Preliminary Report of the Commission Appointed by the University
The Seybert Commission
Part 3 out of 4
tapes, as is mentioned later, were, at the end of the seance, found cut
close to the knots.
Whether the tapes were really in their former state, and not already
cut, could only be known by examining them all around, and such an
examination was not allowed.
It should be stated that before this, and after some of the
manifestations, the Medium, with some convulsive movement, as if pulled
and pushed by Spirits, came out from under the curtain, and stood with
his hands on his legs, as if tied there, but it was too dark to see
whether he was really tied, or merely held his hands there, and no
examination was made.
Soon after, the Medium declared that the Spirits were cutting him loose,
and when the curtain was removed and lights brought, the tapes which had
bound his wrists were found to be cut through close to the knots.
Whether this was done at the beginning of the seance, leaving the
Medium's hands free from the beginning, or at the time indicated by the
Medium, there was no means of proving. The cutting of the tapes made the
tying and sewing tests quite valueless.
(Taken from notes made during the seance and immediately after.)
GEO. S. FULLERTON,
* * * * *
The following advertisement was, in March, 1885, inserted in _The
Religio-Philosophical Journal_, of Chicago, _The Banner of Light_, in
Boston, and _The Public Ledger_, in Philadelphia:
"THE SEYBERT COMMISSION FOR INVESTIGATING MODERN SPIRITUALISM," of the
University of Pennsylvania, hereby requests all Mediums for Independent
Slate Writing, and no other at present, who are willing to submit their
manifestations to the examination of this Commission, to communicate
with the undersigned, stating terms, etc.
HORACE HOWARD FURNESS,
* * * * *
When Mr. Keeler, a well-known "Spiritual Photographer," was in the city,
the Acting Chairman called on him, and requested from him in writing a
statement of his terms and the conditions under which an investigation
by this Commission could be held. The following reply was received from
1614 Green Street,
_Philadelphia_, November 6th, 1885.
Dear Sir:--In regard to giving the Photographic Seances I feel that I am
obliged to ask an observance of the following conditions: That there be
three Seances, for which I shall expect the sum of $300. I desire only
the regularly appointed members of the Commission on your side to be
present, I to have the privilege to invite an equal number of persons,
if necessary, to harmonize the antagonistic element which might be
produced by those persons not in perfect sympathy with the cause.
I must have the right to demand, if conditions make it necessary, the
exclusive use of the dark room and my own instrument.
The Seances to be given at your own residence.
As I cannot guard against the influences which others may bring, I shall
expect to be paid the afore-named sum whether my efforts prove
satisfactory or not, although I hope for the most favorable results, and
to this end I would urge the members of the Commission to surround me
with the most congenial and harmonious conditions possible.
These Seances to begin on the 12th inst.
If this meets with your approval an early answer is solicited.
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SEYBERT COMMISSION.
I called this morning (Saturday, 14th November, 1885), on Mr. W. M.
Keeler, and told him, in effect, in the very words as well as I can
remember, as follows: that I had received his letter of the 6th inst.,
containing his terms, and had consulted the Commission in regard to
them; and that our conclusion had been quickly reached. He must know how
very simple a process this 'composite photography' is, and that among
photographers there is no mystery whatever in it. For his own process he
claimed a Spiritual Agency--this agency we were willing to accept (in
my own case I was anxious to accept it) if, after a thorough
investigation, his process could not be explained by well-known physical
laws. The conditions he demanded were such as to render any
investigation simply silly. His exclusive use of the dark room, which
could have nothing to do with Spiritual forces, for the Spirits had
already done their work in the Camera, utterly precluded us from
discovering whether his processes were in anywise different from
ordinary photography. He wished to know in what way this prevented us
from detecting fraud if the operations took place in a private house
where he was a stranger. I replied that without for a moment impugning
his honesty, he must know that unless we were present with him in the
dark room, we could not affirm that our marks had not been duplicated on
Furthermore, that we had regarded his terms as intentionally
prohibitory. The demand for three hundred dollars was so extraordinary
that we could regard it in no other light than as a desire to avoid an
investigation altogether. I asked him what his ordinary charge was, and
he replied two dollars for each sitting, and that he made from twenty to
forty dollars a day, when he settled down to work.
That there might be no misunderstanding, I repeated my reply to his
wife: that we were ready to investigate, if we could be allowed to watch
the very points where material agency ceases and spiritual begins, but
these very points Mr. Keeler forbade us to examine, and that the failure
rested with him.
At one time his vexation (which was manifest) a little ran away with his
discretion. He asked, with somewhat of a sneer, 'How did you expect to
investigate it?' I replied that 'I could not answer for others, but for
myself I should have liked to have him say, when we of the Commission
met him, The Spirits are present, through my Mediumship, here is my
Camera in which the Spirits will manifest themselves on the sensitized
plates, take it, and so long as I am present with my influence, do what
you please.' He laughed outright and said 'That would be a good thing.'
I endeavored throughout the interview to impress him with our utter
incredulity in the spiritual nature of his photographs, and yet to give
him no loop to hang a charge of discourteous or illiberal treatment on.
I asked him to give me, in my private capacity, a sitting at his
earliest convenience, and that I should not be satisfied with less than
a cherub on my head, one on each shoulder, and a full-blown angel on my
breast. He laughingly assented.
HORACE HOWARD FURNESS,
_Acting Chairman Seybert Commission_.
I ought, perhaps, to add that I showed to Mr. Keeler a composite
photograph taken by one of my sons, wherein a Spirit quite as ethereal
as any of Mr. Keeler's, appears in the background. He looked at it, and
returned it to me without remark.
* * * * *
March 30th, 1886.
The Seybert Commission met this evening at the house of Dr. Pepper, to
investigate Spiritistic phenomena produced through the Mediumship of Mr.
Briggs (for an account of Mr. Briggs see a previous report).
There were present, Dr. Pepper, Dr. Leidy, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell,
Professor Koenig, Dr. White, Dr. Knerr, Mr. Fullerton and two friends of
Dr. Pepper, Mr. Charles G. Smith and Mr. Robert S. Davis; also the
Medium, Mr. Fred. Briggs.
The seance was in Dr. Pepper's office; a square table (about 3-1/2 feet
square) was placed in the room near the centre, and was supplemented by
an oblong table (about 4 feet by 3) placed with one end touching the
side of the former, upon the Medium's declaring the former too small.
Seats were taken around the tables.
A banjo, a musical box, a zither, a couple of slates and a fan were on
The Medium insisted that there should be total darkness, and a shawl was
hung over the window to exclude all light.
At first hands were joined around the table. Then the Medium suggested
breaking the circle. His hands were then quite free. Draughts of air
were felt (possibly the fan); the Medium kept making noises, blowing and
breathing hard, talking, etc.; the slates on the table were moved, the
guitar was twanged, the music-box played. During all this the Medium
asked that the hands of all present be kept on the table.
The Medium stated that Mr. Seybert was present. He declared that Mr.
Seybert expressed himself as satisfied with the efforts of the
Commission to make a fair investigation.
When the Medium stated that some message had been written on one of the
slates by Mr. Seybert, the gas was lit, and we found on one slate "I am
here." No one present was able to declare it Mr. Seybert's handwriting,
as none were familiar with his writing.
The light was then turned low. Mr. Smith was asked to sit in the place
of Dr. Mitchell. He held, as directed, one slate up under the table,
and the Medium held the other under the table over his own knee. After
some conversation the Medium drew out his slate, and the light being
turned up we found on it:
"I am with you.
It was too dark to watch the Medium during this last occurrence. The
conversation, which was general, would have prevented writing from being
Light turned up--both slates held by the Medium under the table--no
The light was then turned low. Dr. Leidy was asked to sit next the
Medium. Some noise and confusion resulted from making the change. Then
the Medium asked Dr. Leidy to put his hand also upon a slate which the
Medium was holding up under the table. Attention was then called to a
scratching sound, which might have been writing. The slate was taken out
by Dr. Leidy, and the light turned up. The following was written on it:
"John Smith is with you like a young son.
It was, of course, possible that the writing was done before Dr. Leidy
put his hand on it, as the slate was not then examined.
The Medium suggested that we ask mental questions; several did so,
The light was then turned up. Hands were joined. Some feeble raps were
heard; they apparently issued from under the table.
Slates were held under the table, but without result.
The light was then turned low. A slate was held under the table by the
Medium. He breathed hard, and made no little noise for some time. Then
Dr. Koenig was asked to put his hand on the slate. A scratching was
heard. When the light was turned up the slate contained the message:
"I will help you all.
Dr. Benj. Rush."
With this the seance ended.
(Copied from notes taken during the seance. Written out the day after.)
GEO. S. FULLERTON,
* * * * *
April 11th, 1886.
I attended a seance at the house of Colonel Kase, 1601 North 15th
Street, Philadelphia, on April 11th, at 8.10 P.M. The Medium was Mrs.
There were about a dozen persons present; at least two of them, besides
Mrs. Best, claimed to be Mediums.
The seance was in Colonel Kase's sitting-room. The "Cabinet" was made by
stretching a curtain, suspended to a curved rod, across one corner. It
could hold a chair, and was perhaps four feet across, or more. The
Medium, Mrs. Best, took her seat in the chair and drew the curtain. The
room was made _totally_ dark--a cloth being used to cover the crack of
the door. The spectators, who were arranged in a deep curve facing the
cabinet, were asked to sing a hymn.
As we sang, a voice from the Cabinet, a deep contralto, joined in,
loudly. Soon something resembling in outline a human form covered with
drapery appeared at the Cabinet. It was indistinctly luminous. No face
was visible; nor could the face of any other Spirit, which appeared
during the evening, be discerned even in faintest outline. The light
seemed to belong entirely to the drapery. The Spirit was declared to be
Apollonius, and made a speech in a loud, harsh voice. Other similar
forms appeared one after the other, and spoke in different tones--all
the voices, however, with the exception of Apollonius's and that of
another speaker, were more or less like hoarse whispers. When the Spirit
of Mr. T.R. Hazard appeared, his voice was by no means natural, and
sounded like a bad imitation.
