Psychic Phenomena - A Brief Account of the Physical Manifestations Observed - in Psychical Research
by Edward T. Bennett
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The writer desires to express his sincere thanks to the Council of the Society for Psychical Research for the permission given to make extracts from the Proceedings of the Society, from the privately printed Journal, and from "Phantasms of the Living"; and for allowing the reproduction of a series of THOUGHT-TRANSFERENCE DRAWINGS. Also best thanks are due to Mrs. Myers, and to Messrs. Longmans, Green & Co., for permission to make quotations from Mr. F. W. H. Myers' great work, "Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death." Also to Mr. J. Burns and his brother, for freely granting permission for any use to be made of the James Burns 1873 Edition of the "Report of the Committee of the Dialectical Society."

E. T. B.
















Consulted by the publishers as to the production of a small popular text-book, which should constitute a summary indication of the nature of the evidence for ultra-normal physical or meta-psychical phenomena, I suggested Mr. E. T. Bennett as the right man for the task. I have now seen the proof sheets, and—without making myself in any way responsible for details—perceive that he has done the work well, and has presented a satisfactory outline of the testimony for whatever it may be worth. Concerning its value I will only say that to my mind there comes a stage at which belief in gratuitous invention and false statement becomes forced and irrational. With most of the evidence here adduced I have of course been familiar for years, in its original sources, and am well aware of the extreme difficulty or impossibility of understanding some of the alleged facts in any physical or physiological sense; nevertheless if I am asked whether such impressions can be actually received and honestly recorded by sane people, and whether I recommend experiment by careful and competent and unsuperstitious observers as if a prima facie case had been made out—that is to say, as if some of these unusual and hitherto quite unexplained occurrences might possibly turn out to be true—having laws of their own and constituting an unopened chapter of science, or rather a new science, uniting characteristics from physical, chemical, physiological, and psychological sciences, and throwing new light on the connection between mind and matter—then, though doubtless the answer will be received with scorn, I answer unhesitatingly yes.




A short title to a book has its advantages. It has also its disadvantages. It is almost inevitable that it should, on the one hand, seem to include much more than is intended, and, on the other hand, fail to convey the purpose of the author. "Geology" would be a tolerably large subject. "Astronomy" would be vastly larger. But "Spiritualism" is an infinite subject compared with either, and to suggest that its claims to scientific study be considered within the compass of a small volume of not much over a hundred pages seems the height of presumption!

It will therefore be well at the outset to indicate exactly what it is proposed to include in the present investigation into "Spiritualism." The alleged phenomena of Spiritualism may be roughly divided into two classes—physical and mental. Those which belong entirely to the latter class are outside the scope of this book. It is proposed to examine those phenomena of the former class, the reality of which may fairly be assumed to be proved by scientific evidence. The scope of the work is thus reduced to reasonable proportions. There are several groups of phenomena which appear to violate, or at least to extend in a striking manner, laws recognised by Physical Science. The evidence to be relied on will be that of scientific men of high standing, and of other persons of unquestioned literary and social position.

There is, however, an important respect, in regard to which this inquiry is placed in an entirely different position to any ordinary scientific investigation, and one which adds greatly to the difficulties of the student. Ordinary experiments conducted in a physical laboratory can be repeated again and again under similar conditions, and similar results will follow. If attempts are made to reproduce the phenomena of Spiritualism, under what appear to be precisely similar conditions, by means which have previously been successful, failure to obtain the wished-for results may very probably follow. It is no use to rebel and to feel inclined to abandon the pursuit as useless! That would be most unscientific! The inquirer finds himself in the presence of a subtle elusive influence, which he seems unable to control, and which refuses to submit to the laws which govern physical experiments. On the other hand, perseverance may be richly rewarded. An unexplored field of scientific research of unlimited extent may open itself to view. Something of that joy may be experienced which the search into the unknown alone can give.

Mr. Arthur James Balfour, in an address on the occasion of the annual dinner of the Royal Literary Fund, in 1893, said:—

"My friend, Lord Kelvin, has often talked to me of the future of science, and he has said words to me about the future of science which are parallel with the words I have quoted to you about the future of art, and with the hope which I have expressed to you with respect to literature. He has told me that to the men of science of to-day it appears as if we were trembling on the brink of some great scientific discovery which should give to us a new view of the great forces of Nature, among which and in the midst of which we move. If this prophecy be right, and if the other forecasts to which I have alluded be right, then indeed it is true that we live in an interesting age; then indeed it is true that we may look forward to a time full of fruit for the human race—to an age which cannot be sterilised or rendered barren even by politics."

There are some advantages which the study of this subject possesses over most branches of scientific inquiry. In its present early and incomplete stage the most important thing is the accumulation of carefully observed and recorded facts. Even as regards Thought-Transference, in which the number of careful experiments that have been made is far greater than in any other class of phenomena, it is still most important to multiply the quantity of the evidence. In most of the branches of the subject no expensive apparatus is required, and no special scientific or intellectual training. Accurate observation and careful recording, at the time, of all that occurs, without prejudice, and without discouragement at apparent failure, are the chief requisites. Any person, or small group of persons of ordinary intelligence, can train themselves to be equal to this. A very simple instance occurred in the earliest experiences of the writer. After three or four sittings round a small table with two friends, at which there was meaningless tipping, and nothing better than commonplace sentences, the following was tipped out: "Try no more to move"—then this succession of letters—"a t a t a." It seemed useless to go on with nonsense, but one of the party suggested perseverance; when the following conclusion converted seeming nonsense into sense: "b l e take a pencil and write." The result was that one of the party rapidly developed into an interesting automatic writer.

It is quite impossible to foretell the extent of the aid that may not be given, in the explanation of some of these phenomena, by the persevering experiments of intelligent inquirers.

In the following chapters facts relating to several different kinds of phenomena are put before the reader, as to which the guarantee of authenticity and the quality of the evidence are both unimpeachable.

It is not proposed to travel all over the world in search of evidence; the illustrations will be drawn almost entirely from home sources. With all due respect to friends in distant parts, it will doubtless be a satisfaction to some readers to know that in these pages they will not meet with Mrs. Piper on the one hand, nor with Eusapia Paladino on the other.

With these few introductory remarks a calm and dispassionate consideration of the evidence presented is invited. First of all, three classes of phenomena will be taken up in the following order:—

(1) The Movement of Objects without any apparent Physical Cause.

(2) The Production of Sound without any apparent Physical Cause.

(3) The Production of Light without any apparent Physical Cause.

Two chapters will then be devoted to a study of the phenomena exhibited in the lives of two of the most noted "mediums" of modern times—Daniel Dunglas Home and William Stainton Moses. Both present manifestations of phenomena belonging to the three classes above-named, as well as striking examples of other kinds. A chapter on the "Divining Rod" will follow. Then a chapter on one of the forms of Thought-Transference, one which allows of its being included among physical phenomena. Two brief chapters will come next on "Spirit Photography" and on "Materialisations." It is explained that these are included, not because of any scientific evidence in their favour which can be quoted, but because of the extreme interest and importance of the subjects themselves, and also because the strong testimony and moral evidence in support of their reality seem to promise a tempting field for the scientific explorer, and to warrant a confident belief that the evidence he desires will be forthcoming. In a final chapter an endeavour is made to sum up results and conclusions.




So far as I am aware, the first systematic or scientific attempt to investigate the alleged phenomenon of the movement of objects without any apparent physical cause was made by the London Dialectical Society in the year 1869. On the motion of Dr. James Edmunds, a Committee was appointed "to investigate the Phenomena alleged to be Spiritual Manifestations, and to report thereon." The names of twenty-eight members were proposed. Three of these declined to act. Eight more names were added, so that the Committee, as finally constituted, consisted of thirty-three, three of whom were ladies. Among the best-known names were H. G. Atkinson, F.G.S.; Charles Bradlaugh; E. W. Cox, serjeant-at-law; Rev. C. Maurice Davies, D.D.; Charles R. Drysdale, M.D.; James Edmunds, M.D.; Robert Hannah; H. D. Jencken, barrister-at-law; William Volckman; and Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, F.R.S. It is believed that Robert Hannah and Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace are the only survivors.

In order to investigate the phenomena in question by personal experiment and test, the Committee resolved itself into six Sub-Committees. In May 1870 the Committee appointed an Editing Committee to prepare a joint report, based solely on the evidence that had been before it. A month later the Editing Committee presented a draft report, which with some trifling verbal alterations was adopted nem dis. A resolution was then carried that a copy be forwarded to the Council of the Dialectical Society, with a recommendation that it be printed and published. This the Council declined to do. Upon this the Committee met and passed the following resolution:—

"That the Report be referred to the Editing Committee, and that they be requested to prepare it for publication, together with any supplementary or counter reports that may be received from members of the Committee, and appending thereto the reports of the Sub-Committees, and the evidence, oral and verbal, that has been collected; the entire work, when ready for publication, to be submitted for approval to the Committee."[1]

Such is the origin of the volume from which the following extracts are made.[2] Considerations of space necessitate dealing with the work of one Sub-Committee only. The essential part of the REPORT OF SUB-COMMITTEE NO. 1 is as follows:—

"Since their appointment on the 16th of February 1869, your Sub-Committee have held forty meetings for the purpose of experiment and test.

