A short title to a book has its advantages. It has also its
disadvantages. It is almost inevitable that it should, on the one hand,
seem to include much more than is intended, and, on the other hand, fail
to convey the purpose of the author. "Geology" would be a tolerably
large subject. "Astronomy" would be vastly larger. But "Spiritualism" is
an infinite subject compared with either, and to suggest that its claims
cientific study be considered within the compass of a small volume
of not much over a hundred pages seems the height of presumption!
It will therefore be well at the outset to indicate exactly what it is
proposed to include in the present investigation into "Spiritualism."
The alleged phenomena of Spiritualism may be roughly divided into two
classes--physical and mental. Those which belong entirely to the latter
class are outside the scope of this book. It is proposed to examine
those phenomena of the former class, the reality of which may fairly be
assumed to be proved by scientific evidence. The scope of the work is
thus reduced to reasonable proportions. There are several groups of
phenomena which appear to violate, or at least to extend in a striking
manner, laws recognised by Physical Science. The evidence to be relied
on will be that of scientific men of high standing, and of other persons
of unquestioned literary and social position.
There is, however, an important respect, in regard to which this inquiry
is placed in an entirely different position to any ordinary scientific
investigation, and one which adds greatly to the difficulties of the
student. Ordinary experiments conducted in a physical laboratory can be
repeated again and again under similar conditions, and similar results
will follow. If attempts are made to reproduce the phenomena of
Spiritualism, under what appear to be precisely similar conditions, by
means which have previously been successful, failure to obtain the
wished-for results may very probably follow. It is no use to rebel and
to feel inclined to abandon the pursuit as useless! That would be most
unscientific! The inquirer finds himself in the presence of a subtle
elusive influence, which he seems unable to control, and which refuses
to submit to the laws which govern physical experiments. On the other
hand, perseverance may be richly rewarded. An unexplored field of
scientific research of unlimited extent may open itself to view.
Something of that joy may be experienced which the search into the
unknown alone can give.
Mr. Arthur James Balfour, in an address on the occasion of the annual
dinner of the Royal Literary Fund, in 1893, said:--
"My friend, Lord Kelvin, has often talked to me of the future of
science, and he has said words to me about the future of science which
are parallel with the words I have quoted to you about the future of
art, and with the hope which I have expressed to you with respect to
literature. He has told me that to the men of science of to-day it
appears as if we were trembling on the brink of some great scientific
discovery which should give to us a new view of the great forces of
Nature, among which and in the midst of which we move. If this prophecy
be right, and if the other forecasts to which I have alluded be right,
then indeed it is true that we live in an interesting age; then indeed
it is true that we may look forward to a time full of fruit for the
human race--to an age which cannot be sterilised or rendered barren even
There are some advantages which the study of this subject possesses over
most branches of scientific inquiry. In its present early and incomplete
stage the most important thing is the accumulation of carefully observed
and recorded facts. Even as regards Thought-Transference, in which the
number of careful experiments that have been made is far greater than in
any other class of phenomena, it is still most important to multiply the
quantity of the evidence. In most of the branches of the subject no
expensive apparatus is required, and no special scientific or
intellectual training. Accurate observation and careful recording, at
the time, of all that occurs, without prejudice, and without
discouragement at apparent failure, are the chief requisites. Any
person, or small group of persons of ordinary intelligence, can train
themselves to be equal to this. A very simple instance occurred in the
earliest experiences of the writer. After three or four sittings round a
small table with two friends, at which there was meaningless tipping,
and nothing better than commonplace sentences, the following was tipped
out: "Try no more to move"--then this succession of letters--"a t a t
a." It seemed useless to go on with nonsense, but one of the party
suggested perseverance; when the following conclusion converted seeming
nonsense into sense: "b l e take a pencil and write." The result was
that one of the party rapidly developed into an interesting automatic
It is quite impossible to foretell the extent of the aid that may not be
given, in the explanation of some of these phenomena, by the persevering
experiments of intelligent inquirers.
