OF THE COMMISSION APPOINTED BY
THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REQUEST OF THE LATE HENRY SEYBERT
WITH A FOREWORD BY H.H. FURNESS, JR.
Now, at the present time, when the attention of the public is turning towards questions of Psychology and Psychiatry, it is most appropriate that a volume such as the present Report be again placed in the hands of the public. While it cannot be said that the conclusions reached by the Seybert Commission were final, yet material for future investigation was furnished and facts so clearly stated that the reader might form his own conclusions. The purpose and intended scope of the Commission are plainly set forth in the Preliminary sections, and therefore need not be entered upon here.
Of the members composing that Commission but one is now surviving, Dr. Calvin B. Knerr, who contributed an interesting report on the slate-writing medium, Mrs. Patterson. The sections by the Acting-Chairman, Dr. Horace Howard Furness, on Mediumistic Development, Sealed Letters, and Materialization were the occasion of acrimonious and violent attack on the whole work of the Commission by those periodicals devoted to spiritualism and its propaganda. Age cannot wither the charm of the good humoured satire with which the Acting-Chairman treated these subjects; and it was largely the spirit in which they were thus approached that inspired the intense hostility on the part of the spiritual mediums and their many followers.
It has been epigrammatically said that, Superstition is, in many cases, the cloak that keeps a man's religion from dying of cold; possibly the same may be said of Spiritualism and Psychology.
H.H. FURNESS, JR.
The Seybert Commission for Investigating Modern Spiritualism.
To the Trustees of The University of Pennsylvania:
'The Seybert Commission for Investigating Modern Spiritualism' respectfully present the following Preliminary Report, and request that the Commission be continued, on the following grounds:
The Commission is composed of men whose days are already filled with duties which cannot be laid aside, and who are able, therefore, to devote but a small portion of their time to these investigations. They are conscious that your honorable body look to them for a due performance of their task, and the only assurance which they can offer of their earnestness and zeal is in thus presenting to you, from time to time, such fragmentary Reports as the following, whereby they trust that successive steps in their progress may be marked. It is no small matter to be able to record any progress in a subject of so wide and deep an interest as the present. It is not too much to say that the farther our investigations extend the more imperative appears the demand for these investigations. The belief in so-called Spiritualism is certainly not decreasing. It has from the first assumed a religious tone, and now claims to be ranked among the denominational Faiths of the day.
From the outset your Commission have been deeply impressed with the seriousness of their undertaking, and have fully recognized that men eminent in intelligence and attainments yield to Spiritualism an entire credence, and who can fail to stand aside in tender reverence when crushed and bleeding hearts are seen to seek it for consolation and for hope? They beg that nothing which they may say may be interpreted as indicating indifference or levity. Wherever fraud in Spiritualism be found, that it is, and not whatever of truth there may be therein, which is denounced, and all Spiritualists who love the truth will join with us in condemnation of it.
The admission of evidence concerning the so-called Spiritual manifestations has been duly weighed. There is apparent force in the argument that our national histories are founded, accepted and trusted on evidence by no means as direct as that by which, it is claimed, the proofs of Spiritual miracles are accompanied. But it must be remembered that the facts of profane history are vouched for by evidence which is in accord with our present experience; they are in harmony with all that is now going on in the light of day (that history repeats itself has grown into a commonplace), and we are justified in accepting them on testimony, however indirect, which is nevertheless at one with the ordinary course of events. But the phenomena of Spiritualism have no such support; they are commonly regarded as in contravention of the ordinary experience of mankind (in that they are abnormal and extraordinary lies their very attractiveness to many people), and no indirect testimony concerning them can be admitted without the most thorough, the most searching scrutiny. We doubt if any thoughtful Spiritualist could be found to maintain that we should unquestioningly accept all the so-called 'facts' with which their annals teem. To sift the evidence of merely half a dozen would require incalculable labor. Wherefore we decided that, as we shall be held responsible for our conclusions, we must form those conclusions solely on our own observations; without at all imputing untrustworthiness to the testimony of others we can really vouch only for facts which we have ourselves observed.
The late Mr. Henry Seybert during his lifetime was known as an enthusiastic believer in Modern Spiritualism, and shortly before his death presented to The University of Pennsylvania a sum of money sufficient to found a chair of Philosophy, and to the gift added a condition that the University should appoint a Commission to investigate 'all systems of Morals, Religion, or Philosophy which assume to represent the Truth, and particularly of Modern Spiritualism.'
A Commission was accordingly appointed, composed as follows: Dr. William Pepper, Dr. Joseph Leidy, Dr. George A. Koenig, Professor Robert Ellis Thompson, Professor George S. Fullerton and Dr. Horace Howard Furness; to whom were afterwards added Mr. Coleman Sellers, Dr. James W. White, Dr. Calvin B. Knerr and Dr. S. Weir Mitchell. Of this Commission Dr. Pepper, as Provost of The University, was, ex-officio, Chairman, Dr. Furness, Acting Chairman, and Professor Fullerton, Secretary.
As a befitting preliminary, at one of our earliest meetings each member in turn expressed his entire freedom from all prejudices against the subject to be investigated, and his readiness to accept any conclusion warranted by facts; one of our number, the Acting Chairman, so far from being unprejudiced confessed to a leaning in favor of the substantial truth of Spiritualism.
We deemed ourselves fortunate at the outset in having as a counselor the late Mr. Thos. R. Hazard, a personal friend of Mr. Seybert, and widely known throughout the land as an uncompromising Spiritualist.
By the advice of Mr. Hazard we addressed ourselves first to the investigation of Independent Slate Writing, and through his aid a seance for this purpose was arranged with a noted Medium, Mrs. S.E. Patterson.
This mode of manifesting Spiritualistic power, as far as it has come under our observation, is, concisely stated, the writing on the concealed surface of a slate which is in contact with a Medium. In the present instance, between two slates fastened together by a hinge on one side and a screw on the other, there was placed a small fragment of slate pencil; when this fragment is bitten off by the Medium, it receives, so Mr. Hazard assured us, additional Spiritualistic power. As soon as a Spirit has finished writing its communication with the pencil on the inner surface of the slates, the completion of the task is made known by the appearance of the slate pencil on the outside, upon the slates. The slates are always held in concealment under the table, and never has this remarkable passage of the pencil through the solid substance of the slate been witnessed by any one, not even by the Medium herself, in all the years during which this wonderful phenomenon has been a matter of daily, almost hourly, experience.
Our first seance was held in the evening at the Medium's own home. The slates were screwed together with the bit of slate pencil enclosed, and held by the Medium between her open palms, in her lap, under the table. After waiting an hour and a half without the least response on the slates from the Spirits, the attempt was abandoned for that evening much to the disappointment, not only of us all, but to the chagrin of Mr. Hazard, who could not understand 'what the deuce was in it, seeing that the Medium was one of the very best in the world, and on the preceding evening, when he was all alone with her, the messages from the spirit of Henry Seybert came thick and fast.'
No better success attended our second seance with this Medium, although we waited patiently an hour and twenty minutes, while the slates were in the Medium's lap.
By the advice of the Medium, in order to eliminate any possible antagonism, we divided our numbers, and only one or two of us at a time sat with her. On one occasion writing did appear on the slates, after the slates had been held by both hands of the Medium for a long time in concealment under the table, but to neither of the two sitters did the screw appear to be by any means as tightly fastened after the writing as before; nor did the writing of two or three illegible words seem beyond the resources of very humble legerdemain; in fact, no legerdemain was needed, after a surreptitious loosening of the screw which, considering the state of the frame of the slate, could have been readily effected.
From some cause or other the atmosphere of Philadelphia is not favorable to this mode of Spiritual manifestation. With the exception of the Medium just alluded to, not a single Professional Independent Slate Writing Medium was known to us at that time in this city, nor is there one resident here even at this present writing, as far as we know.
We were, therefore, obliged to send for one to New York. With this Medium, Dr. Henry Slade, we had a number of sittings, and, however wonderful may have been the manifestations of his Mediumship in the past, or elsewhere, we were forced to the conclusion that the character of those which passed under our observation was fraudulent throughout. There was really no need of any elaborate method of investigation; close observation was all that was required.
At the risk of appearing inconsequent by mentioning that first which in point of time came last, we must premise that in our investigations with this Medium we early discovered the character of the writing to be twofold, and the difference between the two styles to be striking. In one case the communication written on the slate by the Spirits was general in its tone, legible in its chirography, and usually covered much of the surface of the slate, punctuation being attended to, the i's dotted, and the t's crossed. In the second, when the communication was in answer to a question addressed to a Spirit the writing was clumsy, rude, scarcely legible, abrupt in terms, and sometimes very vague in substance. In short, one bore the marks of deliberation and the other of haste. This difference we found to be due to the different conditions under which the communications were written. The long messages are prepared by the Medium before the seance. The short ones, answers to questions asked during the seance, are written under the table with what skill practice can confer.
With this knowledge, it is clear that the investigator has to deal with a simple question of legerdemain. The slate, with its message already written, must in some way be substituted for one which the sitter knows to be clean. The short answers must be written under trying circumstances, out of sight, under the table, with all motions of the arm or hand concealed. It is useless to attempt to limit the methods whereby these two objects may be attained. All that we can do is to describe the processes which we distinctly saw this Medium adopt.