"All of these meetings were held at the private residences of members of the Committee, purposely to preclude the possibility of pre-arranged mechanism or contrivance.

"The furniture of the room in which the experiments were conducted was on every occasion its accustomed furniture.

"The tables were in all cases heavy dining-tables, requiring a strong effort to move them. The smallest of them was 5 feet 9 inches long by 4 feet wide ... and of proportionate weight.

"The rooms, tables, and furniture generally were repeatedly subjected to careful examination before, during, and after the experiments, to ascertain that no concealed machinery, instrument, or other contrivance existed by means of which the sounds or movements hereinafter mentioned could be caused.

"The experiments were conducted in the light of gas, except on the few occasions specially noted in the minutes.

"Your Committee have avoided the employment of professional or paid mediums, the mediumship being that of members of your Sub-Committee, persons of good social position and of unimpeachable integrity, having no pecuniary object to serve, and nothing to gain by deception.

* * * * *

"Your Committee have confined their Report to facts witnessed by them in their collective capacity, which facts were palpable to the senses, and their reality capable of demonstrative proof.

* * * * *

"The result of their long-continued and carefully-conducted experiments, after trial by every detective test they could devise, has been to establish conclusively:—

"First: That under certain bodily or mental conditions of one or more of the persons present, a force is exhibited sufficient to set in motion heavy substances, without the employment of any muscular force, without contact or material connection of any kind between such substances and the body of any person present.

"Second: That this force can cause sounds to proceed, distinctly audible to all present, from solid substances not in contact with, nor having any visible or material connection with, the body of any person present, and which sounds are proved to proceed from such substances by the vibrations which are distinctly felt when they are touched.

"Third: That this force is frequently directed by intelligence.

"At thirty-four out of the forty meetings of your Committee some of these phenomena occurred.

* * * * *

"In conclusion, your Committee express their unanimous opinion that the one important physical fact thus proved to exist, that motion may be produced in solid bodies without material contact, by some hitherto unrecognised force operating within an undefined distance from the human organism, and beyond the range of muscular action, should be subjected to further scientific examination, with a view to ascertaining its true source, nature, and power."[3]

One selection is now given from the Minutes of this Sub-Committee, illustrating the nature of the Evidence that came before them:—

"EXPERIMENT XXXVIII., Dec. 28th [1869].—Eight members present. Phenomena: Rapping sounds from the table and floor, and movements of the table, with and without contact. The alphabet was repeated, and the following letters were rapped: 'A bad circle—want of harmony.' At the letter f, the table tilted three times, and at the letters a, r, gave several forcible horizontal movements, tilting at either end.

"Raps, with slight tiltings of the table, beating time to the measure of a song. Two or three poems were recited, to the measure of which there were loud raps from the table and floor, and the table also marked the metre by various horizontal movements and tiltings.

"Hood's Anatomy Song being repeated by one of the members, the knocking, rapping, and tilting sounds, with various horizontal, trembling, and vibratory movements of the table, accompanied it, in exact harmony with the measure, added to which were strange movements, in accordance with the character of the verses. In one instance the table shifted its position several feet, the tips of the fingers only being in contact with it.

"MOVEMENTS WITHOUT CONTACT.—Question: 'Would the table now be moved without contact?' Answer: 'Yes;' by three raps on the table. All chairs were then turned with their backs to the table, and nine inches away from it; and all present knelt on the chairs, with their wrists resting on the backs, and their hands a few inches above the table.

"Under these conditions, the table (the heavy dining-room table previously described) moved four times, each time from four to six inches, and the second time nearly twelve inches.

"Then all hands were placed on the backs of the chairs, and nearly a foot from the table, when four movements occurred, one slow and continuous for nearly a minute.

"Then all present placed their hands behind their backs, kneeling erect on their chairs, which were removed a foot clear away from the table. The gas also was turned up higher, so as to give abundance of light; and under these test conditions, distinct movements occurred, to the extent of several inches each time, and visible to every one present.

"The motions were in various directions, towards all parts of the room—some were abrupt, others steady. At the same time, and under the same conditions, distinct raps occurred, apparently both on the floor and on the table, in answer to requests for them.

"The above-described movements were so unmistakable, that all present unhesitatingly declared their conviction, that no physical force, exerted by any one present, could possibly have produced them; and they declared further, in writing, that a rigid examination of the table showed it to be an ordinary dining-table, with no machinery or apparatus of any kind connected with it. The table was laid on the floor with its legs up, and taken to pieces so far as practicable."[4]


No endeavour appears to have been made by any of the members of the Committee of the Dialectical Society to follow up the results which they had obtained. The individual members who had previously been active in such matters continued to take an interest in them, but there is no evidence that a single new inquirer was gained. The next event of any importance, in the direction of scientific inquiry into the subject, was the reading by Professor W. F. Barrett of a paper before the meeting of the British Association at Glasgow in 1876. This paper was entitled "On Some Phenomena Associated with Abnormal Conditions of Mind," and dealt mainly with what was subsequently designated "Thought-Transference." Professor Barrett also referred to some "physical phenomena" which had come under his notice. He says: "I am bound to mention a case that came under my own repeated observation, wherein certain inexplicable physical phenomena occurred in broad daylight, and for which I could find no satisfactory solution either on the ground of hallucination or fraud."[5]

In a paper read before the Society for Psychical Research in 1886, entitled "On Some Physical Phenomena commonly termed Spiritualistic, witnessed by the Author," Professor Barrett describes in detail the phenomena he referred to in the paper read ten years previously at the British Association, and the circumstances under which they occurred. The following paragraphs give the important features:[6]—

Mr. C., a solicitor, with his wife and family, had come to reside for the season in the suburban house of a friend and neighbour of Professor Barrett's. He was an Irish country gentleman who had an utter disbelief in spiritualism. Professor Barrett was therefore not a little amused on making Mr. C.'s acquaintance, to find that he had in his own family what appeared to be spiritualistic phenomena then and there going on. Mr. C. gave Professor Barrett every opportunity of close and frequent investigation. The sittings extended through the months of August and September 1875. There were present besides Professor Barrett, Mr. and Mrs. C., and their young daughter Florrie, a bright, frank, intelligent child, then about ten years old. They sat at a large dining-room table, facing French windows, which let in a flood of sunlight. Shortly, scraping sounds, raps, and noises resembling the hammering of small nails, were heard. Florrie's hands and feet were closely watched, and were observed to be absolutely motionless when the sounds were heard. Besides knocks, there were occasional movements of the furniture. Seated one day at a large dining-room table in full sunlight, Florrie, and Mr. and Mrs. C., and Professor Barrett being the persons present, all their fingers visibly resting on the surface of the table, three legs of the table rose off the ground to a sufficient height to allow Professor Barrett to put his foot easily beneath the castor nearest him. The importance of the comparatively small amount of "movement" phenomena in this case is increased by their association with "sound" phenomena of great variety and frequency. These will be fully described in the next chapter.

Another case which Professor Barrett cites in the same paper may be thus summarised as far as phenomena of movement are concerned:[7]—

The sitters were Mr. L., a well-known photographer in Dublin, his niece, Miss I., and Professor Barrett. While noticing the raps and knocks, Professor Barrett observed a frequent uneasy movement of the entire table, which was a moderately large and heavy one, four feet square. It sidled about in a most surprising manner. Lifting their hands completely off the table, the sitters placed themselves back in their chairs, with their hands folded across their chests. Their feet were in full view. Under these conditions, and in obedience to Professor Barrett's request, the table raised the two legs nearest to him off the ground eight or ten inches, and then suspended itself for a few moments. A similar act was performed on the other side. Then a very unexpected occurrence happened. To quote Professor Barrett's own words:—

"Whilst absolutely free from the contact of any person, the table wriggled itself backward and forward, advancing towards the armchair in which I sat, and ultimately completely imprisoning me in my seat. During its progress it was followed by Mr. L. and Miss I., but they were at no time touching it, and occasionally were so distant that I could perceive a free space all round the table whilst it was still in motion. When thus under my very nose, the table rose repeatedly, and enabled me to be perfectly sure, by the evidence of touch, that it was off the ground, and further, that no human being, consciously or unconsciously, had any part in this movement."

Professor Barrett, with his accustomed caution, comments thus:—

"The results, it is true, were very remarkable and unaccountable; but though I had not the slightest doubt of the good faith of Mr. L. and Miss I., yet I do not adduce this evidence as unexceptionable. I should have preferred to have taken precautions which were not so easy to impose on a lady, and I should also have preferred to have had the seance at my own house."

This latter objection was met by Mr. L. and Miss I. going to Professor Barrett's house shortly afterwards, no one else besides Professor Barrett being present. Some remarkable sounds were again heard. Then, this happened—again quoting Professor Barrett's own words:—

"Suddenly, only the tips of our fingers being on the table, the heavy loo-table at which we were sitting made a series of very violent prancing movements (which I could not imitate afterwards except by using both hands and all my strength); the blows were so heavy that I hurriedly stopped the performance, fearing for the safety of the gas chandelier in the room below. Here, too, I cannot avoid the conclusion that the phenomena described are inexplicable on any known hypothesis."

