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Title: Historic Ghosts and Ghost Hunters
Author: Bruce, H. Addington (Henry Addington), 1874-1959
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Historic Ghosts and Ghost Hunters" ***

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_Author of "The Riddle of Personality"_




_Copyright_, 1908, _by_




_Published, September, 1908_

_The Plimpton Press Norwood Mass. U.S.A._






        PREFACE                                     ix

     I. THE DEVILS OF LOUDUN                         1

    II. THE DRUMMER OF TEDWORTH                     17

   III. THE HAUNTING OF THE WESLEYS                 36


     V. THE COCK LANE GHOST                         81


   VII. THE SEERESS OF PREVORST                    120

  VIII. THE MYSTERIOUS MR. HOME                    143

    IX. THE WATSEKA WONDER                         171

     X. A MEDIEVAL GHOST HUNTER                    198



The following pages represent in the main a discussion of certain
celebrated mysteries, as viewed in the light of the discoveries set
forth in the writer's earlier work "The Riddle of Personality."

That dealt, it may briefly be recalled, with the achievements of those
scientists whose special endeavor it is to illumine the nature of human
personality. On the one hand, it reviewed the work of the
psychopathologists, or investigators of abnormal mental life; and, on
the other hand, the labors of the psychical researchers, those
enthusiastic and patient explorers of the seemingly supernormal in human
experience. Emphasis was laid on the fact that the two lines of inquiry
are more closely interrelated than is commonly supposed, and that the
discoveries made in each aid in the solution of problems apparently
belonging exclusively in the other.

To this phase of the subject the writer now returns. The problems under
examination are, all of them, problems in psychical research: yet, as
will be found, the majority in no small measure depend for elucidation
on facts brought to light by the psychopathologists. Of course, it is
not claimed that the last word has here been said with respect to any
one of these human enigmas. But it is believed that, thanks to the
knowledge gained by the investigations of the past quarter of a century,
approximately correct solutions have been reached; and that, in any
event, it is by no means imperative to regard the phenomena in question
as inexplicable, or as explicable only on a spiritistic basis.

Before attempting to solve the problems, it manifestly was necessary to
state them. In doing this the writer has sought to present them in a
readable and attractive form, but without any distortion or omission of
material facts.

                                               H. ADDINGTON BRUCE.

BROOKLINE, N. H., July, 1908.



Loudun is a small town in France about midway between the ancient and
romantic cities of Tours and Poitiers. To-day it is an exceedingly
unpretentious and an exceedingly sleepy place; but in the seventeenth
century it was in vastly better estate. Then its markets, its shops, its
inns, lacked not business. Its churches were thronged with worshipers.
Through its narrow streets proud noble and prouder ecclesiastic, thrifty
merchant and active artisan, passed and repassed in an unceasing stream.
It was rich in points of interest, preëminent among which were its
castle and its convent. In the castle the stout-hearted Loudunians found
a refuge and a stronghold against the ambitions of the feudal lords and
the tyranny of the crown. To its convent, pleasantly situated in a grove
of time-honored trees, they sent their children to be educated.

It is to the convent that we must turn our steps; for it was from the
convent that the devils were let loose to plague the good people of
Loudun. And in order to understand the course of events, we must first
make ourselves acquainted with its history. Very briefly, then, it, like
many other institutions of its kind, was a product of the Catholic
counter-reformation designed to stem the rising tide of Protestantism.
It came into being in 1616, and was of the Ursuline order, which had
been introduced into France not many years earlier. From the first it
proved a magnet for the daughters of the nobility, and soon boasted a
goodly complement of nuns.

At their head, as mother superior, was a certain Jeanne de Belfiel, of
noble birth and many attractive qualities, but with characteristics
which, as the sequel will show, wrought much woe to others as well as to
the poor gentlewoman herself. Whatever her defects, however, she labored
tirelessly in the interests of the convent, and in this respect was ably
seconded by its father confessor, worthy Father Moussaut, a man of rare
good sense and possessing a firm hold on the consciences and affections
of the nuns.

Conceive their grief, therefore, when he suddenly sickened and died. Now
ensued an anxious time pending the appointment of his successor. Two
names were foremost for consideration--that of Jean Mignon, chief canon
of the Church of the Holy Cross, and that of Urbain Grandier, curé of
Saint Peter's of Loudun. Mignon was a zealous and learned ecclesiastic,
but belied his name by being cold, suspicious, and, some would have it,
unscrupulous. Grandier, on the contrary, was frank and ardent and
generous, and was idolized by the people of Loudun. But he had serious
failings. He was most unclerically gallant, was tactless, was overready
to take offense, and, his wrath once fully roused, was unrelenting.
Accordingly, little surprise was felt when the choice ultimately fell,
not on him but on Mignon.

With Mignon the devils entered the Ursuline convent. Hardly had he been
installed when rumors began to go about of strange doings within its
quiet walls; and that there was something in these rumors became evident
on the night of October 12, 1632, when two magistrates of Loudun, the
bailie and the civil lieutenant, were hurriedly summoned to the convent
to listen to an astonishing story. For upwards of a fortnight, it
appeared, several of the nuns, including Mother Superior Belfiel, had
been tormented by specters and frightful visions. Latterly they had
given every evidence of being possessed by evil spirits. With the
assistance of another priest, Father Barré, Mignon had succeeded in
exorcising the demons out of all the afflicted save the mother superior
and a Sister Claire.

In their case every formula known to the ritual had failed. The only
conclusion was that they were not merely possessed but bewitched, and
much as he disliked to bring notoriety on the convent, the father
confessor had decided it was high time to learn who was responsible for
the dire visitation. He had called the magistrates, he explained, in
order that legal steps might be taken to apprehend the wizard, it being
well established that "devils when duly exorcised must speak the truth,"
and that consequently there could be no doubt as to the identity of the
offender, should the evil spirits be induced to name the source of their

Without giving the officials time to recover from their amazement,
Mignon led them to an upper room, where they found the mother superior
and Sister Claire, wan-faced and fragile looking creatures on whose
countenances were expressions of fear that would have inspired pity in
the most stony-hearted. About them hovered monks and nuns. At sight of
the strangers, Sister Claire lapsed into a semi-comatose condition; but
the mother superior uttered piercing shrieks, and was attacked by
violent convulsions that lasted until the father confessor spoke to her
in a commanding tone. Then followed a startling dialogue, carried on in
Latin between Mignon and the soi-disant demon possessing her.

"Why have you entered this maiden's body?"

"Because of hatred."

"What sign do you bring?"


"What flowers?"


"Who has sent them?"

A moment's hesitation, then the single word--"Urbain."

"Tell us his surname?"


In an instant the room was in an uproar. But the magistrates did not
lose their heads. To the bailie in especial the affair had a suspicious
look. He had heard the devil "speak worse Latin than a boy of the fourth
class," he had noted the mother superior's hesitancy in pronouncing
Grandier's name, and he was well aware that deadly enmity had long
existed between Grandier and Mignon. So he placed little faith in the
latter's protestation that the naming of his rival had taken him
completely by surprise. Consulting with his colleague, he coldly
informed Mignon that before any arrest could be made there must be
further investigation, and, promising to return next day, bade them good

Next day found the convent besieged by townspeople, indignant at the
accusation against the popular priest, and determined to laugh the
devils out of existence. Grandier himself, burning with rage, hastened
to the bailie and demanded that the nuns be separately interrogated, and
by other inquisitors than Mignon and Barré. In these demands the bailie
properly acquiesced; but, on attempting in person to enforce his orders
to that effect, he was denied admittance to the convent. Excitement ran
high; so high that, fearful for his personal safety, Mignon consented
to accept as exorcists two priests appointed, not by the bailie, but by
the Bishop of Poitiers--who, it might incidentally be mentioned, had his
own reasons for disliking Grandier.

Exorcising now went on daily, to the disgust of the serious-minded, the
mystification of the incredulous, the delight of sensation-mongers, and
the baffled fury of Grandier. So far the play, if melodramatic, had not
approached the tragic. Sometimes it degenerated to the broadest farce
comedy. Thus, on one occasion when the devil was being read out of the
mother superior, a crashing sound was heard and a huge black cat tumbled
down the chimney and scampered about the room. At once the cry was
raised that the devil had taken the form of a cat, a mad chase ensued,
and it would have gone hard with pussy had not a nun chanced to
recognize in it the pet of the convent.

Still, there were circumstances which tended to inspire conviction in
the mind of many. The convulsions of the possessed were undoubtedly
genuine, and undoubtedly they manifested phenomena seemingly
inexplicable on any naturalistic basis. A contemporary writer,
describing events of a few months later, when several recruits had been
added to their ranks, states that some "when comatose became supple like
a thin piece of lead, so that their body could be bent in every
direction, forward, backward, or sideways, till their head touched the
ground," and that others showed no sign of pain when struck, pinched, or
pricked. Then, too, they whirled and danced and grimaced and howled in a
manner impossible to any one in a perfectly normal state.[A]

For a few brief weeks Grandier enjoyed a respite, thanks to the
intervention of his friend, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, who threatened
to send a physician and priests of his own choice to examine the
possessed, a threat of itself sufficient, apparently, to put the devils
to flight. But they returned with undiminished vigor upon the arrival in
Loudun of a powerful state official who, unfortunately for Grandier,
was a relative of Mother Superior Belfiel's. This official, whose name
was Laubardemont, had come to Loudun on a singular mission. Richelieu,
the celebrated cardinal statesman, in the pursuit of his policy of
strengthening the crown and weakening the nobility, had resolved to
level to the ground the fortresses and castles of interior France, and
among those marked for destruction was the castle of Loudun. Thither,
therefore, he dispatched Laubardemont to see that his orders were
faithfully executed.

Naturally, the cardinal's commissioner became interested in the trouble
that had befallen his kinswoman, and the more interested when Mignon
hinted to him that there was reason to believe that the suspected wizard
was also the author of a recent satire which had set the entire court
laughing at Richelieu's expense. What lent plausibility to this charge
was the fact that the satire had been universally accredited to a court
beauty formerly one of Grandier's parishioners. Also there was the fact
that in days gone by, when Richelieu was merely a deacon, he had had a
violent quarrel with Grandier over a question of precedence. Putting two
and two together, and knowing that it would result to his own advantage
to unearth the real author to the satire, Laubardemont turned a willing
ear to the suggestion that the woman in question had allowed her old
pastor to shield himself behind her name.