In its simplest form (and one which any person can try with astonishing results upon an artless, unsuspicious sitter), a slate, on which, before the sitter's visit, a message has been written, is lying face downward on the table when the seance begins. There are other slates on an adjoining table within easy reach of the Medium. In order that the Medium may be brought into Spiritual relationship with the sitters, contact with the Medium is necessary, and the sitters are therefore requested to place their hands, palms downward, in the middle of the table; on these hands the Medium places his own and the seance begins. Before long, the presence of Spiritual power becomes manifest by raps on the table, or by vibratory movements of the table, more or less violent, and by spasmodic jerkings or twitching of the Medium's arms or body. When sufficient Spiritual power has been generated, the Medium takes up the slate, and, still controlling with his left hand the hands of his sitters, places on it a minute fragment of slate pencil. No offer is made to show both sides (the prepared message is on the hidden side), the side in full view is perfectly clean, and it is on that side that the Spirits are to write with the slate pencil; there is no need of showing the other side. With his right hand the Medium holds the slate under the edge of the table, barely concealing it thereunder, and drawing it forth every few seconds to see if any writing has appeared. After waiting in vain for five or ten minutes, the Medium's patience becomes exhausted, and he reaches for another slate from the table close behind him, and, ostentatiously washing both sides of it, lays it on the table in front of him (still controlling with his left hand the hands of his sitters), and removes the pencil from the first slate to the second, and on top of the second so places the first slate that the prepared message is underneath, on the inside and next to the other slate. The trick is done. All that now remains for the Medium to do is to hold the two slates under the table for awhile, or rest them on the shoulder close to the ear of the sitter on the Medium's right, and, by scratching with the finger nail on the frame of the slate, to imitate the writing by the Spirits with the enclosed pencil. When there are two or more sitters it is only the one on the right of the Medium who is privileged to hear the writing. To apply the slate to the ear of any other would disclose the way in which the sound of the writing is counterfeited. To him, therefore, who sits on the Medium's left, so that the Medium's hand, while holding the slates on the shoulder of the sitter on the right, is sharply outlined against the light, the motions of the Medium's fingers while the sound of writing is imitated by him may be distinctly seen.
By such elementary tricks of legerdemain as these are guileless, honest folk deceived.
Dr. Slade prefers to have only two sitters at a time, one on his right and one opposite. The fourth side of the table he prefers to have unoccupied; his manipulations of the slate can be from that side more readily observed; moreover, strange Spiritual antics may be there manifested, such as upsetting chairs which happen to be there, making slates appear above the edge of the table, etc. These manifestations are executed by the Medium's foot, which, on one occasion, was distinctly seen before it had time to get back into its slipper by one of our number, who stooped very quickly to pick up a slate which had accidentally fallen to the floor while the Spirits were trying to put it into the lap of one of the sitters.
At the first two seances an ordinary wooden table was used belonging to the hotel where Dr. Slade lodged. At the third seance a similar but larger table was used, somewhat the worse for wear, and the joints of its leaves were far from fitting close. Every crack, however, and every chink had been carefully filled up with paper to prevent, so the Medium said, 'the electricity from flowing through.'
The method of producing the long message which opened the seance has been described above. Whenever we received other long messages, written with some care and more or less filling the side of the slate, the agency employed was adroit substitution, generally effected when the Medium supposed that the attention of his sitters was engrossed with an answer just received to a question addressed to the Spirits. Prepared slates resting against the leg of the table behind him were substituted for those which but a moment before he had ostentatiously washed on both sides and laid on the table in front of him. The handwriting of these long messages bore an unmistakable similarity to the Medium's own.
When a question is written on the slate by a sitter, equal dexterity to that used in substituting the prepared slate, or even greater, is demanded of the Medium, in reading the question and in writing the answer.
The question is written by the sitter out of sight of the Medium, to whom the slate, face downward, is handed over and a piece of pencil placed on it.
The task now before the Medium is first to secure the fragment of pencil and to hold it while the slate is surreptitiously turned over and the question read, then the slate is turned back again and the answer written.
Every step in the process we have distinctly seen. In order to seize the fragment of pencil without awakening suspicion, while holding the slate under the table, the slate is constantly brought out to see whether or not the Spirits have written an answer. By this manoeuvre a double end is attained: First, it creates an atmosphere of expectation, and the sitters grow accustomed to a good deal of motion in the Medium's arm that holds the slate; and secondly, by these repeated motions the pencil (which, having been cut out from a slate pencil enclosed in wood, is square, and does not roll about awkwardly), is moved by the successive jerks toward the hand which holds the slate, and is gradually brought up to within grasping distance. The forefinger is then passed over the frame of the slate, and it and the thumb seize and hold the pencil, and under cover of some violent convulsive spasms the slate is turned over and the question read. At this point it is that the Medium shows his nerve: it is the critical instant, the only one when his eyes are not fastened on his visitors. On one occasion, when the question was written somewhat illegibly in a back hand, with a very light stroke, and close to the upper edge of the slate, the Medium had to look at it three several times before he could make it out.
After reading the question, it may be noticed that Dr. Slade winks three or four times rapidly; this may have been partly to veil from his visitors the fact that he had been looking intently downward, and partly through mental abstraction in devising an answer. He evidently breathes freer when this crisis is past.
Convulsive spasms attend the reversing of the slate, which is then generally held between his knees; only once did we note that he placed it on his knees, and once we believed that he supported it by pressing it against the leg of the table. The answer is written without looking at the slate, in a coarse, large, sprawling hand, at times scarcely legible. While writing he keeps his eyes steadily fixed on his visitors, and generally rests a minute or two after it is finished. Presently the slate is held near the edge of the table and close up to it, and a tremulous motion imparted to it suggests that Spiritual power is then at work and that the writing is in progress.
Dr. Slade performed several little tricks which he imputed to Spiritual agency, but which were almost puerile in the simplicity of their legerdemain, and which have been repeated with perfect success by one of our number; such as tossing a slate pencil on and sometimes over the table from a slate held apparently under the table, or the playing of an accordion when held with one hand under the table. This Medium's fingers are unusually long and strong, and the accordion, being quite small and with only four bellows folds, can be readily manipulated with but one hand, and when under the table is held by the keys.
Two compasses, which we placed on the table during one seance, remained unaffected by Dr. Slade's presence.
At our last seance with him we noticed two slates which were not with the other slates on the small table behind him, but were on the floor resting against the leg of that table, and within easy reach of his hand as he sat at the larger table. As we had previously seen prepared slates similarly placed we kept a sharp watch on these slates. Unfortunately, it was too sharp. Dr. Slade caught the look that was directed at them. That detected glance was sufficient to prevent the Spirits from sending us the messages which they had so carefully prepared. The slates were not produced during the seance, but when it was over one of our number managed to strike them with his foot so as to displace them and reveal the writing. None of us present that day will be likely to forget the hurried way in which these slates were seized by the Medium and washed.
We think it worthy to be recorded that, in reply to a question, Dr. Slade said that Professor Zoellner watched him closely only during the first three or four sittings, but that afterwards Professor Zoellner let him do just as he pleased, fully and unreservedly submitting to all the conditions demanded by the Spirits.
We received from Dr. Slade a written expression of his satisfaction with our treatment of him, which had been throughout, so he said, entirely fair and courteous, and of his willingness at any time hereafter to sit with us again, should we desire it and his engagements permit.
It is a source of regret that, in our investigations, we have received no aid from unprofessional Mediums; and in dealing with professional Mediums we have been continually distracted by the conflicting estimates in which these Mediums are held among the Spiritualists themselves. There are very, very few professional Mediums, as far as our experience goes, who are accepted by all Spiritualists as free from the reproach of fraud. Indeed one Medium with whom, by the advice of Mr. Hazard, we had a seance, and for whom Mr. Hazard vouched as one of the best of his class, we have seen denounced as a 'liar and a thief.' In the earnestness of our zeal we advertised in the local secular press, and in the leading Spiritualist Journals both East and West, for Independent Slate Writing Mediums, and to this widespread appeal there came but three replies, and of these, two were so remote that the promise of performance held out by the respondents did not, in our opinion, justify so large an outlay of money for traveling expenses as a journey across the Continent involved. This noteworthy reluctance on the part of Mediums to come before us cannot be due to any harsh or antagonistic treatment received at our hands by any Medium. All Mediums have been treated by us with uniform courtesy, and with every endeavor to acquiesce in the 'conditions' imposed or suggested by the Spirits. And yet a well-known Medium in New York, Mrs. Thayer, to whom the Acting Chairman was unknown, and with whom he was at the time having a seance, vehemently asserted that no member of the 'Seybert Commission' should ever have a seance with her, that the whole Commission, one and all, were 'old scoundrels and should never darken her doors,' etc., etc., and confessed that the foundation of her belief was the warning (sent to her by an eminent Medium whose seances the Commission had attended) that she should have nothing to do with 'the Seybert men, that they would do her no good.' Even in instances where Mediums have expressed their willingness to appear before us, we have been embarrassed by demands for compensation which we could not but deem extortionate and, practically, prohibitory; as in the case of Mr. Keeler, the Spiritual Photographer, whose terms will be found in the Appendix, and in that of Dr. Henry Rogers, whose terms were five hundred dollars if he should be successful before us, and the half of that sum if he failed.
