There is one, and perhaps only one phase of the great subject of
Thought-Transference or Telepathy the manifestations of which can
legitimately be included among physical phenomena. Involuntary drawing
or scribbling is a phenomenon of very common occurrence. But when such
an involuntary drawing turns out to be a more or less exact copy of a
drawing which the involuntary draughtsman has never seen; and still
it turns out that the original drawing has been drawn by
another person with the deliberate purpose of impressing it on the
mind of the involuntary draughtsman, the subject assumes an entirely
new interest. This, however, is the history of those series of
"Thought-Transference Drawings" which have been published by the
Society for Psychical Research. They are scattered through several
volumes of its publications. Through the kindness of the Council of
that Society I am able to put before the reader the largest selection
of these drawings which has appeared. The drawings are the results of
several different groups of experimenters in different parts of the
country; and the selection has been made from as many groups as
possible. In all cases facsimiles of the original drawing and of the
reproduction are given. The earlier series done under the auspices of
a Committee of the Society do not represent successes picked out of a
large number of failures, but include all the attempts made at the
time. The number that can be considered total failures in any of the
trials is exceedingly small. Any conceivable chance or coincidence is
entirely inadequate to account for the similarity in the great
majority of cases.
The "First Report on Thought-Reading" was written by Professor W. F.
Barrett, Mr. Gurney, and Mr. Myers, and was read at the first General
Meeting of the Society on 17th July 1882. In order to illustrate the
then state of scientific opinion, the writers say: "The present state of
scientific opinion throughout the world is not only hostile to any
belief in the possibility of transmitting a single mental concept except
through the ordinary channels of sensations, but, generally speaking, it
is hostile even to any inquiry upon the matter. Every leading
physiologist and psychologist down to the present time has relegated
what, for want of a better term, has been called "Thought-Reading" to
the limbo of explored fallacies." A second Report by the same writers
was read at a meeting of the Society in the same year. In this Report
the first series of "Thought-Transference Drawings" was described.
The method of proceeding was as follows:--A. makes an outline sketch of
a geometrical figure, or of something a little more elaborate. B. sees
this sketch, and carrying it in his mind goes and stands behind C., who
sits with a pencil and paper before him and draws the impression which
arises in his mind. Precautions are taken against the conveyance of
information by any ordinary means. Except in a few of the earliest
trials no contact between any of the parties was permitted. B. and C.
are called respectively "transmitter" and "receiver."
In December 1882, Mr. Myers and Mr. Gurney paid a visit to Brighton to
personally investigate some joint experiments of Mr. Douglas Blackburn
and Mr. G. Albert Smith. Both Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Smith were then, or
soon after became, members of the Society for Psychical Research. The
experiments were made in Mr. Myers' and Mr. Gurney's own lodgings. The
following plan, arranged in regard to some experiments made on 4th
December, is thus described by Mr. Myers: "One of us completely out of
sight of S. [Mr. Smith] drew some figure at random, the figure being of
such a character that its shape could not be easily conveyed in
words.... The figure, drawn by us, was then shown to B. [Mr. Blackburn]
for a few moments, S. being seated all the time with his back to us, and
blindfolded, in a distant part of the same room, and subsequently in an
adjoining room. B. looked at the figure drawn; then held S.'s hand for a
while; then released it. After being released, S. (who remained
blindfolded) drew the impression of a figure which he had received....
In no case was there the smallest possibility that S. could have seen
the original figure; and in no case did B. touch S., even in the
slightest manner, while the figure was being drawn."
The whole series of drawings done in this way, on that occasion, is
given in the Report in the S.P.R. Proceedings. They were nine in
number. We have selected two, Nos. 5 and 9.
No. 5 calls for no special remark.
When the reproduction of No. 9 was drawn, Mr. S. touched the spot to
which the arrow points, and said: "There is something more there, but I
cannot tell what it is."
In the experiments made subsequently to these, the conditions were still
more stringent, and no contact whatever was allowed between Mr.
Blackburn and Mr. Smith; and it will be seen that striking and
successful results were obtained.
A few weeks later, in January 1883, at the invitation of the Committee
of the Society for Psychical Research, Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Smith came
from Brighton, and a series of experiments was conducted at the Rooms
the Society then occupied in Dean's Yard, Westminster. For the Report
embodying the results of these experiments, Mr. Myers, Mr. Gurney, and
Professor Barrett are specially responsible. Two drawings, Nos. 10 and
11, are selected from a series of twenty-two made on this occasion.
As to No. 10, Mr. S. had no idea that the original was not a geometrical
diagram. Nor had he any clue given him as to the character of No. 11. He
added the line marked b some time after he had drawn the line marked
a, saying that he saw "a line parallel to another somewhere."
