« PreviousContinue »
In his subsequent communication to the Spiritualist, Mr. Crookes records the results of other experiments with this apparatus, one of them being a variation of that which Dr. Hare had made with the water-vase. These, he asserts, altogether preclude the possibility that Mr. Home, and the lady-medium who was able to produce the like results, should have done so by their own muscular action; and yet it never seems to have occurred to him to test whether the same results could not be produced by throwing the board into rhythmical vibration by an intentional exertion of muscular action!
We must class Mr. Crookes's account of Mr. Home's performances with an accordion with Lord Lindsay's narrative of Mr. Home's moonlight sail. For all these performances took place within a cylindrical cage of hoops, laths, string, and wire, which was placed under a table in a room lighted with gas;
the averment being that the accordion, first held in one of Mr. Home's hands, with its keys downwards, emitted distinct and separate notes in succession, and then played a simple air; whilst afterwards, on Mr. Home withdrawing his hand, the accordion floated inside the cage, without any visible support, and went on playing as before. Mr. Crookes's assistant, who looked under the table when Mr. Home had his hand on the accordion, reported that the accordion was expanding and contracting, but did not say whether or not its keys were moving ; and though Mr. Crookes, his assistant, and Serjeant Cox afterwards saw the accordion floating unsupported in the cage (Dr. Huggins does not testify to this), they do not give us the slightest information as to whether the keys and the bellows of the accordion were at work whilst the instrument was continuing to utter its dulcet sounds.
It will be quite time for us to consider how this performance is to be explained, when it shall have been repeated in open daylight (without any cage), above instead of under a table, and in the presence of trustworthy witnesses, who should carefully record all the particulars in which Mr. Crookes's narrative is deficient. In the meanwhile, it is worthy of remark that it is the accordion which is usually selected as the favourite instrument of spiritmediums; and that the performance on this instrument with one hand is a juggling trick often exhibited at country fairs.
It is admitted by Mr. Crookes that there is a great obstacle to the scientific investigation of Mr. Home's asserted powers,
determination of limiting his attention to these points, without allowing it to be distracted by the devices of the performer; and he was then able to detect a number of the passes” which had previously escaped his observation, admirably trained though this was by his astronomical and mechanical pursuits.
'owing to our imperfect knowledge of the conditions which favour or oppose the manifestations of this force, to the apparently capricious manner in which it is exerted, and to the fact that Mr. Home himself is subject to unaccountable ebbs and flows of this force ;' so that it has but seldom happened that a result obtained on one occasion could be subsequently confirmed and tested with apparatus specially contrived for the purpose. Now, to us there is no mystery whatever. We have constantly found that when we have gone simply as spectators,—when our sceptical disposition was not known, —when no indications of incredulity or even of doubt was given, either on our own part, or on that of others, by word, look, or sign,-when (in fact) the performers had it all their own way, like conjurors at a public performance, at which the spectators are prepared to be taken in,—the conditions are all favourable to the flow of the peculiar force—Mesmeric, Psychic, or Spiritual, as its advocates may choose to designate it. When, on the other hand, the performers are aware that their proceedings are being scrutinised by critical and intelligent eyes; when they know that it would be fatal to their pretensions were they to be detected in deceptions which they can safely practise on the credulous; and when to save appearances) they have accepted tests which they know must prevent them from even attempting these deceptions, the 'unaccountable’ebb takes place, and the results are entirely negative. This is what happened to a committee of scientific men, which met Mr. Home some months ago at St. Petersburg. Mr. Home's force being at a minimum, no manifestations were vouchsafed. • The same thing,' says Mr. Crookes, ‘has frequently happened within my own experience. A party of scientific men met Mr. Home at my house, and the results were as negative as those at St. Petersburg. Instead, however, of throwing up the inquiry, we patiently repeated the trial a second and a third time, when we met with results which were positive.' We doubt not that during these séances Mr. Home was taking the measure of those who had met to take his; and that when he found them sufficiently impressed with the reality of his Psychic force to attribute to it the rippling of the surface of water in a basin, which was really 'produced by the tremor occasioned in Mr. Crookes's house by the passage of a railway-train close to it,* he considered them ripe for its further manifestation,
Having frequently heard the testimony of Mr. C. E. Varley to the physical marvels of Spiritualism cited as that of 'an
* This is not an invention of our own, but a fact communicated to us by a highly intelligent witness, who was admitted to one of Mr. Crookes's séances.
eminent scientific man,' we have made some inquiry into his qualifications as a witness on such matters, and find that they are certainly not superior to those of Mr. Crookes's. Though possessing considerable technical knowledge of electric telegraphy, his scientific attainments are so cheaply estimated by those who are best qualified to judge of them that he has never been admitted to the Royal Society, although he has more than once been a candidate for that honour. We quote the following merely as an example of the manner in which minds of this limited order are apt to become the dupes of their own imaginings :
'I have in broad daylight seen a small table with no one near it but myself, and not even touched by me or any visible
raised off the floor and carried horizontally 10 feet through the air; and I have repeatedly seen a large dining-table lifted bodily off the floor, and when so supported in the air the table has moved in the direction that I mentally requested it to take. In this experiment, not only was the “new force" well developed, but in addition it obeyed my unspoken mental request, to convince me that there was present an “intelligence" that could, and did, read my thoughts.
• I have on a few occasions been able to see the Spirits themselves, sometimes to talk with them. They have frequently foretold things that were about to happen, and in most instances the events have occurred as predicted.'