Although the number of Mediums whose manifestations we have been able to examine has been thus restricted, we feel ourselves justified in giving as a result of our examination of Independent Slate Writing that, whether the agency be Spiritual or Material, its mode of manifestation almost wholly precludes any satisfactory investigation.
There are not wanting eminent expounders of the Spiritualistic Faith who assert that this is as it should be, and that if in the attempt to apply the laws of the material world to Spiritual manifestations we are baffled, the fault lies in us, and not in the Mediums. If this be so, we must accept our fate and enlarge the adage that 'poets are born, not made,' and include Spiritualists.
Yet, as a rule, Mediums assert that they invite investigation. Our experience has been, as we have just said, that as soon as an investigation, worthy of the name, begins, all manifestations of Spiritualist power cease.
The bare statement of the conditions whereunder the Mediums maintain that the manifestations of Independent Slate Writing are alone possible, involves the extreme difficulty, we might almost say the impossibility, of any genuine or rational investigation. Even the very spirit of investigation, or of incredulity, seems to exercise a chilling effect and prevents a successful manifestation. Indeed Mr. Hazard once told us that the true spirit in which to approach the study of Spiritualism is 'an entire willingness to be deceived.' In Independent Slate Writing, in our experience, there is a period, of longer or shorter duration, when the slate is concealed. During this period the investigator's eye must not watch it. When the slate is held under the table, knees and feet and clothing exert no deleterious effect, but the gaze of a human eye is fatal to all Spiritual manifestation; although to one of our number, on three occasions, a pocket mirror, carefully adjusted, unknown to the Medium, gave back the reflection of fingers, which were clearly not Spiritual, opening the slates and writing the answer.
There is really no step in the bare process of producing this writing, as we have observed it, which might not be accomplished by trickery or by legerdemain. Of course, therefore, we were sincerely anxious to disprove in these experiments the presence of those discreditable elements, not only for the credit of human nature, but for the sake of the great scientific interest involved. We are perfectly ready to accept any fact of Spiritual power; and so far from flinching from an open avowal of our belief in this revelation of a novel force in Nature, we would welcome it. But no one, not a Spiritualist, we should suppose, can demand of us that we should accept profound mysteries with our eyes tight shut, and our hands fast closed, and with every avenue to our reasoning faculties insurmountably barred. Yet this is precisely what is demanded of us by Mediums in regard to Independent Slate Writing. We must sign a dispensation to forego the exercise of common sense, and accept as 'fact' what they choose so to term. Few assertions by departed Spirits are more hacknied than, 'This is a great truth,' and yet in an honest endeavor to prove that it is a 'great truth;' and not a great lie, the sincere and earnest seeker is at every turn baffled and thwarted.
To eliminate from our investigations every element of distrust, or hostility, or suspicion, or chilling antagonism, we entrusted to Mr. Hazard's friend, Mrs. Patterson, vouched for by him as one of the very best Mediums in the country, two carefully closed and sealed slates, enclosing, of course, the required piece of slate-pencil, with the earnest entreaty that the Spirits should write therein even if it were but the merest mark, sign, or scratch, therewith we would be content, and be ready to accept Independent Slate Writing with its train of consequences. The Medium was fully impressed with the importance of the trial, and with the fame which would thereby accrue from such a wholesale conversion as that of the united Seybert Commission.
Every Medium, it would appear, is under the special tutelage of a departed Spirit; this Spirit is termed the 'Medium's control.' In the present case, when the slates were delivered to Mrs. Patterson, her 'control,' one 'Thomas Lister,' at once promised that Spirit hands should shortly write within the sealed-up space. But no writing came that day nor the next, nor the next, although the Medium protested that every attention should be bestowed on the refractory slates. In vain was the Medium again and again adjured to put forth every power. At the end of six months the slates were received again, without any writing, according to the confession of the Medium.
So anxious, however, was our Acting Chairman that the experiment should prove successful, that, undeterred by this failure, he carefully sealed up a second slate, and placed it in the hands of the same Medium, with renewed adjurations to put forth all her Spiritualistic strength. At the end of a fortnight or more, after redoubled exertions of Mediumistic power, to which was added the combined Spiritualistic power of the Medium's entire family circle, the exciting announcement was made to us that the fragment of slate pencil within the slates could no longer be heard to rattle, and that presumably the Spirits had written a message for us.
Each Medium, generally, has some peculiar mode of manifesting Spiritualistic power; it is a peculiarity of this Medium, as has been before stated, that the completion of the Spirit message within the slates is indicated not by raps, as is frequently the case with other Mediums, but by the sudden and marvelous appearance on the top of the slate of the little fragment of pencil, which had been securely fastened up within. The fact, therefore, that the pencil was no longer inside of our slates was presumptive evidence that the Medium's control had been true to his word, and had written us a message. The slates were received from the Medium most carefully, and a meeting of the Commission hastily called. It is scarcely worth while to enter here at length on the details of that session, of the careful scrutiny to which the slates were subjected, of the unmutilated seals, of the untouched screws, etc., etc.; but it is worth while to record the feeling of grave responsibility, almost akin to solemnity, with which we all approached what, for aught we knew, might prove to be a revelation of a power as wonderful as any with which, as yet, we had ever been brought into acquaintance. Just before we opened the slates it was noticed that at one corner, owing to the flexibility of the wooden frames, it was quite possible to stretch the slates far enough apart to permit the insertion of the blade of a knife, and an examination of the edges at this point revealed only too plainly discolored abrasions. When the slates were finally opened, not a stroke of writing nor a scratch was to be found, but at the suspected corner were the discolored marks, visible to this day, of the knife which had been inserted to extract the pencil, which, in its enforced outward passage, had left behind, in its scratches on the wood, a tell-tale trail of dust which the microscope revealed to be of the same substance as the pencil. The Spirits had not taken even the precaution to wipe the broad knife clean from rust or dirt. The slates are preserved in our sad museum of specimens of misdirected ingenuity.
We are continually confronted with statements wherein the narrator claims a Spiritual solution as the only possible one of the enigma involved in the phenomena, as he observed them.
To all such statements we have, first, the plain and ready answer, that we do not attempt to pass judgment on manifestations which we ourselves have not observed. All that we can vouch for is the result of our own observation. More cannot be demanded of us.
Secondly, experience has shown us that with every possible desire on the part of Spiritualists to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, concerning marvelous phenomena, it is extremely difficult to do so. Be it distinctly understood that we do not for an instant impute wilful perversion of the truth. All that we mean is that, for two reasons, it is likely that the marvels of Spiritualism will be, by believers in them, incorrectly and insufficiently reported.
The first reason is to be found in the mental condition of the observer; if he be excited or deeply moved his account cannot but be affected, and essential details will surely be distorted.
For a second reason, note how hard it is to give a truthful account of any common, everyday occurrence. The difficulty is increased a hundred-fold, when what we would tell, partakes of the wonderful. Who can truthfully describe a juggler's trick? Who would hesitate to affirm that a watch, which never left the eye-sight for an instant, was broken by the juggler on an anvil; or that a handkerchief was burned before our eyes? We all know the juggler does not break the watch, and does not burn the handkerchief. We watched most closely the juggler's right hand, while the trick was done with his left. The one minute circumstance has been omitted that would have converted the trick into no-trick. It is likely to be the same in the accounts of most of the wonderful phenomena of Spiritualism.
For these two reasons, we laid down for ourselves at the start that in cases demanding close observation we would endeavor to have as many members as possible of the Commission present at every seance. In dealing with phenomena, where all ordinary methods of investigation are excluded, we perceived clearly that our best resource lay in having the largest possible number of observers.
In dismissing this subject of Independent Slate Writing, we repeat, what we think Spiritualists will generally grant, that this phenomenon can be performed by legerdemain. The burden of proof that it is not so performed rests with the Mediums. This proof the Mediums will neither offer themselves, nor permit others to obtain. Investigators, therefore, are forced to bring to bear their own powers of close observation, sharpened and educated by experience. Be it remembered that what we have here stated applies solely to the process whereby the communication is written on the slate; with the substance of the communication, whether pertinent answers to questions or dreary platitudes, we are not now dealing. Whether these answers be ascribed to Spirits, or to what is termed clairvoyance, they would be none the less true or false if delivered orally by the Medium; all that we are sure of is that the writing down of these communications, be their substance what it may, is performed in a manner so closely resembling fraud as to be indistinguishable from it. It would be a mere matter of opinion that all Independent Slate Writing is fraudulent; what is not a matter of opinion is the conviction, which we have unanimously reached as a Commission, of its non-spiritual character in every instance that has come before us.