Back to Paris the commissioner galloped to carry the story to Richelieu.
The cardinal's anger knew no bounds. From the King he secured a warrant
for Grandier's arrest, and to this he added a decree investing
Laubardemont with full inquisitorial powers. Events now moved rapidly.
Though forewarned by Parisian friends, Grandier refused to seek safety
by flight, and was arrested in spectacular fashion while on his way to
say mass. His home was searched, his papers were seized, and he himself
was thrown into an improvised dungeon in a house belonging to Mignon.
Witnesses in his favor were intimidated, while those willing to testify
against him were liberally rewarded. To such lengths did the prosecution
go that, discovering a strong undercurrent of popular indignation,
Laubardemont actually procured from the King and council a decree
prohibiting any appeal from his decisions, and gave out that, since
King and cardinal believed in the enchantment, any one denying it would
be held guilty of lese majesty divine and human.

Under these circumstances Grandier was doomed from the outset. But he
made a desperate struggle, and his opponents were driven to sore straits
to bolster up their case. The devils persisted in speaking bad Latin,
and continually failed to meet tests which they themselves had
suggested. Sometimes their failures were only too plainly the result of
human intervention.

For instance, the mother superior's devil promised that, on a given
night and in the church of the Holy Cross, he would lift Laubardemont's
cap from his head and keep it suspended in mid-air while the
commissioner intoned a _miserere_. When the time came for the fulfilment
of this promise two of the spectators noticed that Laubardemont had
taken care to seat himself at a goodly distance from the other
participants. Quietly leaving the church, these amateur detectives made
their way to the roof, where they found a man in the act of dropping a
long horsehair line, to which was attached a small hook, through a hole
directly over the spot where Laubardemont was sitting. The culprit
fled, and that night another failure was recorded against the devil.

But such fiascos availed nothing to save Grandier. Neither did it avail
him that, before sentence was finally passed, Sister Claire, broken in
body and mind, sobbingly affirmed his innocence, protesting that she did
not know what she was saying when she accused him; nor that the mother
superior, after two hours of agonizing torture self-imposed, fell on her
knees before Laubardemont, made a similar admission, and, passing into
the convent orchard, tried to hang herself. The commissioner and his
colleagues remained obdurate, averring that these confessions were in
themselves evidence of witchcraft, since they could be prompted only by
the desire of the devils to save their master from his just fate. In
August, 1634, Grandier's doom was pronounced. He was to be put to the
torture, strangled, and burned. This judgment was carried out to the
letter, save that when the executioner approached to strangle him, the
ropes binding him to the stake loosened, and he fell forward among the
flames, perishing miserably.

It only remains to analyze this medieval tragedy in the light of modern
knowledge. To the people of his own generation Grandier was either a
wizard most foul, or the victim of a dastardly plot in which all
concerned in harrying him to his death knowingly participated. These
opinions posterity long shared. But now it is quite possible to reach
another conclusion. That there was a conspiracy is evident even from the
facts set down by those hostile to Grandier. On the other hand, it is as
unnecessary as it is incredible to believe that the plotters included
every one instrumental in fixing on the unhappy curé the crime of

Bearing in mind the discoveries of recent years in the twin fields of
physiology and psychology, it seems evident that the conspirators were
actually limited in number to Mignon, Barré, Laubardemont, and a few of
their intimates. In Laubardemont's case, indeed, there is some reason
for supposing that he was more dupe than knave, and is therefore to be
placed in the same category as the superstitious monks and townspeople
on whom Mignon and Barré so successfully imposed. As to the
possessed--the mother superior and her nuns--they may one and all be
included in a third group as the unwitting tools of Mignon's vengeance.
In fine, it is not only possible but entirely reasonable to regard
Mignon as a seventeenth-century forerunner of Mesmer, Elliotson,
Esdaile, Braid, Charcot, and the present day exponents of hypnotism; and
the nuns as his helpless "subjects," obeying his every command with the
fidelity observable to-day in the patients of the Salpêtrière and other
centers of hypnotic practice.

The justness of this view is borne out by the facts recorded by
contemporary annalists, of which only an outline has been given here.
The nuns of Loudun were, as has been said, mostly daughters of the
nobility, and were thus, in all likelihood, temperamentally unstable,
sensitive, high-strung, nervous. The seclusion of their lives, the
monotonous routine of their every-day occupations, and the possibilities
afforded for dangerous, morbid introspection, could not but have a
baneful effect on such natures, leading inevitably to actual insanity or
to hysteria. That the possessed were hysterical is abundantly shown by
the descriptions their historians give of the character of their
convulsions, contortions, etc., and by the references to the anesthetic,
or non-sensitive, spots on their bodies. Now, as we know, the convent at
Loudun had been in existence for only a few years before Mignon became
its father confessor, and so, we may believe, it fell out that he
appeared on the scene precisely when sufficient time had elapsed for
environment and heredity to do their deadly work and provoke an epidemic
of hysteria.

In those benighted times such attacks were popularly ascribed to
possession by evil spirits. The hysterical nuns, as the chronicles tell
us, explained their condition to Mignon by informing him that, shortly
before the onset of their trouble, they had been haunted by the ghost of
their former confessor, Father Moussaut. Here Mignon found his
opportunity. Picture him gently rebuking the unhappy women, admonishing
them that such a good man as Father Moussaut would never return to
torment those who had been in his charge, and insisting that the source
of their woes must be sought elsewhere; in, say, some evil disposed
person, hostile to Father Moussaut's successor, and hoping, through thus
afflicting them, to bring the convent into disrepute and in this way
strike a deadly blow at its new father confessor. Who might be this evil
disposed person? Who, in truth, save Urbain Grandier?

Picture Mignon, again, observing that his suggestion had taken root in
the minds of two of the most emotional and impressionable, the mother
superior and Sister Claire. Then would follow a course of lessons
designed to aid the suggestion to blossom into open accusation. And
presently Mignon would make the discovery that the mother superior and
Sister Claire would, when in a hysterical state, blindly obey any
command he might make, cease from their convulsions, respond
intelligently and at his will to questions put to them, renew their
convulsions, lapse even into seeming dementia.

Doubtless he did not grasp the full significance and possibilities of
his discovery--had he done so the devils would not have bungled matters
so often, and no embarrassing confessions would have been forthcoming.
But he saw clearly enough that he had in his hand a mighty weapon
against his rival, and history has recorded the manner and effectiveness
with which he used it.


[A] Aubin's "Histoire des Diables de Loudun," a book by a writer who
scoffed at the idea that the nuns had actually been bewitched. For an
account by a contemporary who firmly believed the charges brought
against Grandier, consult Niau's "La Veritable Histoire des Diables de
Loudun." This latter work is accessible in an English translation by
Edmund Goldsmid.



There have been drummers a plenty in all countries and all ages, but
there surely has never been the equal of the drummer of Tedworth. His
was the distinction to inspire terror the length and breadth of a
kingdom, to set a nation by the ears--nay, even to disturb the peace of
Church and Crown.

When the Cromwellian wars broke out, he was in his prime, a stout,
sturdy Englishman, suffering, as did his fellows, from the misrule of
the Stuarts, and ready for any desperate step that might better his
fortunes. Volunteering, therefore, under the man of blood and iron,
tradition has it that from the first battle to the last his drum was
heard inspiring the revolutionists to mighty deeds of valor. The
conflict at an end, Charles beheaded, and the Fifth Monarchy men
creating chaos in their noisy efforts to establish the Kingdom of God on
earth, he lapsed into an obscurity that endured until the Restoration.
Then he reëmerged, not as a veteran living at ease on laurels well won,
but as a wandering beggar, roving from shire to shire in quest of alms,
which he implored to the accompaniment of fearsome music from his
beloved drum.

Thus he journeyed, undisturbed and gaining a sufficient living, until he
chanced in the spring of 1661 to invade the quiet Wiltshire village of
Tedworth. At that time the interests of Tedworth were identical with the
interests of a certain Squire Mompesson, and he, being a gouty,
irritable individual, was little disposed to have his peace and the
peace of Tedworth disturbed by the drummer's loud bawling and louder
drumming. At his orders rough hands seized the unhappy wanderer, blows
rained upon him, and he was driven from Tedworth minus his drum. In vain
he begged the wrathful Mompesson to restore it to him; in vain, with the
tears streaming down his battle-worn, weather-beaten face, he protested
that the drum was the only friend left to him in all the world; and in
vain he related the happy memories it held for him. "Go," he was roughly
told--"go, and be thankful thou escapest so lightly!" So go he did, and
whither he went nobody knew, and for the moment nobody cared.

But all Tedworth soon had occasion to wish that his lamentations had
moved the Squire to pity. Hardly a month later, when Mompesson had
journeyed to the capital to pay his respects to the King, his family
were aroused in the middle of the night by angry voices and an incessant
banging on the front door. Windows were tried; entrance was vehemently
demanded. Within, panic reigned at once. The house was situated in a
lonely spot, and it seemed certain that, having heard of its master's
absence, a band of highwaymen, with whom the countryside abounded, had
planned to turn burglars. The occupants, consisting as they did of women
and children, could at best make scant resistance; and consequently
there was much quaking and trembling, until, finding the bolts and bars
too strong for them, the unwelcome visitors withdrew.

Unmeasured was Mompesson's wrath when he returned and learned of the
alarm. He only hoped, he declared, that the villains would venture
back--he would give them a greeting such as had not been known since
the days of the great war. That very night he had opportunity to make
good his boast, for soon after the household had sought repose the
disturbance broke out anew. Lighting a lantern, slipping into a
dressing-gown, and snatching up a brace of pistols, the Squire dashed
down-stairs, the noise becoming louder the nearer he reached the door.
Click, clash--the bolts were slipped back, the key was turned, and,
lantern extended, he peered into the night.

The moment he opened the door all became still, and nothing but empty
darkness met his eyes. Almost immediately, however, the knocking began
at a second door, to which, after making the first fast, he hurried,
only to find the same result, and to hear, with mounting anger, a tumult
at yet another door. Again silence when this was thrown open. But,
stepping outside, as he afterward told the story, Mompesson became aware
of "a strange and hollow sound in the air." Forthwith the suspicion
entered his mind that the noises he had heard might be of supernatural
origin. To him, true son of the seventeenth century, a suspicion of this
sort was tantamount to certainty, and an unreasoning alarm filled his
soul; an alarm that grew into deadly fear when, safe in the bed he had
hurriedly sought, a tremendous booming sound came from the top of the

Here, in an upper room, for safe-keeping and as an interesting relic of
the Civil War, had been placed the beggar's drum, and the terrible
thought occurred to Mompesson: "Can it be that the drummer is dead, and
that his spirit has returned to torment me?"

A few nights later no room for doubt seemed left. Instead of the
nocturnal shouting and knocking, there began a veritable concert from
the room containing the drum. This concert, Mompesson informed his
friends, opened with a peculiar "hurling in the air over the house," and
closed with "the beating of a drum like that at the breaking up of a
guard." The mental torture of the Squire and his family may be easier
imagined than described. And before long matters grew much worse, when,
becoming emboldened, the ghostly drummer laid aside his drum to play
practical, and sometimes exceedingly painful, jokes on the members of
the household.

