From the book Forty
Years of Psychic Research
NOTWITHSTANDING my deepening interest in psychic matters, I kept my researches subordinate to my work as a novelist and lecturer. My talks on Local Color in Fiction and other literary and esthetic subjects were in occasional demand, and, as the Arena, which made frequent mention of the activities of the American Psychic Society, referred to me as one of its officers, I began to encounter, at the close of my addresses, auditors who were much more interested in me as an investigator than as a man of letters.
In almost every town I visited, mediums introduced themselves to me and offered their services often without pay, for they had somehow gained the impression that I would be fair in my judgments of them. In this they were right, for it was my policy to study, not to expose them.
Late in December of 1892 I found myself in Santa Barbara filling a lecture date which my father's brother, Addison Garland, a resident in the city, had arranged. With little interest in matters occult he was a man of thought and quite ready to sponsor one of my literary addresses.
In the early afternoon preceding my lecture, a young woman called upon me at my uncle's house and at once said: I am what they call a trumpet medium. I live in a village about ninety miles away, over the range. I am a reader of the Arena and I know of your work for the American Psychical Society. I have come down to have you test my powers. My guides told me to come. They assured me that you will make the best use of my mediumship.
This young psychic interested me. Her name was not Smiley, but I shall call her that. She was a pale, darkeyed little woman of about my own age, refined in manner and plainly of higher type than any of the mediums I had hitherto met. Could you give me a test sitting here tonight after my lecture? I asked. I am going to Los Angeles tomorrow to begin a series of literary addresses, and a late sitting here is my only chance to test your powers.
She consented to do this, and at the close of my lecture came to my uncle's house, bringing her trumpet, a long tin cone of simplest construction. Unfortunately, a tremendous tropical rain was lashing against the windows and roaring through the trees, and for that reason (or some other) the sitting was a failure. No voice came from the trumpet and nothing stirred in the room but ourselves.
Mrs. Smiley was disappointed, and so was my uncle. I laid our failure to the influence of the storm, but she went away sadly dejected. I have come so far and accomplished nothing, she said disconsolately.
On the following morning as I entered the car for Los Angeles, I was greatly surprised to find the little medium there.
She explained her change of plan. Last night after I went to my hotel my guides came to me and told me to go with you to Los Angeles. They said that you would arrange some sittings there. They promise important results from such sittings.
It is only fair to say, Mrs. Smiley, that my committee has no funds, as yet, with which to pay for your services or your expenses, and I can not afford personally to pay your usual fees.
I have no usual fees, she answered. I am not a professional medium in that sense. I am only an instrument in the hands of my guides.
Tell me about yourself. How did you discover these powers—and how long have you acted as an 'instrument'?
I've been devoted to this work ever since a child. My father was a convinced spiritualist, and when I was about nine years old strange things began to happen in our house. My parents didn't know what to make of it: They thought demons had taken possession of our home. Dishes were broken, the chairs overturned—everything movable shifted about. It was all like the work of a 'poltergeist,' as some writers call it now. Everywhere I went raps followed me, and small objects moved when I passed near them. My schoolmates refused to sit beside me. The mysterious taps on the books and on benches terrified them and greatly embarrassed me.
Finally my father decided that I was the cause of all this rumpus and made me sit regularly for development. I didn't like to do this but he insisted, and when he began to get messages from the other side all my relatives said to me, 'It is your duty.' They used to tie me and confine me in every way, experimenting with me for hours at a time. It was all very tiresome to me, but I couldn't help myself. I was only a child of ten or twelve, and I was overborne. I have been devoted to the work ever since.
After my father died, my gift was a great comfort to me as well as to my mother for I got messages from him. I brought consolation to all my friends, many of whom were able to hear the voices of their relatives who had passed on. After my little daughter went away, I was glad of my gift. She comes to me almost every night. I can hear her voice, and she takes care of me when I am in trance.
There was no doubting the sincerity of the little woman's faith; her face and voice were honest. I asked, Does your daughter speak to you directly?
Yes; sometimes she speaks from the air, but generally her voice comes through the trumpet when I sit in the dark. My guides also use the trumpet.
What do you mean by 'voices'? Do they sound like the voices of people you knew?
Yes, they are just as real as any voices.
You believe that they are the voices of your dead?
She spoke firmly. I know they are. If I didn't believe that, I would be desolate. For over thirty years these voices have been a part of my daily life. They mean more to me than I can tell.