An eminent professional juggler performed, in the presence of three of our Commission, some Independent Slate Writing far more remarkable than any which we have witnessed with Mediums. In broad daylight, a slate perfectly clean on both sides was, with a small fragment of slate pencil, held under a leaf of a small ordinary table around which we were seated; the fingers of the juggler's right hand pressed the slate tight against the underside of the leaf, while the thumb completed the pressure, and remained in full view while clasping the leaf of the table. Our eyes never for a fraction of a second lost sight of that thumb; it never moved; and yet in a few minutes the slate was produced, covered on both sides with writing. Messages were there, and still are there, for we preserved the slate, written in French, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Gujerati, and ending with 'Ich bin ein Geist, und liebe mein Lagerbier.' We were utterly baffled. For one of our number the juggler subsequently repeated the trick and revealed its every detail.
We request your honorable body to note that this Report is preliminary and that we do not consider our investigations in this department as finally closed, but hold ourselves ready to continue them whenever favorable circumstances arise.
To the subject of 'Spirit-rappings' we have devoted some time and attention, but our investigations have not been sufficiently extensive to warrant us at present in offering any positive conclusions. The difficulty attending the investigation of this mode of Spiritualistic manifestation is increased by the fact, familiar to physiologists, that sounds of varying intensity may be produced in almost any portion of the human body by voluntary muscular action. To determine the exact location of this muscular activity is at times a matter of delicacy.
What we can say, thus far, with assurance is that, in the cases which have come under our observation, the theory of the purely physiological origin of the sounds has been sustained by the fact that the Mediums were invariably, and confessedly, cognizant of the rappings whenever they occurred, and could at once detect any spurious rappings, however exact and indistinguishable to all other ears might be the imitation. For the details of the investigation which guided us to this conclusion we refer to the Appendix.
There are among Mediums certain Specialists, whose alleged Spiritual manifestations we have endeavoured to investigate, not always successfully, as, for instance, in the case of Mr. W.M. Keeler, through whose Mediumship 'Spiritual Photographs' are produced. The 'conditions' which this Medium demanded would have made any attempt at investigation a mere waste of time, and his terms of remuneration were, in addition, as we have before mentioned, prohibitory and suggestive of unwillingness to come before the Commission. In these days of 'Composite Photography' it is worse than childish to claim a Spiritual source for results which can be obtained at any time by any tyro in the art. Mr. Keeler's letter will be found in the Appendix.
We were more successful in procuring a seance with Mr. Keeler's brother, whose Mediumship manifests itself by the materialization of a right hand behind a low screen, in front of which the Medium sits, with his face alone visible, his entire person being concealed by black muslin. The screen is stretched across a corner of a room to about the height of the back of the Medium's head, as he sits in front of it. The lights are lowered, and in a few minutes various instruments, musical and otherwise, which had been previously placed on a small table in the corner enclosed by the screen, are heard to sound, a drum is beaten, a guitar is played, etc. The music is interspersed with flashes of hand darting and waving above the screen to the right of the Medium. The hand, when shaken, was found to be a right one. As a proof that the hand is Spiritual and not that of the Medium, the latter requests one of the visitors at the seance to sit beside him on his right, and also to be covered to the chin with the same black muslin under which all the Medium, except his head, is concealed. This visitor's bare left forearm is grasped by the Medium, as he says, with both his hands, and this pressure of the Medium's two hands on the visitor's arm is never relaxed, as the visitor readily testifies. The proof seems, therefore, conclusive that the hand which plays the instruments behind the screen is not the Medium's, and hence must be a materialized Spirit. The trick is simple and highly deceptive, as any one can prove for himself by requesting a blindfolded friend to bare the left arm to the elbow, then let the experimenter grasp this bared arm, near the wrist, with the third and fourth fingers of his left hand, closing them around it tightly, and as he does so, asking the owner of the arm to note that this is his left hand, then let the experimenter, without relaxing this hold, stretch the remaining fingers and thumb up the arm as far as he can, and while clasping it with his thumb and forefinger, remark that this second pressure comes from his other hand. The conviction is complete in the mind of the blindfolded friend that he feels the grasp of two hands, whereas only the left hand of the experimenter has grasped his arm, and the right hand is free to beat a drum or play a zither. After this test, which is patent to all, we can dismiss the theory of a Spiritual origin of the hand behind Mr. Keeler's screen. To forestall the discovery by Mr. Keeler's companion of this trick, and to prevent its detection by simply feeling with his free right hand after the suppositious hands of the Medium, which are grasping his left forearm, a second visitor is requested to share the discomfort of the muslin envelope, and to sit on the right of the first visitor and to hold the latter's truant right hand with his left hand, while his right is exposed to view outside the curtain. Again we refer to the Appendix for the minutes of our meeting.
We had a seance also with Messrs. Rothermel and Powell, of whom the former is the Medium, the latter, acting mainly as a reservoir of psychic force, guides and directs the seance. In this case the Medium's Spiritual manifestations, as well as his material arrangements, are similar to those of Mr. Keeler, except that instead of having a visitor whose arm may be grasped, Mr. Rothermel's hands are fastened in his lap by bands of tape passed around his legs and sewed to his clothes. After the black curtain had hid the hands from our sight we were not again allowed to examine them except in the most hurried and superficial way, but, even in the brief inspection which was permitted, a glance was sufficient to show that the tape had been tampered with. The close of the seance was announced by the sound of clipping scissors, and by Mr. Rothermel's exclamation, while still concealed, that the Spirits were cutting him loose. We had no means of knowing whether the tape was cut at the beginning of the seance or not. When the muslin envelope was removed, Mr. Rothermel's hands were certainly free. The bands were cut, and we had no difficulty in believing that the hands which were dexterous enough to play the zither with very remarkable skill, under such conditions, behind the curtain, were deft enough to sever the cords.
Our seances with Mrs. Maud E. Lord were acknowledged by the Medium herself to be altogether unsatisfactory. This is much to be regretted. Mrs. Lord is one of the few professional Mediums whose excellence is acknowledged by all Spiritualists alike, and who, in her attitude towards the Commission, displayed every desire to aid a full and complete investigation into the manifestations peculiar to her Mediumship, and furthermore, without remuneration.
In conclusion, we beg to express our regret that thus far we have not been cheered in our investigations by the discovery of a single novel fact; but, undeterred by this discouragement, we trust with your permission to continue them with what thoroughness our future opportunities may allow, and with minds as sincerely and honestly open, as heretofore, to conviction.
We desire to call especial attention to Professor Fullerton's Report in the Appendix of his interviews with Professors Fechner, Scheibner and Weber, the surviving colleagues of Professor Zoellner in his experiments with Dr. Henry Slade.
And also to an investigation of the power of Mediums to answer the questions contained in 'Sealed Envelopes.'
WILLIAM PEPPER, JOSEPH LEIDY, GEORGE A. KOENIG, GEORGE S. FULLERTON, ROBT. ELLIS THOMPSON, HORACE HOWARD FURNESS, COLEMAN SELLERS, JAMES W. WHITE, CALVIN B. KNERR, S. WEIR MITCHELL.
University of Pennsylvania, May, 1887.
Soon after the appointment of the Seybert Commission, I as Secretary, was asked to make a collection of the best representative literature of Spiritualism, and to prepare for the use of the Commission a sketch of the rise, progress, present condition, doctrines and alleged phenomena of this belief, as well as an account of previous investigations, similar to the one contemplated by ourselves. For a number of months I busied myself diligently with this work, and finally read my sketch before the Commission, at a meeting at which Mr. Thomas R. Hazard, the well-known Spiritualist, was present as our guest. I had at this time seen scarcely anything of Spiritualism, but was much impressed with what I had read, and certainly in a fully receptive attitude towards phenomena supported by so much apparently strong testimony. Mr. Hazard declared himself quite satisfied with the tone of the paper, saying that he had come expecting to hear something very different, but that it was fair and unbiased. I mention these facts to show that my present opinion on the subject was not assumed at the outset, but has been arrived at gradually, and is based upon my own observations.
I have been forced to the conclusion that Spiritualism, as far at least as it has shown itself before me (and I give no opinion upon what has not fallen within my observation), presents the melancholy spectacle of gross fraud, perpetrated upon an uncritical portion of the community; that the testimony of such persons as to what they see is almost valueless, if they are habitually as inaccurate as they have been at the seances at which I have been present with them; and that there is an unwillingness on the part of Mediums to have their powers freely and thoroughly investigated—a fact which makes any investigation of Spiritualism difficult and expensive. My opinions are not based exclusively upon what I have seen and recorded in my work with my colleagues, but also upon observations made at various times in a private capacity; and there is but one conclusion to be appended to them all. I subjoin notes of seances, recorded by myself as Secretary of the Commission. Their somewhat disjointed form arises from the fact that I have not thought it desirable to make changes in my notes, except such as were necessary in taking the Records, which are of value as evidence, out of their contextual connection with records of business meetings and matters of no interest to the public. Nothing which could be looked upon as evidence has been purposely suppressed. I have intentionally left out a description of several things which we have been unable to use, and which would have merely swelled our Records; as, for example, the account of our sealing slates for the experiments with Dr. Slade, he afterwards having refused to have anything to do with slates sealed by us. My notes were made during the seances, or as soon as possible after them. They were arranged and copied in no case later than two days after. Explanations and additions, which do not belong to the original Records, but have been inserted later, are put in brackets.