Curiously enough, his malice was chiefly directed against Mompesson's
children, who--poor little dears--had certainly never worked him any
injury. Yet we are told that for a time "it haunted none particularly
but them." When they were in bed the coverings were dragged off and
thrown on the floor; there was heard a scratching noise under the bed as
of some animal with iron claws; sometimes they were lifted bodily, "so
that six men could not hold them down," and their limbs were beaten
violently against the bedposts. Nor did the unseen and unruly visitant
scruple to plague Mompesson's aged mother, whose Bible was frequently
hidden from her, and in whose bed ashes, knives, and other articles were

As time passed marvels multiplied. The assurance is solemnly given that
"chairs moved of themselves." A board, it is insisted, rose out of the
floor of its own accord and flung itself violently at a servant. Strange
lights, "like corpse candles," floated about. The Squire's personal
attendant John, "a stout fellow and of sober conversation," was one
night confronted by a ghastly apparition in the form of "a great body
with two red and glaring eyes." Frequently, too, when John was in bed
he was treated as were the children, his coverings removed, his body
struck, etc. But it was noticed that whenever he grasped and brandished
a sword he was left in peace. Clearly, the ghost had a healthy respect
for cold steel.

It had less respect for exorcising, which, of course, was tried, but
tried in vain. All went well as long as the clergyman was on his knees
saying the prescribed prayers by the bedside of the tormented children,
but the moment he rose a bed staff was thrown at him and other articles
of furniture danced about so madly that body and limb were endangered.

Mompesson was at his wits' end. Well might he be! Apart from the injury
done to his family and belongings, his house was thronged night and day
by inquisitive visitors from all sections of the country. He was
denounced on the one hand as a trickster, and on the other as a man who
must be guilty of some terrible secret sin, else he would not thus be
vexed. Sermons were preached with him as the text. Factions were formed,
angrily affirming and denying the supernatural character of the
disturbances. News of the affair traveled even to the ears of the King,
who dispatched an investigating commission to Mompesson House, where,
greatly to the delight of the unbelieving, nothing untoward occurred
during the commissioners' visit. But thereafter, as if to make up for
lost time, the most sensational and vexatious phenomena of the haunting
were produced.

Thus matters continued for many months, until it dawned on Mompesson and
his friends that possibly the case was not one of ghosts but one of
witchcraft. This suspicion rose from the singular circumstance that
voices in the children's room began, "for a hundred times together," to
cry "A witch! A witch!" Resolved to put matters to a test, one of the
boldest of a company of spectators suddenly demanded, "Satan, if the
drummer set thee to work, give three knocks and no more!" To which three
knocks were distinctly heard, and afterward, by way of confirmation,
five knocks as requested by another onlooker.

Now began an eager hunt for the once despised drummer, who was presently
found in jail at Gloucester accused of theft. And with this discovery
word was brought to Mompesson that the drummer had openly boasted of
having bewitched him. This was enough for the outraged Squire. There was
in existence an act of King James I. holding it a felony to "feed,
employ, or reward any evil spirit," and under its provisions he speedily
had his alleged persecutor indicted as a wizard.

Amid great excitement the aged veteran was brought from Gloucester to
Salisbury to stand trial. But his spirit remained unbroken. Instead of
confessing, humbly begging mercy, and promising amends, he undertook to
bargain with Mompesson, promising that if the latter secured his liberty
and gave him employment as a farm hand, he would rid him of the
haunting. Perhaps because he feared treachery, perhaps because, as he
said, he felt sure the drummer "could do him no good in any honest way,"
Mompesson rejected this ingenuous proposal.

So the drummer was left to his fate, which, for those days, was most
unexpected. A packed and attentive court room listened to the tale of
the mishaps and misadventures that had made Mompesson House a national
center of interest; it was proved that the accused had been intimate
with an old vagabond who pretended to possess supernatural powers; and
emphasis was laid on the alleged fact that he had boasted of having
revenged himself on Mompesson for the confiscation of his drum. Luckily
for him, Mompesson was not the power in Salisbury that he was in
Tedworth, and the drummer's eloquent defense moved the jury to acquit
him and to send him on his way rejoicing. Thereafter he was never again
heard of in Wiltshire or in the pages of history, and with his
disappearance came an end to the knockings, the corpse candles, and all
the other uncanny phenomena that had made life a ceaseless nightmare for
the Mompessons.

Such is the astonishing story of the drummer of Tedworth, still cited by
the superstitious as a capital example of the intermeddling of
superhuman agencies in human affairs, and still mentioned by the
skeptical as one of the most amusing and most successful hoaxes on

To us of the twentieth century its chief significance lies in the
striking resemblance between the tribulations of the Mompesson family
and the so-called physical phenomena of modern spiritism. All who have
attended spiritistic séances are familiar with the invisible and
perverse ghost, which, for no apparent reason other than to mystify,
causes furniture to gyrate violently, rings bells, plays tambourines,
levitates the "medium," and favors the spectators with sundry taps,
pinches, even blows. Precisely thus was it with the doings at Mompesson
House, where many of the salient phenomena of modern spiritism were
anticipated nearly two hundred and fifty years ago.

The inference is irresistible that a more or less intimate connection
exists between the disturbances at Tedworth and the triumphs of
latter-day mediumship, and it thus becomes doubly interesting to examine
the evidence for and against the supernatural origin of the performances
that so perplexed the Englishmen of the Restoration. This evidence is
presented in far greater detail than is here possible, in a curious
document written by the Reverend Joseph Glanvill, a clergyman of the
Church of England and an eye witness of some of the phenomena. His point
of view is that of an ardent believer in the verity of witchcraft, and
his narrative of the Tedworth affair finds place in a treatise designed
to discomfit those irreligious persons who maintained the opposite.[B]
It is therefore evident that his account of the case is to be regarded
as a piece of special pleading, and as such must be received with
critical caution.

The need for caution is further emphasized by the important circumstance
that of all the phenomena described, only those most susceptible of
mundane interpretation were witnessed by Glanvill or Mompesson. All of
the more extraordinary--the great body with the red and glaring eyes,
the levitated children, etc.--came to the narrator from second or third
or fourth hand sources not always clearly indicated, and doubtless
uneducated and superstitious persons, such as peasants or servants,
whose fears would lend wings to their imagination.

Keeping these facts before us, what do we find? We find that, so far
from supporting the supernatural view, the evidence points to a
systematic course of fraud and deceit carried out, not by the drummer,
not by Mompesson and Glanvill (as many of that generation were unkind
enough to suggest), not by the Mompesson servants, but by the Mompesson
children, and particularly by the oldest child, a girl of ten.

It was about the children that the disturbances centered, it was in
their room that the manifestations usually took place, and--what should
have served to direct suspicion to them at once--when, in the hope of
affording them relief, their father separated them, sending the youngest
to lodge with a neighbor and taking the oldest into his own room, it was
remarked that the neighbor's house immediately became the scene of
demoniac activity, as did the Squire's apartment, which had previously
been virtually undisturbed. Here and now developed a phenomenon that
places little Miss Mompesson on a par with the celebrated Fox sisters,
for her father's bed chamber was turned into a séance room in which
messages were rapped out very much as messages have been rapped out ever
since the fateful night in 1848 that saw modern spiritism ushered into
the world.

Glanvill's personal testimony, the most precise and circumstantial in
the entire case, strongly, albeit unwittingly, supports this view of the
affair. It appears that he passed only one night in the haunted house,
and of his several experiences there is none that cannot be set down to
fraud plus imagination, with the children the active agents. Witness the
following from his story of what he heard and beheld in the
oft-mentioned "children's room":

"At this time it used to haunt the children, and that as soon as they
were laid. They went to bed the night I was there about eight of the
clock, when a maid servant, coming down from them, told us that it was
come.... Mr. Mompesson and I and a gentleman that came with me went up.
I heard a strange scratching as I went up the stairs, and when we came
into the room I perceived _it was just behind the bolster of the
children's bed and seemed to be against the tick. It was as loud a
scratching as one with long nails could make upon a bolster_. There were
two modest little girls in the bed, between seven and eight years old,
as I guessed. I saw their hands out of the clothes, and they could not
contribute to the noise that was behind their heads. _They had been used
to it and still[C] had somebody or other in the chamber with them, and
therefore seemed not to be much affrighted._

"I, standing at the bed's head, thrust my hand behind the bolster,
directing it to the place whence the noise seemed to come. _Whereupon
the noise ceased there, and was heard in another part of the bed; but
when I had taken out my hand it returned and was heard in the same place
as before._[D] I had been told it would imitate noises, and made trial
by scratching several times upon the sheet, as five, and seven, and ten,
which it followed, and still stopped at my number. I searched under and
behind the bed, turned up the clothes to the bed cords, grasped the
bolster, sounded the wall behind, and made all the search that possibly
I could, to find if there were any trick, contrivance, or common cause
of it. The like did my friend, but we could discover nothing.

"So that I was then verily persuaded, and am so still, that the noise
was made by some demon or spirit."

Doubtless his countenance betrayed the receptiveness of his mind, and it
is not surprising that the naughty little girls proceeded to work
industriously upon his imagination. He speaks of having heard under the
bed a panting sound, which, he is certain, caused "a motion so strong
that it shook the room and windows very sensibly"; and it also appears
that he was induced to believe that he saw something moving in a "linen
bag" hanging in the room, which bag, on being emptied, was found to
contain nothing animate. Therefore--spirits again! After bidding the
children good night and retiring to the room set apart for him, he was
wakened from a sound sleep by a tremendous knocking on his door, and to
his terrified inquiry, "In the name of God, who is it, and what would
you have?" received the not wholly reassuring reply, "Nothing with you."
In the morning, when he spoke of the incident and remarked that he
supposed a servant must have rapped at the wrong door, he learned to his
profound astonishment that "no one of the house lay that way or had
business thereabout." This being so, it could not possibly have been
anything but a ghost.

Thus runs the argument of the superstitious clergyman. And all the
while, we may feel tolerably sure, little Miss Mompesson was chuckling
inwardly at the panic into which she had thrown the reverend gentleman.

       *       *       *       *       *

If it be objected that no girl of ten could successfully execute such a
sustained imposture, one need only point to the many instances in which
children of equally tender years or little older have since ventured on
similar mystifications, with even more startling results. Incredible as
it may seem to those who have not looked into the subject, it is a fact
that there are boys and girls--especially girls--who take a morbid
delight in playing pranks that will astound and perplex their elders.
The mere suggestion that Satan or a discarnate spirit is at the bottom
of the mischief will then act as a powerful stimulus to the elaboration
of even more sensational performances, and the result, if detection does
not soon occur, will be a full-fledged "poltergeist," as the
crockery-breaking, furniture-throwing ghost is technically called.