A form calling itself "Lottie" appeared, kissed a Medium present, and at
my request passed its hands over my head and face. Its hands were
covered with luminous drapery which hung down perhaps a foot. I was
allowed to touch it. It felt like soft tulle. A very strong odor of
sandal-wood prevailed, and the smell of phosphorus, even if it had been
used, could not easily, at a little distance, have been discerned. The
luminous appearance of the drapery did not seem to be due to
phosphorus--it did not fume. It seemed rather such as might have been
produced by luminous paint--a mixture luminous in the dark after
exposure to the light. I noticed on the hand, or what, from position, I
inferred to be the hand, of the form, a distinctly phosphorescent
appearance; it was on this account I asked it to touch me. As it passed
its hand over my face I distinctly smelt phosphorus.
At one time two forms appeared near each other and near the Cabinet.
They might easily have been produced by holding up luminous drapery.
Tall and then short forms then appeared one at a time. If the drapery
were raised or lowered the appearance could readily have been produced,
and the person holding it would have been quite invisible.
The different voices that spoke _never_ spoke simultaneously. A large
rug on the floor in front of the Cabinet would have prevented steps from
being heard, had the form been the Medium. On two occasions, when I
suggested that I recognized the form by asking, "Is it ----?" the Spirit
assented, and assumed the character. Both the persons I mentioned are
The seance began at 8.10 P.M., and lasted two hours and a-half. There
was much singing.
The seance was regarded by several Spiritualists who were present as a
very satisfactory one. I expressly asked for their opinion.
(Written out on April 13th, from notes made in the car, on my way home
from the seance.)
GEO. S. FULLERTON,
* * * * *
January 30th, 1887.
Yesterday I visited Mrs. M.B. Thayer, an Independent Slate Writing
Medium, at 1601 North 15th Street, Philadelphia, in hopes of arranging
for a seance at that time. I had a conversation of about half an hour
with Mrs. Thayer, who asked what I had seen before, and with what
Mediums I had sat; but I was not able to get a sitting at once, Mrs.
Thayer declaring "the conditions" unsatisfactory. She made an
appointment, however, for to-day at 4 P.M. In the hall I met, on my
departure, Mrs. Kase, the hostess of the Medium, to whom I am personally
known, and who told me in an 'aside' that she would not reveal my
identity to the Medium. This might readily have been overheard by the
Medium, who was standing close by. [I visited Mrs. Thayer alone, because
she had expressed an unwillingness to appear before the Commission, and
we found it necessary to visit her as private persons.]
Upon calling to-day, I was ushered into Mrs. Thayer's room, in which
stood a small wooden table covered with a red cloth (which hung down,
perhaps a foot, on all sides from the edges of the table), ready for the
seance. Ten or twelve plain single slates lay in a pile on a piece of
furniture near the table.
Mrs. Thayer handed me two of these slates, which I cleaned and examined.
I then marked them on the inside, or what became, when I laid them
together, the inside, and held them while she tied them together with a
piece of white tape. After they were tied they could be separated an
eighth of an inch without difficulty. Holding the slates in my hand, I
examined the table and the furniture near it, and then took my seat at
the table, Mrs. Thayer sitting opposite me. The table was about 2-1/2 x
1-1/2 feet. At the suggestion of Mrs. Thayer, I placed the tied slates
upon the table under the cloth, and we both placed our hands upon the
cloth above them. After waiting for some time for indications of
writing, I withdrew the slates from under the cloth, and, as directed,
held them, with my right hand up against the under surface of the table,
Mrs. Thayer placing her left hand upon my right as I held the slates.
After holding them thus for some time I was told to withdraw them, and
hold them against my forehead. Then I was told to open them and to
scrape some pencil-dust over the inner surfaces. This I did, again
closing the slates, which Mrs. Thayer tied as before. I was again
directed to hold them up against the under surface of the table, and the
Medium again placed her hand upon the hand with which I held them. Her
hand was not wholly upon mine, but projected beyond it upon my wrist and
towards my edge of the slates. After my holding the slates in this
position, seemingly without result, until I was very wearied, the Medium
suggested my laying them upon my lap and covering them with the table
cover, which hung down more on my side than on hers. She said it was
necessary that the slates should be concealed. When they were in this
position we joined hands upon the table, and she placed her feet upon
mine under the table, thus making, as she said, a strong "battery." This
seeming to be inefficacious, I was directed to wrap the slates in a
cloth given me for the purpose (apparently a small table cover) and to
lay them on the floor under the table, placing my left foot upon them.
This I did, and the Medium placed one of her feet upon my left foot,
taking my hands upon the table, and again forming the "battery." After
some waiting, much calling upon the Spirit of Foster to write (this she
did at intervals during the seance) and several requests for raps (which
did not come), the Medium decided that we should get nothing during the
sitting, and it was discontinued. I took up the slates from the floor,
took off the cloth and untied the tape; no mark had been made upon them.
There had been much conversation during the sitting, the Medium telling
me not to keep my mind on the slates, but to put myself into a condition
of "passivity." She declared me mediumistic, and said that she doubted
whether she would ever be able to get results with me. She stated two or
three times that she saw three forms behind me, but dimly, and could
not describe them. One was a "mild and gentle lady, with a beautiful
hand." To the only person whom I can remember with a markedly beautiful
hand, no one would have applied these adjectives. The sitting was about
an hour long.
(Copied and arranged the same evening from notes made in the car on the
way home from the seance.)
GEO. S. FULLERTON.
[I arranged for another seance with Mrs. Thayer, to be held some days
later, but at the time appointed she refused to see me, giving as excuse
* * * * *
On the evening of January 29th, 1887, in company with Dr. J.W. White, I
called on Mrs. Thayer, at No. 1601 North 15th Street.
The lady seemed not to be pleased with our visit, and declared that we
were no Spiritualists. She reluctantly agreed to give us a seance on the
following Sunday, and on parting the gentleman of the house politely
invited us to attend a flower seance to be held by the same lady on the
Calling on Sunday, Mrs. Thayer excused herself on account of
The next Thursday we attended the flower seance, in which I felt much
curiosity from the wonderful story that had been told to me by a
Spiritualist friend, who had seen one by the same Medium several years
The seance was held in the second story of the back building, in a room
which the proprietor of the house informed me he had devoted to the
purpose of Spiritualist seances. About thirty persons were assembled,
and, without any examination of the premises, they were seated around a
long dining-table. In the company Dr. Koenig was the only other member
of the Seybert Commission present. The seance was opened with an
'invocation' by a lady, and during the 'manifestations' the company sang
popular airs, such as 'Sweet by-and-bye,' etc. The doors and windows
were all securely closed and the lights extinguished. Sounds were heard
of objects dropping on the table, and from time to time matches were lit
and exposed, strewed before the company, cut plants and flowers. There
were all of the kind sold at this season by the florists, consisting of
a pine bough, fronds of ferns, roses, pinks, tulips, lilies, callas
(Richardia) and smilax (Myrsiphyllum). At one time there fell on the
table a heavy body, which proved to be a living terrapin; at another
time there appeared a pigeon which flew about the room. The flower
manifestation ceased, and the gas was re-lit. A lady then made some
remarks on the wonderful phenomena exhibited in evidence of the truth of
Spiritualism, and another followed with some sentimentalities on the
subject. The proprietor of the house declared that the flowers and other
objects brought to view in the seance were not previously in the room,
and their appearance could not be explained unless through Spiritual
agency. He said that in former years, at similar seances, flowers had
appeared in much greater quantities. The Medium, Mrs. Thayer, said she
had not before served in a flower seance for several years.
At the next act of the seance, as I understood it, a 'test' was called
for. A young man, whose name I did not distinctly hear, now took the
chair of the former Medium. He promptly announced the appearance of the
Spirit of an Indian girl, and then personified her by assuming a silly
address in broken English. In this manner he expressed himself as seeing
various Spirits of friends and relatives of the company hovering among
them. They were announced by the first name in a rather uncertain and
expectant manner, and in a few instances they were supposed to be
recognized by some of the company, but mostly did not accord with their
knowledge. As an example, the Medium informed Dr. Koenig that a tall man
named Charley was holding something over his head and encouraging him in
some great enterprise. Dr. Koenig did not recognize the man, nor could
he be made to comprehend anything of the subjects of which he was
informed by the materialized Indian girl. During this second act of the
seance, I could detect nothing that could be attributed to other than
ordinary human agency. The Indian girl retired, and the seance closed.
* * * * *
February 10th, 1887.
I enter Col. Kase's house, 1601 North 15th Street, in company of Drs.
Leidy, White and Mr. Sommerville, a friend of the first. We are received
by the Colonel and pass scrutiny. The seance takes place in the second
story sitting-room. This is furnished with a large oak table, a square
piano, and one corner is made into an alcove, the curtains of which are
thrown back and reveal several drawings in black and white--one of the
young Raphael. Over the mantlepiece a painting representing the
apparition of a Spirit-form, to a young lady sitting in front of a
fire-place. On entering this room find the Medium, Mrs. Thayer, engaged
in seating the audience. She is a middle-aged lady of good proportions,
hair black, color flushed, the light eyes look weary, the lower face
rather square, deep lines around the mouth. She is evidently not in very
good humor. After a while the company, between twenty and thirty
persons, mostly women, get seated.
Owing to the many people present I could not see what preparations had
been made. Medium requests that the piano be moved against the door (to
keep off illicit Spirits?). Chair placed against the door. Light turned
out completely. Singing of "Sweet by-and-bye." Medium requests a lady to
invoke Divine blessing. Disgusting cant. More singing. Darkness
impenetrable. Sudden bumping noise on the table. Match struck by the
Colonel just as something crawls over my hand and falls to the floor. It
is a red-bellied terrapin. Some ferns appear neatly arranged on the
table in front and to the left of the Medium. Expressions of
gratification. Dark. Singing. A pine-bough is thrown against me.
Screaming on account of terrapin. Match. Several parties have large
lilies in front of them. My neighbor a lily of the valley (he states
that his wife said before he left: "I wish you would get a lily of the
valley"). Dark. Singing. Match. Dr. Leidy has some red lilies; some
smilax and a wreath are on the table. Great astonishment. Colonel Kase
says it is wonderful, but during the Centennial year they got tables
loaded with flowers (the Medium has not given a flower seance for some
years, she says, hence the rather meagre supply.) A lady points out the
fact that the flowers are quite cold and have a sort of dew on them. But
I found those before me quite dry, as if they had been in the room for
some time. The Medium is tired and retires. Mrs. X. is requested to come
under the influence of her Spirit-guides, and she does. She puts herself
in an oratorical posture, eyes closed, and reels off the common-places
of the _Banner of Light_: the Spirits are eager for investigation, but
benighted men in the flesh cannot make the conditions, and thus continue
to wallow in darkness. The Spirits are kind. They do not damn those poor
benighted ones, but still hold out, in beautiful optimism, the hope that
all those who do want to know the truth will find it!