For a justification of the opinion of Spiritualism expressed above, I refer to the Records which follow.
GEO. S. FULLERTON.
* * * * *
March 13th, 1884.
On Thursday, March 13th, 1884, the Commission met at 508 S. 16th Street, at 8 P.M., for the examination of Mrs. S.E. Patterson, Spiritualistic Medium.
For the first test, a small piece of slate pencil was placed within a double slate, and the leaves fastened together with a screw, which passed through one wooden rim into the other. The Spirit-writing upon the slate should be indicated by the pencil appearing upon the outside of the slate. The slate was laid upon the Medium's lap for one hour and a-half without results.
Meanwhile the Medium wrote what purported to be messages from several Spirits upon slips of paper, the handwriting varying with each message. One message was signed Elias Hicks, another Lucretia Mott, another signed H.S. was compared with a message from Mr. Henry Seybert to Mr. T.R. Hazard the day before. The initials were somewhat different.
The Commission sat in a circle, the Medium at a small table with folding leaves.
One communication, signed E.H., declared that the person sitting opposite Mr. Hazard (Mr. Furness) was endowed with great Mediumistic powers.
The writing failing to appear on the slate it was opened, and Dr. Leidy, having written upon a slip of paper a question, enclosed it in the slate, which was again fastened.
After half an hour's waiting, no results being obtained, the Commission addressed some questions to the Medium and then adjourned.
The Medium described her sensations during the automatic writing as a constriction at the wrist.
She declared that she had no knowledge of what she wrote, was not distracted by noises, etc.
(Mr. Furness and Mr. Fullerton, however, noticed that she, when interrupted, glanced back over what she had previously written before continuing.)
She could not go into the trance state. Just before adjournment the Medium laid her hands upon the table and tried to produce "raps," but did not succeed.
Has been a Spiritualist for nine or ten years, but has always been possessed of unusual powers. As a child saw visions, etc.
Declares that she is most successful as a Slate Writer.
GEO. S. FULLERTON,
* * * * *
Wednesday, March 19th, 1884.
The Commission met at 508 S. 16th Street, at 8 P.M.
Present: Dr. Leidy, Professor Koenig, Mr. Furness, Mr. Fullerton and Mr. Hazard. The Medium was Mrs. S.E. Patterson.
Mr. Furness brought two new double slates, which could be fastened by a screw.
The Medium cut a small piece of slate pencil and enclosed it in a double slate (one of those brought by Mr. Furness), into which was also put a paper upon which Dr. Leidy had written a question. The slate was then fastened with a screw.
Dr. Koenig also wrote a question, which was enclosed in the other slate, the slate being screwed up by Mr. Furness.
The Medium then placed both slates upon her lap, and partially under the table. A portion of the time the upper slate was between the palms of her hands, the back of the lower hand resting on the lower slate. Then one hand was placed upon each slate, the two being placed together.
No results having been obtained after waiting twenty minutes, one of the new slates was laid aside, and the Medium's old slate, with a piece of pencil in it, laid upon the remaining new slate in the Medium's lap.
The Medium held from time to time a lead pencil in one hand, but was not moved to write.
The Medium declared that when writing appears upon the slate in her lap she feels a shock, but no other sensation.
Two Spirit Photographs were exhibited by the Medium. In one the Spirit was her own mother. The Spirit in each appeared as a white apparition behind a person seated in the foreground.
The slates remained in the lap of the Medium one hour and twenty minutes. No manifestations were produced during the evening.
The Commission adjourned to a room at the Social Art Club for conference.
The above notes of the evening's session were read by the Secretary and approved.
It was resolved to meet again on the evening of Wednesday, March 26th, for the next session.
GEO. S. FULLERTON,
* * * * *
March 26th, 1884.
The Commission met on Wednesday, March 26th, at 7.30 P.M., at 1117 Callowhill Street.
Present: Dr. Leidy, Mr. Furness, Mr. Fullerton and Mr. T.R. Hazard. The Medium was Mr. Fred. Briggs.
The Medium gave the following answers to Dr. Leidy's questions:
1. Has been a Medium since seven years of age. Now 22 years old.
2. Before seven years of age could see visions, etc., but did not communicate with Spirits.
3. Was born in Boston. Lived there when not on journeys.
4. His parents had no such powers.
5. His grandfather was a West India importer, his father had no business.
6. Educated in Middleboro and Bridgewater, Mass.
7. His family, Baptists.
8. He can communicate with Spirits best
a. At night, or in the evening.
b. In cold or snowy weather.
c. In dry weather.
d. When in a healthy condition.
9. When in communication with Spirits feels nervous, but cannot describe the feeling.
The Medium had on the table two single slates which could be laid upon each other. The table was about three and a-half feet square, and covered with a cloth.
The light was kept rather dim.
(The Medium explained later in the evening that writing is best produced in the dark, because dark is negative, light positive, and negative conditions are most favorable to communication.)
Mr. Furness had brought two folding slates, which could be fastened with a screw.
Dr. Leidy and Mr. Furness and the Medium each held a double slate under the table.
Mr. Fullerton asked a question as requested, but received no answer from the Spirits.
Some scratching was now heard under the table.
The Medium took the slate held by Mr. Furness (one not screwed or fastened by hinges), and it was held under the table by Mr. Furness, Mr. Hazard and Mr. Briggs.
The Medium seemed much excited, spoke rapidly, etc., and was so much overcome that he dropped the slate (one brought by Mr. Furness) which he was holding under the table with his left hand, and left it lying on the floor under the table.
At 8 o'clock Dr. Koenig came in. The slate held by the Medium, Mr. Furness and Mr. Hazard, was held in Mr. Hazard's lap, and some taps were heard. (Mr. Furness afterwards produced taps precisely similar by rubbing the side of his finger slowly along the side of the slate.)
No writing having been obtained, the Medium declared that he alone would hold the slate, as the magnetism of Mr. Furness was injurious.
Again we were invited to ask questions. Dr. Leidy asked: 'When and where did you die?' No answer.
The Medium asked Mr. Furness if his name were not Furness. (Mr. Hazard had seen the Medium before, and informed him that the Commission was coming.)
Mr. Furness now put his hand under the table on the hand of the Medium, which was pressing the double slate (not the screwed one) up against the table.
Mr. Furness declared that he heard a certain buzzing noise. The slate being taken out, there was found written on the inside of the under slate:
I will help you all R. Dale Owen
and something that looked like "Henry Furness is here."
The slate on the floor being examined, there was found on the outside (it was a screw-slate)
I am here with you I will help you R. Dale Owen.
Some other illegible marks were found on the slate.
Nothing was obtained on the inside of either screw-slate.
The handwriting on the two slates, purporting to be from R. Dale Owen, was much alike.
The Medium now took hold of Mr. Hazard's hand, and went into trance, personating Esther Hazard, a deceased daughter of Mr. Hazard. He (the Medium) made convulsive motions, trembled, etc., and while in this state predicted that Mr. Fullerton would receive a very pleasing letter on Saturday next—said that he should come to the Medium for advice. [No such letter was received on that date by Mr. Fullerton.]
He also declared that Dr. Koenig had brought with him a Spirit named August.
He declared Ponto, White-feather, Red Jacket and Thomas Paine to be present.
(The Medium called "White-feather" he, Mr. Hazard objecting that White-feather was a woman.)
The light was then turned out, and all hands laid upon the table. Mr. Furness laid one of his hands upon one of the Medium's and upon one of Mr. Hazard's. (The Medium afterwards asserted that Mr. Furness had held both his hands. But Mr. Furness was positive that he held only one.) Mr. Hazard was touched several times about the face. Mr. Furness was touched on the cheek and on his ear-trumpet and Mr. Fullerton was struck on the head by a paper thrown from the other side of the table, and touched once on the back of his left hand by what felt like human fingers.
There were no more manifestations.
The Committee adjourned to Dr. Leidy's house for conference. The above notes were read and approved.
GEO. S. FULLERTON,
* * * * *
April 8th, 1884.
On Tuesday evening, April 8th, Dr. Leidy and Mr. Furness held another seance with the Medium formerly examined, Mrs. Patterson. The slates used belonged to the Medium, and were, as she told them, in daily, almost hourly use; the frame of one of them was far from sound, and the hole which admitted the screw was more than well worn. Within these slates, after being held for a long while by both hands of the Medium under the table, two or three barely legible words appeared. The screw was, by no means, as tight after the writing as before. This fact, together with the prolonged concealment, rendered it impossible to attach any real importance to the attempt to write, as far as could be made out, the name of Henry Seybert.
Under the same conditions our colleague, Mr. Sellers, produced writing for us very satisfactorily.
GEO. S. FULLERTON,
* * * * *
April 17th, 1884.
On Thursday evening, April 17th, 1884, a sitting was held by Mrs. Patterson with Dr. Koenig, Mr. Fullerton and Mr. Hazard. The Medium declared herself unwell. No results were obtained. The session was in Mrs. Patterson's room at No. 508 S. 16th Street.