The singular affair of Hetty Wesley, which we shall take up next, is a
case in point. So, too, is the history of the Fox sisters, who were
extremely juvenile when they discovered the possibilities latent in the
properly manipulated rap and knock. And the spirits who so maliciously
disturbed the peace of good old Dr. Phelps in Stratford, Connecticut, a
half century and more ago, unquestionably owed their being to the nimble
wit and abnormal fancy of his two step-children, aged sixteen and

It is to be remembered, further, that contemporary conditions were
exceptionally favorable to the success of the Tedworth hoax. In all
likelihood the children had nothing to do with the first alarm, the
alarm that occurred during Mompesson's absence in London; and possibly
the second was only a rude practical joke by some village lads who had
heard of the first and wished to put the Squire's courage to a test. But
once the little Mompessons learned, or suspected, that their father
associated the noises with the vagrant drummer, a wide vista of
enjoyment would open before their mischief-loving minds. Entering on a
career of mystification, they would find the road made easy by the
gullibility of those about them; and the chances are that had they been
caught _in flagrante delicto_ they would have put in the plea that
fraudulent mediums so frequently offer to-day--"An evil spirit took
possession of me." As it was, the superstition of the times--and
doubtless the rats and shaky timbers of Mompesson House did their
part--was their constant and unfailing support. Everything that happened
would be magnified and distorted by the witnesses, either at the moment
or in retrospect, until in the end the Rev. Mr. Glanvill, recording
honestly enough what he himself had seen, could find material for a
history of the most marvelous marvels.

In short, the more closely one examines the details of the Tedworth
mystery, the more will he find himself in agreement with George
Cruikshank's brutally frank opinion:

    "All this seems very strange, about this drummer and his drum;
    But for myself I really think this drumming ghost was all a hum."


[B] Glanvill's "Sadducismus Triumphatus," a most instructive and
entertaining contribution to the literature of witchcraft. Contemporary
opinion of Glanvill is well expressed in Anthony à Wood's statement that
"he was a person of more than ordinary parts, of a quick, warm, spruce,
and gay fancy, and was more lucky, at least in his own judgment, in his
first hints and thoughts of things, than in his after notions, examined
and digested by longer and more mature deliberation. He had a very
tenacious memory, and was a great master of the English language,
expressing himself therein with easy fluency, and in a manly, yet withal
a clear style." Glanvill died in 1680 at the early age of forty-four.

[C] Used here in the sense of "always."

[D] The Italics are mine.



The Rev. Samuel Wesley is chiefly known to posterity as the father of
the famous John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and of the hardly less
famous Charles Wesley. But the Rev. Samuel has further claims to
remembrance. If he gave to the world John and Charles Wesley, he was
also the sire of seventeen other Wesleys, eight of whom, like their
celebrated brothers, grew to maturity and attained varying degrees of

He was himself a man of distinction as preacher, poet, and
controversialist. His sermons were sermons in the good, old-fashioned
sense of the term. His poems were the despair of the critics, but won
him a wide reputation. He was an adept in what Whistler called the
gentle art of making enemies. Though more familiar with the inside of a
pulpit, he was not unacquainted with the inside of a jail. He raised his
numerous progeny on an income seldom exceeding one thousand dollars a
year. And, what is perhaps the most astonishing fact in a career replete
with surprises, he was the hero of one of the best authenticated ghost
stories on record.

This visitation from the supermundane came as a climax to a series of
worldly annoyances that would have upset the equanimity of a very
Job--and the Rev. Samuel, in temper at any rate, was the reverse of
Job-like. His troubles began in the closing years of the seventeenth
century, when he became rector of the established church at Epworth,
Lincolnshire, a venerable edifice dating back to the stormy days of
Edward II., and as damp as it was old. The story goes that this living
was granted him as a reward because he dedicated one of his poems to
Queen Mary. But the Queen would seem to have had punishment in mind for
him, rather than reward.

Located in the Isle of Axholme, in the midst of a long stretch of fen
country bounded by four rivers, and for a great part under water,
Epworth was at that epoch dreariness itself. The Rev. Samuel's spirits
must have sunk within him as the carts bearing his already large family
and his few household belongings toiled through quagmire and morass;
they must have fallen still farther when he gazed down the one
straggling street at the rectory of mud and thatch that was to be his
home; and they must have touched the zero mark, zealous High Churchman
that he was, with the discovery that his peasant parishioners were
Presbyterian-minded folk who hated ritualism as cordially as they hated
the Pope.

Whatever his secret sentiments, he lost no time in endeavoring to stamp
the imprint of his vigorous personality on Epworth. Forgetful, or
unheedful, of the fact that the natives of the Isle of Axholme were
notoriously violent and lawless, he began to rule them with a rod of
iron. Thus they should think, thus they should do, thus they should go!
Above all, the Rev. Samuel never permitted them to forget that in
addition to spiritual they owed him temporal obligations. In the matter
of tithes--always a sore subject in a community hard put to extract a
living from the soil--he was unrelenting.

Necessity may have driven him; but it was only to be expected that
murmurings should arise, and from words the angry islanders passed to
deeds. For a time they contented themselves with burning the rector's
barn and trying to burn his house. Then, when he was so indiscreet as to
become indebted to one of their number, they clapped him into prison.
His speedy release, through the intervention of clerical friends, and
his blunt refusal to seek a new sphere of activity, were followed by
more barn burning, by the slaughter of his cattle, and finally by a fire
that utterly destroyed the rectory and all but cost the lives of several
of its inmates, who by that time included the future father of

The bravery with which the Rev. Samuel met this crowning disaster, and
the energy with which he set about the task of rebuilding his home--not
in mud and thatch, but in substantial brick--seem to have shamed the
villagers into giving him peace, seem even to have inspired them with a
genuine regard for him. He for his part, if we read the difficult pages
of his biographers aright, appears to have grown less exacting and more
diplomatic. In any event, he was left in quiet to prepare his sermons,
write his poems, and assist his devoted wife (who, by the way, he is
said to have deserted for an entire year because of a little difference
of opinion respecting the right of William of Orange to the English
crown) in the upbringing of their children. Thus his life ran along in
comparative smoothness until the momentous advent of the ghost.

This unexpected and unwelcome visitor made its first appearance early in
December, 1716. At the time the Wesley boys were away from home, but the
household was still sufficiently numerous, consisting of the Rev.
Samuel, Mrs. Wesley, seven daughters,--Emilia, Susannah, Maria,
Mehetabel, Anne, Martha, and Kezziah,--a man servant named Robert Brown,
and a maid servant known as Nanny Marshall. Nanny was the first to whom
the ghost paid its respects, in a series of blood-curdling groans that
"caused the upstarting of her hair, and made her ears prick forth at an
unusual rate." In modern parlance, she was greatly alarmed, and hastened
to tell the Misses Wesley of the extraordinary noises, which, she
assured them, sounded exactly like the groans of a dying man. The
derisive laughter of the young women left her state of mind unchanged;
and they too gave way to alarm when, a night or so later, loud knocks
began to be heard in different parts of the house, accompanied by sundry
"groans, squeaks, and tinglings."

Oddly enough, the only member of the family unvisited by the ghost was
the Rev. Samuel, and upon learning that he had heard none of the direful
sounds his wife and children made up their minds that his death was
imminent; for a local superstition had it that in all such cases of
haunting the person undisturbed is marked for an early demise. But the
worthy clergyman continued hale and hearty, as did the ghost, whose
knockings, indeed, soon grew so terrifying that "few or none of the
family durst be alone." It was then resolved that, whatever the noises
portended, counsel and aid must be sought from the head of the
household. At first the Rev. Samuel listened in silence to his spouse's
recital; but as she proceeded he burst into a storm of wrath. A ghost?
Stuff and nonsense! Not a bit of it! Only some mischief-makers bent on
plaguing them. Possibly, and his choler rose higher, a trick played by
his daughters themselves, or by their lovers.

Now it was the turn of the Wesley girls to become angry, and we read
that they forthwith showed themselves exceedingly "desirous of its
continuance till he was convinced." Their desire was speedily granted.
The very next night paterfamilias had no sooner tumbled into bed than
there came nine resounding knocks "just by his bedside." In an instant
he was up and groping for a light. "You heard it, then?" we may imagine
Mrs. Wesley anxiously asking, and we may also imagine the robust
Anglo-Saxon of his response.

Another night and more knockings, followed by "a noise in the room over
our heads, as if several people were walking." This time, to quote
further from Mrs. Wesley's narrative as given in a letter to her absent
son Samuel, the tumult "was so outrageous that we thought the children
would be frightened; so your father and I rose, and went down in the
dark to light a candle. Just as we came to the bottom of the broad
stairs, having hold of each other, on my side there seemed as if
somebody had emptied a bag of money at my feet; and on his, as if all
the bottles under the stairs (which were many) had been dashed in a
thousand pieces. We passed through the hall into the kitchen, and got a
candle and went to see the children, whom we found asleep."

With this the Rev. Samuel seems to have come round to the family's way
of thinking; for in the morning he sent a messenger to the nearby
village of Haxey with the request that the vicar of Haxey, a certain Mr.
Hoole, would ride over and assist him in "conjuring" the evil spirit out
of his house. Burning with curiosity, Mr. Hoole made such good time to
Epworth that before noon he was at the rectory and eagerly listening to
an account of the marvels that had so alarmed the Wesleys.

In addition to the phenomena already set forth, he learned that while
the knocks were heard in all parts of the house, they were most frequent
in the children's room; that at prayers they almost invariably
interrupted the family's devotions, especially when Mr. Wesley began the
prayers for King George and the Prince of Wales, from which it was
inferred that the ghost was a Jacobite; that often a sound was heard
like the rocking of a cradle, and another sound like the gobbling of a
turkey, and yet another "something like a man, in a loose nightgown
trailing after him"; and that if one stamped his foot, "Old Jeffrey,"
as the younger children had named the ghost, would knock precisely as
many times as there had been stampings.

None of these major marvels was vouchsafed to Mr. Hoole; but he heard
knockings in plenty, and, after a night of terror, made haste back to
Haxey, having lost all desire to play the rôle of exorcist. His fears
may possibly have been increased by the violence of Mr. Wesley, who,
after vainly exhorting the ghost to speak out and tell his business,
flourished a pistol and threatened to discharge it in the direction
whence the knockings came. This was too much for peace-loving,
spook-fearing Mr. Hoole. "Sir," he protested, "you are convinced this is
something preternatural. If so, you cannot hurt it; but you give it
power to hurt you." The logic of Mr. Hoole's argument is hardly so
evident as his panic. Off he galloped, leaving the Rev. Samuel to lay
the ghost as best he could.