Another lady, Mrs. Y., is now called upon to put herself under
Spirit-guidance, and she thereupon proceeds to enlighten the sheep-fold
how it is possible that these flowers and branches and turtles can come
through solid walls and closed windows. "It is all awfully simple; it is
nothing but PROJECTION! The Spirits understand the laws of electric
projection; even the electric forces themselves understand the laws of
nature and the currents. The electric force snatches the flower, or
plant, and propels it along invisible wires. There is no such thing as
solid substance, matter is permeable to these forces, and, therefore, it
is easy to see how a terrapin can come quick as lightning through a
Mr. Copeland is now called upon to give the audience some tests, a
rather inoffensive looking young man with hair standing up. The light is
turned down; he jerks his head and body, passes his hand over his eyes
and begins to talk in broken, childish sentences. A little Indian maid
now controls him. The maid describes a tall, bony, black-haired
gentleman standing near _me_, with a fatherly look; he is Charley, and
holds something, as if I were undertaking some grand enterprise. But as
I do not know Charley, Charley disappears, and the spirit of a Quaker
gentleman comes to a lady not far from me--all right. Soon, however, the
maid is at me again. This time it is William. He has something chemical,
like a discovery. Have I not been across the water where people had the
cholera and turned black and died? Did I not very much disappoint a
young lady over there? Did I give her a ring? Margaret, or some name
like that, now comes around. Have I never seen the Medium before? No.
Then I should pay him a visit. Wants to talk with me about my past and
future. Has much to say; and so on. Do I not go often into a building
where many persons work at chemistry? Am I not sceptical?--rather. Wants
to cure my scepticism, and so on, _ad nauseam_. Me is tired, me wants
go. Again the jerks, the rubbing of the eyes, and the Indian maid is
once more Mr. Copeland.
Seance terminates with the payment of one dollar, cash, at 9.30 P.M.
Stifling atmosphere breathed for 1-1/2 hours, for what? _Quelle betise!_
GEO. A. KOENIG.
* * * * *
Saturday, March 26th, 1887.
I attended a seance at the house of Col. Kase, 1601 North 15th Street,
on Thursday evening, March 24th, Mrs. Wells acting as Medium. There were
about thirty persons present, of whom several seemed to be Mediums. The
seance was held in the sitting-room in the second story--a room
separated by double doors from a smaller room behind. The back room,
used as a Cabinet, was shut off by portieres, and the persons were
arranged in front of the curtains, in the form of a deep curve, Dr.
Leidy, Dr. Knerr and myself being put in the second row. Mrs. Thayer
directed us where to sit. The room in which we sat was lighted by a
single gas-jet, situated some distance behind the spectators; a piece of
music was placed before this to prevent any direct light from falling on
the curtains, and the gas was turned very low. Mrs. Wells entered the
room used as a Cabinet, and took her seat in a chair opposite the
curtains. Mrs. Thayer closed the curtains.
After some time Spirits began to show themselves one by one between the
curtains, and to whisper. Mrs. Thayer stepped forward and interpreted
for them, calling up persons in the circle to receive communications.
The forms were very indistinct from the circle, and apparently not very
distinct to those called up, as they expressed some dissatisfaction. One
man called up to speak with his daughter (one of the better forms)
remarked that he "saw her putty good, but not very." One or two of the
forms stepped out in front of the curtains (one was dressed as a man,
one purported to be Mary, Queen of Scots), but they did not advance to
the circle, and the light was so dim that they could not be seen at all
clearly. Only on one or two occasions two forms appeared at once, and
then not in front of the curtains, but one on each side of one of the
curtains--this curtain being pulled together, as though some one were
reaching around behind it. The appearance could very readily have been
made by the Medium's appearing between the two curtains, and holding up
a bit of drapery at the side of one of them. The audience was evidently
an uncritical one. When a Spirit called for her husband, Mrs. Thayer,
the interpreter, asked, "Has anyone here a wife on the other side?" An
old man present stated that his had died two years before. He asked if
the Spirit's name were _May_. When he came back to his seat, I heard him
remark to his neighbor that that "must have been her, but she had more
flesh on than when I knew her." No examination was made before or after
the seance of either room or Medium, and no tests of any sort were
applied. The seance lasted about an hour and a-half.
GEO. S. FULLERTON,
(Copied and arranged from notes made in the car on the way home from
this seance--Saturday evening, March 26th, 1887.)
N.B.--I have neglected to state (though it is mentioned in my notes)
that the seance was commenced by an "invocation" from Mrs. Coleman, who
sat near the curtains. It was in no wise remarkable.
* * * * *
The undersigned, a member of The Seybert Commission, appointed by the
University, in company with one or more of the other members, at
different times, from March, 1884, to April, 1887, attended twelve
seances with reputed Spiritualist Mediums. Led to view Spiritualism with
the respect due to its importance, based on the reflection that many of
the most intelligent and honorable of the community had become convinced
of its truth, I undertook the investigation of the subject free from
conscious prejudice, and with a desire to observe with unbiased judgment
the phenomena which might be presented to me in the seances of
Spiritualist Mediums. Of the dozen seances attended in company with
other members of the Commission, five were held with three Slate-writing
Mediums, two with as many Rapping Mediums, and five with four
Materializing Mediums. All the Mediums possessed more or less celebrity
as such among the advocates of Spiritualism. I further attended,
unaccompanied by members of the Commission, three seances, of which one
was held with one of the former Materializing Mediums, and two with
other Rapping Mediums.
The reputed phenomena or manifestations were carefully observed, as far
as circumstances would permit, _i.e._, under the conditions ordinarily
exacted by Mediums.
I have kept a record of my observations of the Spiritualist seances, but
it is unnecessary to relate them here. As the result of my experience
thus far, I must confess that I have witnessed no extraordinary
manifestation, such as we ordinarily hear described as evidence of
communication between this and the Spirit world. On the contrary, all
the exhibitions I have seen have been complete failures in what was
attempted or expected, or they have proved to be deceptions and tricks
of jugglery. Sometimes accompanied by buffoonery, I never saw in them
anything solemn or impressive, and never did they give the slightest
positive information of interest. Having thus far failed to discover
anything in evidence of the truth of Spiritualism, I yet remain ready to
receive such evidence from an honest Medium.
One of the Slate-writing Mediums, with whom we held several seances,
relieved the tedium of waiting for a slate-communication by writing in
pencil on slips of paper, under Spirit control, as we were assured,
communications from a succession of Spirits. The hand of these
communications was good, and in each one different as it would appear
from different individuals. There was, however, in all a similarity of
expression and grammatical construction, which indicated a want of
entire Spirit control. One of these communications, in my possession,
reads literally thus:
"People have thought my manner and habit very strange indeed regarding
the Truth of Spirit control There has been many things practiced which I
see now was wrong and foolish yet the Truth stills exist that we can
come back and make ourselves felt you ask if I am pleased with what
Thomas [probably Thomas R. Hazard, who was with us at the time] is doing
I am in many respects though there are things best left undone and
unsaid You are perfectly aware of my past feelings also of my desire to
have the truth properly investigated which I feel it will be and the
Truth and Truth only sought after by the Committee I am more concious
now than a time back Henry Seybert"
Another communication in my possession, obtained by a friend from the
same Medium, at another seance, is in an equally good and strikingly
different hand from the former, and reads thus: "Yes both of those
Spirits were there and were plainly seen There was others there that
were imperceptable Alice Cary"
As examples of communications, in irregular scrawls on slips of paper,
in my possession, thrown from behind a screen by a Materialized Spirit,
at a seance of Mr. Keeler, are the following: "Hello folks" "Oh I am a
big slugger" "How is your nose Doc" "I am seeing the sad result of my
work. H. Seibert" [_sic_]. The punctuation and spelling are carefully
* * * * *
THE SLADE-ZOELLNER INVESTIGATION.
Perhaps no other investigation of Spiritistic phenomena has exercised so
strong an influence upon the public mind in America, at least, as that
conducted by Professor J.C.F. Zoellner and his colleagues in Leipsic in
1877 and 1878. In November and December of the year 1877 and in May of
1878, Professor Zoellner had a number of seances with Dr. Henry Slade,
the American Medium, in Leipsic, the results of which he has narrated in
his "Scientific Treatises," and which he finds of special interest in
connection with certain physical speculations with which he was before
this time occupied. He declares himself specially authorized to mention
by name as present at some of his investigations his colleagues,
Professors Fechner and Scheibner, of the University of Leipsic, and
Professor Weber of Goettingen. These three, he states, were perfectly
convinced of the reality of the observed facts, and that they were not
to be attributed to imposture or prestidigitation. He also mentions the
presence of Professor Wundt at at least one of the sittings.
The phenomena narrated by Zoellner--the bursting of the wooden screen,
the passages of coins out of closed boxes, the abnormal actions of the
solid wooden rings, the tying of knots in the endless cord, the prints
made upon smoked paper by the feet of four-dimentional beings--all these
have become classic in Spiritistic literature, and the accounts may be
obtained in convenient form collected, arranged and translated into
English by Mr. C.C. Massey, of Lincoln's Inn, London.
Of these phenomena themselves, verification is, at this late date,
manifestly out of the question. The only published accounts are those
made by Zoellner, and in the absence of notes made at the time, all
descriptions of phenomena given now by the other persons present would
be valueless, except as indicating the impression made upon them at the
time by the occurrences.
But, though the phenomena themselves cannot be satisfactorily sifted,
the men who were engaged in the investigation are, with the exception of
Zoellner himself, still living, and it occurred to me when in Germany
during the past summer, that a conference with each of these men, and an
inquiry into their qualifications for making such an investigation into
the phenomena of Spiritism, might be of no small value. These men are:
_William Wundt_, Professor of Philosophy in the University of Leipsic;
_Gustav Theodore Fechner_, now Professor Emeritus of Physics in the
University of Leipsic; _W. Scheibner_, Professor of Mathematics in the
University of Leipsic; and _Wilhelm Weber_, Professor Emeritus of
Physics in the University of Goettingen--all of them men of eminence in
their respective lines of scholarship.
On Saturday, June 19th, I called upon Professor Wundt at his home in
Leipsic; with respect to the investigation of 1877-78 he gave me the
following information, which I noted down during my conversation with
him, asking him to repeat the points mentioned as I noted them, so as to
avoid any error or misunderstanding, and which I copied out, with merely
verbal changes, two days later.
