Physical Phenomena Alleged To Have Occurred In The Presence Of Daniel Dunglas Home

Scientific evidence of the reality of the Physical Phenomena alleged to

have occurred in the presence of D. D. Home is scarcely to be looked for

in the two volumes written by himself, nor even in the two volumes

published after his death by Madame Home. The alleged phenomena failed

to attract the attention of more than a very few men of science during

Home's lifetime. Of these the most eminent is Sir William Crookes,

R.S. With regard to Sir William Crookes' evidence the reader is

referred to two paragraphs on page 124.


Again, the Report of the Committee of the Dialectical Society, or rather

the documents which accompany it, supplies some good evidence. Home had

four sittings with one of the Sub-Committees, but the phenomena were of

a trifling and inconclusive character. This was attributed to the state

of Home's bodily health. He was on the eve of a severe illness. Several

persons subsequently sent to the Committee statements of what they had

seen and heard in Home's presence. The only one of these which can be

said to possess scientific value is a report of a seance held with Lord

Lindsay--now the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres--and Mrs. Honywood, and

two other persons. The report is as follows. It is written by Mrs.

Honywood, and Lord Lindsay adds a few words, his own personal testimony.

"I met Mr. Home at the house of a friend on the 17th March 1869.

We sat down, five in number, at a round table in the back

drawing-room. There was an oil lamp on a table in the front

drawing-room, and fires in both grates. After a while Mr. Home

became entranced, walked into the front room, and stood on the

hearth-rug. He began to dance slowly, raising first the one foot

and then the other, his hands hanging loosely as I have read of

Easterns and Indians, moving in time to music. He then knelt

down, rubbing and clasping his hands together in front of the

fire. I asked, 'Are you a fire worshipper?' He nodded and looked

pleased. 'Are you a Persian?' He smiled and nodded assent, after

which he rose and placed four chairs in a row near the folding

doors, signing to us to sit there. He now went to the table on

which stood the moderator lamp; taking off the globe, he placed

it on the table, and deliberately grasped the chimney of the

lamp with both hands; then, advancing to the lady of the house,

he asked her to touch it, but she refused, knowing it was hot.

Mr. Home said, 'Have you no faith? Will you not trust in Dan if

he says it is cool?' She replied, 'Certainly,' and placed her

finger on the glass, exclaiming, 'Oh, it is not at all hot!'

This was corroborated by Lord Lindsay and myself, who in turn

both laid our finger on the glass several times to test it. Mr.

Home laughed and said, 'I will make it hot for you, old fellow,'

and holding it towards Mr. ----, he turned, apparently

addressing some one, and said, in a sad tone of voice, 'It is

necessary to confirm the faith of others that the glass should

be made hot for him.' Mr. ---- now touched it, and exclaimed,

'You have indeed,' shaking his hand and showing me a red mark.

So hot was the glass when a fourth person touched it, that it

raised a blister, which I saw some days subsequently, peeling.

I leave it for the scientific to determine how the heat was

re-imparted to the glass, after being withdrawn.

"Mr. Home now returned to the fireplace, and thrust the chimney

into the red-hot coals, resting the end on the top bar; he left

it there about four or five minutes, then, lifting it, he

clasped it in both hands, went to the table, took a lucifer

match from a box, and handing it to the lady of the house,

desired her to touch the glass--the match instantly ignited; and

having called our attention to this fact, he observed, 'The

tongue and lips are the most sensitive parts of the body,' and

thrust the heated glass into his mouth, applying, especially,

his tongue to it. He once more returned to the fire, and again

placed the chimney on the upper bar, the end of the glass

resting amidst the red coals. He left it there and walked about

the room, selected a small fern-leaf from a vase of flowers, and

raising the chimney, placed it within, and replaced the chimney

among the coals. After a few moments he told us to observe very

carefully, as the experiment would be very pretty. Mr. Home now

held up the glass, and we perceived the fern-leaf within

apparently on fire. He replaced it after a few seconds, and

holding it up again, exclaimed, 'Is it not pretty?' The fern

appeared red-hot; each little leaf edged with gold, yet

flameless, like clouds at sunset--rich glowing crimson tinged

with molten gold. After we had all looked at it and admired it,

he advanced to Mrs. ----, and laughingly shook it out on her

muslin dress. I expected to see it crumble away; but no, it was

still green, though dry and withered. Unfortunately it was not


"Again Mr. Home returned to the fire, and once more placed the

glass on the coals, where he left it, and walked about the room;

