Thought-transference Drawings

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

further whe
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."[64] 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


No. 10.


No. 11.


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."]

No. 2.


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.

No. 15.


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

Society's Proceedings.

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,

are condensed.

(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."

No. 1.


(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


No. 2.


No. 3.


(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

before her.


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

p. 107.

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

present examination.