Professor Wundt said:
1. That at the seances at which he himself was present (and he was
present at two or three of them) the conditions of observation were very
unsatisfactory. All hands had to be kept on the table, and no one was
allowed to look under it.
2. That all that he saw done looked as if it might have been done by
3. That the writing on slates was very suspicious--the German was bad,
just such German as Slade spoke.
4. That Professor Weber, who was present at the sittings, was a very old
man at the time, and presumably not an acute observer.
5. That Professor Fechner, another of those present, was afflicted with
an incipient cataract, and could see very little.
6. That Professor Zoellner himself was at the time decidedly not in his
right mind; his abnormal mental condition being clearly indicated in his
letters and in his intercourse with his family.
7. That he (Professor Wundt) had not a high respect for the scientific
judgment of Professor Ulrici, of Halle, who had been so much impressed
by the report made by Professor Zoellner; Professor Ulrici he thought
literary and poetical, but not scientific.
It will be seen that some of the points mentioned by Professor Wundt are
suggestive; but I will postpone an examination of his statements, as of
those of each of the others, until they have all been given and can be
On the same day (June 19th) I called upon Professor Fechner, also at his
home in Leipsic. Professor Fechner, who no longer lectures, being old
and feeble, and suffering from cataract of the eyes, made the following
statements, each of which I translated to him for his approval, after I
had set it down:
1. That he himself was present at but two sittings, and that these were
not very decisive.
2. That he did not look upon Slade as a juggler, but accepted the
objective reality of the facts; that he did this, however, not on the
strength of his own observations, for these were unsatisfactory, but
because he had faith in Professor Zoellner's powers of observation.
3. That what he saw might have been produced by juggling.
4. That the sittings at which he was present were held at night, and
that he could not remember what sort of a light they had.
5. That Zoellner's mental derangement came on very gradually, so that it
would be difficult to say when it began; but that from the time of his
experiments with Slade it was more pronounced. He (Fechner) did not
think, however, that it incapacitated Zoellner as an observer, the
derangement being emotional; but, such as it was, it was clearly shown
in his family and in his intercourse with friends.
6. Professor Fechner referred me to Professors Scheibner and Weber for
information, saying that these two were present at most of the sittings.
I failed at this time to meet Professor Scheibner, who, though resident
in Leipsic, happened to be away from home on a visit; but, having made
an appointment with him by letter, I returned to Leipsic on July 3d, and
called upon him at his home; upon this occasion he gave me more full and
satisfactory details concerning Professor Zoellner's investigation than
I succeeded in obtaining from any of the others. The notes which I made
during my conversation with him I translated to him, and corrected in
accordance with his suggestions before leaving his house. After my
return to Halle I copied my notes out in full, and sent them by mail to
Professor Scheibner, with the request that he correct them and return
them to me at Berlin, signing his name to them if they correctly
represented his opinions. In answer he enclosed me the copy which I had
sent him, corrected where he thought the notes inexact, and an
accompanying letter, stating that he did not forbid me to use the
material which he had given me, but that he did not wish to set his name
to any publication, if only for the reason that he was not sufficiently
familiar with the English to judge accurately as to the shades of
meaning, and thus could not say whether he accurately agreed with the
notes as they stand, or not.
The copy which he corrected and returned to me I place at length in this
Report, merely translating his corrections (very literally), and
inserting them at the points indicated by himself. They are enclosed in
quotation marks. In some instances, my desire for exactitude in the
translations has resulted in very bad English; the shape of my own
paragraphs is due to the time and manner of their framing, and to a
reluctance to making any changes in their form afterwards.
The copy reads as follows:
On July 3d, 1886, I visited Professor W. Scheibner, at his rooms, in
Leipsic, and obtained from him the following information concerning
Professor Zoellner's Spiritistic experiments with Dr. Henry Slade, the
1. Professor Scheibner thinks that he was present at three or four of
the regular seances with Slade. Slade came to Professor Zoellner's
rooms; they sat around a table for perhaps half an hour, and then, after
the seance was over, they spent an hour or two sitting informally in the
same room, or in the next room, and talking. During these informal
conversations surprising things would occur. Raps would now and then be
heard, and objects would unexpectedly be thrown about the room. In these
conversations Professor Scheibner was present perhaps five or six times.
Some of these took place during the day, and some in the evening.
2. Professor Scheibner said that each single thing that he saw might
possibly have been jugglery, "although he perceived nothing that raised
a direct suspicion."
The whole number of incidents taken together, however, surprised him,
and seemed scarcely explicable as jugglery, for there did not seem to be
the necessary time or means for preparing so many tricks, "which often
connected themselves surprisingly with desires casually expressed in
Professor Scheibner said, however, that he did not regard himself as
competent to form an opinion which should have scientific weight,
(_a_) He knows nothing about jugglery;
(_b_) He was merely a passive spectator, and could not, properly
speaking, make observations--could not suggest conditions, "or gain the
control which seemed necessary;" and
(_c_) He is short-sighted, "and might easily have left unnoticed
He says merely, that to him, _subjectively_, jugglery did not seem a
good "or sufficient" explanation of the phenomena.
3. Professor Scheibner said that he had never seen anything of the kind
before. He had never even, since his childhood, seen any exhibitions of
jugglery; he does not go to see such things, because he is so
short-sighted that if he went he would see nothing. In this connection
he repeated his statement that from this, among other causes, he did not
regard himself as competent to give an opinion. He said that many
persons in Germany had demanded his opinion, but that he had refused it
because he regarded his subjective impression, without objective proofs,
as scientifically valueless.
4. Professor Scheibner said that he did not believe in these things
before. He came to the seances because Professor Zoellner was a personal
friend. He has seen very little of the sort since.
That little has been in the presence of a lady in Leipsic through whom
raps occurred, and psychography. This last phenomenon consisted in
communication through a little contrivance, furnished with an index or
pointer, which answered questions by pointing to letters laid out before
it. This it did when the lady placed her hand on the machine. The
questions were "usually" not asked mentally, but spoken out. There were
no tests applied to these phenomena, no conditions of exact
investigation. Professor Scheibner "holds suspicion of conscious
deception to be out of the question."
5. Professor Zoellner was, said Professor Scheibner, a man of keen
mind, but in his investigations apt to see "by preference" what lay in
the path of his theory. He could "less easily" see what was against his
theory. He was childlike and trustful in character, and might easily
have been deceived by an impostor. He expected everyone to be honest and
frank as he was. He started with the assumption that Slade meant to be
honest with him. He would have thought it wrong to doubt Slade's
honesty. Professor Zoellner, said Professor Scheibner, set out to find
proof for four-dimentional space, in which he was already inclined to
believe. His whole thought was directed to that point.
6. Professor Scheibner thinks that the mental disturbance under which
Zoellner suffered later, might be regarded as, at this time, incipient.
He became more and more given to fixing his attention on a few ideas,
and incapable of seeing what was against them. Towards the last he was
passionate when criticized. Professor Scheibner would not say that
Professor Zoellner's mental disturbance was pronounced and full-formed,
so to speak, but that it was incipient, and, if Zoellner had lived
longer, would have fully developed. Zoellner himself, "whose brothers
and sisters frequently[A] suffered from mental disease, often feared
lest a similar fate should come upon him."
[Footnote A: "Dessen Geschwister mehrfach" etc.--the words may be taken
in two senses.]
7. Professor Scheibner gives no opinion on Spiritism. He can only say
that he cannot explain the phenomena that he saw.
8. Professor Weber, said Professor Scheibner, "attended the
Zoellner-Slade experiments under the same circumstances as he
9. Professor Zoellner's book, said Professor Scheibner, would create the
impression that Weber and Fechner and he agreed with Zoellner throughout
in his opinion of the phenomena "and their interpretation;" but this, he
said, is not the case.
HALLE a.S., _July 5th_, 1886.
So much for the information given by Professor Scheibner. It now
remained to see Professor Wilhelm Weber, and on the evening of July 12th
I called upon him at his house in Goettingen. Of his statements I took
notes during my conversation with him, as in the former instances, and
copied and arranged them the same evening at my hotel. Professor Weber
is now eighty-three years old, and does not lecture. He is extremely
excitable and somewhat incoherent when excited. I found it difficult to
induce him to talk slowly enough, and systematically enough, for me to
make my notes. Professor Weber said:
1. That he thought the things he saw in the seances with Slade were
different from jugglery.
2. That he did not think there was time or opportunity for Slade to
3. That he himself knew nothing of jugglery, nor did Professor Zoellner.
4. That he can testify to the _facts_ as described by Zoellner, and that
he could not himself have described the occurrences better than they are
described in Zoellner's book:--to the _facts_ he is willing to testify,
the _means_ he declares unknown to him, but does not regard jugglery as
a sufficient explanation. If another can understand, he said, how
jugglery can explain the facts, well and good--he can not.
5. That he had never seen anything of the kind before, and has not
since; it being his only experience of Spiritualism.
6. That he had the greatest freedom to experiment and set conditions,
and that the conditions were favorable to observation.
7. That he regarded Professor Fechner as one of the best observers in
the world, and Professor Scheibner as an excellent observer.
8. That Professor Zoellner _was not_ at that time, in any sense, in an
abnormal mental condition.
Professor Weber seemed unwilling to speak decidedly on the subject, but
showed that he leaned to the Spiritistic interpretation of the facts. He
said that the things done indicated intelligence on the part of the
Having now before us the testimony given by these survivors of the
famous investigation, I will collect briefly the facts relating to each
of those concerned--adding in one or two cases from other sources--and
point out the nature and value of their testimony to the occurrences
recorded by Professor Zoellner.
1. As to Professor Wundt, who is by profession an experimental
psychologist, and an observer. Professor Wundt did not regard the
investigation, so far as he participated, as in any respect thorough or
satisfactory. The conditions of observation were not present. When
called upon by Professor Ulrici to describe the occurrences as he saw
them, he said he would not willingly describe what he had not had
opportunity to observe.
2. As to Professor Zoellner, the chief witness and author of the book
published, a number of points are worthy of note.