We are now arrived at the climax—or, as some may perhaps think, the anti-climax —of the marvels, which we are gravely called on to accept as well-authenticated facts. On the 20th of May last, Mr. Herne, of 61, Lamb's Conduit Street, was 'caught away' whilst walking in the neighbourhood of Islington, in open day, and conveyed, by invisible agency, into a room in the house of Mr. Guppy, No. 1, Morland Villas, Highbury Hill Park, its doors and windows being all closed. A fortnight afterwards, a return visit was paid by Mrs. Guppy to Mr. Herne ; the lady being brought by invisible agency into a room measuring twelve feet by ten, of which the doors and windows were closed and fastened, and coming 'plump down,' in a standing position, upon the centre of a table round which eleven persons were sitting, shoulder to shoulder, in a dark séance. Mrs. Guppy was evidently not a consenting party to this transportation, for she was in a state of complete unconsciousness and of partial déshabille, having neither bonnet, shawl, nor shoes; and she seems to have been rudely interrupted by her spiritual captors whilst making up her household accounts, as she held an account-book in one hand, and a pen with the ink still wet in the other. These astounding phenomena are calmly narrated by a Mr. Benjamin Coleman, who is very severe upon scientific men for their incredulity, but seems to consider it rather their misfortune than their fault, since he says, “Had I been fettered by scientific education, I could not have allowed so “preposterous” and “impossible” an event to enter my brain.' Being himself perfectly unfettered, however, by any absurd prejudices, he had been led to anticipate and even to predict that these wonders would culminate in Mrs. Guppy-one of the largest and heaviest women of his acquaintance-being carried away; and we cannot but suspect that his prediction had something to do in bringing about its fulfilment. It is obvious that the party of eleven persons, who were sitting in the dark in Mr. Herne's apartments, were in that state of expectant attention' which is well known to physiologists to be productive of subjective sensations' as well as of movements; and just as, in a “circle' of Table-turners, when one leads off all the others follow suit, so any one who heard or felt anything (seeing being out of the question) which could be fancied to indicate Mrs. Guppy's presence on the table would readily excite the same belief in the minds of the rest ; just as Theodore Hook, in his celebrated experiment on popular credulity, persuaded a London crowd not merely that he, but that they, could see the lion on the top of Northumberland House wag his tail. How, in a dark séance, it was ascertained not merely that Mrs. Guppy was present, but that she was in a state of déshabille, and that the ink was still wet in her pen, we are not informed. The following incident, recorded in another part of the same number of the Spiritualist, seems to afford some clue to the mystery :
* Last Friday week at a dark séance at the residence of Mr. Guppy, two live lobsters were placed on the hands of one of the sitters. It was then made known that Miss Thom, of Pendleton, near Manchester, whispered to her mother that she wished the spirits would bring a live lobster instead of flowers. Mrs. Thom, who attended the circle merely as an inquirer, did not think it proper to repeat the request aloud, so neither the medium nor anybody else at the circle knew that a desire for a lobster had been expressed.' Can any rational person
doubt that these two live lobsters' existed only in the imagination of Miss Thom and her associates ? She could not see them in the dark; and if they had made their presence felt by pinching her fingers, she would have most assuredly screamed. In the state of 'expectant attention,' she doubtless experienced, in unusual strength, the creepy, crawly’sensations familiar to many of us in strange beds, and attributed these to the presence of the lobsters she had been wishing for. If she will assure us that they were boiled for supper Vol. 131.- No. 262.
after the séance, and proved to be substantial, not spiritual, food, we will retract our hypothetical explanation.
We might fill another page or two with Mr. Coleman's accounts of Mrs. Guppy's 'mediumistic' endowments, which, as regards her power of bringing in any quantity of fruits and flowers, are only paralleled by those of a Houdin or a Frikell; whilst she goes beyond these accomplished prestidigitateurs in dashing down large quantities of snow, so clear and sparkling that it could not have been touched by human hands, and pieces of ice, as large as the fist, in such quantity as to require the services of a man-servant to take it away. This last occurrence is vouched for not only by Mr. Coleman but by the editor of the Spiritualist,' who further informs us that Mrs. Guppy and her friends had been sitting before a large fire for half-an-hour before the séance began.
There is one trifling inconsistency we should like explained before we can accept these narratives as veracious. The invisible spirits at Mrs. Guppy's command can obviously do as much for her as did the obedient Jins for the heroes and heroines of the immortal tales that charm the youth of successive generations. If they can bring in any quantity of fruits, flowers, and ices for a dessert, they must surely be able to furnish forth her breakfast and her dinner-tables. When she wishes to travel, they save her not merely the fatigue of the journey, but the cost of cabs and railway fares. What on earth, then, has Mrs. Guppy got to do with household accounts'?
None can be more ready than ourselves to admit that ‘ridicule is not the test of truth ;' but there are some subjects—and we believe this to be one of them as to which ridicule has a wholesome power of checking the spread of pernicious error. We have gravely discussed many of the phenomena which are adduced as evidences of 'spiritual' agency, for the purpose of showing that, like others which had previously presented themselves under different names, they are really produced by the unconscious agency of the individuals through whose 'mediumship’ they are exhibited; and that their occurrence affords new and interesting exemplifications of physiological and psychological principles previously known and accepted. But when we are called on to believe in the 'levitation of the human body, and in the power of incorporeal spirits to move heavy masses of matter without any ostensible agency, to make an accordion play tunes without the working of its bellows or its keys, and to evolve fruits and flowers, snow and ice, live lobsters and the hands of departed friends, out of the depths of their own consciousness, the question is one to be decided, not by an