GEO. S. FULLERTON,
* * * * *
May 31st, 1884.
On Saturday, May 31st, 1884, at 8 P.M., the Commission met at the house of the Provost, 1811 Spruce Street, for the purpose of sealing a slate to be left with the Medium, Mrs. Patterson, who was to try to procure independent writing upon the inside surfaces. There were present Dr. Pepper, Mr. Furness, Professor Thompson and Mr. Fullerton. Mr. Furness brought the slate and seals. The slate was the double one used in our former tests, hinged, and fastening with a screw. A small piece of pencil was enclosed in the slate, which was perfectly clean, and the slate was screwed up by Dr. Pepper. The direction of the cut in the screw-head was marked by a scratch on the wood at the end of the slate. It was nearly parallel with the long diameter of the slate. Mr. Furness then tied the slate with red tape, passing the tape longitudinally and transversely around the middle of the slates.
The first seal (red wax) was on the knot, which was over the under end of the screw. The end of the screw projected a little through the wood, but was covered by the seal. The second seal was over the ends of the tape. The head of the screw was also covered by a seal, and three (3) additional seals were affixed on the outside edges of the slates, where they were crossed by the tape.
One of the three impressions at the edges of the slates was made by Professor Thompson's right thumb. [A test was then proposed by Professor Thompson, which the Commission does not feel at liberty to make public, as it has not yet been carried out, and publicity may interfere with its success.]
GEO. S. FULLERTON,
* * * * *
November 5th, 1884.
The Commission met at the house of Mr. Furness, 222 West Washington Square, on November 5th, 1884, at 8 P.M. There were present Dr. Wm. Pepper and Mrs. Pepper, Dr. Leidy, Dr. Koenig, Prof. Thompson, Mr. Furness, Mr. George S. Pepper, Miss Logan, Mr. Fullerton, Mr. Coleman Sellers, and the Medium, Mrs. Margaret Fox Kane, who was the guest of Mr. Furness at the time.
Those present seated themselves around an oak dining table, some eight feet by four and a-half feet and the usual height. Mrs. Kane was at one end of the table and Mr. Sellers at the other. The Medium sat with her feet partly under the table, and consequently concealed from most of those present—her feet were hidden also by her dress.
Dr. Leidy asked the question: "Is any Spirit present?"
Ans. Three raps.
Dr. Leidy: "Will you confer with the man to left of the Medium?"
Ans. Two raps. (No.)
Dr. Leidy: "To the right?"
Ans. Three raps.
Professor Thompson (who was the person indicated): "Is the Spirit male?"
Ans. Three raps.
"Will it answer to the alphabet?"
Three raps. The alphabet was called and "Henry Seybert" spelled out.
Mr. Sellers: "Will Henry Seybert make the raps at this end of the table?"
"Is he satisfied with the Commission?"
Five raps were given for the alphabet; Professor Thompson called it; raps spelled out:
"I will be satisfied before the investigation is through."
Mr. Sellers: "Does Mr. Seybert know the names of the Commission?"
Ans. Three raps.
"Does he know who is now speaking?"
Mr. Sellers then pointed to the letters of the alphabet, which he had written in order on a sheet of paper, and raps spelled out:
Mrs. Kane then tried standing at some distance from the table, with her hands on the back of a chair; there were some raps seemingly near or under the Medium.
Raps were produced as members of the Committee stood with the Medium around the desk in the library, and close to a book-case. Raps were produced according to the Medium on the glass door of a book-case, upon which Mr. Sellers placed his hand. Mr. Sellers felt no vibration on the glass, but raps were heard somewhere in the vicinity.
The Committee then returned to the dining-room and the Medium wrote upon a sheet of paper the following:
"Friend Pepper: I am happy to meet you here to-night. I have not forgotten my promise to you, Henry Seybert."
The paper had to be held to the light and read from the obverse side, as the message was written from right to left.
Mr. Geo. Pepper: "Do you remember the year in which you made the promise?"
The answer given in same way was: "It was in the year in which my Spirit left the body. H.S. Call the alphabet, H.S."
Dr. Pepper called the alphabet—the sentence "Let Friend Pepper call the alphabet" was rapped out. Mr. Geo. Pepper called the alphabet: the letters HAND were rapped out, and the communication ceased.
The Medium wrote then as before: "Friend Pepper, meet me again."
It was asked whether Mr. Seybert would meet us on the next evening?
Ans. Three raps.
The Committee adjourned at 9.30 o'clock to meet again at 8 o'clock on the next evening at the same place.
GEO. S. FULLERTON.
The following stenographic report of the meeting of November 6th, 1884, has been read and approved by the Commission before being entered upon this book.
The few additions which were made when it was read, appear as foot notes. The report was approved as excellent.
(A Record from the notes of the Stenographer—Mr. J.I. Gilbert.)
PHILADA., November 6th, 1884.
The Committee reconvened this day, at 8 o'clock P.M., at the residence of Mr. H.H. Furness, when the investigation of the Spirit Rappings, in the presence of Mrs. Margaret Fox Kane as Medium, was resumed.
The persons present were the following:
Of the Committee—Dr. Leidy, Mr. Furness, Dr. Koenig, Mr. Fullerton, Mr. Coleman Sellers, and by invitation of the Committee, Mr. Geo. S. Pepper.
The Medium—Mrs. Kane.
The Stenographer—Mr. Gilbert.
The company promptly repaired to the dining-room, and there gathered around a common pine-wood table, consisting solely of its supports and top, which had been specially provided, in compliance with the direction of the Medium. The dimensions of the table, approximately stated, are as follows: height, three feet; length, four feet; width, two and a-half feet.
The 'Spirit Rappings' during the evening, aside from those heard during the test with the glass tumblers, were apparently confined to the floor-space in the immediate vicinity of, and directly beneath the table described—around which the company were seated in the order here stated. Mr. Sellers (to whom had been deputed the duty of eliciting the responses) occupied the chair at the end of the table more remote from the Stenographer. Next, upon Mr. Sellers' right and at the side of the table, sat Mr. Pepper, and Mr. Furness in the adjoining seat. The first chair on the side of the table to the left of Mr. Sellers was occupied by the Medium, and the remaining chair on the same side by Mr. Fullerton. At the near end of the table, Dr. Leidy and Dr. Koenig were seated. The Committee, with one exception, in accordance with a requirement imposed by the Medium, rested their hands upon the table and fixed their minds upon the subject of the rappings. The exception was Dr. Koenig, who, being seated at a distance of three feet from the table, could not conveniently comply with the requirement. After the expiration of some twenty minutes, the Medium requested Dr. Koenig to place his hands upon the table, and he promptly complied with the request and moved his chair closer to that of Dr. Leidy, thus depriving himself of any facilities of observation of the space beneath the table.
The Stenographer was at a table about four feet from the circle of the Committee.
The lengths of the intervals between the questions addressed to the Spirits and the responses thereto, were computed by the audible second-strokes of a clock in an adjoining apartment; the periods of waiting being necessarily brief in view of the assurance of the Medium (as set forth in its proper place in the Report) that "When the raps come, they come right away."
The "Spirit Rappings" varied materially in quality and character, being at times faintly, and at other times distinctly audible.
The record of the Investigation is as follows:
Mr. Sellers: Is any Spirit present now?
Three raps—faint and partly indistinct—are almost instantly audible. The raps apparently emanate from the floor-space directly beneath, or in the immediate vicinity of the table. This remark is applicable to all the rappings during the seance at the pine table.
The Medium (interpreting the sounds): That was "Yes."
Mr. Sellers (aside): They sounded like three.
The raps are immediately repeated with more distinctness.
Mr. Sellers (aside): There are three, and they are quite distinct.
(Resuming): Is the Spirit the same one that was present last night?
Three raps, apparently identical with those last heard, are again audible.
Mr. Sellers (aside): It says it is the same Spirit.
(Resuming): I presume then it is Henry Seybert?
(No response.) Is it Henry Seybert?
Three raps—distinct and positive.
Mr. Sellers: You promised last evening to give a communication to Mr. Pepper. Are you able to communicate with him now?
Two raps—comparatively feeble.
The Medium (interpreting): One, two: that means "not now."
Mr. Sellers (repeating): "Not now."
The Medium (reflectively): But probably before he leaves.
Three raps—quickly, distinctly and instantly given.
The Medium: He said "Yes," "before he leaves." (To Mr. Sellers): You asked that question, I think?
Mr. Sellers: Yes. (Resuming): Will you communicate with him before Mr. Pepper leaves to-night?
Three raps—instantaneous, quick and vigorous. The sounds in this instance are four times repeated, the repetitions being in quick succession and apparently without variation in quality or character.
Mr. Sellers (addressing his associates): It has been very clearly shown to-night that certain sounds of greater or less volume have been produced. We have heard the sounds. We are conscious that they are raps. It is exceedingly important, in deference to the Medium herself, that we should prove that she has nothing to do with the production of the sounds other than in a Spiritualistic capacity. I would like to ask her if there is any test that she herself can propose which would be capable of satisfying us that she does not produce the sounds.