In the following chapters facts relating to several different kinds of
phenomena are put before the reader, as to which the guarantee of
authenticity and the quality of the evidence are both unimpeachable.
It is not proposed to travel all over the world in search of evidence;
the illustrations will be drawn almost entirely from home sources. With
all due respect to friends in distant parts, it will doubtless be a
satisfaction to some readers to know that in these pages they will not
meet with Mrs. Piper on the one hand, nor with Eusapia Paladino on the
With these few introductory remarks a calm and dispassionate
consideration of the evidence presented is invited. First of all, three
classes of phenomena will be taken up in the following order:--
(1) The Movement of Objects without any apparent Physical Cause.
(2) The Production of Sound without any apparent Physical Cause.
(3) The Production of Light without any apparent Physical Cause.
Two chapters will then be devoted to a study of the phenomena exhibited
in the lives of two of the most noted "mediums" of modern times--Daniel
Dunglas Home and William Stainton Moses. Both present manifestations of
phenomena belonging to the three classes above-named, as well as
striking examples of other kinds. A chapter on the "Divining Rod" will
follow. Then a chapter on one of the forms of Thought-Transference, one
which allows of its being included among physical phenomena. Two brief
chapters will come next on "Spirit Photography" and on
"Materialisations." It is explained that these are included, not because
of any scientific evidence in their favour which can be quoted, but
because of the extreme interest and importance of the subjects
themselves, and also because the strong testimony and moral evidence in
support of their reality seem to promise a tempting field for the
scientific explorer, and to warrant a confident belief that the evidence
he desires will be forthcoming. In a final chapter an endeavour is made
to sum up results and conclusions.
THE COMMITTEE OF THE DIALECTICAL SOCIETY
So far as I am aware, the first systematic or scientific attempt to
investigate the alleged phenomenon of the movement of objects without
any apparent physical cause was made by the London Dialectical Society
in the year 1869. On the motion of Dr. James Edmunds, a Committee was
appointed "to investigate the Phenomena alleged to be Spiritual
Manifestations, and to report thereon." The names of twenty-eight
members were proposed. Three of these declined to act. Eight more names
were added, so that the Committee, as finally constituted, consisted of
thirty-three, three of whom were ladies. Among the best-known names were
H. G. Atkinson, F.G.S.; Charles Bradlaugh; E. W. Cox, serjeant-at-law;
Rev. C. Maurice Davies, D.D.; Charles R. Drysdale, M.D.; James Edmunds,
M.D.; Robert Hannah; H. D. Jencken, barrister-at-law; William Volckman;
and Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, F.R.S. It is believed that Robert Hannah
and Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace are the only survivors.
In order to investigate the phenomena in question by personal experiment
and test, the Committee resolved itself into six Sub-Committees. In May
1870 the Committee appointed an Editing Committee to prepare a joint
report, based solely on the evidence that had been before it. A month
later the Editing Committee presented a draft report, which with some
trifling verbal alterations was adopted nem dis. A resolution was then
carried that a copy be forwarded to the Council of the Dialectical
Society, with a recommendation that it be printed and published. This
the Council declined to do. Upon this the Committee met and passed the
"That the Report be referred to the Editing Committee, and that they be
requested to prepare it for publication, together with any supplementary
or counter reports that may be received from members of the Committee,
and appending thereto the reports of the Sub-Committees, and the
evidence, oral and verbal, that has been collected; the entire work,
when ready for publication, to be submitted for approval to the
Such is the origin of the volume from which the following extracts are
made. Considerations of space necessitate dealing with the work of
one Sub-Committee only. The essential part of the REPORT OF
SUB-COMMITTEE NO. 1 is as follows:--
"Since their appointment on the 16th of February 1869, your
Sub-Committee have held forty meetings for the purpose of experiment and
"All of these meetings were held at the private residences of members of
the Committee, purposely to preclude the possibility of pre-arranged
mechanism or contrivance.
"The furniture of the room in which the experiments were conducted was
on every occasion its accustomed furniture.