Perceiving in her a clear-sighted and candid spiritualistic practitioner, I spent all the hours of this ride to Los Angeles in an attempt to get at the heart of her mystery. What is your condition when these voices are speaking? Are you clearly awake?
Not always. Sometimes I hear what is said, at other times I know nothing of the messages. Often I am in a deep trance.
Are you conscious of leaving your body when objects are being moved about the room?
Yes, I often have the feeling of floating about in the air. It sometimes seems as if I were suspended a few feet above and a little to one side of my material body, to which I am always attached by a shining thread. I often see my body lying there, and I know what goes on around me; but it all appears dim, like things in a dream. It is hard to explain what I mean, but I seem to be in two places at once.
Do you ever perceive a physical connection between yourself and your sitters? Do they help in the production of phenomena?
She hesitated a moment before replying. Yes, I sometimes see little shining threads going out from me and from each one of the persons in the circle. These threads meet in the center and twine themselves around the trumpet or pencil. I know that I draw power from my sitters—some aid more than others. .
You say you sometimes go away into the spirit world—tell me of that.
Her face and voice became wistful as she replied: Sometimes I go to a far-off bright region. Often I have no wish to come back, but there is always a little white ribbon which unites my wandering spirit with my body and holds me fast. Once when I had resolved not to return, that band of light began to tug at me; and although the thought of leaving my daughter and my parents, who were with me in that bright place, almost broke my heart I yielded and came back to life on earth. It was cheerful and lovely in the spirit land, and I hated to come back to a life of struggle on the cold and cruel earth-plane.
Can't you describe this spirit world a little more definitely?
No, it is so different from this plane that I have no words in which to describe it. All I can say is that it is very bright and warm and beautiful.
Something in her face and voice quite won my good will. Mrs. Smiley, you are the first psychic I have known with whom I can discuss these matters freely. I am an official investigator. To me there is no value in merely sitting in the dark listening to an uncontrolled medium operating from a cabinet. I want to test what happens. You believe in your powers, I can feel that. Do you believe in them strongly enough to permit me to put you under control during a séance?
With candid, serene glance she replied: I will submit to any test you wish to make. You may handcuff me or put me in a cage if you wish.
Bravo! You have the blood of the martyrs in you. I wish I could ask you to come to Boston and sit for the directors of the Psychic Society, but I can't take the responsibility. Thus far we have met no one of your quality. I will try to arrange a sitting in Los Angeles before I go East; but I can't promise it, for I am giving several lectures there and have no evenings free.
That night as I rose to give the first of my addresses, I saw little Mrs. Smiley sitting demurely in one of the rear seats, a most inconspicuous figure with nothing in her face or dress to indicate, in the slightest degree, her possession of occult powers.
My talk was under the auspices of the Public Library, and Miss Tessie Kelso, the director of the library, presented me to my audience. At the close of my lecture she took me down upon the floor of the hall and there introduced me to a group of her friends.
Seeing Mrs. Smiley standing near, timidly waiting for a word with me, I called Miss Kelso's attention to her. There is the little medium I told you about. She seems an honest one—and I am going to test her powers while I am here.
You must let me share in your tests, Miss Kelso exclaimed.
Approaching Mrs. Smiley, I said, Come and meet some of my friends.
Miss Kelso was pleased by the quiet dignity of the psychic and especially by her gentle and candid utterance, and turning to me she said: Let's go to my apartment and have a sitting tonight. It's only nine o'clock.
I am willing if Mrs. Smiley is, I replied, amused by her outspoken enthusiasm.
Mrs. Smiley was also amused by this impulsive demand. I am perfectly willing to do so, but I must go and get my trumpet, she explained.
I am setting down these preliminary details in order that the reader may sense the casual way in which the whole affair was arranged, and also to explain the high character of the group which assembled a half-hour later in Miss Kelso's library and sitting room. No preparation was possible, no wires could have been laid.
Furthermore, Miss Kelso, a vigorous young woman with no experience in psychic phenomena, was frankly sceptical; and, so far as I know, the men and women who met with us that night were equally out of touch with the spiritualistic world. The men were practical business men. One of them was the editor of the leading paper in the city. Several of the women were social leaders, and all were vouched for by Miss Kelso. They are my friends, she said.
After seating the guests about a long table in Miss Kelso's library I put Mrs. Smiley in an armchair at the head of the table. I then tied her wrists to the arms of the chair with silk twist, knotted so tightly that she could not bring her hands together or lift them in the air. I explained as I did so that I used silk thread for the reason that it was impossible to untie such a knot. If I were called upon to tie a conjurer, I should not use a rope or his kind of cord; I would use a silk thread.