After his departure wonders grew apace. Thus far the manifestations had
been wholly auditory; now visual phenomena were added. One evening Mrs.
Wesley beheld something dart out from beneath a bed and quickly
disappear. Sister Emilia, who was present, reported to brother Samuel
that this something was "like a badger, only without any head that was
discernible." The same apparition came to confound the man servant,
Robert Brown, once in the badger form, and once in the form of a white
rabbit which "turned round before him several times." Robert was also
the witness of an even more peculiar performance by the elusive ghost.
"Being grinding corn in the garrets, and happening to stop a little, the
handle of the mill was turn [_sic_] round with great swiftness." It is
interesting to note that Robert subsequently declared that "nothing
vexed him but that the mill was empty. If corn had been in it, Old
Jeffrey might have ground his heart out for him; he would never have
disturbed him." More annoying was a habit into which the ghost fell of
rattling latches, jingling warming pans and other metal utensils, and
brushing rudely against people in the dark. "Thrice," asserted the Rev.
Samuel, "I have been pushed by an invisible power, once against the
corner of my desk in the study, a second time against the door of the
matted chamber, a third time against the right side of the frame of my
study door."

On at least one occasion Old Jeffrey indulged in a pastime popular with
the spiritistic mediums of a later day. John Wesley tells us, on the
authority of sister Nancy, that one night, when she was playing cards
with some of the many other sisters, the bed on which she sat was
suddenly lifted from the ground. "She leapt down and said, 'Surely Old
Jeffrey would not run away with her.' However, they persuaded her to sit
down again, which she had scarce done when it was again lifted up
several times successively, a considerable height, upon which she left
her seat and would not be prevailed upon to sit there any more."

Clearly, the Wesley family were in a bad way. Entreaties, threats,
exorcism, had alike failed to banish the obstinate ghost. But though
they knew it not, relief was at hand. Whether repenting of his
misdoings, or desirous of seeking pastures new, Jeffrey, after a
visitation lasting nearly two months, took his departure almost as
unceremoniously as he had arrived, and left the unhappy Wesleys to
resume by slow degrees their wonted ways of life.

Such is the story unfolded by the Wesleys themselves in a series of
letters and memoranda, which, taken together, form, as was said, one of
the best authenticated narratives of haunting extant. But before
endeavoring to ascertain the source of the phenomena credited to the
soi-disant Jeffrey, another and fully as important inquiry must be made.
What, it is necessary to ask, did the Wesleys actually hear and see in
the course of the two months that they had their ghost with them? The
answer obviously must be sought through an analysis of the evidence for
the haunting. This chronologically falls into three divisions. The first
consists of letters addressed to young Samuel Wesley by his father,
mother, and two of his sisters, and written at the time of the
disturbances; the second, of letters written by Mrs. Wesley and four of
her daughters to John Wesley in the summer and autumn of 1726 (that is
to say, more than nine years after the haunting), of an account written
by the senior Samuel Wesley, and of statements by Hoole and Robert
Brown; the third, of an article contributed to "The Arminian Magazine"
in 1784 (nearly seventy years after the event) by John Wesley.

Now, the most cursory examination of the various documents shows
remarkable discrepancies between the earlier and later versions. Writing
to her son Samuel, when the ghost was still active, and she would not be
likely to minimize its doings, Mrs. Wesley thus describes the first

"On the first of December, our maid heard, at the door of the
dining-room, several dismal groans like a person in extremes, at the
point of death. We gave little heed to her relation and endeavored to
laugh her out of her fears. Some nights (two or three) after, several of
the family heard a strange knocking in divers places, usually three or
four knocks at a time, and then stayed a little. This continued every
night for a fortnight; sometimes it was in the garret, but most commonly
in the nursery, or green chamber."

Contrast with this the portion of John Wesley's "Arminian Magazine"
article referring to the same period:

"On the second of December, 1716, while Robert Brown, my father's
servant, was sitting with one of the maids, a little before ten at
night, in the dining-room which opened into the garden, they both heard
one knocking at the door. Robert rose and opened it, but could see
nobody. Quickly it knocked again and groaned.... He opened the door
again twice or thrice, the knocking being twice or thrice repeated; but
still seeing nothing, and being a little startled, they rose and went up
to bed. When Robert came to the top of the garret stairs, he saw a
handmill, which was at a little distance, whirled about very swiftly....
When he was in bed, he heard as it were the gobbling of a turkey cock
close to the bedside; and soon after, the sound of one stumbling over
his shoes and boots; but there were none there, he had left them
below.... The next evening, between five and six o'clock, my sister
Molly, then about twenty years of age, sitting in the dining-room
reading, heard as if it were the door that led into the hall open, and a
person walking in, that seemed to have on a silk nightgown, rustling and
trailing along. It seemed to walk round her, then to the door, then
round again; but she could see nothing."

As a matter of fact, the contemporary records are silent respecting the
extraordinary happenings that overshadow all else in the records of 1726
and 1784. In the former, for example, we find no reference to the
affair of the mill handle, the levitation of the bed, the rude bumpings
given to Mr. Wesley. There is much talk of knockings and groanings, of
sounds like footsteps, rustling silks, falling coals, breaking bottles,
and moving latches; allusion is made to the badger like and rabbit like
apparition; and there is mention of a peculiar dancing of father's
"trencher" without "anybody's stirring the table"; but the sum total
makes very tame reading compared with the material to be found in the
accounts written in after years and commonly utilized--as it has been
utilized here--to form the narrative of the haunting. Not only this, but
a rigorous division of the contemporary evidence into first hand and
second hand still further eliminates the element of the marvelous.
Admitting as evidence only the fact set forth as having been observed by
the relators themselves, the haunting is reduced to a matter of knocks,
groans, tinglings, squeaks, creakings, crashings, and footsteps.

We are, therefore, justified in believing that in this case, like so
many others of its kind, the fallibility of human memory has played an
overwhelming part in exaggerating the experiences actually undergone;
that, in fine, nothing occurred in the rectory at Epworth, between
December 1, 1716, and January 31, 1717, that may not be attributed to
human agency.

Who, then, was the agent? Knowing what we do of Wesley's previous
relations with the villagers, the first impulse is to place the
responsibility at their door. But for this there is no real warrant.
Years had elapsed since the culminating catastrophe of the burning of
the rectory, and in the interim matters had been put on an amicable
basis. Moreover, the evidence as to the haunting itself goes to show
that the phenomena could not possibly have been produced by a person, or
persons, operating from outdoors; but must, on the contrary, have been
the work of some one intimately acquainted with the arrangements of the
house and enjoying the full confidence of its master.

Thus our inquiry narrows to the inmates of the rectory. Of these, Mr.
and Mrs. Wesley, may at once be left out of consideration, as also may
the servants, all accounts agreeing that from the outset they were
genuinely alarmed. There remain only the Wesley girls, and our effort
must be to discover which of them was the culprit.

At first blush this seems an impossible task; but let us scan the
evidence carefully. We find, to begin with, that only four of the seven
sisters are represented in the correspondence relating to the haunting.
Two of the others, Kezziah and Martha, were mere children and not of
letter-writing age, and their silence in the matter is thus
satisfactorily accounted for. But that the third, Mehetabel, should
likewise be silent is distinctly puzzling. Not only was she quite able
to give an account of her experiences (she was at least between eighteen
and nineteen years of age), but it is known that she had a veritable
passion for pen and ink, a passion which in after years won her no mean
reputation as a poetess. And, more than this, she seems to have enjoyed
a far greater share of Jeffrey's attentions than did any other member of
the family. "My sister Hetty, I find," remarks the observing Samuel,
"was more particularly troubled." And Emilia declares, almost in the
language of complaint, that "it was never near me, except two or three
times, and never followed me as it did my sister Hetty."

Manifestly, it may be worth while to inquire into the history and
characteristics of this young woman. Her biographer, Dr. Adam Clarke,
informs us that "from her childhood she was gay and sprightly; full of
mirth, good humor, and keen wit. She indulged this disposition so much
that it was said to have given great uneasiness to her parents; because
she was in consequence often betrayed into inadvertencies which, though
of small moment in themselves, showed that her mind was not under proper
discipline; and that fancy, not reason, often dictated that line of
conduct which she thought proper to pursue."

This information is the more interesting, in the present connection,
since it contrasts strongly with the unqualified commendation Dr. Clarke
accords the other sisters. From the same authority we learn that as a
child Miss Mehetabel was so precocious that at the age of eight she
could read the Greek Testament in the original; that she was from her
earliest youth emotional and sentimental; that despite her intellectual
tastes and attainments she gave her hand to an illiterate journeyman
plumber and glazier; and that when the fruit of this union lay dying by
her side she insisted on dictating to her husband a poem afterward
published under the moving caption of "A Mother's Address to Her Dying
Infant." Another of her poems, by the way, is significantly entitled,
"The Lucid Interval."

There can, then, be little question that Hetty Wesley was precisely the
type of girl to derive amusement by working on the superstitious fears
of those about her. We find, too, in the evidence itself certain
fugitive references directly pointing to her as the creator of Old
Jeffrey. It seems that she had a practice of sitting up and moving about
the house long after all the other inmates, except her father, had
retired for the night. The ghost was especially noisy and malevolent
when in her vicinity, knocking boisterously on the bed in which she
slept, and even knocking under her feet. And what is most suggestive,
two witnesses, her father and her sister Susannah, testify that on some
occasions the noises failed to wake her, but caused her "to tremble
exceedingly in her sleep." It must, indeed, have been a difficult matter
to restrain laughter at the spectacle of the night-gowned, night-capped,
much bewildered parson, candle in one hand and pistol in the other,
peering under and about the bed in quest of the invisible ghost.

To be sure, it is impossible to adduce positive proof that Hetty Wesley
and Old Jeffrey were one and the same. But the evidence supports this
view of the case as it supports no other, and, taken in conjunction with
the facts of her earlier and later life, leaves little doubt that had
the Rev. Samuel paid closer attention to the comings and goings of this
particular daughter the ghost that so sorely tried him would have taken
its flight much sooner than it did. Her motive for the deception must be
left to conjecture. In all probability it was only the desire to amaze
and terrorize, a desire as was said before, not infrequently operative
along similar lines in the case of young people of a lively disposition
and morbid imagination.



In mid April of the memorable year 1745, two men, hastening through a
busy London thoroughfare, paused for a moment to follow with their eyes
a third, whom they had greeted but who had passed without so much as a
glance in their direction. The face of one betrayed chagrin; but the
other smiled amusedly.

"You must not mind, dear fellow," said he; "that is only Swedenborg's
way, as you will discover when you know him better. His feet are on the
earth; but for the moment his mind is in the clouds, pondering some
solution to the wonderful problems he has set himself, marvelous man
that he is."

"Yet," objected the other, "he seems such a thorough man of the world,
so finely dressed, so courtly as a rule in speech and manner."