going to the lamp, he passed his hand slowly backwards and

forwards through the flame, not an inch from the wick; returning

to the fireplace, he lifted the chimney, and moving the coals

about with his hand, selected a small flat red-hot coal, and

placed it in the chimney--shook it up and down, and advancing to

us, playfully said, 'H----, here is a present for you,' and

threw out the coal on her muslin dress. Catching it up in

dismay, she tossed it to Lord Lindsay, who, unable to retain it

in his hand, threw it from palm to palm till he reached, the

grate and flung it in. While we were all looking at the muslin

dress and wondering that it was neither soiled nor singed, Mr.

Home approached, and in a hurt tone of voice said, 'No, no, you

will not find a mark; did you think that we would hurt your

dress.' Mr. Home then selected a small spray of white flower,

and going to the lamp, he passed it two or three times through

the flame, then carried it to the grate, and held it first in

the flame and then in the smoke above the coals, moving it

gently about. He now brought it back to us, asking us to look at

it and smell it, calling our attention to the fact that the

flower did not smell of smoke, and that it was unchanged by the

heat and flame of lamp and fire. He then bid us notice that his

hand which held the flower smelt of smoke, while the flower

remained uninjured. Then addressing us, he said, 'The spirit now

speaking through Dan, and that has enabled him to show you these

curious fire-tests, in which he hopes you have all felt

interested, is the spirit of an Asiatic fire-worshipper, who was

anxious to come here to-night, as he had heard of seances held

here. He now bids you farewell, as he will return no more.'

"After this Mr. Home awoke.


"I was present at this seance, and can corroborate the truth of

the above statement.




Lord Dunraven--then Lord Adare--had a number of sittings with Home. He

printed a small volume--for private circulation only--under the title of

"Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr. D. D. Home." This volume is

exceedingly scarce.


In the year 1889, Professor Barrett and Mr. Myers undertook an "Inquiry

into the Evidence for the Mediumship of D. D. Home." They collected the

testimony of a large number of persons who were witnesses of the Home

phenomena, carefully examined its evidential value, and summarised it in

a Joint Report. This was printed in the Journal of the Society for

Psychical Research for July 1889.[23] It is to be regretted that the

Society has not seen its way to publish this Report in a form accessible

to the general public. It is true that in his great work, "Human

Personality, and its Survival of Bodily Death," Mr. Myers gives a brief

summary of the Report; but he condenses the thirty-six pages of the

original Report and its appendices into four pages of "Human

Personality," which are quite insufficient to convey an adequate idea of

the Report itself. Also, the cost of Mr. Myers' book debars from it the

mass of readers. This Report was followed up a little later by a brief

article by Mr. Myers, forming an important supplement.[24]

In the Report itself its joint authors say: "We propose the

question--Have Home's phenomena ever been plausibly explained as

conjuring tricks, or in accordance with known laws of nature? And we

answer--No; they have not been so explained, nor can we so explain

them."[25] In commenting on the Joint Report, by Professor Barrett and

himself, Mr. Myers puts the problem as to Home in this form: "There is

thus a considerable body of evidence as to Home, which enables us to

discuss the three questions: (1) Was he ever convicted of fraud? (2) Did

he satisfy any trained observer in a series of experiments selected by

the observer and not by himself? (3) Were the phenomena entirely beyond

the scope of the conjurer's art?"[26]

In the Joint Report the writers say--(1) As to fraud: "We have found no

allegations of fraud on which we should be justified in laying much

stress. Mr. Robert Browning has told to one of us the circumstances

which mainly led to that opinion of Home which was expressed in 'Mr.

Sludge, the Medium,' It appears that a lady (since dead) repeated to Mr.

