at which I was present impressed me greatly, but I always distrust first impressions.
1 Voy. A. de Rochas, A propos d'Eusapia Paladino, Les séances de Montfortl'Amaury, A. S. P., 1898, viii, 148G. de Fontenay, Les séances de Montfort-l'Amaury, Soc. des édit. scientifiques, Paris, 1897.
2 Loc cit., i, 430 3 Loc. cit., ii, 348-349.
4 'Their bibliography is already voluminous, for they have provoked much controversy. The pros and cons will be found in Grasset's L'occultisme hier et aujourd'hui, ad edit., Montpellier, 370-374. After sixteen years the objections put forward seem very poor, and deserve only disdain
5 A naval officer, Captain Démadrille, and a physician, Dr. Decréquy, witnessed these experiments and corroborated them. Their narratives have been Published in part in the A. S. P. These notes and sketches confirm our later experiments in a very interesting manner.
In the following year I returned to Algiers resolved to repeat the experiments under more rigorous conditions.
The medium was Marthe Béraud, the daughter of an officer, betrothed to General Noel's son, who died in the Congo before the marriage. She is a very intelligent and lively young lady, wears her hair short, and is a bright-eyed brunette. Subsequently to the Algiers experiments she has given proofs of strong mediumistic powers. She was the subject observed by Mme. Bisson and Dr. Schrenck-Notzing under the pseudonym of Eva.
The experiments at Algiers were held in a small, isolated building over a stable. The window was blocked up and remained shut at all times. The only door was locked at the beginning of every séance. It is the only room in the building, and before every séance everything was minutely inspected by Delanne and myself. Two curtains were stretched across one corner of the room as shown in Fig. 20, the curtain being about two and a half yards long, so as to make a kind of dark cabinet. We sat about half a yard, or even sometimes nearer, in front of these curtains. Those present were General and Mme. Noel, Mlle. X., Delanne, and myself, also Marthe Béraud's two younger sisters, Marie and Paule, who sat far from the curtain. Light was given by a photographer's red lamp. Within the curtains were two chairs, minutely inspected, one for Marthe and one for a negress, Aischa. The part played by Aischa seems absolutely nil. Mme. Noel made a point of her being present, but our best results occurred in Aischa's absence.
Everything that took place in the room could be seen perfectly well, and I am absolutely certain that no stranger could enter during the séances.1
As Marthe was not tied, nor her hands held, the conditions of control were less severe than in Eusapia's case; they were, however, strict enough to allow of a definite opinion.
After a variable period, sometimes immediately, sometimes after an hour, or even two hours, the curtains drew apart, and we could see Marthe and Aischa each sitting on her chair seemingly asleep. It is needless to add that after each séance everything was minutely examined. Marthe was not undressed, but in that very hot climate she wore only a thin dress, and as I made magnetic passes over her to awake her from trance, I could be sure, by passing my hand all over her body, that she had nothing on her but this thin garment.
It is useless to incriminate Aischa, an unintelligent creature sitting passively beside Marthe, to the great annoyance of the latter; for in the tropical heat the odour of the negress was unbearable: and in the more effective experiments Aischa was not present.
It is therefore established that there was no instrumentation and no theatrical accessories that the medium could use, and that no stranger could enter the room.
The materializations produced were very complete. The phantom of Bien Boa appeared five or six times under satisfactory conditions in the sense that he could not be Marthe masquerading in a helmet and sheet. Marthe would have had not only to bring, but also to conceal afterwards, the helmet, the sheet, and the burnous. Also Marthe and the phantom were both seen at the same time. To pretend that Bien Boa was a doll is more absurd still; he walked and moved, his eyes could be seen looking round, and when he tried to speak his lips moved.
1 I make a point of this because of the assertions of Areski, an Arab coachman dismissed by General Noel for theft, who said that he played the ghost. A certain starveling practitioner of Algiers, Dr. R., was ill-advised enough to entertain this man and to exhibit him in public at Algiers in a white mantle to play the ghost before spectators. That is the most that has been said against the experiments at the Villa Carmen. The general public, blinded by ignoble newspaper tales, imagined that the fraud had been exposed. All that was really proved was: that an Arab thief could lie impudently, that he could put on a sheet, could appear thus on a stage, and could get a doctor to endorse his lies. It is averred also that Marthe confessed fraud to an Algerian lawyer who took a pseudonym. But even if this anonymous allegation were true, we know the value to be placed on such revelations, which only show the mental instability of mediums.
He seemed so much alive that, as we could hear his breathing, I took a flask of baryta water to see if his breath would show carbon dioxide. The experiment succeeded. I did not lose sight of the flask from the moment when I put it into the hands of Bien Boa who seemed to float in the air on the left of the curtain at a height greater than Marthe could have been even if standing up. While he blew into the tube the bubbling could be heard and I asked Delanne, Do you see Marthe? He said, I see Marthe completely. Aischa was far off and could be seen clearly, asleep in the other corner of the cabinet. I could myself see the form of Marthe sitting in her chair, though I could not see her head and her right shoulder.1
However striking this was, another experiment seems to me even more evidential: Everything being arranged as usual (except that Mlle. X., being indisposed, was absent), after a long wait I saw close to me, in front of the curtain which had not moved, a white vapour, hardly sixteen inches distant. It was like a white veil or handkerchief on the floor. This rose and became spherical. Soon it was a head just above the floor; it rose up still more, enlarged, and grew into a human form, a short bearded man dressed in a turban and white mantle, who moved, limping slightly, from right to left before the curtain. On coming close to General Noel, he sank down abruptly to the floor with a clicking noise like a falling skeleton, flattening out in front of the curtain. Three or four minutes later, close to the general, not to me, he reappeared, rising in a straight line from the floor, born from the floor, so to say, and falling back to it with the same clicking noise.
The only un-metapsychic explanation possible seemed to be a trapdoor opening and shutting: but there was no trapdoor, as I verified next morning and as attested by the architect.
Delanne saw the same phenomenon, but as he was a little farther off than myself, he could not see the emergence of the phantom from the floor as well as I could.
It seems to me impossible, however slight and supple Marthe may be, that she should creep under the curtain without disturbing it and give the illusion of a person rising straight from the floor; and how can the head, standing as if decapitated, be explained,
1 A comical incident occurred at this point. When we saw the baryta show white (which incidentally shows that the light was good), we cried Bravo Bien Boa then vanished, but reappeared three times, opening and closing the curtain and bowing like an actor who receives applause.
and the sinking into the floor afterwards? when very shortly after we saw Marthe sitting quietly in her chair, asleep. Several photographs were taken by Delanne and myself, stereoscopic and other. They show some interesting details on which Sir Oliver Lodge has made acute criticisms, saying that they were the best metapsychic photographs that he had seen.
507 photo of Bien Boa
The softness and semi-vaporous outline of the hands are curious; likewise the veil surrounding the phantom has indeterminate outlines contrasting strongly with the sharp outline of Aischa's shoulder. A thick, black, artificial-looking beard covers the mouth and chin. A whitish fluidic mass is noticeable in front of the curtain. This cannot be a photographic error, though we only noticed it on the plate; it appears on both photographs taken with different cameras. The plane of the phantom is in front of Marthe. Bien Boa would seem to be a bust only floating in space in front of Marthe, whose bodice can be seen. Low down, between the curtain and Marthe's black skirt, there seem to be two small whitish rods like supports to the phantom form.
The only defective side to the experiment as evidenced by the photograph is that Marthe's left arm which seems resting on Aischa's chair appears empty, though the vacuity is not complete; but Marthe's bodice, knees, and body are so clearly discernible that this apparent emptiness of the left sleeve does not seem to be a serious objection, though I am careful to draw attention to this point.
It is absolutely impossible that this phantom should be a stranger invading the cabinet; and it is impossible that Marthe could have invested herself with a helmet and sheet, and induce at the same time the white cloud in front of the curtain. Everything happens as though fluidic vapour emerged from her head and her right side, masking both, and rising into the air without any means of support but her head and body.
At the Villa Carmen I saw another very well-defined materialization, now published for the first time.
On the day preceding my departure, after a long stay at Algiers, Bien Boa, speaking by the voice of Marthe,1 said, in order to detain me, Stay! You will see her whom you desire. It will easily be understood that I stayed.
On the next day almost as soon as the curtains were drawn, they were reopened, and between them appeared the face of a young and beautiful woman with a kind of gilt ribbon or diadem covering her fair hair and the crown of her head. She was laughing heartily and seemed greatly amused; I can still vividly recall her laugh and her pearly teeth. She appeared two or three times.