"He is a man of the world, a true cosmopolitan," was the quick response.
"I warrant few are so widely and so favorably known. He is as much at
home in London, Paris, Berlin, Dresden, Amsterdam, or Copenhagen as in
his native city of Stockholm. Kings and Queens, grand dames and gallant
wits, statesmen and soldiers, scientists and philosophers, find pleasure
in his society. He can meet all on their own ground, and to all he has
something fresh and interesting to say. But he is nevertheless, and
above everything else, a dreamer."

"A dreamer?"

"Aye. They tell me that he will not rest content until he has found the
seat of the soul in man. Up through mathematics, mechanics, mineralogy,
astronomy, chemistry, even physiology, has he gone, mastering every
science in turn, until he is now perhaps the most learned man in Europe.
But his learning satisfies him not a whit, since the soul still eludes
him,--and eludes him, mark you, despite month upon month of toil in the
dissecting room. If the study of anatomy fail him, I know not where he
will next turn. For my part, I fancy he need not look beyond the
stomach. The wonder is that his own stomach has not given him the clue
ere this; for, metaphysician though he be, he enjoys the good things of
earth. Let me tell you a story--"

Thus, chatting and laughing, the friends continued on their way, every
step taking them farther from the unwitting subject of their words. He,
for his part, absorbed in thought, pressed steadily forward to his
destination, a quiet inn in a sequestered quarter of the city. The
familiar sounds of eighteenth-century London--the bawling of apprentices
shouting their masters' wares, the crying of fishwives, the quarreling
of drunkards, the barking of curs, the bellowing of cattle on their way
to market and slaughter house--broke unheeded about him.

He was, as the gossip had put it, in the clouds, intent on the riddles
his learning had rendered only the more complex, riddles having to do
with the nature of the universe and with man's place in the universe.
Nor did he rouse himself from his meditations until the door of the inn
had closed behind him and he found himself in its common room. Then he
became the Emanuel Swedenborg of benignity, geniality, and courtesy, the
Swedenborg whom all men loved.

"I am going to my room," said he to the innkeeper, in charming, broken
English, "and I wish to be served there. I find I am very hungry; so see
that you spare not."

While he is standing at the window, waiting for his dinner, and gazing
abstractedly into the ill-paved, muddy street illumined by a transitory
gleam of April sunshine, let us try to gain a closer view of him than
that afforded by the brief account of his unrecognized acquaintance. The
attempt will be worth while; for at this very moment he has, all
unconsciously, reached the great crisis of his life, and is about to
leave behind him the achievements of his earlier years, setting himself
instead to tasks of a very different nature. We see him, then, a man
nearing the age of sixty, of rather more than average height, smooth
shaven, bewigged, bespectacled, and scrupulously dressed according to
the fashion of the day. Time in its passing has dealt gently with him.
There is no stoop to his shoulders, no tremor in the fingers that play
restlessly on the window-pane. Not a wrinkle mars the placid features.

Well may he feel at peace with the world. His whole career has been a
steady progress, his record that of one who has attempted many things
and failed in few. Before he was twenty-one his learning had gained for
him a doctorate in philosophy. Then, enthusiastic, open-minded, and
open-eyed, he had hurried abroad, to pursue in England, Holland, France,
and Germany his chosen studies of mathematics, mechanics, and astronomy.
Returning to Sweden to assume the duties of assessor of mines, he
speedily proved that he was no mere theorizer, his inventive genius
enabling the warlike Charles XII. to transport overland galleys and
sloops for the siege of Frederikshald, sea passage being barred by
hostile fleets. Ennobled for this feat, he plunged with ardor into the
complicated problems of statecraft, problems rendered the more difficult
by the economic distress in which Charles's wars had involved his
Kingdom. Here again he attained distinction.

Yet always the problems of science and philosophy claimed his chief
devotion. From the study of stars and minerals he passed to the
contemplation of other marvels of nature as revealed in man himself. And
now behold him turned chemist, anatomist, physiologist, and
psychologist, and repeating in these fields of research his former
triumphs. Still, indomitable man, he refused to stop. He would press
on, far beyond the confines of what his generation held to be the
knowable. "The end of the senses," to quote his own words, "is that God
may be seen." He would peer into the innermost recesses of man's being,
to discern the soul of man, mayhap to discern God himself.

But, if he were scientist and metaphysician, he was also human, and that
pleasant April afternoon the humanity in him bulked large when he
finally turned from the window and took his seat at the bountifully
heaped table. He was, as he had told the innkeeper, very hungry, and he
ate with a zest that abundantly confirmed his statement. How pleasant
the odors from this dish and that--how agreeable the flavor of
everything! Surely he had never enjoyed meal more, and surely he was no
longer "in the clouds"; but was instead recalling pleasant reminiscences
of his doings in one and another of the gay capitals of Europe! There
would be not a little to bring a twinkle of delight to his beaming eyes,
not a little to soften his scholastic lips into a gentle smile. And so,
in solitary state, he ate and drank, with nothing to warn him of the
impending and momentous change that was to shape anew his career and
his view-point.

Conceive his astonishment, therefore, when, his dinner still unfinished,
he felt a strange languor creeping over him and a mysterious obscurity
dimming his eyes. Conceive, further, his horror at sight of the floor
about him covered with frogs and toads and snakes and creeping things.
And picture, finally, his amazement when, the darkness that enveloped
him suddenly clearing, he beheld a man sitting in the far corner of the
room and eying him, as it seemed, reproachfully, even disdainfully.

In vain, he essayed to rise, to lift his hand, to speak. Invisible bonds
held him in his chair, an unseen power kept him mute. For an instant he
fancied that he must be dreaming; but the noises from outdoors and the
sight of the table and food before him brought conviction that he was in
full possession of his senses. Now his visitor spoke, and spoke only
four words, which astonished no less than alarmed him. "Eat not so
much." Only this--then utter silence. Again the enveloping
darkness--frogs, toads, snakes, faded in its depths--and with returning
light Swedenborg was once more alone in the room.

Small wonder that the remaining hours of the day were spent in fruitless
cogitation of this weird and disagreeable experience which far
transcended metaphysician's normal ken. Nor is it surprising to find him
naïvely admitting that "this unexpected event hastened my return home."
Imagination can easily round out the picture,--the rising in terror, the
overturning of the chair, the seizing of cocked hat and gold-headed
cane, the few explanatory words to the astonished innkeeper, the hurried
departure, and the progress, perchance at a more rapid gait than usual,
to the sleeping quarters in another section of the town. Arrived there,
safe in the refuge of his commodious bed-room, sage argument would
follow in the effort to attain persuasion that the terrifying vision had
been but "the effect of accidental causes." Be sure, though, that our
philosopher, dreading a return of the specter if he permitted food to
pass his lips, would go hungry to bed that night.

That night--more visions. To the wakeful, restless, perturbed Swedenborg
the same figure appeared, this time without snakes or frogs or toads,
and not in darkness, but in the midst of a great white light that filled
the bed chamber with a wonderful radiance. Then a voice spoke:

"I am God the Lord, the Creator and Redeemer of the world. I have chosen
thee to lay before men the spiritual sense of the Holy Word. I will
teach thee what thou art to write."

Slowly the light faded, the figure disappeared. And now the astounded
philosopher, his amazement growing with each passing moment, found
himself transported as it seemed to another world,--the world of the
dead. Men and women of his acquaintance greeted him as they had been
wont to do when on earth, pressed about him, eagerly questioned him.
Their faces still wore the familiar expressions of kindliness, anxiety,
sincerity, ill will, as the case might be. In every way they appeared to
be still numbered among the living. They were clad in the clothes they
had been accustomed to wear, they ate and drank, they lived in houses
and towns. The philosophers among them continued to dispute, the clergy
to admonish, the authors to write.

But, his perception enlarging, Swedenborg presently discovered that this
was in reality only an intermediate state of existence; that beyond it
at the one end was heaven and at the other hell, to one or the other of
which the dead ultimately gravitated according to their desires and
conduct. For, as he was to learn later, the spiritual world was a world
of law and order fully as much as was the natural world. Men were free
to do as they chose; but they must bear the consequences. If they were
evil-minded, it would be their wish to consort with those of like mind,
and in time they must pass to the abode of the wicked; if pure-minded,
they would seek out kindred spirits, and, when finally purged of the
dross of earth, be translated to the realm of bliss. To heaven, then,
voyaged Swedenborg, on a journey of discovery; and to hell likewise.
What he saw he has set down in many bulky volumes, than which
philosopher has written none more strange.[E]

With the return of daylight it might seem that he would be prompt to
dismiss all memory of these peculiar experiences as fantasies of sleep.
But he was satisfied that he had not slept; that on the contrary he had
been preternaturally conscious throughout the long, eventful night. In
solemn retrospect he retraced his past career. He remembered that for
some years he had had symbolic dreams and symbolic hallucinations--as of
a golden key, a tongue of flame, and voices--which had at the time
baffled his understanding, but which he now interpreted as premonitory
warnings that God had set him apart for a great mission. He remembered
too that when still a child his mind had been engrossed by thoughts of
God, and that in talking with his parents he had uttered words which
caused them to declare that the angels spoke through his mouth.
Remembering all these things, he could no longer doubt that Divinity had
actually visited him in his humble London boarding house, and he made up
his mind that he must bestir himself to carry out the divine command of
expounding to his fellow men the hidden meaning of Holy Writ.

Forthwith, being still fired with the true scientist's passion for
original research, he set himself to the task of learning Hebrew. He
was, it will be remembered, approaching sixty, an age when the
acquisition of a new language is exceedingly difficult and rare. Yet
such progress did he make that within a very few months he was writing
notes in explanation of the book of Genesis. And thus he continued not
for months but years, patiently traversing the entire Bible, and at the
same time carefully committing to paper everything "seen and heard" in
the spiritual world; for his London excursion beyond the borderland
which separates the here from the hereafter had been only the first of
similar journeys taken not merely by night but in broad daylight. To use
his own phraseology: "The Lord opened daily, very often, my bodily eyes;
so that in the middle of the day I could see into the other world, and
in a state of perfect wakefulness converse with angels and spirits."

His increasing absorption--absent-mindedness, his friends would call
it--his habit of falling into trances, and his claim to interworld
communication, could not fail to excite the surprise of all who had
known him as scientist and philosopher. But these vagaries, as people
deemed them, met the greater toleration because of the evident fact that
they did not dim his intellectual powers and did not interfere with his
activities in behalf of the public good. True, in 1747 he resigned his
office of assessor of mines in order to have more leisure to prosecute
his adventures into the unknown; but as a member of the Swedish Diet he
continued to play a prominent part in the affairs of the Kingdom, giving
long and profound study to the critical problems of administration,
economics, and finance with which the nation's leaders were confronted
during the third quarter of the century. So that--bearing in mind the
further fact that he was no blatant advocate of his opinions--it seems
altogether likely his spiritistic ideas would have gained no great
measure of attention, had it not been for a series of singular
occurrences that took place between 1759 and 1762.