After discounting the "pious platitudes" spelt out by the tilts of the table, and the possibility, and even probability, that "unintentional muscular movements" were the cause of these, and after recognising the impossibility of keeping up a continuous vigilant watch on the hands and feet of any person, and after supposing that Miss I. had some ingenious mechanism concealed about her person, whereby she could produce the sounds that were heard, Professor Barrett says: "This would fail to account for the undoubted motion of a heavy table, free from the contact of all present. After giving due weight to every known explanation, the phenomena remain inexplicable to me."


Next in order of time come two papers by Mr. F. W. H. Myers, under the title of "Alleged Movements of Objects without Contact, occurring not in the Presence of a Paid Medium." They are published in vol. vii. of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research.[8] The first article goes over most of the ground traversed in the earlier part of this chapter, but devotes twenty lines only to the Report of the Committee of the Dialectical Society, and refers only to Professor Barrett's cases as having been already published. A number of other cases are, however, described in detail. The evidence in these scarcely comes up to the level of scientific, and unless it had been sifted by so careful a critic as Mr. Myers, who convinced himself of the reality of the facts, could hardly be considered of much value. The two following cases in the first article present the strongest evidence.

(1) THE ARMSTRONG CASE.—Mr. George Allman Armstrong, of 8 Leeson Place, Dublin, and Ardnacarrig, Bandon, writes an account dated 13th June 1887. After vouching for the perfect good faith of the small group of experimenters, he describes in detail the movements of a table. The "rising" was generally preceded by a continuous fusillade of "knocks" in the substance of the table. When the knocks had, as it were, reached a climax, the table slowly swayed from side to side like a pendulum. It would stop completely, and then, as if imbued with life, and quite suddenly, would rise completely off the floor to a height of twelve or fourteen inches at least. It nearly always came down with immense force, and on several occasions proved destructive to itself, as the broken limbs of the table used at Kinsale could testify. The table was a round, rather heavy walnut one, with a central column standing on three claw legs. Mr. Armstrong says that on several occasions he succeeded in raising the table without contact. It rose to the fingers held over it at a height of several inches, like the keeper of a strong electro-magnet.[9]

(2) A BELL-RINGING CASE.—Mr. Myers, in introducing this case, says: "The usual hypotheses of fraud, rats, hitched wires, &c., seem hard to apply. The care and fulness with which it has been recorded will enable the reader to judge for himself more easily than in most narratives of this type. Our informant is a gentleman [Mr. D.], occupying a responsible position; his name may be given to inquirers."[10] The detailed report of the occurrences occupies no less than twelve pages, the greater part of which consists of a long letter addressed by Mr. D. to the Society for Psychical Research. He explains that he is writing in the main from notes taken at the time and not from memory. The following is an abstract:—

On Friday, 23rd September 1887, he took his four pupils to a circus, his lady housekeeper also going, leaving two servants at home. They left at about 2 P.M. All but himself returned about 5.30 P.M. The two servants were on the doorstep, telling the boys not to go in by the area door—the kitchens being below ground—and explaining that all the bells were ringing violently, no one touching them, and that they had been doing so almost ever since half-past two. When the master of the house came home, he found the same state of things, the servants almost in hysterics and the bells ringing. Nine bells hung in a row just inside the area door, opposite the kitchen door, and there was one bell—a call bell—on the landing at the top of the house.

Mr. D. frequently saw several of these bells ringing at once, the ringing being sudden and very violent, louder, he believed, than they could be rung by pulling the handles. One bell was more than once pulled over, so that it could not return to its normal position. Several of the upstairs bells had no bell-pulls. The bellhanger was several times summoned to the premises. He showed that the wires could not have been entangled, and entirely agreed that it would be an utter impossibility for any animals, such as cats or rats, to ring the bells as they were rung. The house was quite a new one, standing alone, surrounded by unoccupied plots of building land.

As to the question of trickery. There seemed no possibility of that being the explanation. The phenomena occurred when the housekeeper and pupils were all away; also when the cook was away; also when only the two servants and the master were in the house, and both of them in his sight. For instance, he says he stood in the passage in front of the nine bells watching them ring, with both the servants close by. Once in particular he watched the housemaid on her knees in the middle of the wash-house scrubbing the tiles, while the front door, area door, and bath-room bells were pealing violently. The ringing was also heard by tradesmen, and by men working in the gardens near. The wires of the bells were distinctly moved, not only the bells and the clappers. The bell-handles were never observed to be moved. The ringing lasted between three and four weeks, and then ceased. Knockings in considerable variety were also heard, and a few cases of the movement of chairs and small articles, without any contact, also occurred.

Mr. D. was at one time disposed to think that the housemaid was in some way connected with the disturbances, but he could trace no evidence. She was a young girl who had not been out to service before. She got into such a state of nervous excitement about the occurrences, that brain fever or something serious was feared. She had only been in the house a few weeks previous to the commencement of the manifestations, and nothing occurred after she left. Mr. D. was, however, perfectly convinced that she had nothing to do voluntarily with the bell-ringing.[11]

The second paper by Mr. Myers is devoted exclusively to some "strange experiences" which occurred several years previous to 1891, at the village of Swanland, a few miles from Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The evidence is that of John Bristow, who states he was an eye-witness. There were no intellectual phenomena, nothing but the apparently meaningless throwing about of pieces of wood—directed, however, by some intelligence, so as to attract attention without doing harm. Here again what value the case has rests almost solely on its having received the critical study of Mr. Myers.[12]


[1] Report of the Committee of the London Dialectical Society, p. 228.

[2] Report on Spiritualism of the Committee of the London Dialectical Society, together with the Evidence, Oral and Written, and a Selection from the Correspondence. Two editions have been published. Both are out of print.

[3] Report, &c., pp. 7-13.

[4] Report, &c., pp. 390-391.

[5] Proceedings S.P.R., vol. i. p. 240

[6] See Proceedings S.P.R., vol. iv. pp. 29-33.

[7] See Proceedings S.P.R., vol. iv. pp. 33-35.

[8] Vol. vii. pp. 146-198 and pp. 383-394.

[9] For full account see Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vii. pp. 159-160.

[10] Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vii. p. 160.

[11] See the full account in Part XIX. of the Proceedings of the S.P.R., which part is included in vol. vii., and may be obtained separately for 2s. 6d.

[12] See Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vii. pp. 383-394.



If the tipping of small tables when the hands of the sitters are in contact is excepted—under which circumstances it is generally impossible to determine whether the result is psychical, or due merely to muscular action unconsciously exercised—the production of raps and other sounds is the most frequent of the phenomena under consideration. They are, however, generally so intermixed with other phenomena that it is difficult to treat them separately.


In the extracts from the Report of the Committee of the Dialectical Society given in the preceding chapter, it will be remembered that raps and other noises are referred to as being frequently heard, and also as apparently produced by an intelligent agency.


The reader is asked to refer to the general conditions of the case of Mr. C. testified to by Professor Barrett in the previous chapter. He says:—

"They (the sounds) came more readily and more loudly when music was played, or a merry song struck up. Usually they kept time with the music, and altogether displayed a singular degree of intelligence. Sometimes a loud rhythmic scraping, as of a violoncello bow on a piece of wood, would accompany the music. Again and again I placed my ear on the very spot on the table whence this rough fiddling appeared to proceed, and felt distinctly the rhythmic vibration of the table, but no tangible cause was visible either above or below the table.... On one occasion, when no one else was in the room, ... I asked my young friend the medium to put her hands against the wall, and see how far she could stretch her feet back from the wall without tumbling down. This she did, and whilst in this constrained position—with the muscles of arms and legs all in tension—I asked for the knocks to come. Immediately a brisk pattering of raps followed my request. All the while the child remained quite motionless. My reason in making this experiment, was to test the late Dr. Carpenter's muscular theory of the cause of the sounds. Had Dr. Carpenter been present, I feel sure he would have admitted that here at any rate that theory fell through."[13]

Professor Barrett sums up his conclusions on this case thus:—

"A long and careful examination convinced me that trickery on the part of the child was a more improbable hypothesis than that the sounds proceeded from some unknown agency. Nor could the sounds be accounted for by trickery on the part of the servants in the house, for in addition to my careful inquiries on this point, Mr. C. informed me that he had obtained the raps on the handle of his umbrella out of doors, when the child was by his side; and that the music-master complained of raps proceeding from inside the piano whenever the child was listless or inattentive at her music lesson. Mrs. C. told me that almost every night she heard the raps by the bedside of the child when she went to bid her good-night; and that after she had left the room and partially closed the door, she would hear quite an animated conversation going on between her daughter and her invisible companion, the child rapidly spelling over the alphabet, and the raps occurring at the right letters, and the child thus obtaining with surprising rapidity a clue to the words spelt out.

"Still more violently improbable is the supposition that the parents of the child were at the bottom of the mystery, stimulated by a desire to impress their friends with the wonderful but imaginary gifts their child possessed. The presence of the parents was not necessary for the occurrence of the sounds, which, as I have said, often took place when I was the only person in the room besides the child.

