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.
THE REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE DIALECTICAL SOCIETY.
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.
[NOW EARL OF CRAWFORD AND BALCARRES.]
TESTIMONY OF THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN.
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
AN INQUIRY BY PROFESSOR W. F. BARRETT, F.R.S., AND MR. F. W. H. MYERS.
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. 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.
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." 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?"
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.
(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."
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." 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.'"
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.
44 LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS,
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."
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." 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."
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. 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
"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
H. ARTHUR SMITH.
1 NEW SQUARE, LINCOLN'S INN,
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"--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
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.