(1.) The question of his mental condition at the time of the
investigation. It is asserted by Baron Hellenbach (see _Geburt und Tod_
etc., Wien, 1885, S. 96) that Zoellner was of sound mind up to his
death. The statement should have due weight, but the author's general
attitude towards Spiritism should not be overlooked. I do not consider
his testimony for Zoellner's sanity as good as that of Fechner or
Scheibner against. Of the four men mentioned as connected with him,
Wundt, Weber, Fechner and Scheibner, three (all except Weber) are
decidedly of the opinion that his mental condition was not normal. The
opinion of Wundt, as of a man whose profession would not permit him to
speak hastily upon this topic, I would regard as of special value; but
if we rule that out upon the ground that Wundt was not impressed by the
investigation, and might naturally be inclined to underrate Zoellner,
who was, we have left the opinions of Fechner and Scheibner, both
Zoellner's colleagues at Leipsic, both particular friends of Zoellner,
and both inclined to agree with him as to the reality of the facts he
describes. Both of them regarded Zoellner at the time as of more or less
unsound mind. His disease, as described by them, seems to have been
chiefly emotional, showing itself in a passionate dislike of
contradiction, and a tendency to overlook any evidence contrary to a
To the general change in his nature due to his disease Professor
Scheibner testifies; and Professor Fechner's belief as to his mental
condition is specially worthy of note from the fact that, although
recognizing it to be abnormal, he still holds his powers of observation
to be sound, and upon this ground is inclined to assent to the facts
described. If anyone could be tempted to make Zoellner as sane as
possible, it would be one in the position of Professor Fechner.
Professor Weber's testimony I will examine later. Upon the question
whether the peculiar form of Zoellner's disease would be likely to
affect his powers of observation, the following points may throw some
(2.) It is evident, both from what Zoellner has himself printed and from
what Professor Scheibner has said, that Zoellner's interest in the
investigation centered in his attempt to prove experimentally what he
already held to be speculatively true as to a fourth dimension of space.
In a paper published in the _Quarterly Journal of Science_, for April,
1878, he says:
"At the end of my first treatise, already finished in manuscript in the
course of August, 1877, I called attention to the circumstance that a
certain number of physical phenomena, which, by 'synthetical conclusions
_a priori_' might be explained through the generalized conception of
space and the platonic hypothesis of projection, coincided with
so-called Spiritualistic phenomena. Cautiously, however, I said:--'To
those of my readers who are inclined to see in Spiritualistic phenomena
an _empirical_ confirmation of those phenomena above deduced in regard
to their _theoretical_ possibility, I beg to observe that from the point
of view of idealism there must first be given a precise definition and
criticism of _objective reality_'" etc. Now this reference to
Spiritualistic phenomena was made before Zoellner had seen anything of
the kind, and his attitude was evidently a receptive one. Moreover, we
have Professor Scheibner's testimony to the fact that during the whole
investigation his attention was entirely directed towards the subject of
the fourth dimension, and an experimental demonstration of its
existence. Bearing in mind, therefore, the mental attitude in which, and
the object with which, Zoellner approached this investigation, we cannot
look upon any subjective, or emotional, mental disturbance, which
results, as described, in making him narrow his attention more and more
upon a few ideas, and disregard or find it difficult to observe what
seems contrary to them, as without objective significance, particularly
where we know the man to be a total stranger to investigations of such a
nature as this one, and not only quite ignorant as to possible methods
of deception, but unwilling to doubt the integrity of the Medium.
(3.) There are things in Zoellner's own accounts which indicate a
certain lack of caution and accuracy on his part, and tend to lessen
one's confidence in his statements. As an instance of inaccuracy, I may
mention the statement he makes in his article in the _Quarterly Journal
of Science_ as to the opinions of his colleagues. Professor Zoellner
"I reserve to later publication, in my own treatises, the description of
further experiments obtained by me in twelve seances with Mr. Slade,
and, as I am expressly authorized to mention, in the presence of my
friends and colleagues, Professor Fechner, Professor Wilhelm Weber, the
celebrated electrician from Goettingen, and Herr Scheibner, Professor of
Mathematics in the University of Leipsic, who are _perfectly_ convinced
of the reality of the observed facts, altogether excluding imposture or
Here the attitude of the four men is not correctly described, and
Professor Zoellner's statement does them injustice, as Professor
Scheibner remarked. At least two of the men were merely _inclined_ to
accept the facts, and to these two the words "_perfectly_ convinced"
will not apply.
As one out of numerous instances of lack of caution, I may refer to
Zoellner's statements, that at certain times writing was heard upon the
slates, giving no proof whatever to show that the writing was really
done at the time of hearing the sounds, and apparently quite ignorant
of the fact that deception may readily be practiced on this point.
3. As to Professor Fechner. The fact is admitted that he was, at the
time of the investigation, suffering from cataract, which made all
observation extremely defective. Moreover, he was present at but two of
the sittings, and has stated that he did not regard these as very
decisive. His attitude towards the phenomena described is based on his
faith in Professor Zoellner's powers of observation, and not on what he
saw himself. He does not, therefore, as an independent witness would,
add anything to the force of Professor Zoellner's testimony.
4. As to Professor Scheibner. His position is simply that he cannot see
how the whole series of phenomena can reasonably be attributed to
jugglery, though he admits that each single thing he saw, alone
considered, might possibly be. He does not regard himself, however, as
able to give an opinion which should have objective value; because he
was merely a passive spectator, and could not, properly speaking, make
observations--could not suggest conditions,--because he knows absolutely
nothing about jugglery, and the possibilities of deception, and because
he is so short-sighted that he may easily have overlooked something of
importance--so short-sighted that he never goes to see a juggler,
because he sees nothing.
5. As to the last witness, Professor Weber, his testimony agrees more
decidedly with that of Professor Zoellner. He was present at eight
seances, declares the occurrences to have been as represented by
Professor Zoellner, and denies that Zoellner was in any sense insane.
But Professor Weber is from Goettingen, and was at the time of the
investigation in Leipsic on a visit; it is not improbable that those of
Professor Zoellner's colleagues, who lived and worked at the same
University with him, may have had better opportunities for judging as to
his mental condition than one who only saw him occasionally. Moreover,
Professor Weber's opinion as to the qualifications of the men with whom
he was associated does not seem to have been always sound. One who could
look upon Professor Fechner as one of the best observers in the world,
and Professor Scheibner, as for the purpose in hand, an excellent
observer, neglecting entirely to note that one was partly blind and that
the other could not see well, might readily overlook the fact of a not
very pronounced mental aberration on the part of a third person. And as
to Professor Weber's opinion of the phenomena, it is well to note that
Professor Weber was seventy-four years old at the time, had had no
previous experience in investigations of this kind and was quite
ignorant of the arts of the juggler. Whatever may be a man's powers of
reflection at seventy-four, it is natural to suppose that his powers of
perception, especially when exercised in a quite new field, are not at
that age what they were some years previously.
Thus it would appear that of the four eminent men whose names have made
famous the investigation, there is reason to believe one, _Zoellner_,
was of unsound mind at the time, and anxious for experimental
verification of an already accepted hypothesis; another, _Fechner_, was
partly blind, and believed because of Zoellner's observations; a third,
_Scheibner_, was also afflicted with defective vision, and not entirely
satisfied in his own mind as to the phenomena; and a fourth, _Weber_,
was advanced in age, and did not even recognize the disabilities of his
associates. No one of these men had ever had experiences of this sort
before, nor was any one of them acquainted with the ordinary
possibilities of deception. The experience of our Commission with Dr.
Slade would suggest, that the lack of such knowledge on their part was
A consideration of all these circumstances places, it seems to me, this
famous investigation in a somewhat new light, and any estimate of
Zoellner's testimony, based merely upon the eminence in science of his
name and those of his collaborateurs, neglecting to give attention to
their disqualifications for this kind of work, cannot be a fair or a
In concluding this Report, I give sincere thanks to all of these
gentlemen for their courtesy and frankness--a frankness which has alone
made it possible for me to collect this evidence; and which, considering
the nature of the evidence, must be regarded as most generous. To
Professor Scheibner, especially, my thanks are due for the trouble he
has taken in helping me to make my notes exact and truthful.
GEO. S. FULLERTON.
* * * * *
In 1884 rumors reached me of remarkable Spiritual communications from a
revered friend and relative, Dr. Hering. These communications had come
through a slate-writing Medium by the name of Patterson, and were
received by two gentlemen whose names I am not at liberty to mention,
but whom I will call A. and B. Both were prominent men, and both had
become thorough believers in Spiritualism after several sittings with
Mrs. Patterson. A. claimed to have received personal benefit from
medicines thus prescribed, and learned the circumstances of his son's
death which had occurred in some mysterious manner far away from home.
B. has since died, and communications under his signature have come
through this same Medium.
The manifestations in this province of Spiritualism, Independent
Slate-Writing, would seem to be of a nature more tangible and direct
than those of so-called Materializing or Trance Mediums, and, therefore,
in this instance I determined to test to the utmost what had been
reported to me concerning communications from one who stood so near in
Although I received a number of messages at my first visit, written in
pencil, in many different handwritings, which the Medium alleged were
written by Spirit-control of her hand, I received but one or two in the
slate. The slate was a small double slate, joined together with hinges,
about 10 inches by 12 inches in dimension. Inside of the slates, written
on a slip of paper, carefully folded, I placed the question "Can I
obtain a communication from Dr. Hering which will be characteristic of
himself?" A small piece of slate pencil chipped from an ordinary pencil,
perhaps an eighth of an inch long, was placed within the slates,
together with the written question. The slates were then tightly screwed
together at the open end, by myself, with the blade of an old knife
which was at hand to serve the purpose of a screwdriver. It was then
placed by the Medium in her lap, under the table, one hand, the left,
resting upon the slate, the other hand remaining on top of the table,
writing, with a lead pencil, messages in different handwritings, on
These messages came in characters bold as John Hancock's, and in
chirography as small and neat as the writing of Charlotte Bronte, whose
manuscript the compositor is said to have deciphered with the aid of a
magnifying glass; and between these extremes were a dozen or more styles
as varied and marked as one could wish. The purport of these messages,
which were written rather quickly, and without perceptible thought or
hesitation, changing from one handwriting to another without the least
apparent difficulty, was in some instances the veriest twaddle, while
others contained tolerably good sense, even in language rather above the
Medium, unless appearances were misleading, for she looked the
embodiment of ignorant simplicity, and spoke far from grammatically.
The table at which we sat was a very ordinary little sewing-table,
without any drawer or compartment, and before sitting down I examined it
top and bottom, a privilege freely accorded. We had sat about ten
minutes when the Medium brought up the slate with the little piece of
pencil, which I had scratched with a knife for identification, lying on
top of the slate. The screw was in its place, seemingly as I had put it.