"Hallucination was the explanation which suggested itself to my own mind when first I heard of the phenomena, but was dismissed as wholly inapplicable after the first day's inquiry; nor do I think that any one could maintain that different people, individually and collectively, for some weeks, thought they heard and saw a series of sounds and motions which had no objective existence.

"No! I was then, and am still, morally certain that the phenomena had a real existence outside oneself, and that they were not produced by trickery or by known causes. Hence I could come to no other conclusion than that we had here a class of phenomena wholly new to science."[14]

After some three months the sounds ceased as unexpectedly as they had commenced.

There is one form of sound manifestation to which no allusion has been made—what is called the "Direct Voice." It is alleged to be of frequent occurrence in spiritualistic circles. Articulate words are, it is stated, spoken "direct," not through the voice organs of any person present. The phenomenon, so far as I have heard, occurs only in darkness—and is an objective voice audible alike to every one present. It corresponds to the phenomenon of "direct writing." But no attempt that I am aware of has been made to treat the matter scientifically. One of the earliest alleged occurrences of this phenomenon took place in London, at a private seance at which I was present at the house of Mr. Thos. Everitt, who departed this life in August of last year, and who was one of the most prominent London spiritualists, Mrs. Everitt being the medium. Some little time later, at a similar seance at the same house, the sitting was terminated by the singing of a hymn by three or four soft, gentle voices, purporting to be "direct" voices, which sounded as if they proceeded from the top of the room close to the ceiling. They were certainly not the voices of any of the company present. It was one of the most beautiful and touching manifestations I ever experienced. I can only compare it to the singing of a choir of boys' voices, high up out of sight in Truro Cathedral, which I had heard many years before. The seances at Mr. Everitt's were conducted in an exclusively religious tone, and afforded no opportunity for obtaining scientific evidence. It is much to be desired that a careful inquiry should be made into the reality of so interesting a phenomenon.


[13] Proceedings S.P.R., vol. iv. pp. 29-30.

[14] Proceedings S.P.R., vol. iv. p. 31.



The appearance of Lights at Spiritualistic circles, apparently not due to any physical cause, is very widely asserted. The character of the Lights is as varied as it is possible to imagine. Faint, cloudy, indefinite luminous appearances—brilliant stars which move or hover among the sitters—globes or balls of light, like illuminated ostrich eggs, or spheres of mother-of-pearl lit up from within—pillars of light—are some of the many forms which this manifestation takes. But anything approaching to scientific evidence of the reality of the phenomenon is singularly scarce. And I am not aware that anything has ever been done towards testing or endeavouring to ascertain the nature of the light. One reason for this is, no doubt, that to investigate light phenomena, the exclusion of other light is obviously requisite. Hence the necessity for dark seances. The objection to a dark seance in itself can of course have no scientific basis. But a strong feeling against dark seances has arisen from the abuses to which they have led. It is possible that the extent of the evil has been exaggerated, and has thus produced an exaggerated prejudice against darkness as a condition. It is, however, safe to say, that, even if promiscuous seances are ever useful or wise, a promiscuous dark seance should never be sanctioned by an earnest inquirer.

Orthodox science has not yet condescended to bestow any attention on "spirit lights." I had the privilege of private acquaintance with Dr. Tyndall, and once acted as his assistant at some lectures he gave in a country place. I remember sending him a report of some rather remarkable manifestations of light witnessed at a private seance in London, under fairly good test-conditions. Dr. Tyndall was at the time engaged in some special optical investigations, and I asked him to spend five minutes in reading the notes enclosed. Dr. Tyndall's reply, in his laconic, jocular style, was to this effect—"I have spent five minutes as you desired, and it is a long time since I spent five minutes so badly!"

The best series of "light" phenomena, both as regards their varied character, and as regards the observers, and the care with which records at the time were made, occurred in the presence of Mr. W. Stainton Moses. A special chapter is devoted to his general experiences later on, but I will deal with the phenomena of lights here, and make this the only illustration of this branch of the subject. For the general credibility of the W. Stainton Moses phenomena the reader is referred to the opening paragraph of Chapter VI. The following pages are taken, by way of either extract or abstract, from two articles on Mr. W. Stainton Moses by Mr. F. W. H. Myers. They thus have the advantage of Mr. Myers' moral certificate, so to speak, as to their value. The articles were published in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research.[15]

Mr. Stainton Moses says that the first occasion on which large luminous appearances were seen at the circle consisting of Dr. and Mrs. Speer and himself was on 7th June 1873. They had become familiar with floating masses of luminous vapour; and on several occasions, the masses condensed, so to speak, until a distinct objective light was formed. On that evening, however, a number of cones of soft light similar to moonlight appeared in succession. There was a nucleus of soft yellow light surrounded by a haze. They sailed up from a corner of the room and gradually died out. They seem to have been carried in a materialised hand, a finger of which was shown at request, by placing it in front of the nucleus of light.[16]

Subsequently they saw another kind of light altogether. It was apparently a little round disc of light which twinkled like a star. It flashed with great rapidity, and answered questions by the usual code of signals. On about half-a-dozen occasions a bright scintillating light apparently resting on the mantelshelf was seen. It was about the size of a pigeon's egg, and looked like a large diamond lit up with strong light.[17]

Mr. Stainton Moses gives a description of "a most remarkable light, of quite a different kind from any that he had ever heard or read of." It appeared six times, diminishing in brilliancy on each occasion. Mr. Stainton Moses says: "The light was first observed directly behind us—a tall column about half an inch or rather more in width, and six or seven feet high. The light was of a bright golden hue, and did not illuminate objects in its neighbourhood. For a minute a cross developed at its top, and rays seemed to dart from it." Dr. Speer, who had been watching the strange phenomenon with absorbing interest, asked permission to examine it more closely. Leave being given, he went to the light, put his face close to it, and passed his hand through it. He detected no odour, and the light did not disappear. No warmth came from it, nor did it perceptibly light up the room. It remained visible until the seance was concluded.[18]

The following graphic description shall be given in Mr. Stainton Moses' own words:—

"The room, which had been filled (especially round me) with floating clouds of light, grew suddenly dark, and absolute stillness took the place of the previous loud knockings. It would have been a strange scene for an ear-witness. The table, isolated, with no human hand touching it, giving forth a series of mysterious thuds of varying intensity, some of which might have been made with a muffled sledge-hammer, all indicating intelligence—an intelligence that showed itself by deliberation, or eagerness, or stately solemnity according to the nature of the communication. Around the table three persons sitting with a hush of expectation, and faces (if they could have been seen) of awe-stricken earnestness.... The room shrouded in darkness, except at one end, where shifting masses of luminous vapour now and again gathered into a pillar which dimly outlined a form, and again dispersed, and flitted round the head of one of the sitters. No scene could be imagined more calculated to strike a novice with awe, none more solemn and impressive for those who participated in it."[19]

Mr. W. Stainton Moses thus describes the formation of the lights at a sitting on 9th August 1873:—

"I witnessed the formation of some eight or nine very beautiful spirit lights. They formed quite close to me, and near my left hand, about a foot from the floor, floating upwards till they reached the level of the table and became visible to Dr. Speer. They were expressly made at my side, instead of, as usual, at my back, so that I might see them. They seemed to develop from a very bright speck, about the size of a pea, until they attained the size of a soda-water tumbler, and showed a soft luminosity like pale moonlight. They seemed to be covered with drapery and to be held by a hand. They faded slowly out, remaining visible about thirty or forty seconds, or perhaps a minute. The largest would be about eight inches long."[20]

On 14th April 1874, Dr. Speer and Mr. Stainton Moses held a sitting by themselves. Mr. Stainton Moses thus describes what happened:—

"To-night lights commenced again, but of a quite different character to any we had seen before. They darted about like a comet, coming from the side by the harmonium, or near the fireplace. They were evanescent, and apparently of diffuse luminosity, within which was a nucleus of light, not, however, visible to me. We had some ten or twelve of these, some more brilliant than others, some visible both in the looking-glass and in the glass of the book-case, and they were showing a trail of reflected light on the table, when suddenly there arose from below me, apparently under the table, or near the floor, right under my nose, a cloud of luminous smoke, just like phosphorus. It fumed up in great clouds, until I seemed to be on fire, and rushed from the room in a panic. I was fairly frightened, and could not tell what was happening. I rushed to the door and opened it, and so to the front door. My hands seemed to be ablaze, and left their impress on the doors and handles. It blazed for a while after I had touched it, but soon went out, and no smell or trace remained. I have seen my own hands covered with a lambent flame; but nothing like this I ever saw.... The lights were preceded by very sharp detonations on my chair, so that we could watch for their coming by hearing the noise. They shot up very rapidly from the floor."[21]

This sensational experience must conclude the evidence respecting the lights, for the present. One more selection has, however, been made, which is deferred to the special chapter on Mr. Stainton Moses' experiences as a whole. The present chapter must be read in connection with that chapter. It is admitted that the testimony quoted with regard to the Lights does not reach the level of scientific evidence. At the same time, when due consideration is given to the existing contemporary records, and to the careful way in which Mr. Myers examined the whole case, it is difficult to avoid the conviction that the Lights were objective phenomena, not produced by any known physical cause. It is much to be regretted that efforts were not made to secure a critical study of the Lights by a competent scientific man.