1 Her voice was halting and wooden and guttural, a sort of Punchinello's voice.
showing her head and then hiding it, like a child playing bo-peep. Then she refused to return. The general said to me, Put your hand behind the curtain and you can touch her hair, which I did; and he added, It is soft like silk, is it not? I replied, Excuse me, it is more like horse-hair, and in fact this was the sensation produced. I then received a light tap on the back of the hand; the hair was felt no more and a voice from behind the curtain said, Bring scissors tomorrow. I brought the scissors next day. The Egyptian queen returned, but only showed the crown of her head with very fair and very abundant hair; she was anxious to know if I had brought the scissors. I then took a handful of her long hair, but I could scarcely distinguish the face that she kept concealed behind the curtain. As I was about to cut a lock high up, a firm hand behind the curtain lowered mine, so that I cut only about six inches from the end. As I was rather slow about doing this, she said in a low voice, Quick! Quick! and disappeared. I have kept this lock: it is very fine, silky, and undyed. Microscopical examination shows it to be real hair; and I am informed that a wig of the same would cost a thousand francs. Marthe's hair is very dark and she wears her hair rather short.
It would seem that the purpose that this Egyptian princess had in view was that I should cut off a lock of her hair ( ?), for I saw her no more. Next day, on visiting Mme. Noel who was ill, I half saw, very vaguely, a fugitive form in the dressing-room which vanished as I approached. But my recollection of this is very undefined.1
With other powerful mediums and before 1905, General Noel had notable spiritist manifestations. Both he and Mme. Noel and M. Démadrille, now a captain in the navy, clearly saw the phantom of Bien Boa and by his side the medium Vincente, at the same moment. Dr. Decréquy, also present, certifies the same. Sketches were made that were reproduced in the Annales. Captain Démadrille says: The curtain opened and Vincente came out: I could see his whole figure; then B. B. came out of the cabinet, seeming to hold it tip with his right arm. The curtain fell to behind him and both remained standing. I took B. B.'s hand; the skin felt stiff and cold, the arm was very cold, stiff and cold like that of a corpse.
1 See in the Psychische Studien for 1906 various criticisms relating to these experiments. L Deinhard, Die Materialisationssitzungen in Alger, pp. 74 and 137. Bormann, Bien Boa and der Waschetosantz. o. 200. COL 9.
M. C., a cavalry officer, with other mediums than Marthe, and by strong red light, saw clearly the features of a living form only a few inches from his eyes. The form was that of M. de Quillac whose widow was present. Both mediums could be seen seated asleep in their chairs at the same moment as the apparition.1
Our study of materializations has lately had the benefit of many valuable observations very effectively made by Schrenck-Notzing and Mme. Bisson.2
Very numerous photographs, more numerous and more instructive than have before appeared, accompany the text and enable the sequence of phenomena to be intelligently followed.3
In these experiments, which lasted over four years and were conducted with admirable care and patience, minute precautions were taken against fraud. At each séance the cabinet was closely searched, Eva was completely undressed and in presence of the experimenters clothed in a close-fitting garment covering her from head to foot. Her head was covered by a veil of tulle sewn to the other garment. Her hair, armpits, nose, mouth, and knees were examined; in some cases even examination per rectum et vagsnam was resorted to. As the materialized substance frequently comes from her mouth, syrup of bilberries was administered, whose deep colouring powers are well known, but notwithstanding this the extruded forms were absolutely white. Experimental rigour was even pushed to the point of giving her an emetic before a séance.
The light in front of the curtain was sufficient to allow large print to be read. Behind the curtain were a red and a white light that could be put on at will. Three cameras, one being stereoscopic, were focussed on the cabinet ready to be worked at a signal; sometimes there were as many as nine. Eva, having been undressed in full light and clothed as described above, was brought into the cabinet and the curtains were drawn, the light reduced, and the experiments began.
Under these circumstances it seems physically impossible that
1 A S P, 1906 255. Les dernières séances de la villa Carmen.
2 Les phénoinènes dits de matérialisation, by Juliette Alexandre Bisson, with preface by J. Maxwell, 8vo, 1 vol., Paris, Alcan, 1914. Schrenck-Notzing. Materialisationsphaenomen e, E. Reinhardt, Munchen, 1914. This work was translated into English in 1919
3 Grasset, in his book published in 1908, accepts (without advancing any proofs) the idea that Areski intruded into the cabinet at Algiers, absurd as that notion is. He could not anticipate that Marthe would give fine instances of materialization five years later, confirming the results at the Villa Carmen, although her mediumship there and at Paris took very different forms
any fraud could occur. The notion that an accomplice could enter is absurd; the hypothesis that Eva might bring various objects with her is equally ridiculous. Moreover Eva lives with Mme. Bisson, who rarely leaves her; the two ladies take their meals together and sleep in the same room. Even making the monstrous supposition that Mme. Bisson is capable of bad faith, she could not have deceived Schrenck-Notzing, Dr. Geley, J. Maxwell, Dr. Bourbon, M. Chevreul, C. de Vesme, G. de Fontenay, and myself for three years, and also others who assisted at the experiments. Add to this that there were séances at Paris, Biarritz, and Munich extending over four years.
The phenomena of materialization produced were most striking. Essentially they consist in a luminous and plastic emanation proceeding usually from her mouth, sometimes from her navel (when alone with Mme. Bisson she was completely nude) ; sometimes from her breast; sometimes from her armpits. It is a whitish substance that creeps as if alive, with damp, cold, protoplasmic extensions that are transformed under the eyes of the experimenters into a hand, fingers, a head, or even into an entire figure.
It is impossible to give all particulars. I therefore quote the séance of April 15, 1912, in the presence of C. de Vesme and P. Bisson.
The manifestations began at once. White substance appeared on the neck of the medium; then a head was formed which moved from left to right and placed itself on the medium's head. A photograph was taken (Figs. 73, 74, pp108, 109). After the flashlight, the head reappeared by the side of Eva's head, about sixteen inches from it, connected by a long bunch of white substance. It looked like the head of a man, and made movements like bows. Some twenty appearances and reappearances of this head were counted; it appeared, retreated into the cabinet, and emerged again. A woman's head then appeared on the right, showed itself near the curtains, and went back into the cabinet, returned several times and disappeared.
On the 30th of August, 1912, another experiment was made at Munich by Dr. and Mme. Schrenck-Notzing and Dr. Klapka, which is specially interesting because a rough attempt was made to detect fraud (Schrenck-Notzing, p. 329).
The white substance was seen on the medium's left shoulder, then on her abdomen. Dr. Klapka verified that Eva's hands were
511 512 picture
in sight holding the curtain during the whole time. A white and brownish mass was visible on Eva's knees. On a sign Schrenck entered the cabinet suddenly, put on the light, and took Eva's hands, while Klapka tried to seize the white substance, but could grasp nothing, for it disappeared at once. The experiment was resumed, in spite of the terror evinced by Eva of this attempt, and the face of a man appeared, which vanished after a few seconds.
At the séance of June 13, 1913, in presence of Dr. Bourbon and Mme. Bisson (see p. 208), the substance emerged from the medium's mouth; at its end was a materialized finger. M. Bourbon took hold of this as it came from Eva's mouth, and verified the bone in it, and also that it was flexible. This finger came right through the tulle with which the medium's head was covered, the tulle showing no sign of being torn (Schrenck-Notzing, Pl. xxi). The apparition (the form of a man, much larger than Eva, with long moustaches) came out of the cabinet, began to speak, and went to Mme. Bisson, who kissed him on his cheek. The sound was quite audible.
The experiment of November 30, 1912 (Schrenck-Notzing, p. 379 and Fig. 107, Pl. xi ); is particularly interesting. Both of Eva's hands can be seen holding the curtain. The white substance then exuded from the left shoulder, falling over the chest. This substance became more and more dense and finally took the shape of a human face; Schrenck, who up to that time had kept Eva's hands in sight or had held them, let go his hold at Eva's request, and the form then became clearer.
It is to be noted that these faces (and many others), as shown by the photographs, are not in relief. They are like drawings; and, more strange still, something like folds in the paper of a drawing are visible; as if a drawing had been folded three or four times and unfolded to be photographed, so that the materializations are in these cases flat, or materialized drawings.
These folds in flat images gave immense suspicion of fraud. But that presumes extreme stupidity in Eva, since she knew that photographs would be taken. How should she have been so unskilful as to present such things to the camera along with the other evidences of extraordinary faculty?
It must, moreover, be supposed that she had brought these drawings and made them vanish again. This hypothesis of drawings brought and hidden cannot be sustained; for, in the first place, the flat images appeared in cases when her hands were never out
of sight; and, secondly, the extreme rigour of the conditions, and the minute examination of her person before and after the séances, makes it impossible to understand how she could have secreted large drawings; thirdly, these appeared outside the veil of tulle that covered her; and fourthly there were very evident movements, quite life-like, in these images that succeeded one another rapidly and seemed to be living things.