The Medium: I could name a great many tests, but they might not be satisfactory to you; for instance, the one of standing on glass tumblers, where the raps are produced on the floor.
Mr. Sellers: Will the raps be produced under such circumstances?
The Medium: I cannot say that they will be, any more than I can say that they will be produced through the use of the table. In fact, they are not so readily produced sometimes.
Mr. Sellers: I understand your position. But you say that there are cases in which, when the Medium is standing upon glass, the sounds are produced.
The Medium: Oh, yes. I mention that—the producing through glass—as one of the most difficult of tests.
Mr. Sellers: Then the sounds will be just beneath your feet, will they?
The Medium: Well, they will seem to be. They may be on the side.
After a brief interval, during which Mr. Furness absented himself to procure glass tumblers, the colloquy with the Medium was resumed.
Mr. Sellers: While we are waiting for those tumblers, will you repeat the experiment of last night, that of standing near the table and not touching it, to see if the same character of sounds then produced can be again heard? Last evening we had a very satisfactory exhibition of that.
The Medium: Yes. But we have to keep to a certain condition; that is, you are not to break. For instance, if you will all stand up and stand touching the table—all of us—until we get started, it will be some assistance.
All of the gentlemen and the Medium rise and remain standing with their hands in contact with the table.
The Medium (continuing): This is a test, something that I have not gone through with since I was a little child almost.
Mr. Sellers (after an interval of waiting): There seem to be no raps. (Another short interval.) Now, Mr. Seybert, cannot you produce some raps?
Eighty seconds here elapsed with no response, when the Medium made an observation which was partly inaudible at the Reporter's seat, the purport of which was that the Spirit communications are sometimes retarded or facilitated by a compliance by the listeners with certain conditions. Another interval of probably two minutes elapsed, when the Medium suggested to Dr. Leidy to place his hands upon the table. The suggestion was complied with.
Mr. Sellers inquires of the Medium whether a change in her position, with regard to the table, would do any good.
The Medium: I will change positions with you.
The change was made accordingly, but without result, and another period of waiting followed.
The Medium (to Dr. Leidy): Suppose you ask some questions. You may have some friend who will respond.
Dr. Leidy: Is any Spirit present whom I know, or who knows me?
After a pause of ten seconds, three light raps are heard.
Dr. Leidy: Who am I?
The Medium explains that the responses by rappings are mainly indicative only of affirmation or negation.
Dr. Leidy: Will you repeat your taps to indicate that you are present yet?
Three taps are heard.
Mr. Sellers: Those are very clearly heard.
The Medium (to Dr. Leidy): Ask if that is Mr. Seybert?
Dr. Leidy: Is Mr. Seybert present?
Three raps—very feeble.
Dr. Leidy (to Mr. Sellers): Was there an answer to that?
Mr. Sellers: There was. The answer was three raps. (After an interval, in which no response is received): There seem to be no further communications. I suggest that the test with the glass tumblers be now tried.
Upon the suggestion of the Medium, the test referred to was momentarily deferred, and Mr. Sellers made this inquiry:
It is proposed that the Medium shall stand upon tumblers. Are we likely to have any demonstration?
Three raps—promptly given, though feeble in delivery and but faintly audible.
The Medium: There were three—a kind of tardy assent.
Mr. Sellers (to the Medium): As if the Spirits might or might not communicate?
The Medium: Well, that a trial might be made.
Three raps are here again instantly heard—the characteristics of the sounds in this instance being rapidity and energy, or positiveness.
The Medium: That is a quick answer.
At this point attention is directed to the first of a series of experiments with four glass tumblers, which are placed together, with the bottoms upward, on the carpeted floor, in the centre of a vacant space. The Medium stands directly upon these, the heels of her shoes resting upon the rear tumblers and the soles upon the front tumblers. The Committee co-operate with the Medium, and, in conformity with her suggestions, all the men clasp hands and form a semi-circle in front of the Medium, the hands of the latter being grasped by the gentlemen nearest to her on either side.
Mr. Sellers (after a notification from the Medium to proceed): Is Mr. Seybert still present?
The Medium: It may be a few minutes before you will hear any rapping through these glasses.
Ten seconds elapse.
The Medium: This test is a very satisfactory one, if they do it. And they have done it a hundred times.
Five seconds elapse.
The Medium (to Mr. Furness): The glasses are not placed over marble, are they?
Mr. Furness: No; the floor is of wood.
Mr. Sellers (after another interval of waiting) informally remarked to Mr. Furness: We will wait probably for another minute to see if anything comes. As you know, the Medium claims it is impossible for her to control these things—that she is merely one who is operated through.
Another interval expires.
The Medium: That was a very faint rap. Suppose we change the position of the glasses.
Note by the Stenographer.—No intimation is given that the rap here spoken of was heard by any one other than the Medium herself. Pursuant to the request just stated, the carpet is removed and the glass tumblers are located on the bare floor at a point about five feet distant from the place at which the first test was tried. The new location is in the centre of a passage way, about three feet in width, between a side-board on one side and a wall projection on the other. Its selection is apparently, though not specifically, dictated by the position and movements of the Medium. The Medium and the Committee resume their positions, the former standing on the glasses and the gentlemen facing her in a group.
The Medium: Now, Spirits, will you rap on the floor?
Thirty seconds here elapsed with no response, when one glass was heard to click against another, and the Medium exclaimed, "Oh."
The Medium (repeating): Will you rap on the floor?
Thirty seconds now elapse without any demonstration.
The Medium (aside): It seems to be a failure. They have done it.
Another click of the glasses, which passes without comment.
Mr. Sellers: We will have to set down the result of the experiment on glass tumblers as negative. It may be well to try it later.
The Medium (evidently reluctant to abandon the test): Suppose now, as we have gone so far, we kind of form a chain.
The company retained their positions with hands joined, and the Spirits were repeatedly requested to make their presence known—Mr. Pepper, at the suggestion of the Medium, asking the Spirit of his friend, Henry Seybert, to manifest its presence by one rap—but all efforts to elicit such response proved ineffectual. The glasses were then removed and the requests were again reiterated, but with a like negative result. The Medium finally remarked that she had rarely known of failures with the glass tumblers, but it had been a long time since she had tried them. She suggested that this branch of the investigation might be deferred until later.
The Committee acquiesced in the suggestion and returned to the pine table, where, with the Medium, they resume their original positions. The Stenographer is seated at the table in the rear of the company.
Mr. Sellers: Now we have returned to the table. Can you indicate on the table your presence, Mr. Seybert?
An interval of sixty-four seconds here followed.
The Medium: Ask some questions that would interest him in life.
As Mr. Sellers was repeating to Mr. Pepper the suggestion made by the Medium, three raps were heard.
Mr. Sellers: There is now a communication that he is present.
Mr. Pepper: Harry, would you like to know something about this investigation of Spiritual manifestations, which you had so much at heart while living?
Three raps—prompt and decided.
Mr. Sellers: Do you, Mr. Seybert, at the present time, see the persons present? Are they visible before you?
Two raps—noticeably slow.
Mr. Sellers (aside): He says "No, they are not."
The Medium (interpreting): Well, that would be too—'partially.'
Dr. Koenig: What would that mean—that he only sees some of us, or that he sees none of us entirely, but only partially?
The Medium: That he sees us, but not clearly.
Mr. Sellers: Will you please rap the number of the members of the Committee who are present at this time?
Mr. Sellers: Now, say how many.
Mr. Sellers: Are there only three?
The Medium (to Mr. Sellers): That answer was 'Yes,' I think.
Mr. Sellers: Well, you say you can do it. Please count the number of the members of the Committee who are present.
[A]Seven raps—very slow, deliberate and distinct.
[Footnote A: When, in answer to Mr. Sellers' question, the raps counted the number of the Committee present, the number seven was indicated. This counted in Mr. George S. Pepper and the Stenographer.—G.S.F.]
Mr. Sellers: Are there seven members of the Committee present?
Mr. Sellers: Are they all seated around one table?
No response. About forty seconds elapse.
Mr. Sellers: Are they seated at two tables?
[B]Three raps—quite feeble.
[Footnote B: When the raps indicated that the members of the Commission sat at two tables, this expressly included in the number of the Commission the Stenographer, who sat at a different table from that at which the members of the Commission were seated at the time of asking the question.—G.S.F.]
Mr. Sellers (to his associates): We still must go back to the one thing. The information we receive through these responses is of little importance to us compared with the information which we must obtain as to whether these sounds are produced by a disembodied Spirit or by some living person; that is, in deference to the Medium. (To Mr. Furness): Do you not think so?
Mr. Furness is understood to assent.
Mr. Sellers (continuing): We have tried the glass tumblers. We have the sounds here. I would ask Mrs. Kane if it is proper for us to look below the top of the table at the time the sounds are being produced, and in such a way as to see her feet.
The Medium: Yes, of course, you could do that, but it is not well to break, when you are standing, suddenly. As you know, you have to conform to the rules, else you will get no rappings.
Mr. Sellers: What are the rules?
The Medium (disconnectedly): The rules are—every test condition, that I am perfectly willing to go through, and have gone through a thousand times—at the same time, there are times when you can break the rules. So slight a thing as the disjoining of hands may break the rules. I do not think the standing on the glass has been fully tried.