[15] Vol. ix. pp. 245-352, and vol. xi. pp. 24-113.

[16] See ibid., vol. ix. pp. 273-274.

[17] See Proceedings S.P.R., vol. ix. p. 276.

[18] See ibid., pp. 276-277.

[19] Proceedings S.P.R., vol. ix. p. 290.

[20] Proceedings S.P.R., vol. ix. p. 319.

[21] Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xi. pp. 44-45.



Scientific evidence of the reality of the Physical Phenomena alleged to have occurred in the presence of D. D. Home is scarcely to be looked for in the two volumes written by himself, nor even in the two volumes published after his death by Madame Home. The alleged phenomena failed to attract the attention of more than a very few men of science during Home's lifetime. Of these the most eminent is Sir William Crookes, F.R.S. With regard to Sir William Crookes' evidence the reader is referred to two paragraphs on page 124.


Again, the Report of the Committee of the Dialectical Society, or rather the documents which accompany it, supplies some good evidence. Home had four sittings with one of the Sub-Committees, but the phenomena were of a trifling and inconclusive character. This was attributed to the state of Home's bodily health. He was on the eve of a severe illness. Several persons subsequently sent to the Committee statements of what they had seen and heard in Home's presence. The only one of these which can be said to possess scientific value is a report of a seance held with Lord Lindsay—now the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres—and Mrs. Honywood, and two other persons. The report is as follows. It is written by Mrs. Honywood, and Lord Lindsay adds a few words, his own personal testimony.

"I met Mr. Home at the house of a friend on the 17th March 1869. We sat down, five in number, at a round table in the back drawing-room. There was an oil lamp on a table in the front drawing-room, and fires in both grates. After a while Mr. Home became entranced, walked into the front room, and stood on the hearth-rug. He began to dance slowly, raising first the one foot and then the other, his hands hanging loosely as I have read of Easterns and Indians, moving in time to music. He then knelt down, rubbing and clasping his hands together in front of the fire. I asked, 'Are you a fire worshipper?' He nodded and looked pleased. 'Are you a Persian?' He smiled and nodded assent, after which he rose and placed four chairs in a row near the folding doors, signing to us to sit there. He now went to the table on which stood the moderator lamp; taking off the globe, he placed it on the table, and deliberately grasped the chimney of the lamp with both hands; then, advancing to the lady of the house, he asked her to touch it, but she refused, knowing it was hot. Mr. Home said, 'Have you no faith? Will you not trust in Dan if he says it is cool?' She replied, 'Certainly,' and placed her finger on the glass, exclaiming, 'Oh, it is not at all hot!' This was corroborated by Lord Lindsay and myself, who in turn both laid our finger on the glass several times to test it. Mr. Home laughed and said, 'I will make it hot for you, old fellow,' and holding it towards Mr. ——, he turned, apparently addressing some one, and said, in a sad tone of voice, 'It is necessary to confirm the faith of others that the glass should be made hot for him.' Mr. —— now touched it, and exclaimed, 'You have indeed,' shaking his hand and showing me a red mark. So hot was the glass when a fourth person touched it, that it raised a blister, which I saw some days subsequently, peeling. I leave it for the scientific to determine how the heat was re-imparted to the glass, after being withdrawn.

"Mr. Home now returned to the fireplace, and thrust the chimney into the red-hot coals, resting the end on the top bar; he left it there about four or five minutes, then, lifting it, he clasped it in both hands, went to the table, took a lucifer match from a box, and handing it to the lady of the house, desired her to touch the glass—the match instantly ignited; and having called our attention to this fact, he observed, 'The tongue and lips are the most sensitive parts of the body,' and thrust the heated glass into his mouth, applying, especially, his tongue to it. He once more returned to the fire, and again placed the chimney on the upper bar, the end of the glass resting amidst the red coals. He left it there and walked about the room, selected a small fern-leaf from a vase of flowers, and raising the chimney, placed it within, and replaced the chimney among the coals. After a few moments he told us to observe very carefully, as the experiment would be very pretty. Mr. Home now held up the glass, and we perceived the fern-leaf within apparently on fire. He replaced it after a few seconds, and holding it up again, exclaimed, 'Is it not pretty?' The fern appeared red-hot; each little leaf edged with gold, yet flameless, like clouds at sunset—rich glowing crimson tinged with molten gold. After we had all looked at it and admired it, he advanced to Mrs. ——, and laughingly shook it out on her muslin dress. I expected to see it crumble away; but no, it was still green, though dry and withered. Unfortunately it was not preserved.

"Again Mr. Home returned to the fire, and once more placed the glass on the coals, where he left it, and walked about the room; going to the lamp, he passed his hand slowly backwards and forwards through the flame, not an inch from the wick; returning to the fireplace, he lifted the chimney, and moving the coals about with his hand, selected a small flat red-hot coal, and placed it in the chimney—shook it up and down, and advancing to us, playfully said, 'H——, here is a present for you,' and threw out the coal on her muslin dress. Catching it up in dismay, she tossed it to Lord Lindsay, who, unable to retain it in his hand, threw it from palm to palm till he reached, the grate and flung it in. While we were all looking at the muslin dress and wondering that it was neither soiled nor singed, Mr. Home approached, and in a hurt tone of voice said, 'No, no, you will not find a mark; did you think that we would hurt your dress.' Mr. Home then selected a small spray of white flower, and going to the lamp, he passed it two or three times through the flame, then carried it to the grate, and held it first in the flame and then in the smoke above the coals, moving it gently about. He now brought it back to us, asking us to look at it and smell it, calling our attention to the fact that the flower did not smell of smoke, and that it was unchanged by the heat and flame of lamp and fire. He then bid us notice that his hand which held the flower smelt of smoke, while the flower remained uninjured. Then addressing us, he said, 'The spirit now speaking through Dan, and that has enabled him to show you these curious fire-tests, in which he hopes you have all felt interested, is the spirit of an Asiatic fire-worshipper, who was anxious to come here to-night, as he had heard of seances held here. He now bids you farewell, as he will return no more.'

"After this Mr. Home awoke. "BARBARA HONYWOOD."

"I was present at this seance, and can corroborate the truth of the above statement.



Lord Dunraven—then Lord Adare—had a number of sittings with Home. He printed a small volume—for private circulation only—under the title of "Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr. D. D. Home." This volume is exceedingly scarce.


In the year 1889, Professor Barrett and Mr. Myers undertook an "Inquiry into the Evidence for the Mediumship of D. D. Home." They collected the testimony of a large number of persons who were witnesses of the Home phenomena, carefully examined its evidential value, and summarised it in a Joint Report. This was printed in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research for July 1889.[23] It is to be regretted that the Society has not seen its way to publish this Report in a form accessible to the general public. It is true that in his great work, "Human Personality, and its Survival of Bodily Death," Mr. Myers gives a brief summary of the Report; but he condenses the thirty-six pages of the original Report and its appendices into four pages of "Human Personality," which are quite insufficient to convey an adequate idea of the Report itself. Also, the cost of Mr. Myers' book debars from it the mass of readers. This Report was followed up a little later by a brief article by Mr. Myers, forming an important supplement.[24]

In the Report itself its joint authors say: "We propose the question—Have Home's phenomena ever been plausibly explained as conjuring tricks, or in accordance with known laws of nature? And we answer—No; they have not been so explained, nor can we so explain them."[25] In commenting on the Joint Report, by Professor Barrett and himself, Mr. Myers puts the problem as to Home in this form: "There is thus a considerable body of evidence as to Home, which enables us to discuss the three questions: (1) Was he ever convicted of fraud? (2) Did he satisfy any trained observer in a series of experiments selected by the observer and not by himself? (3) Were the phenomena entirely beyond the scope of the conjurer's art?"[26]

In the Joint Report the writers say—(1) As to fraud: "We have found no allegations of fraud on which we should be justified in laying much stress. Mr. Robert Browning has told to one of us the circumstances which mainly led to that opinion of Home which was expressed in 'Mr. Sludge, the Medium,' It appears that a lady (since dead) repeated to Mr. Browning a statement made to her by a lady and gentleman (since dead), as to their finding Home in the act of experimenting with phosphorus on the production of 'spirit lights,' which, so far as Mr. Browning remembers, were to be rubbed round the walls of the room, near the ceiling, so as to appear when the room was darkened. This piece of evidence powerfully impressed Mr. Browning; but it comes to us at third-hand, without written record, and at a distance of nearly forty years.

"We have received one other account from a gentleman of character and ability, of a seance in very poor light, when the 'spirit-hand' moved in such a way as to seem dependent on the action of Home's arms and legs. This account is subjoined [in the Report] as Appendix D. We may add that few, if any, of the lights seen at Home's seances could (as they are described to us) have been contrived by the aid of phosphorus.