Browning a statement made to her by a lady and gentleman (since dead),

as to their finding Home in the act of experimenting with phosphorus on

the production of 'spirit lights,' which, so far as Mr. Browning

remembers, were to be rubbed round the walls of the room, near the

ceiling, so as to appear when the room was darkened. This piece of

evidence powerfully impressed Mr. Browning; but it comes to us at

third-hand, without written record, and at a distance of nearly forty


"We have received one other account from a gentleman of character and

ability, of a seance in very poor light, when the 'spirit-hand' moved in

such a way as to seem dependent on the action of Home's arms and legs.

This account is subjoined [in the Report] as Appendix D. We may add that

few, if any, of the lights seen at Home's seances could (as they are

described to us) have been contrived by the aid of phosphorus.

"There is also a frequently repeated story that Home was found at the

Tuilleries (or at Compiegne, or at Biarritz) to be using a stuffed hand,

and was consequently forbidden the Imperial Court. We have tried in

France to get at the fountain-head of this story, but without


(2) "With regard to our second question--whether his powers were tested

by competent observers"--Mr. Myers says: "Home in this respect stands

pre-eminent; since we have the evidence of Sir William Crookes,

corroborated by the testimony of the Master of Lindsay (now Earl of

Crawford and Balcarres), himself a savant of some distinction, and the

privately printed series of careful observations by the present and the

late Lords Dunraven.[28]

(3) "As to our third question--whether the phenomena could have been

produced by conjuring"--Mr. Myers says: "Many of them, especially the

fire-tests, and the movements of large untouched objects in good light,

seem inexplicable by this supposition. The hypothesis of collective

hallucination on the part of the sitters seems very improbable, because,

in most cases, all those present saw the same thing; and often without

receiving from Home any audible suggestion as to what was about to


In the Joint Report by Professor Barrett and Mr. Myers, a considerable

space is devoted to a discussion as to conjuring being the explanation

of the Home manifestations. It is dismissed as utterly inadequate. In

conclusion, the authors of the Report say: "And we find that experts in

conjuring (several of whom we have consulted), however little they may

believe in Home's pretensions, are disposed rather to reject wholesale

than to explain in detail the more remarkable records."[30]

Professor Barrett and Mr. Myers proceed to quote thirty-five cases of

the identification of alleged communicating spirits from Madame Home's

book, entitled "D. D. Home, His Life and Mission." They remark, "This

list of identifications is a long one, and quite unique in the history

of Spiritualism."[31] After analysing this list of cases, they say near

the conclusion of their Report, as implying their final verdict: "If our

readers ask us--'Do you advise us to go on experimenting in these

matters as though Home's phenomena were genuine?'--we answer, 'Yes.'"[32]

In the supplementary article above referred to sixteen more cases of

identification are added to the thirty-five.

In Appendix E to the Report is given some striking testimony to the

reality of the "fire-test." The following letter from Mr. W. M.

Wilkinson, the well-known solicitor, is included:--

"As you ask me to write to you of what occurred at our house at

Kilburn, where we were living in 1869, with reference to the

handling of red-hot coal, I will merely say that one Sunday

evening in the winter of that year, I saw Mr. Home take out of

our drawing-room fire a red-hot coal a little less in size than

a cricket ball, and carry it up and down the drawing-room. He

said to Lord Adare, now Lord Dunraven, who was present, 'Will

you take it from me? It will not hurt you.' Lord Adare took it

from him, and held it in his hand for about half a minute, and

before he threw it back in the fire I put my hand pretty close

to it, and felt the heat to be like that of a live coal.--Yours

very truly, W. M. WILKINSON.[33]


LONDON, W.C., February 7, 1869."