The fact of the appearance of flat images rather than of forms in relief is no evidence of trickery. It is imagined, quite mistakenly, that a materialization must be analogous to a human body and must be three-dimensional. This is not so. There is nothing to prove that the process of materialization is other than a development of a completed form after a first stage of coarse and rudimentary lineaments formed from the cloudy substance.
The moist, gelatinous, and semi-luminous extensions that proceed from the mouth of Marthe-Eva are embryonic formations which tend towards organization without immediately attaining it. Perhaps with other mediums such as Home and Florence Cook the organization into living form takes place more rapidly; but in Eva's case it is slow, progressive, and difficult.
Schrenck has examined microscopically residues of the amorphous substance, and has found vestiges of epithelium, bacterial forms, and a notable amount of fat. In certain cases it looked like vegetable tissue; in others like a filament of cotton surrounded by a granular substance whose nature could not be determined.
These remarkable experiments by Schrenck-Notzing and Mme. Bisson confirm yet once again the phenomenon of ectoplasm. After the experiments by Crookes, Mme. d'Espérance, P. Gibier, and those at the Villa Carmen, it would seem impossible to cast doubt upon this extraordinary and extremely rare but real phenomenon.1
1 Acrimonious (and ineffective) criticisms have appeared in Germany; notably that of Mme. Dr. Mathilde von Kemnitz. Schrenck-Notzing replied to her vigorously, and also to Dr. von Gulat-Wellenburg, Der Kampf and die Materialisationsphaenomene, Verteidigungsschrift (Miinchen, Reinhardt, 1914).
See also Laquerelle des phénomènes de matérialisation, by A. von SchrenekNotzing, A. S. P., May, 1914, xxiv; 129-149. Schrenck has demonstrated that a careful examination of the photographs shows that they are not reproductions of those that appeared in the Miroir. Mrs. Barclay, who in the Psychic Magazine thought to prove fraud, merely proved that she had neither read the detailed accounts of the experiments nor carefully examined the photographs.
Schrenck had, moreover, employed detectives for several months, who sought by every possible means to discover or even to provoke fraud. They got nothing.
The phenomena that Schrenck-Notzing and Mme. Bisson have verified with Eva bring fresh evidence on the formation of ectoplasms, evidence that is of high theoretical importance. The word ectoplasm, which I invented for the experiments with Eusapia, seems entirely justified. The ectoplasm is a kind of gelatinous protoplasm, formless at first, that exudes from the body of the medium, and takes form later. This embryo-genesis of materialization shows clearly on nearly all the photographs. In the early stages there are always white veils and milky patches and the faces, fingers, and drawings are formed little by little in the midst of this kind of gelatinous paste that resembles moist and sticky muslin.
To establish the truth of these phenomena of materialization and their embryo-genesis by formal proof I will here give, almost unabbreviated, the first notes of the experiments made by me with Marthe at the house of Mme. de S., under conditions that rendered fraud impossible, in September, October, and November, 1906.
I did not publish them at the time because they seemed to me so extraordinary that I wished to confirm them further by fresh experiment, but Marthe was then engaged on other studies with Mme. Bisson.
In some respects my experiments give more detail than those of Schrenck and Mme. Bisson; for I could follow the whole sequence of the embryo-genesis. I took no photographs; a serious omission doubtless, but one that is fairly compensated for by the fact that I could follow with the eye the detail of organization without those intermissions of observation while the curtain is drawn; this continuous observation is not permitted by the medium when waiting for the photograph, and herself giving the signal to the photographer. Moreover, mediums are always more or less in fear of the flashlight, and I have reasons to think that this terror of the flash involves some check to the phenomena.
It is probable, too, that Marthe's mediumistic powers have altered and that their modalities have varied. At Mme. de S.'s house the phenomena were different from those at Algiers, more like those presented with Mme. Bisson and Schrenck-Notzing some years later.
I quote textually my notes of 1906.1
1These notes, which I intended one day to publish, seemed to me so important that I confided them to my friend Georges Lyon, to be published after my death. He returns them to me at my request.
In the quite small room which I search thoroughly, a corner, curtains that can be closed and opened before the corner. A cane chair in the middle on which Marthe sits. Mme. de S., whom I will call A., is alone with Marthe and myself. We both sit close to Marthe, so close that I can touch her hands without getting up. The light is an electric lamp covered with red stuff, and gives light enough to show all the white in Marthe's garments and the white ribbons in her hair. After about half an hour, I open the curtains and see a faint luminosity on the floor, so feeble that I doubt its reality. By degrees this light increases; it is like a small, luminous handkerchief lying on the floor. Marthe's whole body is motionless. The luminous spot grows; its outlines are milky, undefined and cloudy, less defined and softer than would be those of a woven stuff. It approaches the chair, increases in size, and takes a serpentine form which tends to rise towards the left arm of A.'s chair. Its outlines become sharper; it is like a mass of half-empty fabric. Then follows an extraordinary sight: a point detaches itself from the mass, mounts up, bends and directs itself to Marthe's breast, her hands being held the whole time. The point continues to advance in a terrifying way like an animal pointing its beak; and as it advances, on the rigid stalk there appears a thin gauzy structure like a bat's wing, so thin and transparent that Marthe's garments can be seen through it. The stem is easily distinguishable from the membrane round it. Marthe is motionless and speaks at intervals.
I can approach and look very closely, only an inch away. I see what looks like a swollen substance, moving as if alive, and changing its form. For five or six minutes I examine it attentively. I see extensions like the horns of a snail, which start up to right and left; these horns are like transparent gelatin, they project from and sink back into the more defined central mass.
Marthe gets up. I take her hands. By raising and lowering her hands I seem to attract the point of the mass of substance. There seems now only a sort of veil suspended from my hand which holds both of Marthe's hands; but I can feel nothing. I made a slight movement with my little finger, the mass shortened by a few inches and mounted once more.
This amazing experiment, the first, was followed by yet another, the third, still more strange, on October 20th, which took place during the day with quite enough light to see by. For the sake of brevity I pass over experiment number two of the 18th, at
which the phenomena above described recurred. There was light enough, even in the cabinet, to read the title of a book.
517 518 picture
After half an hour's wait, the curtains open of themselves. On the floor is a small white tract that grows into an ovoid, puts out an extension, and mounts on the arm of the chair. At this moment there are two horns like snail's horns that seem to direct the movements of a part, B, that climbs over the arm of the chair, united to a mass, X, that lies on the floor. I can look at this very
closely: the stem is a greyish white, less white than the trimming of Marthe's bodice and softer in outline. There are swellings in it like an empty snake-skin whilst the two masses, B and X, seem
to swell and get fuller. Slowly the mass X mounts up and the mass B descends, so that X is on Marthe's knees and B below it, the latter becoming the base on which the whole formation rests, for it spreads out like an amoeba on the floor, and takes the form of a split base (two feet?). While these two parts continued to flatten out on the floor I had plenty of time to look very closely into the greyish, gelatinous, and barely visible mass X. I was not permitted to touch it. It was then on Marthe's knees. It then slowly divided into clefts at its extremity, resembling a hand, in embryo, but sufficiently clear for me to say that it is a left hand seen from the back. Vide Fig. 23: Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are rough sketches of the successive phases of the ectoplasm on the floor: 6 shows the development of the 'snail's horn' formation: 7, 8, and 9 are the series of forms taken by the ectoplasm mounting on to Marthe's knees: 9a shows the portion on the ground and the disposition on Marthe's figure: 10 to 13 show the growth of the hand. Nos. 14 to 17 are from another experiment analogous to the preceding. The final result was a stump ill-formed but sufficient to show the embryo of a hand.
Another change sets in: the little finger separates from the rest, and in the grey, cloudy mass a hand can be clearly seen from the back, the fingers closed, the little finger extended, and a swelling resembling the carpal bones appeared, like a Rontgen-ray radiograph of these bones. Soon the cloudy mass disappears and I see an ill-formed hand like a cast in plaster. I think I see the folds and creases in the skin slowly form. I am holding both Marthe's hands, and can see them.
The ectoplasmic hand seems solid, larger than a woman's hand. I am able to look at it very closely for ten minutes in quite good light. Then Marthe gets up and everything vanishes.
The most extraordinary of all the experiments is certainly the fourth (October 20th)
Fairly good light. The curtain remains closed for about an hour. I open it; a white spot on the floor grows rapidly, and two horns protrude from the mass X, from which other horns appear, very mobile, pointing in every direction. The mass, then much larger, disaggregates into particles, taking on the semblance of a hand; it does not look like the cast of the previous day, it is a greyish hand with ill-defined outlines.