"The tables were in all cases heavy dining-tables, requiring a strong
effort to move them. The smallest of them was 5 feet 9 inches long by 4
feet wide ... and of proportionate weight.
"The rooms, tables, and furniture generally were repeatedly subjected to
careful examination before, during, and after the experiments, to
ascertain that no concealed machinery, instrument, or other contrivance
existed by means of which the sounds or movements hereinafter mentioned
could be caused.
"The experiments were conducted in the light of gas, except on the few
occasions specially noted in the minutes.
"Your Committee have avoided the employment of professional or paid
mediums, the mediumship being that of members of your Sub-Committee,
persons of good social position and of unimpeachable integrity, having
no pecuniary object to serve, and nothing to gain by deception.
* * * * *
"Your Committee have confined their Report to facts witnessed by them
in their collective capacity, which facts were palpable to the senses,
and their reality capable of demonstrative proof.
* * * * *
"The result of their long-continued and carefully-conducted experiments,
after trial by every detective test they could devise, has been to
"First: That under certain bodily or mental conditions of one or more of
the persons present, a force is exhibited sufficient to set in motion
heavy substances, without the employment of any muscular force, without
contact or material connection of any kind between such substances and
the body of any person present.
"Second: That this force can cause sounds to proceed, distinctly audible
to all present, from solid substances not in contact with, nor having
any visible or material connection with, the body of any person present,
and which sounds are proved to proceed from such substances by the
vibrations which are distinctly felt when they are touched.
"Third: That this force is frequently directed by intelligence.
"At thirty-four out of the forty meetings of your Committee some of
these phenomena occurred.
* * * * *
"In conclusion, your Committee express their unanimous opinion that the
one important physical fact thus proved to exist, that motion may be
produced in solid bodies without material contact, by some hitherto
unrecognised force operating within an undefined distance from the human
organism, and beyond the range of muscular action, should be subjected
to further scientific examination, with a view to ascertaining its true
source, nature, and power."
One selection is now given from the Minutes of this Sub-Committee,
illustrating the nature of the Evidence that came before them:--
"EXPERIMENT XXXVIII., Dec. 28th .--Eight members present.
Phenomena: Rapping sounds from the table and floor, and movements of
the table, with and without contact. The alphabet was repeated, and the
following letters were rapped: 'A bad circle--want of harmony.' At the
letter f, the table tilted three times, and at the letters a, r, gave
several forcible horizontal movements, tilting at either end.
"Raps, with slight tiltings of the table, beating time to the measure of
a song. Two or three poems were recited, to the measure of which there
were loud raps from the table and floor, and the table also marked the
metre by various horizontal movements and tiltings.
"Hood's Anatomy Song being repeated by one of the members, the knocking,
rapping, and tilting sounds, with various horizontal, trembling, and
vibratory movements of the table, accompanied it, in exact harmony with
the measure, added to which were strange movements, in accordance with
the character of the verses. In one instance the table shifted its
position several feet, the tips of the fingers only being in contact
"MOVEMENTS WITHOUT CONTACT.--Question: 'Would the table now be moved
without contact?' Answer: 'Yes;' by three raps on the table. All chairs
were then turned with their backs to the table, and nine inches away
from it; and all present knelt on the chairs, with their wrists resting
on the backs, and their hands a few inches above the table.
"Under these conditions, the table (the heavy dining-room table
previously described) moved four times, each time from four to six
inches, and the second time nearly twelve inches.
"Then all hands were placed on the backs of the chairs, and nearly a
foot from the table, when four movements occurred, one slow and
continuous for nearly a minute.
"Then all present placed their hands behind their backs, kneeling erect
on their chairs, which were removed a foot clear away from the table.
The gas also was turned up higher, so as to give abundance of light; and
under these test conditions, distinct movements occurred, to the extent
of several inches each time, and visible to every one present.
"The motions were in various directions, towards all parts of the
room--some were abrupt, others steady. At the same time, and under the
same conditions, distinct raps occurred, apparently both on the floor
and on the table, in answer to requests for them.