After looping the psychic's ankles with thread I tied the ends to the back of her chair while the sitters made humorous remarks on my severity. Mrs. Smiley defended me. I want to be confined.
The room contained the usual furnishings of a young woman's sitting room: books, banjos, and the like. Directly behind the psychic and within reach of my hand stood an upright piano with its lid closed but not locked The company, composed of three men and four women were seated like guests about a dinner table, a heavy oak piece. On the end near me I placed the trumpet (a tin cone about two feet long) together with some paper and pencils. The horn stood on its larger end about three feet from the medium, who was on my left.
It was about ten o'clock when we took our seats and Miss Kelso turned out the lights. Miss Otis, who sat at the psychic's left, rested a hand on the psychic's wrist whilst I was in touch with her right hand; but I will not say that I was touching her at all times. I trusted to the silk twist.
For over an hour we sat in the darkness while I told stories of my previous experiments in order to pass the time. Nothing happened, nothing moved, for nearly two hours, and I was just at the point of giving up the trial when a faint sound came from the piano, as if the strings were being timidly plucked. The sound came from the inside, from the strings, not from the action of the keys. This interior twanging kept time while we sang Annie Laurie and other familiar melodies. I do not know what the other sitters thought, but I was astounded.
We then removed our hands from the table but kept them clasped, making a circle broken only at the psychic's end of the table. Lifting my hand from the psychic's wrist I told Miss Otis to do the same. I am willing to trust our faithful silk twist, I said. As we sat thus a drumming sound came from the table and later upon the trumpet. To show that this sound was governed by intelligence I whistled a tune to which the invisible hand kept perfect time. This sound changed to a sharp ticking. It sounds as if made by finger nails, I remarked. Almost instantly the trumpet was smitten as if with a palm. The invisible agent wished, apparently, to prove that he had a complete hand.
While we waited, commenting on these inexplicable happenings, the trumpet was heard to rock on its base. Soon it rose in the air, and a few moments later dropped to the floor. From this position it rose and took its place upon the table as before. This action was entirely out of reach of the psychic, I said to the other sitters.
This movement of the cone was followed by the sound of writing, apparently on the pad in the center of the table. Whoever is doing that writing, speak up, I called out. It is not Mrs. Smiley. I am controlling her hand.
When the trumpet rose again, I distinctly heard a whisper which seemed to come from its larger end. The lady opposite me said: I hear a whisper. It says, 'I am with you.'
Another clearer whisper followed. I came with Mama, were the words. A name was then whispered to Mrs. Spencer, who recognized it as that of a relative.'
While this was going on I put my ear as close to the psychic's lips as I could, listening intently. I heard no sound indicating movement on her part. Apparently she was in deep motionless trance. The whispering was now directed toward the sitters at the far end of the table and was not audible to me. So far as I could detect the words did not originate at my end of the table.
They were plainly heard by those seated at the other end of the table. Several direct communications were thus delivered, and the names of the invisible speakers given. At last the mouth of the trumpet was apparently directed toward me and a peculiar hollow, breathy, inarticulate whisper came from it. Attempts were made to utter a name, but I could not distinguish it.
Won't you write it for me? I asked.
I will try, replied the invisible from the cone. A little later I heard quite clearly cone: I have written, but the writing is very miserable.
Various raps, rustling, and drummings followed. I was tapped once upon the knee. I commanded the cone to touch me upon my right shoulder. This was done. I was touched very softly on my right cheek by the small end of the trumpet.
This is highly evidential for not only was this the cheek farther from the psychic but the trumpet at my request had been reversed. The large end was over the table and several feet from the psychic's hands. The gentle precision of its touch was amazing. The cone then touched me on my right breast partly under my arm, a spot impossible for the psychic's hand to reach even had it been free.
At my request the trumpet was then raised high in the air and drummed upon while in that position, three feet above and away from the psychic—a performance requiring two hands.
I asked the sitters to observe that to do this the psychic would need to occupy a standing position and have the use of both her hands. Immediately thereafter the pencil and paper were lifted and thrown upon the floor and the table strongly pushed farther away from the psychic.
Seizing this opportunity for a still stronger test, I then said: Put the pencils and paper back on the table.
This was done instantly, an amazing phenomenon. It was simply impossible for Mrs. Smiley to stoop and find these objects in the dark. If deception is charged it must be against one of the sitters—not against the psychic.