This hand moves, looking like the hand of a mummy emerging from some stuff; it raises and lowers itself like a hand. Marthe's
hands are firmly held by me and are quite motionless. The fingers of the ectoplasm, thin and spindly, seem to end in cloudy masses. I can examine them very closely. I touch one of these spindles; it feels like a cold liquid. I can press it and it feels like the bone of a finger covered with skin. The hand rests on my knee and I feel the slight friction of a body of little resistance. The hand then rises of itself, swaying on a long stem that connects it with the floor; it falls back on to the floor with a slight noise; it remains there and I think I see the two bones of the fore-arm as though wrapped in cloudy muslin.
The hand then rises, bends, and moves towards me. The wrist is lowered and the fingers pendant; they move and there seems a torsional movement of this strange fore-arm. I still think I see the carpal bones in the muslin-like cloud.
The hand rests on my knee again. I feel its weight (very light), it makes little movements at my request that I can feel quite well. Then Marthe says to me, 'That is the muscles beginning to form,' and I see, or I think I see, something dark in the space between the two bones. The hand rises and moves very close to me, having no connection with the ground but a slight white trail. It then falls to the ground with a slight noise, rises from it and suddenly disappears at the moment that Marthe gets up.
The final experiment is less striking. There would seem to have been an endeavour to present a different phenomenon which could not reach its full development
After a long wait (an hour) Marthe opens the curtains. She can be seen sitting quite still. On her left shoulder is a whitish mass perhaps slightly luminous, though I could not state that it was markedly so. This gleam, at first indistinct, gradually takes the shape of drapery and disappears into Marthe's body. Then there appears a kind of cloud that seems to me weightless ( ?) as if thrown across Marthe's neck and bust, but this is very fugitive.
Then a phenomenon of great importance takes place, unfortunately much more rapid than those previously verified. About half a yard from Marthe there appears a kind of doll without a face, quite indistinct and barely a yard high. A very small head, two long sleeves, and scarcely any legs, the whole under a kind of drapery or shimmering light. This lasts about half a minute; the whole form then sinks to the ground, and nothing remains but the globular form of the head, which lasts about half a minute and disappears.
The last of the phenomena was very distinct and fully visible (I copy my notes verbatim)
Luminous prolongation seeming to proceed from the junction of the neck with the back, seen from behind. Marthe's two hands are visible and have hold of the drapery. This prolongation is white and very luminous; it seems to me self-luminous, but I cannot be sure of that. It is straight, very narrow, only about one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter, at its end a mass, not rounded but rather triangular. The external part of this mass is frizzy, or rather its outlines are vague. At first it is quite still, then it moves jerkily, as if the stem was being re-absorbed in the body. It seemed to me that the luminous mass, in shape something like an African native club, changed size, becoming now larger and now smaller. In the end it returned into Marthe's neck and back, her hand remaining in sight the whole time.
Such are the experiments I made with Marthe in 1906. Being corroborated by the subsequent admirable photographs taken by Mme. Bisson and Schrenck-Notzing, they seem to me of the highest importance.
In the first place no trickery was possible. The light was ample for perfect visibility; the proximity very close indeed; the time often very long, enabling me to observe closely every detail. These conditions entirely preclude fraud. Even if, for the sake of argument, we adopt the absurd supposition that Mme. de S., in whose house the experiments took place, was an accomplice, it would have been impossible to generate under my eyes these clouds which developed into bony and mobile masses just in front of me.
Marthe was examined and searched before and after the experiments. I never lost sight of her for a moment and her hands were always held and visible.
The phenomena were therefore authentic.
The outcome of these surprising observations is that we can state the stages in the formation of ectoplasms-a whitish steam, perhaps luminous, taking the shape of gauze or muslin, in which there develops a hand or an arm that gradually gains consistency. This ectoplasm makes personal movements. It creeps, rises from the ground, and puts forth tentacles like an amoeba. It is not always connected with the body of the medium but usually emanates from her, and is connected with her.
Two phases can be distinguished: a rudimentary phase, a sort of rough draft, and a phase of building up. With other mediums
the organized form may probably appear immediately without being preceded by the indistinct cloudy phase.
To confirm the authenticity of the phenomena, I cannot do better than reproduce side by side the notes taken by me in 1906 and those published by Geley in 1920. I have changed nothing in either.
|C. RICHET's NOTES (1906) On the ground a small white tract which grows, makes an ovoid mass, and puts forth a prolongation. This mounts on the arm of the chair. At this moment there are visible two horns like those of a snail which seem to direct the movements. A lower mass, X, on the ground; and an upper mass, B, united to the former, which has climbed over the arm of the chair. I can look at this formation from a very short distance. The stem is greyish white, with swellings like an empty snakeskin. The mass X is on Marthe's knees, while the mass B spreads itself on the floor like an amoeba. The mass X is greyish, gelatinous, and barely visible. It is then on Marthe's knees. Little by little it seems to split into digits at its end. It is like the embryo of a hand, ill-formed but clear enough to enable me to say that it is a left hand seen from the back. Fresh progress: the little finger separates almost completely: then the following changes, very quick but very clear: a hand with closed fingers, seen from the back, with a little finger extended, an ill-formed thumb, and higher up a swelling that resembles the carpal bones. I think I see the creases in the skin.||GELEY'S NOTES. FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS TO THE CONSCIOUS, 1919. From the mouth of Eva there descends to her knees a cord of white substance of the thickness of two fingers; this ribbon takes under our eyes varying forms, that of a large perforated membrane, with swellings and vacant spaces; it gathers itself together, retracts, swells, and narrows again. Here and there from the mass appear temporary protrusions, and these for a few seconds assume the form of fingers, the outline of hands, and then re-enter the mass. Finally the cord retracts on itself, lengthens to the knees, its end rises, detaches itself from the medium and moves towards me. I then see the extremity thicken like a swelling, and this terminal swelling expands into a perfectly modelled hand. I touch it; it gives a normal sensation; I feel the bones, and the fingers with their nails. Then the hand contracts, diminishes, and disappears in the end of the cord. (Page 57, English translation.)|
We experimented quite separately with Marthe, I in 1906 and Geley in 1910. We did not communicate our notes to each other
nor publish anything. They are therefore quite independent results.
It is impossible to suppose that Geley (whom I hardly knew in 1910) and myself were similarly hallucinated five years apart by the same illusion.
Geley, after describing very precisely the variations in the gelatinous embryo-plastic mass, adds, I do not say merely. There was no trickery. I say, 'There was no possibility of trickery. Nearly all the materializations took place under my own eyes, and I have observed the whole of their genesis and development.
I can say exactly the same.
Other observations similar to those on Marthe-Eva are mentioned by Schrenck in his fine work. These were with a young Polish girl, Stanislawa P., who chanced to discover her mediumistic powers by suddenly seeing (when eighteen years old) the apparition of her friend Sophie, who, unknown to her, had just died.
At Schrenck's house in Munich Stainslawa produced ectoplasm from her mouth, like Eva. She had been searched, dressed in black tights, and her head covered with a veil of very fine mesh. The ectoplasm emerged through the veil and formed three fingers. Cinematograph photographs of these experiments were taken.
With Linda Gazzera many instances of telekinesis and ectoplasmic forms have been observed. My learned and generous friend, Dr. E. Imoda of Turin, has published a valuable book narrating his interesting and methodical experiments, made at Turin in the house of the Marquise de Ruspoli.
Linda is a young girl of twenty-two, pleasant, well-educated, lively, and gay. Her guide is a certain Vincenzo, who, it seems, had been a cavalry officer, who died some years back, and concerning whom I have no precise particulars. Sometimes it was Carlotta, a child who died at the age of four. For all the experiments Linda was carefully searched, undressed, and re-clothed, and the cabinet where she sat was minutely searched. Her hands were always held, and she made no attempts to free them.
The only omission in the experiments was that her feet and knees were not as closely controlled as her hands. But it is impossible that the phenomena observed should have been due to movements of the feet, however skilful; such as winding up a musical box, and putting a pipe in my mouth (!!).
Linda's mediumship is characterized by very rapid production of the phenomena. The light is hardly extinguished when objects are displaced, musical instruments are played, and various white forms appear. At the same time the sitters feel touches of a warm, moist, mobile, living member, though it cannot always be identified as a hand.
Imoda was mainly concerned to photograph the ectoplasms ; this is quite laudable, but perhaps the desire to concentrate on getting good photographs prevents minute observations by the naked eye.
Imoda's photographs show very different faces always surrounded by a white veil. When Linda visited me at Paris, G. de Fontenay took some excellent photographs (pp. 175-179); a hand and a face, the latter seeming to be that of the face of a possessed man in one of Rubens's pictures in the Louvre.