Toward the end of July in the first of these years, Swedenborg (whose
fondness for travel ceased only with his death) arrived in Gottenburg
homeward bound from England, and on the invitation of a friend decided
to break his journey by spending a few days in that city. Two hours
after his arrival, while attending a small reception given in his honor,
he electrified the company by abruptly declaring that at that moment a
dangerous fire had broken out at Stockholm, three hundred miles away,
and was spreading rapidly. Becoming excited, he rushed from the room, to
reënter with the news that the house of one of his friends was in ashes,
and that his own house was threatened. Anxious moments passed, while he
restlessly paced up and down, in and out. Then, with a cry of joy, he
exclaimed, "Thank God the fire is out, the third door from my house!"

Like wild the tidings spread through Gottenburg, and the greatest
commotion prevailed. Some were inclined to give credence to Swedenborg's
statements; more, who did not know the man, derided him as a sensation
monger. But all had to wait with what patience they could, for those
were the days before steam engine and telegraph. Forty-eight anxious
hours passed. Then letters were received confirming the philosopher's
announcement, and, we are assured, showing that the fire had taken
precisely the path described by him, and had stopped where he had

No peace now for Swedenborg. His home at Stockholm, with its quaint
gambrel roof, its summer houses, its neat flower beds, its curious box
trees, instantly became a Mecca for the inquisitive, burning to see the
man who held converse with the dead and was instructed by the latter in
many portentous secrets. Most of those who gained admission, and through
him sought to be put into touch with departed friends, received a
courteous but firm refusal, accompanied by the explanation: "God having
for wise and good purposes separated the world of spirits from ours, a
communication is never granted without cogent reasons." When, however,
his visitors satisfied him that they were imbued with something more
than curiosity, he made an effort to meet their wishes, and occasionally
with astonishing results.

It was thus in the case of Madam Marteville, widow of the Dutch
Ambassador to Sweden. In 1761, some months after her husband's death, a
goldsmith demanded from her payment for a silver service the Ambassador
had bought from him. Feeling sure that the bill had already been paid,
she made search for the receipt, but could find none. The sum involved
was large, and she sought Swedenborg and asked him to seek her husband
in the world of spirits and ascertain whether the debt had been settled.
Three days later, when she was entertaining some friends, Swedenborg
called, and in the most matter of fact way stated that he had had a
conversation with Marteville, and had learned from him that the debt had
been canceled seven months before his death, and that the receipt would
be found in a certain bureau.

"But I have searched all through it," protested Madam Marteville.

"Ah," was Swedenborg's rejoinder; "but it has a secret drawer of which
you know nothing."

At once all present hurried to the bureau, and there, in the private
compartment which he quickly located, lay the missing receipt.

In similar fashion did Swedenborg relate to the Queen of Sweden, Louisa
Ulrica, the substance of the last interview between her and her dead
brother, the Crown Prince of Prussia, an interview which had been
strictly private, and the subject of which, she affirmed, was such that
no third person could possibly have known what passed between them.

More startling still was his declaration to a merry company at Amsterdam
that at that same hour, in far away Russia, the Emperor Peter III. was
being foully done to death in prison. Once more time proved that the
spirit seer, as Swedenborg was now popularly known, had told the truth.

A decade more, and again we meet him in London, his whole being, at
eighty-four, animated with the same energy and enthusiasm that had led
him to seek and attain in his earlier manhood such a vast store of
knowledge. And here, as Christmas drew near, he found lodging with two
old friends, a wig maker and his wife. But ere Christmas dawned he lay a
helpless victim of that dread disease paralysis. Not a word, not a
movement, for full three weeks.

Then, with returning consciousness, a call for pen and paper. He would,
he muttered with thickened speech, send a note to inform a certain John
Wesley that the spirits had made known to him Wesley's desire to meet
him, and that he would be glad to receive a visit at any time. In reply
came word that the great evangelist had indeed wished to make the great
mystic's acquaintance, and that after returning from a six months'
circuit he would give himself the pleasure of waiting upon Swedenborg.
"Too late," was the aged philosopher's comment as the story goes, "too
late; for on the 29th of March I shall be in the world of spirits never
more to return."

March came and went, and with it went his soul on the day predicted, if
prediction there were. They buried him in London, and there in early
season, out of his grave blossomed the religion that has preserved his
name, his fame, his doctrines. To the dead Swedenborg succeeded the
living Swedenborgianism.

       *       *       *       *       *

But what shall those of us who are not Swedenborgians think of the
master? Shall we accept at face value the story of his life as gathered
from the documents left behind him and as set forth here; and, accepting
it, believe that he was in reality a man set apart by God and granted
the rare favor of insight into that unknown world to which all of us
must some day go?

The true explanation, it seems to me, can be had only when we view
Swedenborg in the light of the marvelous discoveries made during the
last few years in the field of abnormal psychology. Beginning in France,
and continuing more recently in the United States and other countries,
investigations have been set on foot resulting in the solution of many
human problems not unlike the riddle of Swedenborg, and occasionally far
more complicated than that presented in his case. All these solutions,
in the last analysis, rest on the basic discovery that human personality
is by no means the single indivisible entity it is commonly supposed to
be, but is instead singularly unstable and singularly complex. It has
been found that under some unusual stimulus--such as an injury, an
illness, or the strain of an intense emotion--there may result a
disintegration, or, as it is technically termed, a dissociation, of
personality, giving rise it may be to hysteria, it may be to
hallucinations, it may even be to a complete disappearance of the
original personality and its replacement by a new personality,
sometimes of radically different characteristics.[F]

It has also been found, by another group of investigators working
principally in England, that side by side with the original, the waking,
personality of every-day life, there coexists a hidden personality
possessing faculties far transcending those enjoyed by the waking
personality, but as a rule coming into play only at moments of crisis,
though by some favored mortals invocable more frequently. To this hidden
personality, as distinguished from the secondary personality of
dissociation, has been given the name of the subliminal self, and to its
operation some attribute alike the productions of men of genius and the
phenomena of clairvoyance and thought transference that have puzzled
mankind from time immemorial.

Now, arguing by analogy from the cases scattered through the writings of
Janet, Sidis, Prince, Myers, Gurney, and many others whose works the
reader may consult for himself in any good public library, it is my
belief that in Swedenborg we have a preëminent illustration both of
dissociation and of subliminal action, and that it is therefore equally
unnecessary to stigmatize him as insane or to adopt the spiritistic
hypothesis in explanation of his utterances. The records show that from
his father he inherited a tendency to hallucinations, checked for a time
by the nature of his studies, but fostered as these expanded into
pursuit of the absolute and the infinite. They further show that for a
long time before the London visions he was in a disturbed state of
health, his nervous system unstrung, his whole being so unhinged that at
times he suffered from attacks of what was probably hystero-epilepsy.

It seems altogether likely, then, that in London the process of
dissociation, after this period of gradual growth, suddenly leaped into
activity. Thereafter his hallucinations, from being sporadic and vague,
became habitual and definite, his hystero-epileptic attacks more
frequent. But, happily for him, the dissociation never became complete.
He was left in command of his original personality, his mental powers
continued unabated; and he was still able to adjust himself to the
environment of the world about him.

But, it may be objected, how explain his revelations in the matter of
the fire at Stockholm, the missing receipt, the message to Queen Ulrica,
and the death of Peter III.? This brings us to the question of
subliminal action. Swedenborg himself, far in advance of his generation
in this as in much else, appears to have realized that there was no need
of invoking spirits to account for such transactions. "I need not
mention," he once wrote, "the manifest sympathies acknowledged to exist
in this lower world, and which are too many to be recounted; so great
being the sympathy and magnetism of man that communication often takes
place between those who are miles apart."

Here, in language that admits of no misinterpretation, we see stated the
doctrine of telepathy, which is only now beginning to find acceptance
among scientific men, but which, as I view it, has been amply
demonstrated by the experiments of recent years and by the thousands of
cases of spontaneous occurrence recorded in such publications as the
"Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research." And if these
experiments and spontaneous instances prove anything, they prove that
telepathy is distinctively a faculty of the subliminal self; and that a
greater or less degree of dissociation is essential, not to the receipt,
but to the objective realization, of telepathic messages. Thus, the
entranced "medium" of modern days extracts from the depths of his
sitter's subconsciousness facts which the sitter has consciously
forgotten, facts even of which he may never have been consciously aware,
but which have been transmitted telepathically to his subliminal self by
the subliminal self of some third person.[G]

So with Swedenborg. Admitting the authenticity of the afore-mentioned
anecdotes--none of which, it is as well to point out, reaches us
supported by first-hand evidence--it is quite unnecessary to appeal to
spirits as his purveyors of knowledge. In every instance telepathy--or
clairvoyance, which is after all explicable itself only by
telepathy--will suffice. In the Marteville affair, for example, it is
not unreasonable to assume that before his death the Ambassador
telepathically told his devoted wife of the existence of the secret
drawer and its contents; if, indeed, she had not known and forgotten. It
would then be an exceedingly simple matter for the dissociated
Swedenborg to acquire the desired information from the wife's
subconsciousness. Nor does this reflect on his honesty. Doubtless he
believed, as he represented, that he had actually had a conversation
with the dead Marteville, and had learned from him the whereabouts of
the missing receipt. In the form his dissociation took he could no more
escape such a hallucination than can the twentieth-century medium avoid
the belief that he is a veritable intermediary between the visible and
the invisible world.

Not that I would put Swedenborg on a par with the ordinary medium. He
was unquestionably a man of gigantic intellect, and he was
unquestionably inspired, if by inspiration be understood the gift of
combining subliminal with supraliminal powers to a degree granted to few
of those whom the world counts truly great. If his fanciful and
fantastic pictures of life in heaven and hell and in our neighboring
planets welled up from the depths of his inmost mind, far more did the
noble truths to which he gave expression. It is by these he should be
judged; it is in these, not in his hallucinations nor in his telepathic
exhibitions, that lies the secret of the commanding, if not always
recognized, influence he has exercised on the thought of posterity. A
solitary figure? True: but a grand figure, even in his saddest moment of


[E] The most complete enumeration of the writings of Swedenborg will be
found in the Rev. James Hyde's "A Bibliography of the Works of Emanuel
Swedenborg," published in 1906 by the Swedenborg Society of London.
Including books on Swedenborg, this bibliography contains no fewer than
thirty-five hundred items. For a detailed account of Swedenborg's life
the reader may consult Dr. R. L. Tafel's "Documents concerning the Life
and Character of Swedenborg," or the biographies by William White,
Benjamin Worcester, James J. G. Wilkinson, and Nathaniel Hobart. Of
these, the White biography is the most critical.