This test closed the sitting. On relighting the room we found the psychic exactly as I had fastened her. Indeed the silk was so deeply sunk into her wrists (which were badly swollen) that I was obliged to insert the points of the scissors with care. I called attention to this fact. She could not have lifted her wrists an inch from the chair arm, I declared.
The persons present were all well known to Miss Kelso, and as they had all sat with clasped hands while the final tests were made, I was disposed to absolve them of any complicity. Aside from one or two who were greatly excited by the wonder of the experience, they were all alert and decidedly doubtful. Much laughter and joking characterized the evening. Some of them, however, confessed to a complete change of attitude. Notwithstanding the bonds of the psychic, one or two thought she might have moved her chair forward and obtained control of the trumpet. But all admitted the insoluble mystery of the sounds coming from the inside of the closed piano.
In discussing this astounding séance with the editor, I recalled the fact that aside from the darkness, the conditions were our own!
Our control of the psychic I regard as complete. We must therefore not only inquire how the cone was moved, but how the voices were produced. If one of our sitters moved the cone, he must be a ventriloquist as well as a mind reader for the voices from the trumpet gave recognized names and messages. The name of my sister was whispered. Furthermore, for one of us to pick up that pad and those pencils from the floor without hesitation would necessitate the breaking of our chain of hands, and the use of abnormal vision.
As for myself, I was not only puzzled, I was shaken. It was the most convincing test I had ever made, and I spent many hours analyzing it.
Reporting to Flower, I wrote: There can be no question of prearranged machinery. The sitting was unpremeditated and held in a private library which Mrs. Smiley had never entered. The circle was of the highest character. I confess that it has made a radical change in my attitude toward the phenomena on which spiritualists base their faith. If this happened, anything can happen. We are to have another sitting tomorrow night.
Our second sitting was in the same place, and the group was substantially the same as before. As in the first sitting, I again tied the psychic to the arms of her chair with even greater care, and as a further precaution I passed a tape line around her knees so that she could not slide down and touch the floor. I did this to meet the criticism of one of the men. Mrs. Smiley did not object to the extra bond; on the contrary she again said, You may handcuff me if you wish.
Nevertheless, despite these added precautions, the trumpet was again active, and the voices which came from it were much clearer than before. The chief speaker, whose name was Mitchel, addressed himself directly to me and had much to say concerning the work of our society. He spoke clearly, fluently, and forcibly, with grave precision, like an elderly, intelligent, but rather pedantic college professor. His words related wholly to methods of communication and the health of the psychic.
The physical disturbances, however, were rather less than before, and notwithstanding Mitchel's voice the entire sitting was less exciting to the sitters although they admitted that what did happen was of higher value by reason of my added control.
Some of the women professed a belief in the personal messages which they had received, and the words of Mitchel were clearly heard by all. His utterance was at times almost pure tone.
Who is 'Mitchel'? I demanded of the psychic.
She replied: He was a friend of my father and a brother of O. M. Mitchel the astronomer. He has been one of my chief guides for many years. He is greatly interested in your society and tells me to cooperate with you in every way possible.
There was something so candid, so patient, so compliant about the little woman that the entire company was won to a genuine liking and respect for her. All agreed to meet again at my call.
On the following day I went with Mrs. Smiley to have a daylight sitting with another sensitive who had expressed a desire to meet me. Her act was the one called impersonation, and I found it rather moving.
After sitting for a few moments in the ordinary light of her little parlor, the psychic rose and with her hand on her thigh limped painfully about the room as if seeking a book or paper, talking meanwhile on some literary topic. No name was given, but I at once recognized her action as a very clever reproduction of the walk and gestures of Walt Whitman. This had no great evidential value, for she may have read the account of my visit to him. I can not think she had read this, but it was possible that she had.
On the same day I went to the home of a woman in Pasadena, to see some paintings, done while in trance, by her Swedish housemaid. They were amazingly intricate drawings in black and white, each representing some philosophical or ethical subject, all circular in form and divided into light and dark sections. One which I vividly recall was filled with hundreds of faces and, most amazing of all, these faces were so drawn that the lines on the light forms served as outlines of the dark forms. It was as if the artist had produced each picture according to a fixed pattern to show that the impossible could be wrought by spirit aid. They were done, I was told, almost instantly. I did not see the girl, and I give her mistress' statement as she made it to me, merely as another of the incredible forms which mediumship is able to assume.