"The above-described movements were so unmistakable, that all present
unhesitatingly declared their conviction, that no physical force,
exerted by any one present, could possibly have produced them; and they
declared further, in writing, that a rigid examination of the table
showed it to be an ordinary dining-table, with no machinery or apparatus
of any kind connected with it. The table was laid on the floor with its
legs up, and taken to pieces so far as practicable."
TESTIMONY OF W. F. BARRETT, F.R.S., PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS IN THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF SCIENCE FOR IRELAND.
No endeavour appears to have been made by any of the members of the
Committee of the Dialectical Society to follow up the results which they
had obtained. The individual members who had previously been active in
such matters continued to take an interest in them, but there is no
evidence that a single new inquirer was gained. The next event of any
importance, in the direction of scientific inquiry into the subject, was
the reading by Professor W. F. Barrett of a paper before the meeting of
the British Association at Glasgow in 1876. This paper was entitled "On
Some Phenomena Associated with Abnormal Conditions of Mind," and dealt
mainly with what was subsequently designated "Thought-Transference."
Professor Barrett also referred to some "physical phenomena" which had
come under his notice. He says: "I am bound to mention a case that came
under my own repeated observation, wherein certain inexplicable physical
phenomena occurred in broad daylight, and for which I could find no
satisfactory solution either on the ground of hallucination or
In a paper read before the Society for Psychical Research in 1886,
entitled "On Some Physical Phenomena commonly termed Spiritualistic,
witnessed by the Author," Professor Barrett describes in detail the
phenomena he referred to in the paper read ten years previously at the
British Association, and the circumstances under which they occurred.
The following paragraphs give the important features:--
Mr. C., a solicitor, with his wife and family, had come to reside for
the season in the suburban house of a friend and neighbour of Professor
Barrett's. He was an Irish country gentleman who had an utter disbelief
in spiritualism. Professor Barrett was therefore not a little amused on
making Mr. C.'s acquaintance, to find that he had in his own family what
appeared to be spiritualistic phenomena then and there going on. Mr. C.
gave Professor Barrett every opportunity of close and frequent
investigation. The sittings extended through the months of August and
September 1875. There were present besides Professor Barrett, Mr. and
Mrs. C., and their young daughter Florrie, a bright, frank, intelligent
child, then about ten years old. They sat at a large dining-room table,
facing French windows, which let in a flood of sunlight. Shortly,
scraping sounds, raps, and noises resembling the hammering of small
nails, were heard. Florrie's hands and feet were closely watched, and
were observed to be absolutely motionless when the sounds were heard.
Besides knocks, there were occasional movements of the furniture. Seated
one day at a large dining-room table in full sunlight, Florrie, and Mr.
and Mrs. C., and Professor Barrett being the persons present, all their
fingers visibly resting on the surface of the table, three legs of the
table rose off the ground to a sufficient height to allow Professor
Barrett to put his foot easily beneath the castor nearest him. The
importance of the comparatively small amount of "movement" phenomena in
this case is increased by their association with "sound" phenomena of
great variety and frequency. These will be fully described in the next
Another case which Professor Barrett cites in the same paper may be thus
summarised as far as phenomena of movement are concerned:--
The sitters were Mr. L., a well-known photographer in Dublin, his niece,
Miss I., and Professor Barrett. While noticing the raps and knocks,
Professor Barrett observed a frequent uneasy movement of the entire
table, which was a moderately large and heavy one, four feet square. It
sidled about in a most surprising manner. Lifting their hands completely
off the table, the sitters placed themselves back in their chairs, with
their hands folded across their chests. Their feet were in full view.
Under these conditions, and in obedience to Professor Barrett's request,
the table raised the two legs nearest to him off the ground eight or ten
inches, and then suspended itself for a few moments. A similar act was
performed on the other side. Then a very unexpected occurrence happened.
To quote Professor Barrett's own words:--
"Whilst absolutely free from the contact of any person, the table
wriggled itself backward and forward, advancing towards the armchair in
which I sat, and ultimately completely imprisoning me in my seat.