As in Schrenck-Notzing's photographs, those taken by De Fontenay are flat, wanting in relief. The hands look more like gloves than real hands.1
The photographs taken by Caranzini are similar, the faces are just like dolls' faces and they and the hands are always veiled.2 It cannot be supposed that Linda, unable to use her hands, and after being carefully searched and re-dressed, could manipulate cards, dolls, and drawings quickly and skilfully enough to risk being photographed: and more than once she was searched again as soon as a photograph had been taken, and nothing was found. How could she hide an extraneous object?
In my preface to Imoda's book I said: The fact that the ectoplasms are not living faces is no objection; for there is nothing to prevent the ectoplasm being an image and not a living being. The materialization of a plaster bust is not easier to understand than that of a lithographic drawing; and the formation of an image is not less extraordinary than that of a living human head.
Another evidential and, to my thinking, decisive experiment took place at my house in Paris. There were present M. de Fontenay and myself, also Mme. C. Richet and Argentina (the Italian nurse of one of my small children), whom I had desired to be present so that Linda might have one of her own countrywomen
1 Fotografie di fantasmi, 8vo, Torino, F. Bocca, 1912, preface by Charles Richet.
A. S. P., 1912, xii, 135.
near her. I was on her right, and De Fontenay on her left. The séance lasted only thirty-five minutes.
During the whole time I kept firm hold of Linda's right hand without any intermission, and some thirty or forty times I satisfied myself by touch that De Fontenay was firmly holding her left hand.
Even before Linda went into trance there were movements of objects-the musical box started, and in complete darkness, a pipe placed behind Linda was placed in my mouth. A little later still in total darkness this pipe was seized and forcibly thrown into the middle of the room. Some heavy object dealt strong blows on the back of my hand; some large object struck heavy blows on the table; it also struck De Fontenay. A photograph was taken on which a well-materialized hand appears, the nails and all the fingers being visible. Round it there is a ribbon or some kind of stuff. A thin thread connects it with Linda's head (see p. 434).
This experiment, together with very many more by E. Imoda and the Marquise de Ruspoli, place the reality of the phenomena beyond doubt.
Dr. Paul Gibier, an eminent physiologist and a director of the Pasteur Institute in New York, had a decisive experience with Mrs. Salmon (loc. cit., p. 1733, April 21, 1909).
He experimented in his own laboratory, using an iron cage specially made to his instructions, with a door closing by a lock. Mrs. Salmon was placed in the cage, the door locked, and stamp paper gummed over the lock. He put the key in his pocket. A very short time after the lights had been extinguished, hands, arms, and living forms came out of the cage-a man, a woman, and more often a gay, lively little girl. Suddenly Mrs. Salmon emerged from the cage and fell half fainting on the floor. The seals were found intact and the door had not been opened.
In a second experiment, still more demonstrative, the cage was replaced by a wooden cabinet, specially constructed and hermetically closed. Mrs. Salmon was tied firmly by ribbon round her neck sealed to the walls of the cabinet. The lights were scarcely extinguished before a bare fore-arm and hand appeared outside the cabinet, just twenty-four seconds after darkness was made. Then another form moved outside.
After a few minutes of waiting, a white object about the size of an egg appeared and grew in height. (This mode of development of the ectoplasm should be compared with what was seen
at the Villa Carmen.) Then a woman, seemingly alive, came out of the cabinet and was recognized by Mme. D. and Mme. B. This phantasmal personage spoke French very well (Mrs. Salmon can only speak a few words of French, but this difference signifies nothing). The apparition remained for about two minutes, and P. Gibier could distinguish the features. She was slight in build, seemed about twenty-five, though Mrs. Salmon is corpulent and aged about fifty. Little Mandy came later, about a yard in height. Then a tall man whose muscular, vigorous, and completely masculine hand P. Gibier was able to clasp. After a short time this last form dissolved and seemed to sink into the ground.1
After this stirring séance, everything was found intact. Mrs. Salmon was still bound; the silk ribbon round her neck just as placed prior to the séance.
Several facts of great importance stand out from these notable experiences. In the first place they were conducted by a scientific man permeated by an enlightened scepticism, and were managed so that even if we do not admit the honesty of Mrs. Salmon, fraud would have been possible only by the introduction of several accomplices, a supposition that is manifestly absurd. Secondly the rapidity and multiplicity of the materializations would have to be accounted for.
Thus Dr. Gibier's experiments strikingly confirm the other materializations of which details have already been given. What more is required to produce conviction?
There is an extensive bibliography dealing with the experiments of Baron L. von Erhardt and the S. P. R. of Rome with the medium Carancini.2 This medium was studied not at Rome only, but at Paris by De Vesme, Lemerle, M. Mangin, and at Geneva by Claparède, Flournoy, and Batelli. There are several doubtful points, not as to his mediumship, which seems tolerably definitely proven, but as to his frauds (sometimes even conscious in despite of minute precautions), which detract from experiments that were apparently genuinely successful. Many photographs were taken,
1These details were to have been read at the International Congress of Psychology held at Paris in 1900; but Dr. Gibier's premature accidental death intervened. This paper is therefore posthumous, and is entitled Recherches sur les matérialisations de fantômes, la pénétration de la matière et autres phénomènes psychiques (A. S. P., xi, 3-16, 65-92).
2 See especially Erhardt, Etude sur la médiumnité de Carancini, A. SP., April, 1912, and Luce e Ombra, 1908-1913, A. S. P., 1911-1913, passim.
but the flash was made only when Carancini gave the word—Fuoco.
Carancini was very tightly bound, and was found at the end of the séances tied exactly as at their commencement, but many conjurers seem to find it easy to do this trick.
The phenomena of telekinesis came about very soon after he had been tied. Materializations were few; but one photograph shows a hand which seems flat, as if cut out of paper. The most remarkable experience was one in which a dinner-plate covered with soot (from a smoky flame) out of the medium's reach, was placed in a padlocked wooden box held in the hand of one of the sitters. (Did he hold it in his hand during the whole time?)
Carancini showed levitations and movements of objects, but always in darkness.
In short, the authenticity of the phenomena is not yet certain. After careful perusal of the notes taken, I am inclined to think the results genuine, but only because they resemble the unquestionably authentic observations on Eusapia, for in themselves those on Carancini are to be taken with reserve. To be accurate, there were never any proofs of fraud, but only suspicions, and as M. Erhardt remarks, the hypothesis of fraud implies that the experimenters were absolute imbeciles.
Dr. Feijao, a professor of surgery in the Lisbon Faculty of Medicine, assisted at a number of séances, which have been described by Mme. Frondoni-Lacombe.
The medium was a non-professional one, Mme. d'Andrade. Dr. Feijao thus expresses himself (and the opinion of an eminent and previously sceptical professor has great weight) : Formerly I believed nothing of these things. Now I have seen and observed, and I repent my incredulity.
In these experiments which were made in his own house, all the sitters joined hands: the table rose six inches from the ground, and there were lights, touches, and movements of objects.
Two very striking phenomena are stated by Dr. Feijao : first an apport, or rather, a transport. The door being locked, a rose from a bouquet in the room was taken into the adjoining room. But this must be taken with reserve, for the professor does not seem to have verified that the rose taken was actually from the
bouquet. Even after his affirmation, I must agree with Sir Oliver Lodge that no case of apport can be considered fully proved. The other phenomenon was the apparition of a phantom. All the doors were shut, a photograph was taken, and the plate showed a French ( ?) officer. It was then ascertained, through the table, that this figure purported to be that of a Lieutenant Catherin, killed at Vitry-le-François, September 27, 1914. The photograph, when shown to the widow of Lieutenant Catherin, did not resemble her deceased husband, and the uniform does not agree with that worn by French officers.
What gives importance to the experiment is not the photograph, in taking which sufficient precautions were not observed, but the sight of a phantom in a locked room before persons who were certainly incapable of a skilful, conscious, and prearranged fraud that would have necessitated the presence of an accomplice.
These observations of telekinesis and ectoplasms are described in a book by Mme. Madeleine Frondoni-Lacombe of Lisbon. I have the honour of knowing Mme. Lacombe, and hold her incapable of fraud. What object would there be in a fraud carried on for five years against all hostile criticism, and resulting only in sarcasms and abuse? The facts narrated are supported by numerous attestations, notably those of Dr. Feijao, at first sceptical but overcome by the evidence of other doctors, Dr. Souza Conto and another, by Captain d'Abren of the Engineers, Captain Silva Pinto, and other distinguished persons in Lisbon.
The medium who gave these remarkable metapsychic results is not a professional medium; she is the Countess Castelvitch, who gave these séances unknown to her husband.