The authors of this Report say: "It is almost needless to point out that
in these observations so foreign to our common experience, it is
indispensable to be minutely careful and conscientious in recording the
exact conditions of each experiment." The reader is referred to the
Report itself to show how this was carried out; and also to show how
exhaustively every possibility was considered by means of which
information could be conceived to be conveyed through any recognised
Mr. Smith had no idea that the original was not a geometrical diagram.
He added line b some time after he had drawn line a, "seeing a line
parallel to another somewhere."]
Mr. Guthrie and Miss E. no contact.]
An entirely different group of experimenters set to work in Liverpool.
Mr. Malcolm Guthrie, J.P., was a partner in one of the large drapery
establishments, and Mr. James Birchall was the Hon. Secretary of the
Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool. Their interest was
aroused in the subject of Thought-Transference, and they carried out a
very large number of experiments with some of the young ladies employed
in Mr. Guthrie's establishment, who, "amusing themselves after business
hours, found that certain of their number, when blindfolded, were able
to name very correctly figures selected from an almanack suspended on
the wall of the room, when their companions having hold of their hands,
fixed their attention on some particular day of the month." This led to
serious experiments, including about one hundred and fifty
Thought-Transference Drawings. The conditions were carefully guarded,
and in the majority of cases no contact was permitted. There were many
failures, but a large number of successes. Assistance as "transmitter"
was also given by Mr. F. S. Hughes, a member of the Society for
Psychical Research. In a report by Mr. Guthrie, published in the
Proceedings of the Society, sixteen of these drawings are given. NOS.
2 and 15 are selected. In neither of these was any contact between
"transmitter" and "receiver" permitted. In NO. 2, Mr. Guthrie was
"transmitter" and Miss Edwards "receiver." In NO. 15, Mr. F. S. Hughes
was "transmitter" and Miss Edwards "receiver." With regard to the
second, Miss Edwards said, "It is like a mask at a pantomime," and
immediately drew the reproduction.
Mr. Hughes and Miss E. no contact.
Miss E. said, "It is like a mask at a pantomime,"
and immediately drew as above.]
Mr. Malcolm remarks in his Report: "The drawings must speak for
themselves. The principal facts to be borne in mind are that they have
been executed through the instrumentality as agents [transmitters] of
persons of unquestioned probity, and that the responsibility for them is
spread over a considerable group of such persons, while the conditions
to be observed were so simple--for they amounted really to nothing more
than taking care that the original should not be seen by the subject
[receiver]--that it is extremely difficult to suppose them to have been
Mr. Guthrie, having satisfied himself as to the reality of the phenomena
of Thought-Transference, as manifested by the drawings, and in other
ways, endeavoured to interest the scientific men of Liverpool. He
naturally appealed among others to Sir Oliver Lodge, who was then
Professor of Physics in University College, Liverpool. He accepted the
invitation, and subsequently gave "An Account of Some Experiments in
Thought-Transference" to the Society for Psychical Research, of which he
was already an unofficial member, and which account is published in the
The Report commences with a tribute, "since it bears on the questions of
responsibility and genuineness," to the important position Mr. Guthrie
held in Liverpool, as an active member of the governing bodies of
several public institutions, including the University College. Sir
Oliver Lodge then says:--
"After Mr. Guthrie had laboriously carried out a long series of
experiments ... he set about endeavouring to convince such students of
science as he could lay his hands upon in Liverpool; and with this
object he appealed to me, among others, to come and witness, and within
limits modify, the experiments in such a way as would satisfy me of
their genuineness and perfect good faith. Yielding to his entreaty, I
consented, and have been, I suppose, at some dozen sittings, at first
simply looking on so as to grasp the phenomena, but afterwards taking
charge of the experiments.... In this way I had every opportunity of
examining and varying the minute conditions of the phenomena, so as to
satisfy myself of their genuine and objective character, in the same
way as one is accustomed to satisfy oneself as to the truth and
genuineness of any ordinary physical fact.
"I did not feel at liberty to modify the experiments very largely, in
other words to try essentially new ones.... I only regarded it as my
business to satisfy myself as to the genuineness and authenticity of the
phenomena already described by Mr. Guthrie. If I had merely witnessed
facts as a passive spectator I should most certainly not publicly report
upon them. So long as one is bound to accept imposed conditions and
merely witness what goes on, I have no confidence in my own penetration,
and am perfectly sure that a conjurer could impose upon me, possibly
even to the extent of making me think that he was not imposing on me;
but when one has the control of the circumstances, can change them at
will, and arrange one's own experiments, one gradually acquires a belief
in the phenomena observed quite comparable to that induced by the
repetition of ordinary physical experiments."