"There is also a frequently repeated story that Home was found at the Tuilleries (or at Compiegne, or at Biarritz) to be using a stuffed hand, and was consequently forbidden the Imperial Court. We have tried in France to get at the fountain-head of this story, but without success."[27]

(2) "With regard to our second question—whether his powers were tested by competent observers"—Mr. Myers says: "Home in this respect stands pre-eminent; since we have the evidence of Sir William Crookes, corroborated by the testimony of the Master of Lindsay (now Earl of Crawford and Balcarres), himself a savant of some distinction, and the privately printed series of careful observations by the present and the late Lords Dunraven.[28]

(3) "As to our third question—whether the phenomena could have been produced by conjuring"—Mr. Myers says: "Many of them, especially the fire-tests, and the movements of large untouched objects in good light, seem inexplicable by this supposition. The hypothesis of collective hallucination on the part of the sitters seems very improbable, because, in most cases, all those present saw the same thing; and often without receiving from Home any audible suggestion as to what was about to happen."[29]

In the Joint Report by Professor Barrett and Mr. Myers, a considerable space is devoted to a discussion as to conjuring being the explanation of the Home manifestations. It is dismissed as utterly inadequate. In conclusion, the authors of the Report say: "And we find that experts in conjuring (several of whom we have consulted), however little they may believe in Home's pretensions, are disposed rather to reject wholesale than to explain in detail the more remarkable records."[30]

Professor Barrett and Mr. Myers proceed to quote thirty-five cases of the identification of alleged communicating spirits from Madame Home's book, entitled "D. D. Home, His Life and Mission." They remark, "This list of identifications is a long one, and quite unique in the history of Spiritualism."[31] After analysing this list of cases, they say near the conclusion of their Report, as implying their final verdict: "If our readers ask us—'Do you advise us to go on experimenting in these matters as though Home's phenomena were genuine?'—we answer, 'Yes.'"[32] In the supplementary article above referred to sixteen more cases of identification are added to the thirty-five.

In Appendix E to the Report is given some striking testimony to the reality of the "fire-test." The following letter from Mr. W. M. Wilkinson, the well-known solicitor, is included:—

"As you ask me to write to you of what occurred at our house at Kilburn, where we were living in 1869, with reference to the handling of red-hot coal, I will merely say that one Sunday evening in the winter of that year, I saw Mr. Home take out of our drawing-room fire a red-hot coal a little less in size than a cricket ball, and carry it up and down the drawing-room. He said to Lord Adare, now Lord Dunraven, who was present, 'Will you take it from me? It will not hurt you.' Lord Adare took it from him, and held it in his hand for about half a minute, and before he threw it back in the fire I put my hand pretty close to it, and felt the heat to be like that of a live coal.—Yours very truly, W. M. WILKINSON.[33]

44 LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS, LONDON, W.C., February 7, 1869."

Appendix M to the Report consists of some particulars verbally given to Mr. Myers by Mrs. Honywood, of 52 Warwick Square, London, in further explanation of her printed testimony to phenomena she had witnessed in Home's presence. She was well acquainted with him for twenty-five years, attended many seances, and took notes of them at the time. In the early part of this chapter, a statement she sent to the Dialectical Society has already been quoted. She told Mr. Myers that most of her friends were complete disbelievers in Spiritualism, and that they frequently repeated to her rumours to the discredit of Home. But she never heard any first-hand account of any kind of trickery on his part. She considered him a man of open childlike nature, thoroughly honest and truthful, and that in her opinion his utterances in the trance state were much superior in thought and diction to his ordinary talk. She said she should like to give Mr. Myers a few additional details with regard to the fire phenomena reported in Madame Home's book, "D. D. Home, His Life and Mission," on her authority. Madame Home's secretary, she said, had slightly abbreviated her words in a way which made the occurrences seem rather less wonderful than they actually were. Mr. Myers gives the following, as having been signed "BARBARA HONYWOOD, June 1889."

"As to the burning coal placed in my hand. I saw Mr. Home take this coal from the fire, moving his hands freely among the coals. It was about the size of a coffee cup, blazing at the top, and red-hot at the bottom. While I held it in my hand the actual flame died down, but it continued to crackle, and to be partially red-hot. I felt it like an ordinary stone, neither hot nor cold. Mr. Home then pushed it off my hand with one finger on to a double sheet of cartridge paper, which it at once set on fire. I am quite certain that I was in my usual condition at the time....

"As to the hot lamp-chimney which I touched. There was a row of four or five persons sitting side by side, and Mr. Home asked us each in turn to touch the glass. When I touched it, I felt as though a wave of heat were receding before me....

"I have repeatedly taken Mr. Home in my own carriage to the houses of friends of mine who were strangers to him, and have there seen the furniture at once violently moved in rooms which I knew that he had never entered till that moment. I have seen heavy furniture moved; for instance, a heavy sofa in my own drawing-room, with myself upon it, and a heavy centre table, moved several feet away from Home, and then back again, in the light, while his hands and feet were visible. Not horse-hairs, but ropes, would often have been necessary to pull the furniture about as I have seen it pulled."[34]

A brief reference must now be made to what is perhaps the most sensational alleged event in Home's mediumistic career, the one which is most frequently spoken of by the general public, with more or less forcible expressions of scornful incredulity; his "levitation" out of the window of a room at a great height from the ground, and in at a window of the next room on the same story. In the Report by Professor Barrett and Mr. Myers, no detailed account of this is given. The Report says: "Lords Lindsay and Adare had printed a statement that Home floated out of the window and in at another in Ashley Place (Victoria Street), S.W., 16th December 1868."[35] At a meeting of the Committee of the Dialectical Society, held on 6th July 1869, a paper was read from Lord Lindsay, describing some of his personal experiences with Home. This paper makes no reference to the above case of levitation. But at the same meeting of the Committee, Lord Lindsay and others gave evidence as witnesses, and Lord Lindsay thus described this particular case:—

"I saw the levitations in Victoria Street, when Home floated out of the window; he first went into a trance, and walked about uneasily; he then went into the hall; while he was away, I heard a voice whisper in my ear, 'He will go out of one window and in at another.' I was alarmed and shocked at the idea of so dangerous an experiment. I told the company what I had heard, and we then waited for Home's return. Shortly after he entered the room, I heard the window go up, but I could not see it, for I sat with my back to it. I, however, saw his shadow on the opposite wall; he went out of the window in a horizontal position, and I saw him outside the other window (that in the next room) floating in the air. It was eighty-five feet from the ground. There was no balcony along the windows, merely a strong course an inch and a half wide; each window had a small plant stand, but there was no connection between them. I have no theory to explain these things. I have tried to find out how they are done, but the more I studied them, the more satisfied was I that they could not be explained by mere mechanical trick."[36]

There is one episode in the career of D. D. Home which, although it does not affect the reality of the phenomena alleged to have taken place in his presence, claims a brief mention. The gift to Home by Mrs. Lyon of a large sum of money, the subsequent lawsuit, and the judgment in accordance with which the money was returned to its original owner, excited much attention at the time. Public opinion frequently takes up sensational occurrences in a most illogical and unscientific manner. But a permanent effect may thus be produced, which is extremely difficult to eradicate, even if shown to be unjustifiable. This episode with Mrs. Lyon has probably had more effect than any other circumstance in causing the feeling of aversion with which large numbers of people regard Home and all his doings. He is looked upon, and spoken of, as if he were an unprincipled adventurer, convicted of fraud, and of obtaining money under false pretences.

The remarks at the end of this chapter are based mainly upon Appendix III. to the Report by Professor Barrett and Mr. Myers, and which deals with the case of Lyon v. Home.[37] The Appendix commences thus: "Our colleague, Mr. H. Arthur Smith [barrister-at-law], author of 'Principles of Equity,' has kindly furnished us with the following review of the case of Lyon v. Home." The following are a few extracts from this review:—

"I have looked carefully into the case of Lyon v. Home as reported in the Law Reports (6 Equity, 655), ... and perhaps the following comments may be useful to you.

"It is certainly the fact that the judge discredited the evidence of Mrs. Lyon. He said: 'Reliance cannot be placed on her testimony.... It would be unjust to found on it a decree against any man, save in so far as what she has sworn to may be corroborated by written documents, or unimpeached witnesses, or incontrovertible facts.'

"Having, then, eventually decided against Home, it follows that the judge must have considered that her evidence was corroborated in some or other of the ways mentioned."

Mr. H. Arthur Smith further says: "There was also an admitted letter from Mrs. Lyon to Home, in which she stated that she presented him with the L24,000 as an 'entirely free gift.' This, she said, was written by her at Home's dictation, under magnetic influence."

Mr. H. Arthur Smith proceeds to discuss the "corroborative evidence which led to the judge's final opinion." He then remarks:—

"Now it must, I think, be admitted that considering the extraordinary character of Mrs. Lyon's conduct, and the swiftness with which she reached her decision to transfer her property to Home, such evidence as the above may reasonably be deemed corroborative of her assertion that she was induced to act as she did by the effects of Home's spiritualistic pretensions.... There was sufficient ... in my opinion, to establish the plaintiff's case. It is not then true that 'Home was made to restore the money, because, being a professed medium, it was likely that he should have induced her in the way he did.' The Court held the law to be that such transactions as those in question cannot be upheld, 'unless the Court is quite satisfied that they are acts of pure volition uninfluenced.' ... There was evidence of considerable weight, that as a matter of fact ... Home did work on the mind of Mrs. Lyon by means of spiritualistic devices, and further that he did so by suggesting communications from her deceased husband. Whether this is to Home's discredit or not of course will be decided according to one's belief in Spiritualism and the reality of her husband's interference.... H. ARTHUR SMITH. 1 NEW SQUARE, LINCOLN'S INN, October 19, 1888."