I was requested to remove the screw, which I did, and found written
across the inside surface of one of the slates the words "I will try to
accede to your wish," signed with the initials of my departed friend, to
whose handwriting it was not dissimilar. I was much puzzled by this
answer, I confess, and immediately placed within the slates another
question, this time addressed to the name of another deceased friend.
Again I screwed up the slates with my own hand, and kept my eyes riveted
on the hands of the Medium as well as my position would permit, without
getting up and bending over the table. I did not have long to wait
before an answer came as before, again signed with the initials of the
person addressed. How the writing came in the slate I could not surmise.
The following are specimens of the communications which were written by
the Medium's controlled, possibly self-controlled, free, right hand, at
my first visit:--
(In a fine, light, legible hand.)
Cannot say wether we can control the slate or no. will do our utmost to
do so there are times when we cannot get the proper influences nor find
the right conditions. C HERING
(In a close, heavy hand.)
we have quite as much power over you as over any other medium,
mediumistic forces are not confined to a few, but exist to some extent
in all. be patient we will do what we can. H
(In a sprawling back hand, the same as a subsequent one, signed Thomas
The friend you have asked for is here and will do what he can to comply
with your wish it is not necessary that you should sit with any medium
to convince yourself of this truth you have enough of this power to get
almost any sort of manifestations you should ask for they will develope
without any effort on your part but you can materially assist them
(In a neat and precise feminine hand.)
There stands by thy chair a venerable man who had passed through many
years of work in his profession on the earth plane he is one that doth
influence and impress thee to do many things when in the body was a
phisician of the homeopathic school he sayeth that he doth feel the same
interest in the progruss of the medical fraternity as when in the body.
appeareth to be one of strict integrity and ranked high as a thinker
thou hast many years to stay in the form and through thee a work will be
completed that none other can do
(In a small, rather indistinct feminine hand.)
I dont think the doctors knew what my trouble was. I know if doctor
Hering or Raue had treated my case I would still be in my body but its
no difference as far as I am concerned I have found this life far the
best leaving my mother was hard, but now I know how to get back to her I
(In a plain masculine hand.)
if you prepare a slate the doctor will give you a message on it in his
own handwrite and one characteristic of him
(In a small, rather illegible hand.)
My friend Tiedemann made a mistake in the medicine he prepared for me he
never for a moment thought it would prove anything but a help but it had
the effect of sending me to the higher life
(In a large, generous, open hand.)
Yea if thee dost fix a slate so as to satisfy thyself thy friend will
write on it and give thee a description of his birth into everlasting
(In a very indistinct feminine hand.)
cannot say wether we can procure the presence of any one just now that
can write music were it possible to have any one conversant with it they
could not only write one but many notes for you
(In a small, cramped hand of almost microscopic fineness supposed to be
Charlotte Bronte, and occupying but very little more space than on this
The future holds much for you of success, the later portion of this and
the whole of the next will be filled with prosperity you have a band of
the more advanced spirits about you and were you to follow your first
impressions you would never fail in your judgment
(In a clear scholarly hand.)
a man of few words when in the body I still have the same peculiarities
will with your permission become one of your guiding band
(In a bold masculine hand).
Sit for ten or fifteen minuets two evenings in the week and thus help
perfect the powerful gifts you have, through them you can do much good
both for others and yourself
(In the same hand as a preceding communication signed TL)
Be patient; the party that wrote on the slate before is trying to do it
over we sometimes have a difficulty in doing this
(In a slow, labored, uncouth hand.)
I know one thing and that is that they didn't make any headway in
killing me when they hung me nor even when they scooped my brains out
afterward--damn the doctors--damn the preachers--I hate them all they
lied to me preachers priests and all they told me it was all right but I
have found out its all wrong. I havent seen Mrs Reed nor do I want to I
never was sorry that I killed her, it don't make a saint out of a man to
send him out the way I had to go--its only killing--they were as bad as
I was--I cant see--its dark
[Footnote A: McGinnis was a murderer recently hung for the brutal
killing of his mother-in-law. Particulars of the murder, execution and
autopsy were in all the local papers.]
(In an ordinary feminine hand.)
Put a piece of paper on a stand place a pencil on it and I will try to
make the scale for you at home there is a power that is growing on you
that will enable me to do this in a few times of trying I could write my
own hand this is my first time of coming here so that makes it harder
for me to get control
(This doggerel came in answer to a question whether the Spirits could
write poetry, and is in a hand not dissimilar to the preceding
communication, although the signatures differ.)
When the clear bright sun was shining
Then they took my cherished form
And they bore it to the church yard
To consign it to the worm
Well no matter that was only
The clay dress your loved one wore
God had robed her for an angel
She had need of this no more
Though the tears fell fast and faster
Yet you would not call me back
Nay be glad her feet no longer
Tread life's rough and thorny track
Yes be glad the father took her
Took her whilst her heart was pure
Oh be glad he did not leave her
All life's trials to endure
(In a sprawling hand.)
Your friend has lost the Control I cannot say wether it will be possible
to regain it now or no I find it hard work to get any hold at all.
(Each letter distinct, as a child would print the alphabet.)
Chief there cant come any answer the magnetic current is broken for want
of power we go now but will come in your own wigwam
* * * * *
At the following seances I received slate writings repeatedly. Sometimes
the slate would scarcely be in the Medium's hands before a message
appeared, each time with the little pencil on top. I was told that I was
an excellent Medium, that, if I cultivated the faculty, would soon
myself be able to obtain these slate writings. I was also asked to
prepare a slate secured in any way I wished, and had the promise that a
message would be written within it. I acceded to the request and took a
slate of my own, tied it up in every direction with twine, and put my
private seal upon it in several places where I had knotted the string.
This slate the Spirits could not overcome. I never received the promised
message. I never even had the slate returned to me. After remaining in
the Medium's possession for several months, she having changed her
residence in the meantime, she told me the slate had disappeared and
somehow must have gotten lost in moving. At any rate the slate had been
spirited away somehow. I will here mention that at about the third or
fourth sitting I asked permission to watch the slate while it was under
the table, which was freely granted, but on this occasion, and whenever
I did so, there were no results.
On one occasion we took the trouble to bring Mrs. Patterson to a room in
the house of our departed friend. She was here among a small circle of
intimate friends and members of the family, some inclined to belief and
others skeptics. She failed utterly to obtain as much as even a scratch
inside of the slates, although communications on paper came thick and
fast. I may mention that on this occasion several persons sat with the
slate continually in full view.
I had almost decided to drop Mrs. Patterson and her slate writing,
although reluctant to do so, because I had no certain and positive
evidence of fraud with which to confront my friend, who was getting
impatient at my slowness in accepting all I had seen, when I resolved to
push my investigations to a point of certainty, one way or another, and
hit upon the little scheme of going prepared, at my next visit to Mrs.
Patterson, with a mirror in my pocket which I could hold under the table
at an angle that would reflect whatever occurred on the other side of
the table, in the Medium's lap, the accustomed position of the
mysterious slate. The sitting was held in broad daylight, and the table
was so placed that the Medium was seated with her back to a window,
affording sufficient light for the experiment. I purposely avoided
removing my overcoat on this day, because I wished to hide my movements
as much as possible, and sat down at my side of the table with
considerable misgiving as to the result of taking liberties with the
Spirits. The Medium this time had on her table a new slate, a larger
one, one which she said had belonged to the celebrated Slade who had
himself received messages on it. She said her old slate was broken,
which was probably true; when I had last seen it it was in a battered
condition. She asked if it would make any difference to me if she used
the new slate. The only apparent difference between the slates was that
this one was larger and did not close with a screw, therefore, thought
I, more easily manipulated; consequently I did not withhold my consent.
I wrote upon a slip of paper my question, "Will Dr. H. advise me what
to do for Juliet (an old colored patient)?" I folded over the slip of
paper five times, put it in the slate with a small stub of pencil, and
down the slates went into the lap of the Medium where I could see them,
lying plainly reflected in my little mirror which I had slipped out of
my pocket and laid across my knees at the proper angle of reflection.
Mrs. Patterson first wrote a letter-sheet full of alleged Spirit
communications, and handed them to me across the table for perusal. I
took the sheet with one hand and while ostensibly scanning the written
page, with the other hand I carefully adjusted my little mirror, on
which my downcast and watchful eyes were fixed, when lo! in the mirror
_I beheld a hand_, closely resembling that of the Medium, _stealthily
insert its fingers between the leaves of the slate, take out the little
slip, unfold and again fold it, grasp the little pencil_, which had
rolled to the front while the slate was tilted that way, _and with rapid
but noiseless motion_ (had there been the least noise from the pencil,
it would have been drowned by the fit of coughing, which, at that
instant, seized the Medium) _write across the slate from left to right,
a few lines; then the leaves of the slate were closed, the little pencil
laid on the top_, and, over all, two hands were folded as if in
benediction. The woman opposite me, to whom the hands belonged (unless
they were Spirit hands) sat with uplifted eyes, a calm expression of
innocence upon her face. After holding the slates so for a moment or
two, and after calling to the Spirit friends "to come and _please_ write
in the slate," she produced them, saying, "It has come!"
Of course, I did all I could to master my indignation, which, at that
moment, was extreme, and quietly opening the slates, I read the message
pretending to have come from high authority, "The channels are
obstructed, give Arsenic, Bryonia and Pulsatilla in succeeding doses, an
hour apart!" The last words were somewhat illegible, and Mrs. Patterson
suggested another trial; she thought the Spirits would write it plainer.
Again the slates went down; _again I saw the hand at work as before_.
This second time the hurriedly written message was not much plainer than
the first. Mrs. Patterson, who was better versed in deciphering Spirit
dispatches than I, offered to read it for me, but remembering that "all
good things are three," I requested a third trial. After this last
experiment, in which again, _for the third time, in my little mirror, I
saw the stealthy fingers write on the slate_, I told the Medium I was
satisfied, smothered my indignant anger, and left the house as quickly
as I could. For the larger part of a year I had investigated in good
faith this department of Spiritualism, which, in this Medium's case, had
turned out a downright fraud.