Appendix M to the Report consists of some particulars verbally given to

Mr. Myers by Mrs. Honywood, of 52 Warwick Square, London, in further

explanation of her printed testimony to phenomena she had witnessed in

Home's presence. She was well acquainted with him for twenty-five years,

attended many seances, and took notes of them at the time. In the early

part of this chapter, a statement she sent to the Dialectical Society

has already been quoted. She told Mr. Myers that most of her friends

were complete disbelievers in Spiritualism, and that they frequently

repeated to her rumours to the discredit of Home. But she never heard

any first-hand account of any kind of trickery on his part. She

considered him a man of open childlike nature, thoroughly honest and

truthful, and that in her opinion his utterances in the trance state

were much superior in thought and diction to his ordinary talk. She said

she should like to give Mr. Myers a few additional details with regard

to the fire phenomena reported in Madame Home's book, "D. D. Home, His

Life and Mission," on her authority. Madame Home's secretary, she said,

had slightly abbreviated her words in a way which made the occurrences

seem rather less wonderful than they actually were. Mr. Myers gives the

following, as having been signed "BARBARA HONYWOOD, June 1889."

"As to the burning coal placed in my hand. I saw Mr. Home take this coal

from the fire, moving his hands freely among the coals. It was about the

size of a coffee cup, blazing at the top, and red-hot at the bottom.

While I held it in my hand the actual flame died down, but it continued

to crackle, and to be partially red-hot. I felt it like an ordinary

stone, neither hot nor cold. Mr. Home then pushed it off my hand with

one finger on to a double sheet of cartridge paper, which it at once set

on fire. I am quite certain that I was in my usual condition at the


"As to the hot lamp-chimney which I touched. There was a row of four or

five persons sitting side by side, and Mr. Home asked us each in turn to

touch the glass. When I touched it, I felt as though a wave of heat were

receding before me....

"I have repeatedly taken Mr. Home in my own carriage to the houses of

friends of mine who were strangers to him, and have there seen the

furniture at once violently moved in rooms which I knew that he had

never entered till that moment. I have seen heavy furniture moved; for

instance, a heavy sofa in my own drawing-room, with myself upon it, and

a heavy centre table, moved several feet away from Home, and then back

again, in the light, while his hands and feet were visible. Not

horse-hairs, but ropes, would often have been necessary to pull the

furniture about as I have seen it pulled."[34]

A brief reference must now be made to what is perhaps the most

sensational alleged event in Home's mediumistic career, the one which is

most frequently spoken of by the general public, with more or less

forcible expressions of scornful incredulity; his "levitation" out of

the window of a room at a great height from the ground, and in at a

window of the next room on the same story. In the Report by Professor

Barrett and Mr. Myers, no detailed account of this is given. The Report

says: "Lords Lindsay and Adare had printed a statement that Home floated

out of the window and in at another in Ashley Place (Victoria Street),

S.W., 16th December 1868."[35] At a meeting of the Committee of the

Dialectical Society, held on 6th July 1869, a paper was read from Lord

Lindsay, describing some of his personal experiences with Home. This

paper makes no reference to the above case of levitation. But at the

same meeting of the Committee, Lord Lindsay and others gave evidence as

witnesses, and Lord Lindsay thus described this particular case:--

"I saw the levitations in Victoria Street, when Home floated out of the

window; he first went into a trance, and walked about uneasily; he then

went into the hall; while he was away, I heard a voice whisper in my

ear, 'He will go out of one window and in at another.' I was alarmed and

shocked at the idea of so dangerous an experiment. I told the company

what I had heard, and we then waited for Home's return. Shortly after he

entered the room, I heard the window go up, but I could not see it, for

I sat with my back to it. I, however, saw his shadow on the opposite

wall; he went out of the window in a horizontal position, and I saw him

outside the other window (that in the next room) floating in the air. It

was eighty-five feet from the ground. There was no balcony along the

windows, merely a strong course an inch and a half wide; each window had

a small plant stand, but there was no connection between them. I have no

theory to explain these things. I have tried to find out how they are

done, but the more I studied them, the more satisfied was I that they

could not be explained by mere mechanical trick."[36]

There is one episode in the career of D. D. Home which, although it does

not affect the reality of the phenomena alleged to have taken place in

his presence, claims a brief mention. The gift to Home by Mrs. Lyon of a

large sum of money, the subsequent lawsuit, and the judgment in

accordance with which the money was returned to its original owner,

excited much attention at the time. Public opinion frequently takes up

sensational occurrences in a most illogical and unscientific manner. But

a permanent effect may thus be produced, which is extremely difficult to

eradicate, even if shown to be unjustifiable. This episode with Mrs.