Her mediumship was discovered as follows: On January 10, 1913, says Mme. Lacombe, when visiting my friend Countess Castelvitch I proposed table-turning. There were three of usthe countess, Mme. Ponsa, and myself. These ladies had never tried before. . . . That day the table rose up, and a person
ABSTRACT OF NOTE TO THE SECOND FRENCH EDITION. Mme. Lacombe has sent me a letter referring to my previous remarks on her book. She points out that the séances lasted only half an hour and that all precautions were observed that all the sitters (three or four at most) should hold hands. A very incredulous Portuguese journalist (M. Rocha, jr.) was convinced and wrote an article entitled The Initiation of a Sceptic. She insists strongly on the authenticity of the apports, which she says were frequent and undeniable. Even after her letter I cannot consider the passage of matter through matter as being demonstrated; though it is possible that my opinion may be modified by fresh experiments
calling himself Lemos manifested by rapping. From that day forward Mme. Lacombe and the countess made many trials and finally obtained a series of extraordinary phenomena that I cannot give here in detail, for it would be necessary to quote the whole volume, which I commend to the reader.
I will only summarize the principal facts, especially those that were observed in presence of Dr. Feijao.
Touches were very frequent and sitters felt hands touching them though the chain was unbroken: a heavy table weighing one hundred and sixty pounds was raised on two legs when barely touched: the movements of a small table were so violent that it became necessary to replace it by one strengthened with sheetiron: when this second table was used it was rent into two hundred (the exact number) small pieces which were piled telekinetically, i.e., without anyone touching them, in a corner of the room. Dr. Feijao thought at first that there must be secret doors to the room by which some person had entered and done this. In other séances a chair weighing thirty pounds moved by itself about four yards. Strong blows were struck rhythmically at different places in the room.
Dr. Feijao writes: Blows were struck, the loudest being on the glass of the bookcase. Articles of furniture sometimes moved. Heavy chairs moved about the room; efforts were made on the locked doors of the bookcase, which were opened; large and heavy books were flung on the floor (our hands being linked all the time) ; an office-bell and a handbell, the half-open piano, and a guitar in its case all sounded loudly . . . the table rose as much as twenty-four inches . . . At our request, and when we had all removed our hands, the table still moved.
There were also, as Dr. Feijao thinks, and Mme. Lacombe affirms she has often seen, transport of objects through closed doors: In one séance we desired that a rose should be taken into the adjoining room. We found this flower under a table, though all the doors were locked as usual.
Despite these attestations, reserve must be maintained regarding this latter phenomenon, which lends itself to illusion, not only by reason of the unconsciousness of the medium but perhaps of some of the sitters also. It is possible that the Countess Castelvitch or Mme. Lacombe may more or less unconsciously effect these displacements. A rigorous and authentic verification is required of the statement that, the doors being absolutely closed, a rose has passed through them and been conveyed into another closed room.
I make these reservations because these cases are quite exceptional in metapsychic science, if indeed they have ever been verified. But telekinesis is evident especially in the séance of April 24, 1917, at which Dr. Feijao was present and also one of his students, M. Bianco, who was entirely sceptical. The hands of all present were fastened together so that they could not be detached: and under these conditions blows were struck everywhere, a hand was felt by several persons; one string of the guitar sounded loudly, the bookcase was opened, and a book on a distant table was thrown about. Cases of telekinesis in Mme. Lacombe's book are too many for quotation.
It will suffice to cite the following, inasmuch as it took place in full light. A table weighing one hundred and sixty pounds rose on two legs and struck a blow when the countess was a yard distant from it and standing up.
There were some ectoplasms : a phantom representing a French officer, but wearing a uniform quite out of date, was photographed; but the story is too long to be given here. Another time there was a nun; very often there were whitish lights more or less shapeless; another time, a phantom with a death's-head; yet another time, an Arab soldier. All these were photographed.
As all the cases of ectoplasm cannot be quoted I select the following. On December 18, 1914, Countess Castelvitch, Mme. Ponsa, Mme. Furtado, M. and Mme. Lacombe were present in the house of the Countess Castelvitch. Through the table Mme. Furtado's husband was alleged to be present, but that he would not allow himself to be photographed because he had forgotten what his face was like, but he said that his companion would come in his place. This companion was his mistress, he having been separated from his wife; and in fact a veiled woman was photographed, causing great fear in Mme. Furtado, who declared she would never be present at any more séances. At the next séance (December 27, 1914), M. Furtado announced his presence again and said, I have no face, but I will make one, and the phantom photographed is a tall person clothed in white, but the face is that of a death's-head (Fig. 24).
It is difficult or impossible to imagine that these are frauds or illusions. Fraud was not easy. In order to show a French officer, a nun, a phantom with a death's-head, and an Arab soldier
a whole series of costumes would be needed, to be bought at a shop and to be used at the séances where hands were held, if not rigorously, yet sufficiently well. And why should this be done? If Mme. Lacombe wished to deceive she might have given stranger things. There is no reason to suspect the good faith of Mme. Furtado, who was very sceptical, nor of Mme. Ponsa, who was Mme. Lacombe's intimate friend.
Although it is probable that Countess Castelvitch was the principal medium, Madeleine Frondoni-Lacombe also had remarkable phenomena in full light when alone with her friend, Mme. d'Andrade (p. 208), who also had some manifestations that seem genuine. Holding both of Mme. d'Andrade's hands, Mme. Lacombe saw in full sunlight a parasol rise up, lower itself, and advance, rolling round with a waving motion.
Raps were made at a distance at request. It is therefore permissible to think that Mme. Lacombe also is a medium.
I infer that the ectoplasms observed by her are genuine. If they stood alone in metapsychic science they would certainly not suffice to produce conviction, for Madeleine Lacombe has not the scientific standing to warrant our basing our conclusions on hers; but all that she has seen agrees too well with all we have learned from the experiments with Home, Eusapia, Marthe Béraud, Stanislawa, and Miss Goligher for the Lisbon experiments to be rejected. Though there may be exaggerations and inexactitudes here and there, the facts can be taken as true in the main. Countess Castelvitch was a very powerful medium; it is to be regretted that she should not have been studied under conditions rather more stringent than those imposed by her friend, Mme. Lacombe.
These experiments are probably at an end. After a séance on July 14, 1920, in which an apport (an owl's head sculptured in stone) is alleged (a phenomenon that must be strongly contested), a séance was held on August 3d at which the spirit declared that he was about to leave . . . Hoja ultimo dia que posso manifestar me (today is the last day on which I can manifest). In the same way Katie King took leave of Crookes, we do not know why.
There were also some subjective phenomena, to which I do not refer, as they are poor in comparison with the cryptesthesia already described, and the Lisbon séances are mainly objective.
In the house of M. Corralès, an honourable merchant of San José, Costa Rica, some seemingly fine materializations took place. His daughter Ofélia claimed great mediumistic powers. Several séances were held at which various notables of San José were present. Various materializations appeared (Don Constantino and Mary Brown, who spoke very correct English).
Ofélia was seen sometimes in full light at the same time as Mary Brown who was touched, heard, and photographed (A. S. P., 1910, xx, 324). The phantom Mary seemed to merge into Ofélia from whom she emanated, and to inspire her.
All this reads very well, but despite the imposing list of persons who attest the genuineness of the phenomena, all scientific value must be denied to these experiences. M. Corralès, Ofélia's father, says in so many words: It is proved that Mary introduced an unknown girl into the room. This enigmatical statement leaves
open all kinds of possibilities. It would be an injury to science to give any place at all to these fraudulent experiences.1 Experiments made with Lucia Sordi, which at first satisfied M. Marzorati, did not stand Schrenck-Notzing's severer test. Lucia was enclosed in a wooden cage, and (in the dark) when in trance, she emerged from it, but Schrenck had a wooden ball made of the same size as her head and showed that it could easily be pushed between the bars by bending them (Luce e Ombra, x, November, 1910, and A. S. P., xxi, January, 1911, 225-230).2
Colonel and Mme. Peters at the Lodge Psyché in Berlin saw a striking materialized form. The séance took place in a small room sufficiently lit by a red light. The medium (a masked woman) was asleep in a chair. First a masculine figure, whose body was not visible below the knees, appeared beside her; then another form, the so-called nun Cordula, taller by a head than the medium, wearing the Dominician habit. Her face was entirely human, with shining eyes. She swayed in the air, floated high in the room for three minutes at a height of nearly three yards, making gestures and saying, Look how my eyes shine! She then vanished by degrees, the medium being all the time in the same place about a yard and a half from the apparition (A. S. P., 1907, xxvii, 25-35).
Eglinton was a very powerful medium, and though he has been suspected of fraud, he was able finally to prove that the allegations of his enemies were calumnies. Moreover, the question is not to establish that he was never guilty of trickery (which is not easy in the case of a professional medium) but whether in certain definite instances striking metapyschic phenomena have been produced (Erny, loc. cit., 159).
1 Mr. Willy Reichel (Psychische Studien, October, 1910 and A. S. P., 1911, xxi, 140) considers these as manifest frauds. C de Vesme has defended them. But things being as they are, no account should be taken of these alleged phenomena even by the best natured persons (A. S. P., 1911, xxi, 214).