Mr. Sellers: We will try that later.
Mr. Furness (to the Medium—informally): This investigation is one of great importance to us. There is no question about it—we have heard these curious sounds. Now, as to whether they come from Spirits or not—that would seem to be the very next logical step in our inquiry. I think you are entirely at one with us in every possible desire to have this phenomenon investigated.
The Medium: Oh, certainly. But I pledge myself to conform to nothing, for—as I said in Europe—I do not even say the sounds are from Spirits; and, what is more, it is utterly beyond human power to detect them. I do not say they are the Spirits of our departed friends, but I leave others to judge for themselves.
Mr. Furness: Then you have come to the conclusion that they are entirely independent of yourself.
The Medium: No, I do not know that they are entirely independent of myself.
Mr. Furness: Under what conditions can you influence them?
The response, which was partly inaudible at the Reporter's seat, was understood to be: "I cannot tell."
Mr. Furness: You say that, in the generality of cases, they are beyond your control?
The Medium: Yes.
Mr. Furness: How in the world shall we test that?
The Medium: Well, by—
Mr. Furness: By—what? Isolating you from the table?
The Medium: Yes.
Mr. Furness (applying his right hand, by her permission, to the Medium's head): Are you ever conscious of any vibration in your bones?
The Medium: No; but sometimes it causes an exhaustion, that is, under circumstances when the raps do not come freely.
Mr. Furness: The freer the raps come, the better for you?
The Medium: Yes; the freer the better—the less exhaustion.
Mr. Sellers: But do you feel now, to-night, any untoward influence operating against you?
The Medium: No, not to-night, for it takes quite a little while before we feel those things.
Mr. Furness: Do these raps always have that vibratory sound—tr-rut—tr-rut—tr-rut?
The Medium: Sometimes they vary.
Mr. Furness: As a general rule I have heard them sound so.
The Medium: Every rap has a different sound. For instance, when the Spirit of Mr. Seybert rapped, if the sound was a good one, you would have noticed that his rap was different from that of another. Every one is entirely different from another.
Mr. Furness: Do you suppose that the present conditions are such that you can throw the raps to a part of the room other than that in which you are?
The Medium: I do not pretend to do that, but I will try to do it.
Mr. Furness and Dr. Leidy station themselves in the corner of the room, diagonally, and most remote from the pine table, at which their associates remain seated, with their hands upon the table, and 'their minds intent on having the raps produced at the corner indicated,' as requested by the Medium, who also remains at the table. The Medium asks, 'Will the Spirit rap at the other side of the room,' and, after twelve seconds, and again after forty-three seconds, repeats the inquiry. No response is received. The experiment is repeated with Mr. Furness and Dr. Koenig at the corner, but with a like negative result.
At this point the attention of the Committee was again directed to the attempted production of the rappings with the Medium standing upon the glass tumblers. The lady proceeded to the space between the side-board and the wall where the last preceding test had been made, and there the tumblers were again arranged. The Medium resumed her position upon them, with Doctors Leidy and Koenig, and Messrs. Sellers and Furness facing her.
The Medium: Will the Spirit rap here?
Twenty-three seconds elapse.
Dr. Leidy: Is any Spirit present?
An interval of thirty-nine seconds here followed, when the attention of the Committee was momentarily diverted by an inquiry addressed to Mr. Furness by Mr. Sellers, viz.: Whether a glass plate of sufficient strength to bear the weight of the Medium was procurable. At this moment the Medium suddenly exclaimed: 'I heard a rap. You said, "Get a glass," and there was a rap.'[A]
[Footnote A: No one but the Medium heard this rap.—G.S.F.]
The Medium (repeating for the information of Mr. Furness): Somebody proposed a glass and there were three raps.
Dr. Koenig inquires of the Medium whether the meaning intended to be conveyed by the sounds is that the Spirits desire to have the glass plate procured.
The Medium: I do not know. I know there were raps. (Turning to Mr. Sellers, the Medium adds): They may have been made by your heel on the floor but certainly there were sounds.
Mr. Fullerton: Then it was not the regular triple rap?
The Medium: I could not tell.
Just before calling attention to the alleged rap or raps the Medium grasped with her right hand the woodwork of the side-board as if for support. It was then that she stated she heard the sounds. They were apparently not heard by any one but the Medium.
Mr. Sellers (addressing the Spirit): Will you repeat the raps we heard just now, assuming that there were some?
Ten minutes elapse without a response.
The Medium: There is no use of my standing longer, for when they come at all they come right away.
Mr. Sellers (after scrutinizing the position of one of the feet of the Medium, remarks): The edge of the heel of the shoe rests on the back tumbler. (Assuming a stooping posture for a more prolonged scrutiny, he adds): We will see whether the raps will be produced now.
The Medium now proposes that all members of the Committee shall stand up and join hands.
Mr. Sellers and his associates accordingly stand, facing the Medium, with hands joined. Changes in their positions were made by some of the gentlemen from time to time, as suggested by the Medium, Mr. Pepper and Dr. Koenig being the first to exchange places. This occurred after a silence of thirty seconds without any response.
The Medium: Now, Mr. Seybert, if your Spirit is here, will you have the kindness—I knew Mr. Seybert well in life—to rap?
Fifteen seconds elapse.
The Medium: No, he does not seem to respond.
At the suggestion of Mr. Sellers, all the gentlemen approach the Medium for the purpose of inducing some acknowledgment by the Spirit, and inquiries similar to those already stated are repeated without result. The Committee then temporarily abandon this test.
All present (except the Stenographer) having been seated at the large circular table in the centre of the room, Mr. Pepper addressed the Spirit of Mr. Seybert, as follows: 'Harry, will you communicate with me as you promised to do?'
(Three raps—given slowly and deliberately—are heard.)
Mr. Sellers: Will you communicate with Mr. Pepper by raps or by writing? (No response.) Will you communicate by raps?
The Medium (to Mr. Sellers): Well, my hand does feel like writing. Will you give me a piece of paper?—and maybe they will give me some directions.
Mr. Fullerton (to the Medium): How does your hand feel when affected in that way?
The Medium: It is a peculiar feeling, like that from taking hold of electrical instruments. I do not know but that you might possibly feel it in my hand.
The lady here extended her right hand upon the table toward Mr. Fullerton. The latter placed his left hand upon the extended hand of the Medium, and subsequently remarked that the pulsation of her wrist was a little above the ordinary rate.
The Medium, ostensibly under Spirit influence, with lead pencil in hand proceeded to write two communications from the Spirit of the late Henry Seybert. The first of these covered two pages of paper of the size of ordinary foolscap. The Medium wrote in large characters, with remarkable rapidity, and in a direction from the right to the left, or the reverse of ordinary handwriting. The writing, consequently, could be read only from the reverse side of the paper and by being held up so as to permit the gas-light to pass through it.
The communications, as deciphered by Mr. Sellers, with the aid of Mr. Fullerton and the Medium, were as follows: "You must not expect that I can satisfy you beyond all doubt in so short a time as you have yet had. I want to give you all in my power, and will do so if you will give me a chance. You must commence right in the first place or you shall all be disappointed for a much longer time. Princiipis Obsta Sero Medicina Paratum.
"Mend the fault in time or we will all be puzzled.
The foregoing were understood to be directed to Mr. Pepper, in accordance with the assurance given by the Spirit that it would communicate with him.
Subsequently, when the trance condition had apparently disappeared, the Medium complied with a request to write, as it would be read to her, the Latin phrase at the end of the first communication. Using the pencil in her right hand, she transcribed slowly and in the usual direction from left to right. The style of her handwriting was small and comparatively neat. Apparently in every particular her writing in this instance was the exact opposite of that made by her while in the alleged trance condition. She here stated that, ordinarily, she wrote in the same manner in which people generally write, with her right hand and from left to right. With respect to her inability to transcribe the Latin words until these had been spelled for her, she explained that she was not at all familiar with Latin.[A]
[Footnote A: Mr. George S. Pepper, who was present, said that Mr. Seybert knew no Latin.—G.S.F.]
A member of the Committee, commenting upon a defect in the spelling of the first of the Latin words in the Spirit communication, suggested that the error might be accounted for on the hypothesis that Mr. Seybert, in life, was accustomed to the use of poor Latin.
The Medium farther explained that her understanding of the second communication was that it was a translation of the Latin contained in the first.
The glass tumblers are here again produced and the Medium takes her position upon them, with Mr. Fullerton standing next to her upon the right and Mr. Furness to the left. Mr. Sellers remains for some moments kneeling on the floor to enable himself better to hear any sounds that may be but faintly audible. The Spirits are repeatedly importuned by the Medium to produce the rappings, but no response is heard until the company is about to abandon the experiment. Three raps are then audible. The raps are very light but very distinct.
Mr. Fullerton states that he heard the raps.
Mr. Sellers: I heard a sound then, but it seemed as if it was around there. (Indicating along the wall immediately in the rear of the Medium.)
The tumblers are here moved further away from the wall and the Medium resumes her position upon them.