Not long after my last interview with Mrs. Patterson it was my good
fortune to meet with an _unprofessional_ Medium, a young gentleman of
reputed honor and veracity, to whom I was introduced by a friend who had
known him from childhood, and vouched for his honesty. This young man's
Mediumistic abilities had begun to develop with the planchette, and had
reached the stage in which a drum and sundry musical instruments were
played behind a curtain where he sat entranced, with his hands tightly
bound together by a handkerchief or cord. These seances were continued
with regularity on certain nights in the week, and were confined
strictly to the family circle and to a few privileged friends. There
was, therefore, no temptation to deceive for gain. I came into the
circle as an observer, not as believer, but was impressed by the
phenomena witnessed at the first seance in which the Medium was under
Indian control. There were strange sounds, guttural tones and whoops
which really might have emanated from a wild son of the forest. A drum,
an accordion, a zither, a mouth-organ were all played upon. The
drumsticks kept time to music, rapped on the wall, appeared above the
edge of the curtain several times, brightly illuminated, as if dipped in
electric light or some phosphorescent substance. As I have said, I was
impressed, and might have ended in complete conversion, by
manifestations from so trustworthy a source, and vouched for in such
perfect sincerity, had it not, in an unlucky moment, occurred to me to
apply a little harmless test.
The test consisted simply in putting a dab of printer's ink on one of
the drumsticks at the very last moment before the seance began. The
result could not prove physically injurious to the Medium, who had
challenged investigation, nor to any one in the circle. The result was
startling. Being accorded the privilege of tying the Medium's hands, I
proceeded to do so with a stout cord, using a certain knot which I
believe has never been known to slip or come undone. This accomplished,
and while some one else fastened the Medium securely to his chair, with
his back to the instruments on the table, the ink, concealed in a
pocket-handkerchief, was applied. In this position we left the Medium,
the lights were lowered and the music began. Soon were heard the deep
breathings preceding the trance, then the 'Indian' began to manifest, at
first somewhat sullenly, as if not pleased with the conditions, some of
the instruments sounded, and at last the drumsticks began their tattoo.
At the close of the seance, when the curtains were drawn and the lights
turned up, the Medium was found in his chair with his hands still tied,
but great was the astonishment of everyone present at the marvelous
condition of the Medium's hands. How in the world printer's ink could
have gotten smeared over them while under control of 'Deerfoot, the
Indian,' no one, not even the Medium, could fathom.
I believe there is an explanation for these or similar phenomena, but I
must leave it to the ingenious and adroit expounders of Spiritualist
CALVIN B. KNERR.
* * * * *
At my very first seance, as a member of this Commission, I was told by
the Spirit of Elias Hicks, through Mrs. Patterson, that I was gifted by
nature with great Mediumistic power. Another Medium, with whom I had a
session shortly afterwards (I cannot remember his name, but he
advertised himself as a great 'Australian Medium'), professed himself
quite unable to exert any power in the presence of a Medium so much more
powerful than himself. 'Father Holland,' the control of Mrs. Williams,
in New York, assured me that I merely needed development to have
Spiritual manifestations at my own home; and Joseph Caffray was so
emphatic in his assertions of my extraordinary Spiritual capabilities,
that I began to think that it was my duty to quicken these dormant
powers and not to let them 'fust in me unused,' and if successful, when
I had become fully 'developed,' I could offer myself to my fellow
Commissioners as a _corpus vile_ on which every experiment could be
made, and at a great saving of expense.
Spiritualists constantly reproach investigators of Spiritualism with
faint-heartedness and lack of patience; they allege that at the very
first rebuff all investigating ardor cools, and that one failure is
deemed sufficient to condemn a whole system.
If the case be really thus, the Spiritualists have a show of reason for
this objection, and it behooves the Seybert Commission to give no ground
After much deliberation I decided to put myself in the hands of Caffray
for 'development.' I preferred this Medium, first, because he was the
most emphatic of all in his assertion of my almost unrivaled Mediumistic
powers, and in his confidence that indications of Spiritual growth would
be manifest in three or four weeks, and at the end of six weeks or of
two months I might celebrate my Spiritual majority by slatefuls of
messages; and, secondly, Mr. Hazard assured me again and again that
Caffray was the 'greatest Medium in the country;' and did not Mr.
Hazard, by way of proof, show me a stoppered vial containing a card, on
which, through Caffray's Mediumship, a message had been written while
the closed vial was fast held in his closed hand?
The first step was the purchase of two slates from Caffray, for which I
gave him several dollars. They were common enough to look at, but ah!
they had been for months in his Materializing Cabinet and had absorbed
Spiritual power to the point of saturation, and fairly exuded it. I
brought them carefully from New York, and folded them in black muslin,
and laid them away in a dark drawer.
Caffray told me that with a beginner the Spirits found it somewhat
easier to write with French chalk than with slate pencil. So I bought a
box of a dozen pieces, such as tailors use.
The instructions which I received from Caffray were to keep these slates
carefully in the dark, and every evening at about the same hour to sit
in total darkness, with my hands resting on them for about a half or
three-quarters of an hour; to maintain a calm, equable, passive state of
mind, even to think of any indifferent subject rather than to
concentrate my thoughts too intently on the slate-writing. There could
be no question of the result. A Medium of my unusual and excessive power
would find, at the end of three weeks, faint zig-zag scratches within
the closed slates, and these scratches would gradually assume shape,
until at last messages would be legible, probably at the end of six
weeks, or of three months at the very farthest.
In addition to this, I must wear, night and day, a piece of magnetized
paper, about six inches square, a fresh piece every night and morning;
its magnetism was exhausted in about twelve hours. When I mentioned to
Mr. Hazard the proposed use of this magnetized paper, he assured me that
it was a capital idea--that he had himself used it for a headache, and
when he put it on the top of his head 'it turned all his hair backward.'
I confess to dismay when I heard this; Caffray had told me that I must
wear this paper on the top of my head under my hat! But did it not
behoove the Acting Chairman of the Seybert Commission to yield himself a
willing victim to the cause of Psychical Research? Was to be, or not to
be, a Medium so evenly balanced that the turning of a hair, or of a
whole head of hair was to repel me? Perish the thought! That paper
should be worn on the top of my head, under my hat, and that hat should
be worn all day long. I would eat my breakfast with that hat on, eat my
dinner with that hat on, and sleep with that hat on, and that magnetized
paper should remain on the top of my head, let it turn my hair to all
the points of the compass, if it would!
When I received the slates from Caffray he had no paper that was
sufficiently magnetized just then; he had some sheets that were about
half done, and promised to send them to me as soon as the process was
In the meantime I began with the slates, sitting with them in total
darkness from about a quarter past eight to nine o'clock every evening,
with my hands resting on them lightly.
In three or four days the paper arrived. I explained to my family that
hereafter they must not infer, from the wearing of my hat indoors and at
meals, either that my wits had slipped, or that I had become converted
to Judaism, but that my conduct was to be viewed by the light of the
pure flame of research. In my secret soul I resolved that I would go at
once, that very morning, to New York and plead with Caffray for some
slight easing of my ordeal. The 'Spectre of the Threshold' appeared to
wear a silk hat, and I was afraid I never, never should pass him.
The magnetized paper I handled with awe. It was, in outward semblance,
ordinary white blotting paper, and, from some faint indications of ink
here and there, looked as though it might on occasion have served its
original use; but had I not paid a dollar a sheet for it? It must be
As I started for the train I put a piece on the top of my head, gave a
fond, farewell look at my hair, and planted my hat firmly on my brows. I
reached the train, and while looking for a seat caught sight of my
friend, Miss W----. Of course, I instantly bowed, and instantly there
came fluttering down before her astonished and bewildered eyes a piece
of blotting paper. I snatched it hastily, and in terror lest I had
already broken the charm and forfeited all chance of Mediumship, retired
to the rear of the car and furtively replaced the precious pad.
Decidedly I must see Caffray at once.
Luckily, when I reached New York I found that eminent Medium at home,
and, 'bonneted,' rehearsed to him my dread anticipations. He could not
repress a grim laugh, and to my inexpressible relief gave me permission
to wear the paper suspended round my neck next the skin.
With those precious slates I sat every night, at the same hour, in
darkness. I allowed nothing to interfere with this duty; no call of
family, of friends, of society, was heeded. At the end of three weeks I
searched every molecule of the slate for the indication of a zig-zag
line, but the surface was unsullied, and its black monotony returned
stare for stare.
Still hopeful and trustful I continued, day by day and week by week. The
six weeks expired. Not a zig, nor a zag. Caffray was kept busy
magnetizing paper. I renewed my stock and determined to push on to two
months. I moved to the country and carried my slates thither, wrapped in
double folds of black muslin. The days and weeks rolled on. Two months
passed. The slates were as clean as when they came into my possession. I
would go on to three months. Does not a hen sit for three weeks? Where
a hen gives a week, shall not I give a month? Is not a Medium worth more
than a chicken?
'Courage!' cried Caffray, with each batch of paper. I went to the
seashore and my slates went with me. Not a single evening did I break my
And so it went on. The three months became four; became five; became
And there an end, with absolutely virgin slates.
I had used enough blotting paper, it seemed to me, to absorb a spot on
the sun. I dare not calculate the number of hours I had spent in
Let Spiritualistic reproaches of investigators for lack of zeal and
patience be heaped up hereafter till 'Ossa becomes a wart;' I care not;
my withers are unwrung.
_Punch_ gives a receipt for making 'Gooseberry Fool:' 'Carefully skin
your gooseberries, extract the seeds and wash the pulp in three waters
for six hours each. Having done this with the gooseberries, the Fool is
HORACE HOWARD FURNESS.
* * * * *
Readers of the Spiritualistic literature of the present day cannot fail
to have their attention frequently called to the remarkable power
attributed to certain Mediums, not only of reading the contents of
envelopes which are securely gummed and sealed, but of returning to the
questions therein contained pertinent answers from friends in the other
world. It is far from uncommon to hear of conversions to faith in
Spiritualism wrought by these remarkable proofs of Spiritual power. At
this hour, in many a loving home, responses to letters, thus sealed and
answered through these Mediums, are treasured as tenderest, completest
proofs that love survives the grave and still encircles the living and
Recognizing in this phase of Mediumship a department of Spiritualism
capable of plain, matter-of-fact investigation, which could be conducted
in writing and demanding no special powers of observation, the duty of
investigation devolved mainly upon the Acting Chairman.
There are only four of these special Mediums whose advertisements I have
seen in Spiritual papers. He who has probably the widest reputation is
Dr. James V. Mansfield, Boston. A second is Mr. R.W. Flint, New York
City. A third is Mrs. Dr. Eleanor Martin, Columbus, Ohio; and lastly,
also of the same name, Mrs. Eliza A. Martin, of Oxford, Massachusetts.