During its progress it was followed by Mr. L. and Miss I., but they were
at no time touching it, and occasionally were so distant that I could
perceive a free space all round the table whilst it was still in motion.
When thus under my very nose, the table rose repeatedly, and enabled me
to be perfectly sure, by the evidence of touch, that it was off the
ground, and further, that no human being, consciously or unconsciously,
had any part in this movement."
Professor Barrett, with his accustomed caution, comments thus:--
"The results, it is true, were very remarkable and unaccountable; but
though I had not the slightest doubt of the good faith of Mr. L. and
Miss I., yet I do not adduce this evidence as unexceptionable. I should
have preferred to have taken precautions which were not so easy to
impose on a lady, and I should also have preferred to have had the
seance at my own house."
This latter objection was met by Mr. L. and Miss I. going to Professor
Barrett's house shortly afterwards, no one else besides Professor
Barrett being present. Some remarkable sounds were again heard. Then,
this happened--again quoting Professor Barrett's own words:--
"Suddenly, only the tips of our fingers being on the table, the heavy
loo-table at which we were sitting made a series of very violent
prancing movements (which I could not imitate afterwards except by using
both hands and all my strength); the blows were so heavy that I
hurriedly stopped the performance, fearing for the safety of the gas
chandelier in the room below. Here, too, I cannot avoid the conclusion
that the phenomena described are inexplicable on any known hypothesis."
After discounting the "pious platitudes" spelt out by the tilts of the
table, and the possibility, and even probability, that "unintentional
muscular movements" were the cause of these, and after recognising the
impossibility of keeping up a continuous vigilant watch on the hands and
feet of any person, and after supposing that Miss I. had some ingenious
mechanism concealed about her person, whereby she could produce the
sounds that were heard, Professor Barrett says: "This would fail to
account for the undoubted motion of a heavy table, free from the contact
of all present. After giving due weight to every known explanation, the
phenomena remain inexplicable to me."
TESTIMONY COLLECTED BY FREDERIC W. H. MYERS.
Next in order of time come two papers by Mr. F. W. H. Myers, under the
title of "Alleged Movements of Objects without Contact, occurring not in
the Presence of a Paid Medium." They are published in vol. vii. of the
Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. The first
article goes over most of the ground traversed in the earlier part of
this chapter, but devotes twenty lines only to the Report of the
Committee of the Dialectical Society, and refers only to Professor
Barrett's cases as having been already published. A number of other
cases are, however, described in detail. The evidence in these scarcely
comes up to the level of scientific, and unless it had been sifted by
so careful a critic as Mr. Myers, who convinced himself of the reality
of the facts, could hardly be considered of much value. The two
following cases in the first article present the strongest evidence.
(1) THE ARMSTRONG CASE.--Mr. George Allman Armstrong, of 8 Leeson Place,
Dublin, and Ardnacarrig, Bandon, writes an account dated 13th June 1887.
After vouching for the perfect good faith of the small group of
experimenters, he describes in detail the movements of a table. The
"rising" was generally preceded by a continuous fusillade of "knocks" in
the substance of the table. When the knocks had, as it were, reached a
climax, the table slowly swayed from side to side like a pendulum. It
would stop completely, and then, as if imbued with life, and quite
suddenly, would rise completely off the floor to a height of twelve or
fourteen inches at least. It nearly always came down with immense force,
and on several occasions proved destructive to itself, as the broken
limbs of the table used at Kinsale could testify. The table was a round,
rather heavy walnut one, with a central column standing on three claw
legs. Mr. Armstrong says that on several occasions he succeeded in
raising the table without contact. It rose to the fingers held over it
at a height of several inches, like the keeper of a strong
(2) A BELL-RINGING CASE.--Mr. Myers, in introducing this case, says:
"The usual hypotheses of fraud, rats, hitched wires, &c., seem hard to
apply. The care and fulness with which it has been recorded will enable
the reader to judge for himself more easily than in most narratives of
this type. Our informant is a gentleman [Mr. D.], occupying a
responsible position; his name may be given to inquirers." The
detailed report of the occurrences occupies no less than twelve pages,
the greater part of which consists of a long letter addressed by Mr. D.