Sir Oliver Lodge then describes in detail the method of procedure, in
the course of which he says:--
"We have many times succeeded with agents ['transmitters'] quite
disconnected with the percipient ['receiver'] in ordinary life and
sometimes complete strangers to them. Mr. Birchall, the headmaster of
the Birkdale Industrial School, frequently acted; and the house
physician at the Eye and Ear Hospital, Dr. Shears, had a successful
experiment, acting alone, on his first and only visit. All suspicion of
a pre-arranged code is thus rendered impossible even to outsiders who
are unable to witness the obvious fairness of all the experiments."
Sir Oliver Lodge then gives the details of twenty-seven experiments.
From these four are selected. Descriptions, in Sir O. Lodge's own words,
(1) "Mr. Birchall, agent--Miss R, percipient, holding hands. No one else
present except myself. A drawing of a Union Jack pattern. As usual in
drawing experiments, Miss R. remained silent for perhaps a minute; then
she said, 'Now I am ready.' I hid the object; she took off the
handkerchief and proceeded to draw on paper placed ready in front of
her. She this time drew all the lines of the figure except the
horizontal middle one. She was obviously much tempted to draw this, and
indeed began it two or three times faintly, but ultimately said, 'No,
I'm not sure,' and stopped."
(2) "Double object. I arranged the double object between Miss R----d and
Miss E., who happened to be sitting nearly facing one another. Miss
R----d and Miss E. both acting as agents. The drawing was a square on
one side of the paper, and a cross on the other. Miss R----d looked at
the side with the square on it, Miss E. looked at the side with the
cross. Neither knew what the other was looking at--nor did the
percipient know that anything unusual was being tried. There was no
contact. Very soon, Miss R. (percipient) said, 'I see things moving
about.... I seem to see two things.... I see first one up there and then
one down there.... I can't see either distinctly.' 'Well, anyhow, draw
what you have seen.' She took off the bandage and drew first a square,
and then said, 'Then there was the other thing as well, ... afterwards
they seemed to go into one,' and she drew a cross inside the square from
corner to corner, adding afterwards, 'I don't know what made me put it
(3) "Object--a drawing of the outline of a flag. Miss R. as percipient,
in contact with Miss E. as agent. Very quickly Miss R. said, 'It's a
little flag.' And when asked to draw, she drew it fairly well but
perverted. I showed her the flag (as usual after a success), and then
took it away to the drawing place to fetch something else. I made
another drawing, but instead of bringing it I brought the flag back
again and set it up in the same place as before, but inverted. There
was no contact this time. Miss R----d and Miss E. were acting as agents.
After some time Miss R. said, 'No, I cant see anything this time. I
still see that flag.... The flag keeps bothering me.... I shan't do it
this time.' Presently I said, 'Well, draw what you saw anyway.' She
said, 'I only saw the same flag, but perhaps it had a cross on it.' So
she drew a flag in the same position as before, but added a cross to
(4) "Object--a teapot cut out of silver paper. Present--Dr. Herdman,
Miss R----d, and Miss R. Miss E. percipient. Miss R. holding
percipient's hands, but all thinking of the object. Told nothing. She
said, 'Something light.... No colour.... Looks like a duck.... Like a
silver duck.... Something oval.... Head at one end and tail at the
other.' ... The object being rather large, was then moved further back,
so that it might be more easily grasped by the agents as a whole, but
percipient persisted that it was like a duck. On being told to unbandage
and draw, she drew a rude and perverted copy of the teapot, but didn't
know what it was unless it was a duck. Dr. Herdman then explained that
he had been thinking all the time how like a duck the original teapot
was, and in fact had been thinking more of ducks than teapots."
In the autumn of 1891 Sir Oliver Lodge was staying for a fortnight in
the house of Herr von Lyro at Portschach am See, Carinthia. While there
he found that the two adult daughters of his host were adepts in the
so-called "willing game." The speed and accuracy with which the willed
action was performed left little doubt in his mind that there was some
genuine thought-transference power. He obtained permission to make a
series of test experiments, the two sisters acting as agent and
percipient alternately. He hoped gradually to secure the phenomena
without contact of any kind. But unfortunately contact seemed essential,
though of the slightest description, for instance through the backs of
the knuckles. Sir Oliver Lodge says: "It was interesting and new to me
to see how clearly the effect seemed to depend on contact, and how
abruptly it ceased when contact was broken. While guessing through a
pack of cards, for instance, rapidly and continuously, I sometimes
allowed contact, and sometimes stopped it; and the guesses changed, from
frequently correct to quite wild, directly the knuckles or finger tips,
or any part of the skin of the two hands ceased to touch. It was almost
like breaking an electric circuit."