2 The authoritativeness of séances that give materializations should always be compared with those at which Eusapia's phenomena were observed. For twenty years, at Milan, Genoa, Rome, Naples, Turin, Paris, Ribaud Island, Carqueiranne, l'Agnelas, Cambridge, Montfort-l'Amaury, and Washington, Eusapia was scrutinized, analyzed, and thoroughly studied by such men of science as Schiaparelli, Oliver Lodge, Lombroso, Myers, Aksakoff, De Rochas, A. de Gramont, P. Curie, Morselli, Bozzano, Ochorowicz, Foa, Bottazzi, Vassallo, Feilding, Carrington, Maxwell, Dariex, and others. It will probably be long before an equally imposing list of unexceptionable witnesses can be produced in any other case.
Miss Glyn, who did not believe in materializations, saw Eglinton at her own house, at a séance at which her father, her brother, and a friend were present. Eglinton was in the middle of this little circle, and his hands were held. Two forms appeared that could move and speak. Miss Glyn recognized them for her mother and her younger brother. The forms slowly disappeared. Phantoms are often too readily recognized, and the desire to secure this recognition detracts much from the value of the attestation.
Dr. Carter Blake, with five persons well known in English intellectual society, narrates that he saw by the side of Eglinton, who was sitting in an armchair, a tall brown form that melted into the medium's body.
The distinguished naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, in a letter to Erny, states that he saw Eglinton at a séance in a private house. By his side there appeared Abdullah, a materialized Oriental wearing sandals, a turban, and burnous; Eglinton being visible at the same time sitting in an armchair in evening dress. After the séance Eglinton was undressed and most carefully searched but neither sandals, turban, nor burnous were found.
Important séances were held at the house of the artist, J. Tissot, who has represented one result in a very beautiful picture. Eglinton sat in an armchair, close to Tissot, and stayed there the whole time. The doors were locked. After a brief space two forms appeared by Tissot's side. At first they were nebulous, but gradually became clear so that all their features could be seen. The male form had in his hand a kind of light with which he lit up the feminine form. M. Tissot recognized the latter, and, much moved, asked her to kiss him; she did so several times and her lips were seen to move.
Dr. Nichols experimented with Eglinton, putting him in a cage with a net over it. The doors of the cage were closed with sealed knots and the approaches to the cage were dusted with flour. The forms appeared outside the cage. Another time, at Dr. Nichols's house, in daylight, but behind closed curtains, there was a materialization in human form, which, in order to be recognized, raised the curtain to show itself in the daylight. It then slowly dematerialized till there remained nothing but the lower part of the body which vanished abruptly.
Florence Marryat and her husband assisted at a remarkable private séance in which they saw a whitish, cloudy substance
emerge from the left hip of the medium; this cloud increased in size, condensed, and became a materialized form that stood before Eglinton. She also studied the materializations given by Mr. Arthur Coleman who was not a professional medium. He was tied with cotton threads that would break at the least movement. Before the five sitters six forms appeared and were seen by the light of a gas-burner. During this time Coleman was entranced in the next room.
Mr. Stainton Moses often saw living forms about him. His friend, Mr. Charlton Speer, reports, among many other facts, as follows: I had my hand on the paper, writing, when Mr. Moses, sitting just opposite me, said, 'There is a column of light in front of you. Shortly after he said that the column had grown into a spirit, whose head and shape he described. It is very doubtful if this figure was objective; apparently it was seen by Stainton Moses only.
Heavy blows were heard in full daylight by Mr. Speer and Stainton Moses out of doors on the rails of the line to Southend. These knocks (which were intelligent) could be heard fifty yards away. Mr. Moses notes also vague, luminous forms near the table and simultaneous knockings. Reference has already been made to telekinesis in his presence, but materializations were exceptional. In 1905 the Rev. Mr. Colley, archdeacon of Canterbury, made some astonishing experiments with the Rev. Monck, the medium studied by Reiners and Oxley, quoted by Delanne (p. 521). The gas-jet was fully lit and Colley was at the side of the entranced medium, holding him up. A vapour emerged from the medium's black clothes, and became a cloud which gradually condensed into white draperies surrounding the apparitions. A child appeared who moved in the room just like a living child, and was kissed by those present, then returned to the medium and was gradually absorbed by him and disappeared, melting into his body. On the same day a beautiful woman appeared, born from a fluidic filament emanating from Monck and re-absorbed by him. In another séance an Oriental form calling itself the Mahdi was seen two yards distant from Monck: The Mahdi wore a metallic helmet that I could touch; it seemed to melt like snow at my touch, resuming its form a moment later. This phantom was strong: Mr. Colley one day seized it in his arms, and then, an irresistible force flung me about six yards to the place where the medium was standing; and I found myself clasping the medium, with white
muslin over his black coat. I was holding him in my arms as I had thought to hold the Mahdi.
This statement led to the supposition that Mr. Colley was the victim of a fraud; but he had seen the vapour becoming a cloud and materializing into garments covering a body.
One materialized form called itself Samuel, and the medium was seen to clasp Samuel's hand fraternally and walk with him round the room. The archdeacon wrote: I publish these things for the first time, having meditated over them in silence for twenty-eight years, giving my word as a clergyman for things which imperil my ecclesiastical position and my future advancement.
There was a celebrated lawsuit on this. The conjurer Maskelyne undertook to repeat the phenomena by trick. He wagered 11,000 and lost his suit. The illustrious A. R. Wallace gave evidence in support of Mr. Colley.
Dr. Hirschmann, President of the Anthropological Society of Liverpool, obtained most interesting results with a non-professional medium, Mr. B. Many photographs were taken of apparitions, their height was measured, their weight taken, and their pulse observed, just as if they were living bodies. These apparitions, he says, seemed to organize themselves from a nebulous mass, and they disappeared suddenly. In one photograph a nebulous connection is seen between the chest of the medium and that of the phantom.
At the house of Professor E., of Christiania, in 1893, M. de Bergen arranged a series or séances with Mme. d'Espérance, in which many distinguished persons belonging to the university, the magistrature, and the clergy took part.
In one of these séances an extremely beautiful female form appeared calling herself Nepenthes. She showed herself in the light at the same time as the medium, who was sitting with other persons outside the cabinet, and materialized in the midst of the circle. She plunged her hand into liquid paraffin wax, leaving a mould of rare beauty. The modeller who made the plaster cast could not believe his eyes and spoke of sorcery, because he could not imagine how the hand could have been extricated from the wax glove.
Nepenthes dematerialized in the midst of the circle. She lowered her head on which her usual diadem shone, and little by little became a luminous cloud like a human head (on which the diadem still faintly showed) gradually fading away.
Professor Aksakoff published a memorandum of Mme. d'Espérance 1 to which it would seem too much importance has been ascribed.
Mr. Carrington has shown that if there was no fraud, fraud was quite possible. Professor Aksakoff very loyally gives the evidence of several persons present at this alleged dematerialization who did not accept it as genuine, for example, the engineer, Schonelz (p 92). The honesty of Mme. d'Espérance may very well be admitted while supposing that by an unconscious backward movement of her legs she may have given rise to the notion or may have herself thought that her lower limbs were dematerialized for a time.
A medium named Sambor, a former telegraphist, gave a series of séances from 1896 to 1902, which are recorded in the Russian spiritist journal, Rebus. Petrovo Solovovo, a skilful experimentalist and scientifically sceptical, had given an analysis of these séances, especially of those at which he was present. But he has since raised some justifiable doubts even on the latter.2
In 1899,in the house of Mme. deA., the materialized form of a little girl appeared between the curtains, Sambor being in the chain formed by the linked hands of the sitters. A white column seemed to rise from the floor and move towards Sambor. This materialized form (Olia) raised a table into the air, and a small (child's) hand touched the sitters. On another occasion, only Mr. S. and Mr. Bonjunski being present, a form, Friedrich, appeared, quite different from Sambor both in stature and gestures; this materialization and Sambor were seen together, walking about the room. The light was good, and all took place in Mr. Bonjunski's small room in Petersburg on June 20, 1899, at which time of year there is practically no night. Among other phenomena, Friedrich wrote something on the inside of the glass of Mr. S.'s watch.
Mr. Erfurt, the director of a printing works at Petersburg, prepared a cone of sheet-iron, with a piece of paper and a pencil inside it. M. Zabasky and M. Eichwald, engineers, closed the cone with an iron cover fixed on with special rivets. This cone was left for several days in a room that Sambor had never entered. In the séance of March 8, 1902, Sambor declared that something had been written; the cone was opened, not without difficulty, and
1A. Aksakoff, Un cas de matérialisation partielle du corps d'un médium. Enquêtes et commentaires, Paris, Libr. de l'Art indépendant, 1896.