to the Society for Psychical Research. He explains that he is writing in
the main from notes taken at the time and not from memory. The following
is an abstract:--
On Friday, 23rd September 1887, he took his four pupils to a circus, his
lady housekeeper also going, leaving two servants at home. They left at
about 2 P.M. All but himself returned about 5.30 P.M. The two servants
were on the doorstep, telling the boys not to go in by the area
door--the kitchens being below ground--and explaining that all the bells
were ringing violently, no one touching them, and that they had been
doing so almost ever since half-past two. When the master of the house
came home, he found the same state of things, the servants almost in
hysterics and the bells ringing. Nine bells hung in a row just inside
the area door, opposite the kitchen door, and there was one bell--a call
bell--on the landing at the top of the house.
Mr. D. frequently saw several of these bells ringing at once, the
ringing being sudden and very violent, louder, he believed, than they
could be rung by pulling the handles. One bell was more than once pulled
over, so that it could not return to its normal position. Several of
the upstairs bells had no bell-pulls. The bellhanger was several times
summoned to the premises. He showed that the wires could not have been
entangled, and entirely agreed that it would be an utter impossibility
for any animals, such as cats or rats, to ring the bells as they were
rung. The house was quite a new one, standing alone, surrounded by
unoccupied plots of building land.
As to the question of trickery. There seemed no possibility of that
being the explanation. The phenomena occurred when the housekeeper and
pupils were all away; also when the cook was away; also when only the
two servants and the master were in the house, and both of them in his
sight. For instance, he says he stood in the passage in front of the
nine bells watching them ring, with both the servants close by. Once in
particular he watched the housemaid on her knees in the middle of the
wash-house scrubbing the tiles, while the front door, area door, and
bath-room bells were pealing violently. The ringing was also heard by
tradesmen, and by men working in the gardens near. The wires of the
bells were distinctly moved, not only the bells and the clappers. The
bell-handles were never observed to be moved. The ringing lasted between
three and four weeks, and then ceased. Knockings in considerable variety
were also heard, and a few cases of the movement of chairs and small
articles, without any contact, also occurred.
Mr. D. was at one time disposed to think that the housemaid was in some
way connected with the disturbances, but he could trace no evidence.
She was a young girl who had not been out to service before. She got
into such a state of nervous excitement about the occurrences, that
brain fever or something serious was feared. She had only been in the
house a few weeks previous to the commencement of the manifestations,
and nothing occurred after she left. Mr. D. was, however, perfectly
convinced that she had nothing to do voluntarily with the
The second paper by Mr. Myers is devoted exclusively to some "strange
experiences" which occurred several years previous to 1891, at the
village of Swanland, a few miles from Hull, in the East Riding of
Yorkshire. The evidence is that of John Bristow, who states he was an
eye-witness. There were no intellectual phenomena, nothing but the
apparently meaningless throwing about of pieces of wood--directed,
however, by some intelligence, so as to attract attention without doing
harm. Here again what value the case has rests almost solely on its
having received the critical study of Mr. Myers.
If the tipping of small tables when the hands of the sitters are in
contact is excepted--under which circumstances it is generally
impossible to determine whether the result is psychical, or due merely
to muscular action unconsciously exercised--the production of raps and
other sounds is the most frequent of the phenomena under consideration.
They are, however, generally so intermixed with other phenomena that it
is difficult to treat them separately.
THE DIALECTICAL SOCIETY.
In the extracts from the Report of the Committee of the Dialectical
Society given in the preceding chapter, it will be remembered that raps
and other noises are referred to as being frequently heard, and also as
apparently produced by an intelligent agency.
TESTIMONY OF PROFESSOR W. F. BARRETT, F.R.S.
The reader is asked to refer to the general conditions of the case of
Mr. C. testified to by Professor Barrett in the previous chapter. He
"They (the sounds) came more readily and more loudly when music was
played, or a merry song struck up. Usually they kept time with the
music, and altogether displayed a singular degree of intelligence.