Through the Mediumship of the first, I have seen it stated that upward
of a hundred thousand securely sealed letters have been answered; and
the names of men high in our business and financial world have been
cited to me as of those who had received proofs of his power which could
not be questioned, nor explained on any other ground than that of
clairvoyance, or of Spirit communication. To him, therefore, I concluded
to apply first.
The choice of a subject whereon to communicate with a denizen of the
other world is not easy. To follow in the well-trodden path and ask
after the welfare of departed friends would only end, I well knew, in
turning on that stream of generalities, not glittering, but very dull,
in which a large experience had taught me that disembodied Spirits
chiefly delight when expatiating on the conditions of their changed
existence. Furthermore, it was desirable that from the investigation
should be eliminated all elements of thought-transference or of
mind-reading. I must select a subject on which my own mind was a blank,
and where the responses would have to be definite and unambiguous, and
withal quite within the scope of Spiritual knowledge.
At last, as fulfilling, in all honesty and sincerity, the requisite
conditions, a skull in my possession was fixed on.
This skull is a relic, interesting from its dramatic associations. It
has been used for fifty or sixty years as a 'property' at the Walnut
Street Theatre, whenever 'Hamlet' has been performed, and as 'Yorick's
skull' has been handled in that play, from Edmund Kean down to Henry
Irving and Edwin Booth. It is preserved with care, and mounted on a
piece of polished black marble. Surely here is a skull whose experiences
are singular above all ordinary skulls, and in whose career its original
owner might be not unreasonably expected to cherish some interest or to
have followed its fortunes with some little attention. Untold
possibilities for the vindication of Spiritualistic truth and power hang
around it, should there be an unwavering agreement by all Spiritual
authorities, as to the circumstances, when alive, of its original owner.
Surely, I concluded, the translated inhabitants of the 'summer-land'
cannot have doffed the homespun honesty of mortal life; all will either
confess ignorance with regard to this skull, or display their
truthfulness by a substantial harmony in their reports, and thereby
furnish an indisputable, irrefragable proof of the truth of
Sincere in this trust, I wrote on a small sheet of paper this question:
"What was the name, age, sex, color or condition in life of the owner,
when alive, of the skull here in my library? 28 February, 1885." This
paper was put in an envelope, whereof the flap was then gummed to within
a small distance of the point, under this point some sealing-wax was
dropped, and enough was added above it to form a large, heavy,
substantial impression. At the four corners additional seals, with
different impressions, were placed. Thus gummed, and sealed with five
seals, the envelope was enclosed to Dr. J.V. Mansfield, with a request
that it be subjected to his Mediumistic power.
In a few days the following was received:
'Boston, March 2d, 1885.
Dear Furness.--Your package came duly to hand most respectfully say I
have given the package two sittings and re'd from two different spirits
(purported) answer one coroberating [_sic_] the other statement One from
Robt Hair [_sic_] the other from Dr B. Rush for the two communicates my
charge is 5.00 which if you will send me per registered mail I will
remit you per return mail Respfy J.V. Mansfield I judge from the com. it
relates to a skeleton.'
With this letter the sealed envelope was returned, apparently in exactly
the same state in which it had been sent; the seals were intact, with
the exception perhaps of a few trifling fractures, for which the transit
to and from Boston, through the mail, would readily account. Upon closer
inspection, however, and upon turning the envelope so as to catch the
light, I thought that a slight glazing of gum was discernible around the
central seal, and from beneath its edge a minute bubble of mucilage
protruded. The fee demanded was at once forwarded, and by return of mail
the following 'communicates' were received, written in pencil on long
strips of common paper, and in two different hands:
Dear Furness.--Yours of 28 Feby before me--as to this matter under
consideration I have looked it over and over again Called my old friend
Geo Combe and we are of the mind it is the skull of a female--Combe says
he thinks it was that of a Colored woman--the age--about 40 to 44 the
name of the one who inhabited it--it would not be possible for any
spirit but the one who the skull belonged to If it was colored--Cornelia
Winnie might know. Respfy ROBT HARE Mch 2 '85.'
In a larger, bolder hand on the second slip was the following:
'My dear Townsman--pardon what may seem an intrusion--but seeing your
anxiety to get the Aage [_sic_] sex--col and name of a skull in your
office and seeing the conclusion that Dr. Hare and Proffr Combe have
arrived at--I will say that I have looked the same over and fully concur
in their conclusion save in the color of the one who once annimated
[_sic_] that skull. Fowler Spurzeheim [_sic_] and Gall agree in saying
that Hare and Combe have nothing to base an opinion upon, as to the
color--yet in sex they agree Yours with Respect
BENJA RUSH M.D.
Exact age could not be determined. Mch 2 '85'
These answers are certainly remarkable. The very words of the question
inside the sealed envelope are here openly repeated, and although the
six eminent, scientific ghosts, Hare, Combe, Fowler, Spurzheim, Gall,
and Rush do not agree with each other on all points, yet a slight
divergence, or contrariety, in opinion is at times observable to the
grosser eyes of flesh among doctors upon earth; and then they were all
in accord over the sex of the skull, in which problem, having one
chance out of only two, they could not go very far afield. Moreover, the
very framing of the question as to sex might suggest female, and as to
color might suggest black.
But had not the envelope been opened?
It occurred to me to cut the edges of the sealed envelope carefully,
whereby I could examine the flap, on the inside. It was done. The paper
of the envelope under three of the seals was torn, and deception stood
revealed. The seals had been cut out, and restored to their position
Although, in legal phrase, I might rest my case here, yet I was anxious
so to seal an envelope that while its contents could not be extracted
without the destruction of the envelope and a betrayal of any attempted
fraud, yet that an answer to the question enclosed should be quite
within the clairvoyant power, so called, of the Medium, if he really
possessed any, and as to the existence whereof I was sincerely anxious
to obtain some satisfactory proof. Animated with this desire, I
proceeded as follows:
In the 'communicate' from the Spirit of Dr. Hare, reference is made to
Cornelia Winnie's possible knowledge of the information which I was
seeking in regard to the skull. Could this have been a lure to tempt me
to knock again at the Spiritual door of which Dr. Mansfield is the
At any rate I accepted the suggestion. On a sheet of note-paper I wrote:
'Can Cornelia Winnie, or any other Spirit (Dr. Hare refers me to the
former), give me any particulars of the life or death of the colored
woman who once animated this skull here in my Library. I am entirely
ignorant myself on the subject.'
This was folded, placed in an envelope, gummed and sealed precisely as I
had folded, gummed and sealed the previous letter. This I marked with
ink on the outside 'No. 1.'
On another sheet of similar note-paper I repeated word for word, and
line for line, and dot for dot, the very same question. This paper was
also folded and put into an envelope, BUT two or three stitches of red
silk were then passed through the flap of the envelope and the enclosed
paper, sewing the two securely together; these stitches were made at the
point of the flap, and again at each of the four corners. Over these
stitches, and concealing them, seals of red sealing wax were affixed.
Exteriorly the two envelopes were precisely alike. The stitched envelope
was marked on the outside 'No. 2.' As the contents of both were
identical, a clairvoyant Spirit that could answer No. 1 could answer No.
2, but nothing less than superhuman power could extract the paper from
No. 2 without so tearing the envelope as to betray an un-Spiritual
origin. These two envelopes were enclosed to our Medium with the
'Dear Doctor Mansfield. The answers to my sealed letter were so
satisfactory and so very curious that I should like to follow up the
interesting subject, if I am not taxing your powers too heavily. I
therefore enclose two more sealed envelopes, marked No. 1 and No. 2. If
it be possible, I should like to have you sit with No. 1 first. If the
Spirits respond, pray send me word and let me know how much I am
indebted to you.'
My object in asking the Medium to sit first with No. 1 was that, if he
were fraudulent, finding the ease with which No. 1 could be opened, he
would undertake the opening of No. 2 with such freedom and assurance
that the envelope would be torn beyond the healing power of mucilage,
and a confession of failure would have to follow.
In a few days the envelopes were returned with the following brief note:
'Dear Furness: Send you what came to your P K the 2d gave no response my
terms are $3 for each trial--warrant nothing.
The Spiritual communication enclosed reads as follows:
'I Bress de Lord for deh one mor to talk to de people of my ole home I
been thar lots o tim since I com here--but o Lord de Massy--they no see
_Winne_ cos she be ded and she jus no ded at tall--now--as to dot Col
gal--_Hed_ I could not say--sure--but I think it Dinah Melish--she who
lov de Lord too. I think it seem Dina top not. Will see Dina som time
and then i ask her--do you no Minister Du Cachet well he here--and want
the [there here follows in the original a rude drawing of a decanter and
wine glass. In this scandalous allusion there is no trace, it will be
observed, of phonetic spelling in the proper name] just de same. I Bress
de Lor I don't want it.
March 13, '85.
An examination of the envelope marked No. 1, by cutting it open at the
edges, revealed the same story of fraud: three of the seals had been cut
out, and replaced.
An examination of No. 2, in the same way, readily disclosed the reason
why the Spirits had failed to answer, although the question assuredly
presented no greater difficulties than in No. 1. An attempt had been
made to start two of the seals, but meeting with unexpected resistance
in the silk stitches, and finding that further effort would end in
tearing the envelope in a very palpable and mundane fashion, the Spirits
had grown disheartened and taciturn.
We shall meet this Medium again, but for the present we will leave him,
after pausing for a minute over his business card, which, after stating
his terms in prosaic dollars and cents, thus apostrophizes his
"From the bright stars,
And viewless air
Sweet Spirit, if thy home be there,
Answer me.--Answer me."
Happily my experience enables me to remove all doubt as to the locality
of the Spirit's 'home,' and to state with positiveness its exact
location. But like the German philologist's example of the remarkable
incongruity in English between spelling and pronunciation, that what was
written 'Boz' was pronounced 'Charles Dickens,' so I cheerfully add to
this list of incongruities that what is written 'bright stars' is
pronounced 'Boston,' and 'viewless air' is pronounced 'Dartmouth
I next turned my attention to Mr. R.W. Flint in New York. From him I
received the following circular in answer to my inquiries:
I am controlled by one spirit, purporting to be my guide who is the
scribe for the spirits, delivering (in his own hand-writing) what
is dictated to him by the spirit of communicating.
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