2 A. S. P., November and December, 1899, ix, 105 and 109, xi, 243-256' 1902, xii, 257-302. '
after having verified that everything was intact some words were found written in pencil on the paper.
Mme. Youdenitch has communicated to A S P (1904, xiv, 193) details on the séances that took place in the house of M. Olchowski. There was almost complete darkness. Hands were joined, so that the hands of the medium were never free. The little girl Olia appeared at Sambor's side. She could be seen and touched and she was heard to speak. She was luminous and bluish white in colour, and seemed to tremble the whole time. Her features were ill-defined, and she disappeared by degrees, vanishing like a tremulous ribbon. In an adjoining room, where there was certainly no one, a mandolin had been placed, which began to play of itself. This white mandolin, visible in the faint light, was seen to come from the room where it was and settle on the table in the séance room.
The hypothesis of an accomplice will explain some of these phenomena, but not all. This hypothesis that seems so unlikely at first sight was actually proved. Petrovo Solovovo learned, later, that one of the sitters intentionally released Sambor's hand that he was supposed to be holding. There is therefore nothing to be said on the so-called phenomenon of the chair. But this does not explain the phantom seen by all at Sambor's side; for the com plicity seems to have been limited to the release of one hand. All the same, legitimate doubts may be cast upon all Sambor's mediumship, for there is no certainty of his probity nor that of the circle.
It is scarcely worth while to mention the very old experiments by Dale Owen in New York in 1860, and as the phenomena were given by one of the Fox sisters, then Mrs. Underhill, they cannot be trusted. Still, it is probable, as in so many cases with Leah Fox, that there was an admixture of genuine phenomena. Dr. Gray cut off a piece of the garment of the materialized form, which melted little by little in his hands (Erny, loc. cit., 133). This must be accepted as genuine unless Dr. Gray were a low impostor. A New York banker, Mr. Livermore, had about a hundred séances at his own house with Leah Fox and many times recognized his deceased wife whom he ardently desired to see.
At a private séance in Australia, Mr. Brown, experimenting with one of his friends who was a medium, hung a curtain across one corner of his room. The medium retired behind this curtain, and twelve materialized forms appeared in succession among whom Mr. Brown believed that he recognized two deceased sons of his.
M. Stiegler narrates (APS ., 1905, xv, 641) a spiritist séance at Arles directed by J. Bayol, an eminent surgeon of the French Navy, subsequently Governor of Upper Nigeria. The medium was a young employee of the Paris-Lyons Railway. Lights appeared on the ceiling and a greenish-blue ring appeared over the heads of the sitters. Details given are few.
Baron Hillenbach of Vienna had some séances there with Mme. Toeffer at his own house, Dr. Tieber assisting. Mme. Toeffer, sitting on a sofa, was covered by a net nailed to the floor all round. A form appeared which raised the curtain, and while so holding it, Mme. Toeffer could be seen in a state of trance, with her arms hanging down.
Lucy Stout witnessed a materialization in a wooden house in Kansas City (Missouri). She specially observed its dematerialization. The form approached the medium's cabinet, became cloudy and transparent, and was transformed into a luminous mass which finally disappeared.
M. Fremery, at La Haye, in the house of Mme. Huygens, saw a tall white form surmounted by a luminous sphere, the medium being motionless behind the curtains. By degrees this condensed into a hand which rose to the ceiling, holding a palm-branch. The luminous hand then descended to the table. Only the hand and arm were materialized and seemed to be those of a child of fourteen (A. S. P., 1908, xvii, 256).
Another experience was very interesting: A phosphorescent cloud developed, moving quickly towards us, rose up, condensed, flowed to the ground, and disappeared behind the curtain. Then a luminous arm of abnormal length emerged from the curtain, a luminous disk in a phosphorescent cloud moved quickly towards a chair which was displaced, whilst the medium remained visible to all of us sitting in the cabinet (A S P, 1908, xvii, 309).
An American sculptor, Mr. Brackett, experimenting with Mrs. F., of Boston, thus describes the disappearance of the phantom of his wife: This form did not resemble her; but told me intimate things that she alone could know. Suddenly the form sank down and disappeared through the floor which was covered with a thick carpet; the head and shoulders remained visible to the last. The similarity to the Villa Carmen phenomena will be noted.
Mr. Brackett saw two materialized forms together with the medium, and verified that they underwent transformation. I saw a tall young man who called himself the brother of Mrs. X., who was with me, and as Mrs. X. said she could not recognize him (having only known him as a child), the form shrank little by little till it assumed the form of the little boy that Mrs. X. had known. Sometimes, says Mr. Brackett, the form dematerialized before me and I at once verified that the medium was sleeping.
These diverse experiments, which have not been repeated, and which are testified to only by certain observers possibly devoid of the necessary scepticism, do not seem to me such as to shake the negative convictions of scientists. But this is not the case with the phenomena recorded of Home, Florence Cook, Eusapia, and Miss Goligher which are unassailable. Those of Marthe-Eva, of Linda Gazzera, Mrs. Salmon, Eglinton, and Mme. Lacombe acquire full value from the others, and this value is considerable; nor do I see reason to dismiss entirely those of M. Corralès, Sambor, and perhaps those of Mme. d'Espérance.
I think I have mentioned all the cases of experimental materialization that seem worthy of notice; but one can never be sure of giving a complete list, and I apologize in advance for any omissions.1
Nothing in the history of materializations would give more positive proof than the production of moulds obtained under unexceptionable experimental conditions, from materialized forms dematerializing themselves.
Aksakoff (A. S. P., 1897, vii, 28) cites various cases of moulds obtained by fluidic hands making impressions on flour, plaster, or paraffin wax. According to him the first experiments of this kind go back to 1855 (Banner of Light, April 1, 1855, and August 10, 1867).2
The facts narrated by Aksakoff did not convince me; even the putty cast of Eusapia's head did not seem to me certain, and I was
1 I prefer not to allude to the unpublished experiments which were told me at Warsaw or described to me by letter, by persons of good standing. They are so stupefying and hugely improbable that I unfortunately cannot bring myself to believe them. And yet . .
2 See also Zollner and Wagner (Psychische Studien, 1877, 401; 1878, 492; 1879, 249) ; and Spiritualist, 1878, 134
sure that we had nothing really evidential in the way of moulds, when in 1921 we were able to study these phenomena with a Polish medium-Kluski-at the Metapsychic Institute.
Geley and I took the precaution of introducing, unknown to any other person, a small quantity of cholesterin in the bath of melted paraffin wax placed before the medium during the séance. This substance is soluble in paraffin without discolouring it, but on adding sulphuric acid it takes a deep violet-red tint; so that we could be absolutely certain that any moulds obtained should be from the paraffin provided by ourselves. We therefore had certain proof that the moulds obtained could not have been prepared in advance but must have been produced during the séance itself. Absolute certainty was thus secured.
During the séance the medium's hands were held firmly by Geley and myself on the right and on the left, so that he could not liberate either hand. A first mould was obtained of a child's hand, then a second of both hands, right and left; a third time of a child's foot. The creases in the skin and the veins were visible on the plaster casts made from the moulds.
By reason of the narrowness at the wrist these moulds could not be obtained from living hands, for the whole hand would have to be withdrawn through the narrow opening at the wrist. Professional modellers secure their results by threads attached to the hand, which are pulled through the plaster. In the moulds here considered there was nothing of the sort; they were produced by a materialization followed by dematerialization, for this latter was necessary to disengage the hand from the paraffin glove.
These experiments, which we intend to resume on account of their importance, afford an absolute proof of a materialization followed by dematerialization, for even if the medium had the means to produce the results by a normal process, he could not have made use of them. We defy the most skilful modelers to obtain such moulds without using the plan of two segments separated by thread and afterwards reunited.
We therefore affirm that there was a materialization and dematerialization of an ectoplasmic or fluidic hand, and we think that this is the first time that such rigorous conditions of experiment have been imposed.
There is ample proof that experimental materialization (ectoplasmic) should take definite rank as a scientific fact. Assuredly we do not understand it. It is very absurd, if a truth can be absurd.
Spiritualists have blamed me for using this word absurd; and have not been able to understand that to admit the reality of these phenomena was to me an actual pain; but to ask a physiologist, a physicist, or a chemist to admit that a form that has a circulation of blood, warmth, and muscles, that exhales carbonic acid, has weight, speaks, and thinks, can issue from a human body is to ask of him an intellectual effort that is really painful.
Yes, it is absurd; but no matter—it is true.
Further, materializations must not be considered as isolated phenomena. They must be considered along with telekinesis and collective hallucinations. Taken together they carry indisputable proofs before which the imperfect science of today must bow. The function of science is first of all to verify; and then, if possible, to understand.