In order that this episode should have its rightful effect, and no more, it is needful that several things should be borne in mind. In the first place, the action was in a Court of Equity. It was not a prosecution in a Criminal Court. The decision of the Court was not a verdict of guilty against a prisoner, to be followed by punishment for wrong-doing, but an order to refund certain money. In ordinary circumstances a judgment of this kind does not brand a man with infamy, nor affect his character and position in the eyes of society. Again, after the judgment of the Court, Home promptly repaid the money. He had not appropriated or expended any part of it. What more could he have done?

Mr. Myers' remark in "Human Personality"—"The most serious blot on Home's character was that revealed by the Lyon case"[38]—seems, therefore, rather severe under the circumstances. Especially as Mr. Myers has expressed himself so strongly in favour of the reality of the Home phenomena, and has said, in conjunction with Professor Barrett, that they found no allegations of fraud on which they were justified in laying much stress. Much more to the purpose is Mr. H. Arthur Smith's comment: "Whether this is to Home's discredit or not of course will be decided according to one's belief in Spiritualism and the reality of her husband's interference."

Had this Report of Professor Barrett's and Mr. Myers', with its Appendices, been placed before the public, it might have mitigated the prejudice which hangs about the name of D. D. Home in the minds of so many. The unique position which Home occupies in regard to the Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism seems a sufficient reason for dwelling somewhat fully on this episode as it affects his character as a man.


[22] Report of the Committee of the London Dialectical Society, pp. 360-363.

[23] Vol. iv. pp. 101-136.

[24] Journal S.P.R., vol. iv. pp. 249-252.

[25] Ibid., p. 115.

[26] "Human Personality," vol. ii. p. 579.

[27] Journal S.P.R., vol. iv. p. 102.

[28] "Human Personality," vol. ii. pp. 580-581.

[29] Ibid., p. 581.

[30] Journal S.P.R., vol. iv. p. 107.

[31] Journal S.P.R., vol. iv. p. 114.

[32] Ibid., p. 115.

[33] Journal S.P.R., vol. iv. p. 122.

[34] Journal S.P.R., vol. iv. pp. 135-136.

[35] Journal S.P.R., vol. iv. p. 108.

[36] Report of the Committee of the Dialectical Society, p. 214.

[37] Journal S.P.R., vol. iv. pp. 117-119.

[38] "Human Personality," vol. ii. p. 580.



It is mainly due to the labours of Mr. F. W. H. Myers, after Mr. Stainton Moses' death, that the Physical Phenomena alleged to have occurred in his presence can be included among those for which evidence of a scientific character is claimed. It is much to be regretted that, during Mr. Stainton Moses' lifetime, although phenomena of a very varied character were alleged to have occurred with great frequency during many years, no scientific man of eminence appears to have joined in the seances, except on one or two occasions. Perhaps the primary reason for this was that Mr. Stainton Moses' own attitude of mind towards the subject did not court critical and scientific investigation of the phenomena. But even during the last ten years of his life, subsequent to the formation of the Society for Psychical Research, of which he was an original member, and not only that, but for nearly five years a Vice-President and a member of the Council, so far as I know, no sittings were held with him on behalf of the Society, and no first-hand authentic records of the alleged phenomena in earlier years were placed before it. One reason for this probably was that the Council of the Society informally adopted a sort of understanding that its earlier investigations should not be directed towards "Spiritualism," but mainly towards those branches of the great subject which were, so to speak, just outside the field of recognised scientific inquiry—such, for instance, as Thought-Transference and Hypnotism. In this course there was doubtless a certain amount of wisdom, but to it was due the apathy and the ultimate secession of a few members who took great interest in the formation of the Society. Chief among these was W. Stainton Moses himself. In November 1886 he withdrew from the Society, considering that the evidence of phenomena of the genuine character of which he had satisfied himself beyond doubt, was not being properly entertained or fairly treated.

Mr. W. Stainton Moses entrusted by will his unpublished MSS. to two friends as literary executors, Mr. Charles C. Massey and Mr. Alaric A. Watts. At the earnest request of Mr. Myers, these gentlemen permitted him to see a large number of them. Thirty-one note-books were placed in his hands. Permission was further given to Mr. Myers to make selections from these note-books for publication in the Proceedings of the Society. These selections form the substance of two long articles.[39] The thirty-one books comprise twenty-four of Automatic Writing, four Records of Physical Phenomena, and three of retrospect and summary. Two of these recapitulate physical phenomena, with reflections.

Mr. Stainton Moses' most intimate friends were Dr. and Mrs. Stanhope T. Speer. They, with the occasional attendance of another intimate friend, Mr. F. W. Percival, barrister-at-law, and Examiner in the Education Department, were generally the only members of the small group who witnessed the phenomena. Mr. Stainton Moses' note-books had been kept extremely private. It seems probable that no one had seen them until they were placed in Mr. Myers' hands. Two note-books and other MSS. by Dr. Speer were also handed to Mr. Myers, which he says contained independent contemporary records of much evidential value. With regard to Dr. and Mrs. Speer, Mr. Myers says: "Their importance as witnesses of the phenomena is so great, that I must be pardoned for inserting a 'testimonial' to the late Dr. Speer (M.D., Edinburgh), which shall not, however, be in my own words, but in those of Dr. Marshall Hall, F.R.S., one of the best-known physicians of the middle of this century. Writing on 18th March 1849, Dr. Marshall Hall says (in a printed collection of similar testimonials now before me): 'I have great satisfaction in bearing my testimony to the talents and acquirements of Dr. Stanhope Templeman Speer. Dr. Speer has had unusual advantages in having been at the medical schools, not only of London and Edinburgh, but of Paris and Montpellier, and he has availed himself of these advantages with extraordinary diligence and talent. He ranks among our most distinguished rising physicians,'"[40] Dr. Speer practised as a physician at Cheltenham and in London, and at different times held various important hospital posts. He had scientific and artistic tastes, and being possessed of private means, he quitted professional work at the age of thirty-four, and spent his subsequent life in studious retirement. Mr. Myers says that his "cast of mind was strongly materialistic, and it is remarkable that his interest in Mr. Moses' phenomena was from first to last of a purely scientific, as contrasted with an emotional or religious nature."[41] Mrs. Stanhope Speer also kept careful records of the sittings. Over sixty instalments were published in the weekly journal, Light, under the title of "Records of Private Seances, from Notes taken at the time of each Sitting."

Mr. Stainton Moses was born in Lincolnshire in 1839. He studied at Oxford, and was ordained as a clergyman of the Church of England. After a few years of active life as a parish clergyman, he was offered a Mastership in University College School, London, which post he held until about three years before his death, which took place in 1892. As to the "fundamental questions of sanity and probity," Mr. Myers says: "Neither I myself, nor, so far as I know, any person acquainted with Mr. Moses, has ever entertained any doubt."[42] Mr. Charles C. Massey says: "However perplexed for an explanation, the crassest prejudice has recoiled from ever suggesting a doubt of the truth and honesty of Stainton Moses."[43] Mr. H. J. Hood, barrister-at-law, who knew him for many years, writes: "I believe that he was wholly incapable of deceit."[44] The principal published works of Mr. Stainton Moses are—"Researches in Spiritualism," issued in Human Nature, a periodical now extinct; "Spirit Identity" (1879), recently republished; "Spirit Teachings" (1883), of which a new edition has lately appeared with a biography by Mr. Charles Speer (son of Dr. S. T. Speer). Mr. Stainton Moses was also Editor of Light during its earlier years.

It has seemed important, in view of what is to follow, that the reader should be in possession of this somewhat explicit account of Mr. Stainton Moses, his life, his work, and his intimate friends.

Having briefly treated of these external matters in the first of his two articles in the Proceedings of the S.P.R., Mr. Myers goes on to say:—

"But now our narrative must pass at a bound from the commonplace and the credible to bewildering and inconceivable things. With the even tenour of this straightforward and reputable life was inwoven a chain of mysteries which, as I have before said, in whatever way soever they be explained, make that life one of the most extraordinary which our century has seen. For Stainton Moses' true history lies, not in the everyday events thus far recorded, but in that series of physical manifestations which began in 1872, and lasted for some eight years, and that series of automatic writings and trance-utterances which began in 1873, received a record for some ten years, and did not, as is believed, cease altogether until the earthly end was near."[45]


This inquiry concerns physical phenomena only. The wealth of material to select from is enormous. It is proposed to give one or two examples of each of the important classes of physical phenomena. In doing so such examples only will be quoted as have been selected by Mr. Myers to include in his articles in the Proceedings of the S.P.R. The reader will therefore know that the following records have been under Mr. Myers' scrutiny, and have been considered by him as of evidential value. This will also simplify references, as it will be needful to refer only to Mr. Myers' articles which are easily accessible, and not to the original sources.