The third sitting with Mrs. Smiley took place as before in Miss Kelso's library and began at eight o'clock on the last day of December, 1892, with substantially the same group of interested sitters. Enlarging the circle, I removed the table entirely out of reach of the psychic. In the presence of the sitters and under the supervision of the men I once more lashed the psychic to her chair with great care; and with the aid of the women I passed a loop of tape around each of her ankles and nailed the ends of this tape to the floor behind her. I then drew chalk marks around the feet of her chair (without her knowledge) so that any slightest change in position could be measured.
I wish to avoid all criticism of our method of control, I explained. I have made it impossible for Mrs. Smiley to move a single inch.
I then placed pencils and paper and the trumpet on the table as before.
After the lights were turned off we sat for nearly four hours, part of the time singing, part of the time in unconstrained conversation. Mrs. Smiley was pathetically concerned by this failure of the phenomena and I, feeling sorry for her, was about to break the bonds when a faint tapping began, apparently on the top of the piano which stood as before at the back of the psychic and within easy reach of my hand.
In answer to my query, Are we sitting right? the invisible hand tapped once—an emphatic No. And at command of this invisible I changed places with Mrs. Spalding, taking a seat on the psychic's left and a little back of her so that with my right hand I could easily reach the piano.
This is one of those small changes which appear to be important to the invisibles—or to the psychic—for immediately thereafter, a soft drumming came on the top of the piano. The drug ping was about two feet back of the psychic and a little higher than her head.
I can not see how she is able to produce this with her bound hands, I remarked. At my command these invisible fingers drummed in time to my whistling.
Suddenly this drumming ceased and the strings of the piano twanged as if to invite a test. The cover of the instrument was down, and reaching back I laid my hand on it and called out: Ladies and gentlemen, the cover of the piano is closed and my right hand is upon it. The psychic has no physical connection with it. It is a clear case of telekinesis.
In order to show that this sound could not have been caused by the jar of passing street cars I then said to the invisible one, Keep time to my whistling. This he did. I whistled Yankee Doodle and the twanging kept perfect time to every note. I then said, Strike softly, and this it did. Sound on the treble, I commanded, and this was done. Now sound the bass strings, I said, and my command was obeyed.
Calling the attention of the circle to the fact that the sound did not come from the keys but from a twanging of the strings, I said: If the piano cover were open—which it is not—those sounds could come only from a hand picking at the strings.
It is of no value to say that the piano was wired, for we had this effect at our first sitting which was arranged at the close of my lecture. Furthermore—I dictated what was done. Besides you all know that Miss Kelso and I examined the piano. It will not do to say that a cat or mouse is on the strings, for they would hardly keep time to my whistling of 'Yankee Doodle.'
At this point the force left the piano and fell upon the table.
'Mitchel,' move the table still farther out of the reach of the psychic, I commanded.
This the force did while we all sat clear of it, and while in this removed position a bell in the center of the table was rung at a moment when all hands were clasped. Drumming on the cone followed. It was possible to recognize the tunes intended. Yankee Doodle and other ballads were characterized. This led me to say to the invisible performer You must have enjoyed topical songs while here on earth.
Instantly from the trumpet came a clear, strong whisper, I do now.
From this time forward whispering voices were heard coming from the trumpet as it floated about the circle. Two of the voices were so strong in tone that I could distinguish them as individual utterances. One of the speakers was a brisk, jovial, not too intellectual young man who gave his name as Wilbur, the other was the very precise, rather ponderous and oratorical Dr. Mitchel who had spoken to me on the previous night. His speech was cultivated but old-fashioned. The third voice, sweetly clear, was apparently that of a little girl who said her name was Maudie.
Just at this moment the clamor of bells and horns announced midnight, and Maudie asked, What is all the noise in the street?
It is the coming of the New Year, I replied.
Oh, yes, she exclaimed. I remember.
This was curious but not evidential for this voice seemed to come from the psychic and she may have momentarily forgotten that it was New Year's Eve.
Sometimes Maudie used the trumpet but at other times she seemed to speak from the lips of her mother.
'Maudie' is my little daughter, Mrs. Smiley had told us. She looks after me and helps me in every way possible.
In an interval between the speaking from the trumpet, I asked that the small end be placed against my temple on the side away from the psychic. This was done. At my request the sitter on my left, entirely out of reach of the psychic, was touched gently with equal precision. I asked for these demonstrations as added proof of her telekinetic powers.