Sometimes a loud rhythmic scraping, as of a violoncello bow on a piece
of wood, would accompany the music. Again and again I placed my ear on
the very spot on the table whence this rough fiddling appeared to
proceed, and felt distinctly the rhythmic vibration of the table, but no
tangible cause was visible either above or below the table.... On one
occasion, when no one else was in the room, ... I asked my young friend
the medium to put her hands against the wall, and see how far she could
stretch her feet back from the wall without tumbling down. This she did,
and whilst in this constrained position--with the muscles of arms and
legs all in tension--I asked for the knocks to come. Immediately a brisk
pattering of raps followed my request. All the while the child remained
quite motionless. My reason in making this experiment, was to test the
late Dr. Carpenter's muscular theory of the cause of the sounds. Had Dr.
Carpenter been present, I feel sure he would have admitted that here at
any rate that theory fell through."
Professor Barrett sums up his conclusions on this case thus:--
"A long and careful examination convinced me that trickery on the part
of the child was a more improbable hypothesis than that the sounds
proceeded from some unknown agency. Nor could the sounds be accounted
for by trickery on the part of the servants in the house, for in
addition to my careful inquiries on this point, Mr. C. informed me that
he had obtained the raps on the handle of his umbrella out of doors,
when the child was by his side; and that the music-master complained of
raps proceeding from inside the piano whenever the child was listless or
inattentive at her music lesson. Mrs. C. told me that almost every night
she heard the raps by the bedside of the child when she went to bid her
good-night; and that after she had left the room and partially closed
the door, she would hear quite an animated conversation going on between
her daughter and her invisible companion, the child rapidly spelling
over the alphabet, and the raps occurring at the right letters, and the
child thus obtaining with surprising rapidity a clue to the words spelt
"Still more violently improbable is the supposition that the parents of
the child were at the bottom of the mystery, stimulated by a desire to
impress their friends with the wonderful but imaginary gifts their child
possessed. The presence of the parents was not necessary for the
occurrence of the sounds, which, as I have said, often took place when I
was the only person in the room besides the child.
"Hallucination was the explanation which suggested itself to my own mind
when first I heard of the phenomena, but was dismissed as wholly
inapplicable after the first day's inquiry; nor do I think that any one
could maintain that different people, individually and collectively, for
some weeks, thought they heard and saw a series of sounds and motions
which had no objective existence.
"No! I was then, and am still, morally certain that the phenomena had a
real existence outside oneself, and that they were not produced by
trickery or by known causes. Hence I could come to no other conclusion
than that we had here a class of phenomena wholly new to science."
After some three months the sounds ceased as unexpectedly as they had
There is one form of sound manifestation to which no allusion has been
made--what is called the "Direct Voice." It is alleged to be of frequent
occurrence in spiritualistic circles. Articulate words are, it is
stated, spoken "direct," not through the voice organs of any person
present. The phenomenon, so far as I have heard, occurs only in
darkness--and is an objective voice audible alike to every one present.
It corresponds to the phenomenon of "direct writing." But no attempt
that I am aware of has been made to treat the matter scientifically. One
of the earliest alleged occurrences of this phenomenon took place in
London, at a private seance at which I was present at the house of Mr.
Thos. Everitt, who departed this life in August of last year, and who
was one of the most prominent London spiritualists, Mrs. Everitt being
the medium. Some little time later, at a similar seance at the same
house, the sitting was terminated by the singing of a hymn by three or
four soft, gentle voices, purporting to be "direct" voices, which
sounded as if they proceeded from the top of the room close to the
ceiling. They were certainly not the voices of any of the company
present. It was one of the most beautiful and touching manifestations I
ever experienced. I can only compare it to the singing of a choir of
boys' voices, high up out of sight in Truro Cathedral, which I had heard
many years before. The seances at Mr. Everitt's were conducted in an
exclusively religious tone, and afforded no opportunity for obtaining
scientific evidence. It is much to be desired that a careful inquiry
should be made into the reality of so interesting a phenomenon.