After recording some movements of a table, Mr. Stainton Moses says: "All that I have described occurs readily when the table is untouched. Indeed, when the force is developed, we have found it better to remove the hands and leave the table to its own devices. The tilting above noticed has been even more marked when the sitters have been removed from it to a distance of about two feet. It has rapped on the chair and on the floor, inclined so as to play into a hand placed on the carpet, and has been restored to its normal position when no hand has touched it. The actual force required to perform this would be represented by very considerable muscular exertion in a man of ordinary strength."[46]

The following account, besides being a record of physical phenomenon, is a curious illustration of the result of not following alleged instructions. Mr. Stainton Moses writes:—

"We had ventured on one occasion, contrary to direction, to add to our circle a strange member. Some trivial phenomena occurred, but the usual controlling spirit did not appear. When next we sat he came; and probably none of us will easily forget the sledge-hammer blows with which he smote the table. The noise was distinctly audible in the room below, and gave one the idea that the table would be broken to pieces. In vain we withdrew from the table, hoping to diminish the power. The heavy blows increased in intensity, and the whole room shook with their force. The direst penalties were threatened if we again interfered with the development by bringing in new sitters. We have not ventured to do so again; and I do not think we shall easily be persuaded to risk another similar objurgation."[47]

The following account of some impromptu occurrences is written by Mr. Serjeant Cox, and is quoted by Mr. Myers from the second volume of Serjeant Cox's work, "What am I?" The scene was also orally described to Mr. Myers by Serjeant Cox, who, as Mr. Myers remarks, was not himself a "Spiritualist," but ascribed these and similar phenomena to a power innate in the medium's own being.

"On Tuesday, 2nd June 1873, a personal friend [Mr. Stainton Moses] came to my residence in Russell Square to dress for a dinner party to which we were invited. He had previously exhibited considerable power as a Psychic. Having half an hour to spare, we went into the dining-room. It was just six o'clock, and of course broad daylight. I was opening letters; he was reading the Times. My dining-table is of mahogany, very heavy, old-fashioned, six feet wide, nine feet long. It stands on a Turkey carpet, which much increases the difficulty of moving it. A subsequent trial showed that the united efforts of two strong men standing were required to move it one inch. There was no cloth upon it, and the light fell full under it. No person was in the room but my friend and myself. Suddenly, as we were sitting thus, frequent and loud rappings came upon the table. My friend was then sitting holding the newspaper with both hands, one arm resting on the table, the other on the back of a chair, and turned sideways from the table, so that his legs and feet were not under the table, but at the side of it. Presently the solid table quivered as with an ague fit. Then it swayed to and fro so violently as almost to dislocate the big pillar-like legs, of which there are eight. Then it moved forward about three inches. I looked under it to be sure it was not touched; but still it moved, and still the blows were loud upon it.

"This sudden access of the Force at such a time, and in such a place, with none present but myself and my friend, and with no thought then of invoking it, caused the utmost astonishment in both of us. My friend said that nothing like it had ever before occurred to him. I then suggested that it would be an invaluable opportunity, with so great a power in action, to make trial of motion without contact, the presence of two persons only, the daylight, the place, the size and weight of the table, making the experiment a crucial one. Accordingly we stood upright, he on one side of the table, I on the other side of it. We stood two feet from it, and held our hands eight inches above it. In one minute it rocked violently. Then it moved over the carpet a distance of seven inches. Then it rose three inches from the floor on the side on which my friend was standing. Then it rose equally on my side. Finally my friend held his hands four inches over the end of the table, and asked that it would rise and touch his hand three times. It did so; and then in accordance with the like request, it rose to my hand held at the other end to the same height above it and in the same manner."[48]

LEVITATION.—The wonderful phenomenon of levitation must be included in the category of "movements without contact"! Some of Mr. Stainton Moses' experiences of this kind are much more explicitly and circumstantially described than those alleged to have occurred with D. D. Home. Mr. Stainton Moses gives the following account of his first personal experience of this nature:—

"My first personal experience of levitation was about five months after my introduction to spiritualism. Physical phenomena of a very powerful description had been developed with great rapidity. We were new to the subject, and the phenomena were most interesting.... One day (30th August 1872) ... I felt my chair drawn back from the table and turned into the corner near which I sat. It was so placed that my face was turned away from the circle to the angle made by the two walls. In this position the chair was raised from the floor to a distance of, I should judge, twelve or fourteen inches. My feet touched the top of the skirting-board, which would be about twelve inches in height. The chair remained suspended for a few moments, and I then felt myself going from it, higher and higher, with a very slow and easy movement. I had no sense of discomfort nor of apprehension. I was perfectly conscious of what was being done, and described the process to those who were sitting at the table. The movement was very steady, and occupied what seemed a long time before it was completed. I was close to the wall, so close that I was able to put a pencil firmly against my chest, and to mark the spot opposite to me on the wall-paper. That mark when measured afterwards was found to be rather more than six feet from the floor, and, from its position, it was clear that my head must have been in the very corner of the room, close to the ceiling. I do not think that I was in any way entranced. I was perfectly clear in my mind, quite alive to what was being done, and fully conscious of the curious phenomenon. I felt no pressure on any part of my body, only a sensation as of being in a lift, whilst objects seemed to be passing away from below me. I remember a slight difficulty in breathing, and a sensation of fulness in the chest, with a general feeling of being lighter than the atmosphere. I was lowered down quite gently, and placed in the chair, which had settled in its old position. The measurements and observations were taken immediately, and the marks which I had made with my pencil were noted. My voice was said at the time to sound as if from the corner of the room, close to the ceiling."[49]

Mr. Stainton Moses says that this experience was repeated, with variations, on nine other occasions. Once he suddenly found himself on the table—his chair being unmoved. This, "under ordinary circumstances," he says, "is what we call impossible." On another occasion he was placed on the table standing. But he discouraged these phenomena of levitation as much as possible, from a dislike to violent physical manifestations.

MOVEMENT OF OBJECTS IN A CLOSED ROOM, NO ONE BEING PRESENT.—I am not aware of any other well-attested instances of a curious phenomenon stated to have occurred when Mr. Stainton Moses was near but not present. He thus describes the "first startling manifestation" of this kind. It was on Sunday, 18th August 1872. Simple phenomena of raps and movements of the table commenced at breakfast-time. Mr. Stainton Moses went to church with his friend. On entering his bedroom afterwards, his attention was drawn by loud rappings which followed him round the room, to three articles so placed on the bed as to form an imperfect cross. While he was in the room another article was added. He called his friend whose guest he was. To avoid the possibility of children or servants playing tricks, in case anything more happened, they well searched the room—it contained no cupboard—bolted the window, locked the door on leaving, and the host put the key in his pocket. After lunch two more articles were found to be added. Another visit discovered other additions. This went on till 5 P.M., "when a complete cross extending the whole length of the bed was made entirely of little articles from the toilet-table." The position of the room, and the whole circumstances, convinced Mr. Stainton Moses and Dr. and Mrs. Speer, with whom he was staying, beyond any doubt that human intervention was impossible. A very detailed account of this incident exists in the handwriting of Dr. Speer.[50]

THE CARRYING OF OBJECTS INTO A LOCKED ROOM, AND THE PASSAGE OF SOLID OBJECTS THROUGH MATERIAL OBSTACLES.—During the two or three weeks subsequent to the above, over fifty instances occurred in which objects from different parts of the house were placed upon the table round which Mr. Stainton Moses and Dr. and Mrs. Speer were sitting in a locked dark room. The gas was always left burning brightly in the adjoining dining-room, and in the hall outside, so that if either of the doors had been opened, even for a moment, a blaze of light would have been let into the room in which they sat. Mr. Stainton Moses remarks—"As this never happened, we have full assurance from what Dr. Carpenter considers the best authority, common sense, that the doors remained closed." On one occasion a small edition of "Paradise Lost" was placed on the table, and at the same time the words "to convince" were spelt out by raps. This little book had been in the hands of all of them during the evening, and they could testify to the position on a bookshelf where it had been left. One evening seven objects in different rooms were brought in; among them a little bell from the dining-room. They heard it begin to ring, the sound approached the door, they were astonished soon to hear the sound in the room where they sat, round which the bell was carried, close to the faces of all, and finally placed on the table, having been ringing loudly all the time. A curious incident occurred at a later date, the circle of three sitting alone. A small Parian statuette from an upper room was placed upon the table. One of the party requested that a friend who usually communicates might be fetched. "We are doing so" was spelt out by raps. This was taken to be the complete answer, and they ceased to call over the alphabet. However, the alphabet was called for again, and "mething else" was spelt out. No idea could be formed as to the meaning of this. At request it was exactly repeated. After much puzzling it occurred to one of the party to join it on to the previous message—when the meaning became apparent. Mr. Stainton Moses sarcastically remarks—"What a clear case of 'unconscious cerebration'"! "Very soon an odour like Tonquin bean was apparent to all of us. Something fell on the table, and light showed that a snuff-box which had contained Tonquin bean had been brought from Dr. Speer's dressing-room. The box was closed, and the odour was remarked before any of us had the remotest idea that the box was in the room."[51]

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