Just before the little girl began to speak through the cone, Mrs. Smiley, who up to this time had been awake and perfectly normal, began to breathe heavily, and a few moments later became deathly still. She failed to reply to my questions and, so far as I could test it by putting my ear to her lips, her breathing stopped. The voice of the little spirit Maudie was a curiously sweet, silvery replica of Mrs. Smiley's voice, and she had the same manner of speech; and yet while not a sound came from the psychic's lips Maudie spoke. The voice appeared to be entirely disassociated from the psychic's organ of speech.
The childish voice said Good-bye, and after turning on a dim light we all sat for a few minutes waiting for the sleeper to awake. At last she began to breathe again and in a faint voice asked for water.
I did not cut her bonds till the full light was turned on, and I was conscience-stricken as I watched her helplessly drinking from a glass held to her lips by Miss Kelso. I called the attention of all the group to the fact that the chair had not been moved a hair's breadth and that every fastening was unchanged! They are precisely as I tied them. The threads are not broken but deeply imbedded in the skin of the psychic's swollen wrists.
It was necessary to chafe her hands and arms to restore the circulation and obliterate the creases which the threads had made in her flesh. She seemed weak and a little dizzy but soon recovered her ability to walk.
Under the conviction of the moment I said to some of the sitters: Mrs. Smiley did not lift her hands one half-inch from her chair. She was at all times out of normal reach of the table, the cone, and the piano. She could not reach the lid of the piano, far less pluck its strings, for it was closed and my hand was on the cover. In fact, no one in this room could have touched those strings. If we had obtained no other phenomenon, the twanging of those strings at my dictation remains of the greatest value. Some of us might have uttered the whispers, but no one could twang those strings.
To suppose that some one of us was the trickster involves the collusion of two others: those who held his hands. No one could enter the room, for the slightest crack would let in the light from the hall. Whatever happened here tonight can not be referred to any fraudulent action of the psychic.
The more I reflected upon these sittings, the more amazing they became. Here was a psychic of pleasing character, intelligent, candid, self-sacrificing, just the person for the American Psychical Society to use. All the other mediums I had met up to this time had been suspicious, elusive, on guard, refusing to be put under test conditions, whereas Mrs. Smiley, convinced of the spirit agency of all phenomena which took place in her presence, was not only willing but eager to put herself in my control for any number of experiments—and without pay.
She frankly said to me, I want to convert you.
To this I replied : I must be honest with you. I do not believe in your 'guides,' but I believe in you. I am quite certain that you are not consciously fraudulent, but these phenomena may come from your subconscious self, from me or from all the sitters acting together.
She was visibly saddened by this candid statement but remained unshaken. My guides will prove themselves to you yet. I would go to Boston if I thought I could bring that about.
If there is a possibility of your coming East, I hastened to say, don't fail to let me know. A series of sittings with you on the part of our directors would have enormous value to our Society.
At this point I should like to take the reader back over the course of these three sittings and call attention to our lack of tension, of nervous exaltation, and to emphasize the naturalness of every phenomenon. The playing of the closed piano did not seem the revolutionizing thing that it really was. It was done so quietly, so humorously. The performer not only knew the tune Yankee Doodle but rejoiced in it. He was obliging. He did exactly what I asked for instantly and cheerfully. He was no angel come from heaven or hell to do my bidding, he was one of the circle. All the other sounds and movements were equally commonplace in a sense.
I may say, further, that what was true of this sitting, was equally true of others. I was not out to expose mediums but to study them. I was not creating in my own mind or the minds of others clouds of necromancy. I did not regard Mrs. Smiley as a marvel of fraudulent skill, on whom I was to expend my supernal craft as a detective; I considered her for what she was, a commonplace little woman who had a peculiar endowment. What this endowment was I could not define and for the moment made no attempt to explain. I merely wish my readers to clear their minds of any emotionalism and all thought of elaborate machinery of magic. What happened seemed as normal (and as mysterious) as popping corn!
At this time, 1892, I had no knowledge of any other instance of a closed piano being played by invisible fingers plucking the strings, but later I came upon precisely this phenomenon in Alfred Russel Wallace's book. He gave a page to a description of it. He did not remark upon the twanging of the strings, but to me an added absurdity lay in the fact that the invisible fingers found it easier to grasp the strings than to strike the keys. There was no explanation of this performance. As I dictated the action of the force at work no question of rat or cat or wires can arise.
Here again the motive (so, far as a motive is brought into it) was to astonish us—to puzzle us. It had no relationship to spiritual consolation or instruction. It was the action of a Puckish intelligence. A poltergeist, as the Germans call it.
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