Lyon has probably had more effect than any other circumstance in causing

the feeling of aversion with which large numbers of people regard Home

and all his doings. He is looked upon, and spoken of, as if he were an

unprincipled adventurer, convicted of fraud, and of obtaining money

under false pretences.

The remarks at the end of this chapter are based mainly upon Appendix

III. to the Report by Professor Barrett and Mr. Myers, and which deals

with the case of Lyon v. Home.[37] The Appendix commences thus: "Our

colleague, Mr. H. Arthur Smith [barrister-at-law], author of 'Principles

of Equity,' has kindly furnished us with the following review of the

case of Lyon v. Home." The following are a few extracts from this


"I have looked carefully into the case of Lyon v. Home as

reported in the Law Reports (6 Equity, 655), ... and perhaps the

following comments may be useful to you.

"It is certainly the fact that the judge discredited the

evidence of Mrs. Lyon. He said: 'Reliance cannot be placed on

her testimony.... It would be unjust to found on it a decree

against any man, save in so far as what she has sworn to may be

corroborated by written documents, or unimpeached witnesses, or

incontrovertible facts.'

"Having, then, eventually decided against Home, it follows that

the judge must have considered that her evidence was

corroborated in some or other of the ways mentioned."

Mr. H. Arthur Smith further says: "There was also an admitted letter

from Mrs. Lyon to Home, in which she stated that she presented him with

the L24,000 as an 'entirely free gift.' This, she said, was written by

her at Home's dictation, under magnetic influence."

Mr. H. Arthur Smith proceeds to discuss the "corroborative evidence

which led to the judge's final opinion." He then remarks:--

"Now it must, I think, be admitted that considering the

extraordinary character of Mrs. Lyon's conduct, and the

swiftness with which she reached her decision to transfer her

property to Home, such evidence as the above may reasonably be

deemed corroborative of her assertion that she was induced to

act as she did by the effects of Home's spiritualistic

pretensions.... There was sufficient ... in my opinion, to

establish the plaintiff's case. It is not then true that 'Home

was made to restore the money, because, being a professed

medium, it was likely that he should have induced her in the way

he did.' The Court held the law to be that such transactions as

those in question cannot be upheld, 'unless the Court is quite

satisfied that they are acts of pure volition uninfluenced.' ...

There was evidence of considerable weight, that as a matter of

fact ... Home did work on the mind of Mrs. Lyon by means of

spiritualistic devices, and further that he did so by suggesting

communications from her deceased husband. Whether this is to

Home's discredit or not of course will be decided according to

one's belief in Spiritualism and the reality of her husband's




October 19, 1888."

In order that this episode should have its rightful effect, and no more,

it is needful that several things should be borne in mind. In the first

place, the action was in a Court of Equity. It was not a prosecution in

a Criminal Court. The decision of the Court was not a verdict of guilty

against a prisoner, to be followed by punishment for wrong-doing, but an

order to refund certain money. In ordinary circumstances a judgment of

this kind does not brand a man with infamy, nor affect his character and

position in the eyes of society. Again, after the judgment of the Court,

Home promptly repaid the money. He had not appropriated or expended any

part of it. What more could he have done?

Mr. Myers' remark in "Human Personality"--"The most serious blot on

Home's character was that revealed by the Lyon case"[38]--seems,

therefore, rather severe under the circumstances. Especially as Mr.

Myers has expressed himself so strongly in favour of the reality of the

Home phenomena, and has said, in conjunction with Professor Barrett,

that they found no allegations of fraud on which they were justified in

laying much stress. Much more to the purpose is Mr. H. Arthur Smith's

comment: "Whether this is to Home's discredit or not of course will be

decided according to one's belief in Spiritualism and the reality of her

husband's interference."

Had this Report of Professor Barrett's and Mr. Myers', with its

Appendices, been placed before the public, it might have mitigated the

prejudice which hangs about the name of D. D. Home in the minds of so

many. The unique position which Home occupies in regard to the Physical

Phenomena of Spiritualism seems a sufficient reason for dwelling

somewhat fully on this episode as it affects his character as a man.