As Sir Oliver Lodge remarks, it is obvious how strongly this suggests
the idea of a code, and that therefore this flaw prevents these
experiments from having any value as tests, or as establishing de novo
the existence of the genuine power. But apart from the moral conviction
that unfair practices were extremely unlikely, Sir Oliver Lodge says
that there was a sufficient amount of internal evidence derived from
the facts themselves to satisfy him that no code was used. As examples,
two from a series of twelve drawings are given.
In 1894, Mr. Henry G. Rawson, barrister-at-law, made a long and
interesting series of experiments in Thought-Transference, a Report of
which was published in vol. xi. of the Proceedings of the Society for
Psychical Research. The Report includes fifteen originals and
reproductions of drawings. Two sisters, Mrs. L. and Mrs. B., were the
operators; and on the two evenings when the two series of drawings were
executed, from which the accompanying selections are made, Mr. Rawson
was the only other person present. On both occasions, Mrs. L. sat on a
chair near the fire, Mrs. R. sat at a table many feet off, with her back
to Mrs. L., and Mr. Rawson stood or sat where he could see both ladies.
Nos. 5 and 6 of the first series are here reproduced.
The following selection is from the second series. Mr. Rawson says
respecting it: "Mrs. L. began drawing within ten to fifteen seconds, and
presently said, 'I am drawing something I can see.' The clock was in
front of her on the mantelpiece." It would seem as though the idea of a
clock was thought-transferred at once; but that the working out of the
idea in the mind was modified by what the percipient happened to see
A final selection of Thought-Transference Drawings will be taken from
the records of several series of experiments of different kinds made in
1897 and 1898 by Professor A. P. Chattock, of University College,
Bristol. The drawings were made with two old students of Professor
Chattock's, Mr. Wedmore and Mr. Clinker.
No. 6 of a series done at Harrow, September 1897. Agents, Professor
Chattock and R. C. Clinker. Percipient, E. B. Wedmore. E. B. W. about
three yards from agents, with lamp and table between. To reproduction
(1) these words are added: "I thought of these, and then suggested we
should try three musical notes." And to reproduction (2) these words are
added: "Got this result."
Agent, E. B. Wedmore.]
Percipient, R. Wedmore.]
No. 1 of a series done in London, a little later. The reproduction was
drawn in about one and a half minutes after the sitting commenced.
The Report of the various series of experiments is printed in the
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research for November 1898.
Instead of giving detailed references to all the quotations in the
descriptions of these various Thought-Transference Drawings, a list of
the several Reports is appended. They can be referred to for further
Second Report of the S.P.R. Committee. Proceedings, vol. i.,
part ii., 1882. See p. 92.
Third Report of the S.P.R. Committee. Proceedings, vol. i.,
part iii., 1883. See pp. 94, 95.
Experiments in Thought-Transference, by Malcolm Guthrie.
Proceedings, vol. ii., part v., 1884. See pp. 96, 97.
Experiments in Thought-Transference, by Oliver J. Lodge, D.Sc.
Proceedings, vol. ii., part vi., 1884. See pp. 100-102.
Some Recent Thought-Transference Experiments, by Oliver J.
Lodge. Proceedings, vol. vii., part xx., 1891. See p. 104.
Experiments in Thought-Transference, by Henry G. Rawson.
Proceedings, vol. xi., part xxvii., 1894. See pp. 105, 106.
Experiments in Thought-Transference, by Professor A. P.
Chattock. Journal S.P.R., vol. xiii., No. 153, Nov. 1898. See
During the last few years no important addition appears to have been
made to the series of Thought-Transference Drawings. A revival of
similar experiments would be of great interest and value.
The question may fairly be asked, What have these Thought-Transference
Drawings to do with the Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism? A reply is
easily given. The reader is referred to a passage in the concluding
chapter, quoted from Mr. Myers, in which he claims an exalted position
for Telepathy, as almost the fundamental doctrine of Spiritualistic
Philosophy. He speaks of the beginning of Telepathy as a
"quasi-mechanical transference of ideas and images from one to another
brain." The Thought-Transference Drawings constitute the primary
evidence of this. They may be looked upon as constituting the physical
basis of a belief in Thought-Transference, and therefore as the physical
basis of a belief in Telepathy, the action of which, as Mr. Myers says,
"was traced across a gulf greater than any space of earth or ocean--it
bridged the interval between spirits incarnate and discarnate." Thus we
may look upon these Thought-Transference Drawings as supplying the
chief--perhaps the only--physical basis for a belief in one of the main
doctrines of spiritualism. Hence they legitimately find a place in the