[F] Illustrative cases will be cited in the discussion of "The Watseka
Wonder" on a later page. For a detailed explanation of "dissociation"
the reader is referred to Dr. Morton Prince's "The Dissociation of a
Personality," or Dr. Boris Sidis's "Multiple Personality."

[G] This point is more fully discussed in my earlier book, "The Riddle
of Personality."



The quaint old London church of St. Sepulchre's could not by any stretch
of the imagination be called a fashionable place of worship. It stood in
a crowded quarter of the city, and the gentry were content to leave it
to the small tradesfolk and humble working people who made up its
parish. Now and again a stray antiquarian paid it a fleeting visit; but,
speaking generally, the coming of a stranger was so rare as to be
accounted an event.

It is easy, then, to understand the sensation occasioned by the
appearance at prayers one morning, in the year of grace, 1759, of a
young and well dressed couple whose natural habitat was obviously in
quite other surroundings. As they waited in the aisle--the man tall,
erect, and easy of bearing, the woman fair and graceful--there was an
instant craning of necks and vast nudging of one's neighbor; and long
after they had seated themselves a subdued whispering bore further, if
unnecessary, testimony to the curiosity they had aroused.

Probably no one felt a more lively interest than did the parish clerk,
who, in showing them to a pew, had noted the tenderness with which they
regarded each other. It needed nothing more to persuade him that they
were eloping lovers, and that a snug gratuity was as good as in his
pocket. All through the service he fidgeted impatiently in the shadows
near the door, and as soon as the congregation was dismissed and he
perceived that the visitors were lingering in their places, he hurried
forward and accosted them. His name, he volubly explained, was Parsons;
he was officiating clerk of the parish; likewise master in the charity
school nearby. No doubt they would like to inspect the church, perhaps
to visit the school; it might even be they were desirous of meeting the
pastor? He would be delighted if he could serve them in any way.

"Possibly you can," said the man, "for you doubtless know the
neighborhood like a book. My name is Knight, and this lady is my wife.
We--" He stopped short at sight of the changed expression on the
other's face, and breesquely demanded, "How now, man? What are you
gaping at?"

"No offense, sir, no offense," stammered the disappointed and
embarrassed clerk. "I beg your pardon, sir and madam."

There was an awkward pause before the man began again. "As I was saying,
my name is Knight and this lady is my wife. We have only recently come
to London and are in search of lodgings. If you know of any good place
to which you can recommend us, we shall be heartily obliged to you."

Whatever he was, Clerk Parsons was not a fool, and these few words
showed him plainly that he was face to face with a mystery. Elopers or
no, such a well born couple would not from choice bury themselves in
this forbidding section of London. With a cunning fostered by long years
of precarious livelihood, he at once resolved to profit if he could from
their need.

"I fear, sir," said he, "that I know of no lodgings that would be at all
suitable for you. We are poor folk, all of us, and--"

"If you are honest folk," interrupted the lady, with an enchanting
smile, "we ask no more."

Her husband checked her with a gesture and a look that was not lost on
the now all-observing clerk, though it was long before he understood its

"We are willing to pay a reasonable charge, and shall require only a
bed-room and a sitting-room. If possible, we should prefer to be where
there are no other lodgers."

"In that case," responded the clerk, with an eagerness he could scarcely
veil, "I can accommodate you in my own house. It is simple but
commodious, and I can answer that my wife will deal fairly by you."

"What think you, Fanny?" asked the man, turning to his wife.

"We can at least go and see."

This they immediately did, and to Clerk Parsons's joy decided to make
their home with him. Nor did their coming gladden the clerk alone. His
wife and children, two little girls of nine and ten, from the moment
they saw the "beautiful lady" conceived a warm attachment for her. Her
geniality, her kindliness, her manifest love for her husband, appealed
to their sympathies, as did the sadness which from time to time clouded
her face. If, like Parsons himself, they soon became convinced that she
and her husband shared some momentous secret, they could not bring
themselves to believe that it involved her in wrongdoing. For the
husband too they entertained the friendliest feelings. He was of a
blunt, outspoken disposition and perhaps a trifle quick tempered, but he
was frank and liberal and sincerely devoted to his wife. For all in the
household, therefore, the days passed pleasantly; and when Mrs. Parsons
one fine spring morning discovered her fair guest in tears she felt that
time had established between them relations sufficiently confidential to
warrant her motherly intervention.

"Come, my dear," said she, "I have long seen that something is troubling
you. Tell me what it is, that I may be able to comfort, perhaps aid

"It is nothing, good Mrs. Parsons, nothing. I am very foolish. I was
thinking of what would become of me if anything should happen to my

"Dear, dear! and nothing will. But you could then turn to your

"I have no relatives."

"What, my dear, are they all dead?"

"No," in a solemn tone, "but I am dead to them."

In a voice shaken by sobs, she now unfolded her story, and pitiful
enough it was. She was, it appeared, the sister of Knight's first wife,
who had died in Norfolk leaving a new born child that survived its
mother only a few hours. At Knight's request she then went to keep house
for him, and presently they found themselves very much in love with each
other. But in the canon law they discovered an insuperable obstacle to
marriage. Had the wife died without issue, or had her child not been
born alive, the law would have permitted her, even though a "deceased
wife's sister," to wed the man of her choice. As things stood, a
legitimate union was out of the question. Learning this, they resolved
to separate; but separation brought only increased longing. Thence grew
a rapid and mutual persuasion that, under the circumstances, it would be
no sin to bid defiance to the canon law and live together as man and
wife. This view not finding favor with their relatives, and becoming
apprehensive of arrest and imprisonment, they had fled to London and had
hidden themselves in its depths. Surely, she concluded, with a
desperate intensity, surely fair-minded people would not condemn them;
surely all who knew what true love was would feel that they could not
have acted otherwise?

This confession, though it did not in the least diminish her landlady's
regard for her, worked indirectly in a most disastrous way. Whether
driven by necessity, or emboldened by the belief that his lodgers were
at his mercy, the clerk soon afterward approached Knight for a small
loan; and, obtaining it, repeated the request on several other
occasions, until he had borrowed in all about twelve pounds. Payment he
postponed on one pretext and another, until the lender finally lost all
patience and informed him roundly that he must settle or stand suit.
Then followed an interchange of words that in an instant terminated the
pleasant connection of the preceding months. Parsons was described as
"an impudent scoundrel who would be taught what honesty meant." Parsons
described himself as "knowing what honesty meant full well, and needing
no lessons from a fugitive from justice." White with rage, Knight
bundled his belongings together, called a hackney coach, and within the
hour had shaken the dust of Cock Lane from his feet, finding new
lodgings in Clerkenwell and at once haling his whilom landlord to the
debtors' court.

A little time, and all else was forgotten in the serious illness of his
beloved Fanny. At first the physician declared that the malady would
prove slight; but she herself seemed to feel that she was doomed. "Send
for a lawyer," she urged; "I want to make my will. It is little enough I
have, God knows; but I wish to be sure you will get it all, dear

To humor her, the will was drawn, and now it developed that the disease
which had attacked her was smallpox in its worst form. No need to dwell
on the fearful hours that followed, the fond farewells, the lapsing into
a merciful unconsciousness, the death. They buried her in the vaults of
St. John's Clerkenwell, and from her tomb her husband came forth to give
battle to the relatives who, shunning her while alive, did not disdain
to seek possession of the small legacy she had left him. In this they
failed, but scarcely had the smoke of the legal canonading cleared away,
before he was called upon to meet a new issue so unexpected and so
mysterious that history affords no stranger sequel to tale of love.

The first intimation of its coming and of its nature was revealed to
him, as to the public generally, by a brief paragraph printed in a mid
January, 1762, issue of _The London Ledger_:

"For some time past a great knocking having been heard in the night, at
the officiating parish clerk's of St. Sepulchre's, in Cock Lane near
Smithfield, to the great terror of the family, and all means used to
discover the meaning of it, four gentlemen sat up there last Friday
night, among whom was a clergyman standing withinside the door, who
asked various questions. On his asking whether any one had been
murdered, no answer was made; but on his asking whether any one had been
poisoned, it knocked one and thirty times. The report current in the
neighborhood is that a woman was some time ago poisoned, and buried at
St. John's Clerkenwell, by her brother-in-law."

Instantly the city was agog, and for the next fortnight _The Ledger_,
_The Chronicle_, and other newspapers gave much of their space to
details of the pretended revelations, though they were careful to refer
to names by blanks or initials only.[H] These accounts informed their
readers that the knocking had first been heard in the life time of the
deceased when, during the absence of her supposed husband, she had
shared her bed with Clerk Parsons's oldest daughter; that she had then
pronounced it an omen of her early death; that it did not occur again
until after she had died; that, if the soi-disant spirit could be
believed, the earlier knocking had been due to the agency of her dead
sister; and that, in her own turn, she had come back to bring to justice
the villain who had murdered her for the little she possessed. In
commenting on this amazing story, the papers were prompt to point out
that the knocking was heard only in the presence of the afore-mentioned
daughter, now a girl of twelve; and while one or two, like _The
Ledger_, inclined to credence, the majority followed _The Chronicle_ in
denouncing the affair as an "imposture."

The outraged husband, as may be imagined, lost not a moment in demanding
admission to the séances which were proceeding merrily under the
direction of a servant in the Parsons family and a clergyman of the
neighborhood. He found that the method practised was to put the girl to
bed, wait until the knocking should begin, and then question the alleged
spirit; when answers were received according to a code of one knock for
an affirmative and two knocks for a negative. It was in his presence,
then, though not at a single sitting, that the following dialogue was in
this way carried on:

"Are you Miss Fanny?"--"Yes."

"Did you die naturally?"--"No."

"Did you die by poison?"--"Yes."

"Do you know what kind of poison it was?"--"Yes."

"Was it arsenic?"--"Yes."

"Was it given to you by any person other than Mr. Knight?"--"No."

"Do you wish that he be hanged?"--"Yes."

"Was it given to you in gruel?"--"No."

"In beer?"--"Yes."

Here a spectator interrupted with the remark that the deceased was never
known to drink beer, but had been fond of purl, and the question was
hastily put:

"Was it not in purl?"--"Yes."

"How long did you live after taking it?"--Three knocks, held to mean
three hours.

"Did Carrots" (her maid) "know of your being poisoned?"--"Yes."

"Did you tell her?"--"Yes."

"How long was it after you took it before you told her?" One knock, for
one hour.

Here was something tangible, and Knight went to work with a will to
refute the terrible charge brought by the invisible accuser. As reported
in _The Daily Gazetteer_, which had promised that "the reader may expect
to be enlightened from time to time to the utmost of our power in this
intricate and dark affair," the maid Carrots was found, and from her was
procured a sworn statement that Mrs. Knight had said not a word to her
about being poisoned; that, indeed, she had become unconscious twelve
hours before her death and remained unconscious to the end. The
physician and apothecary who had attended her made affidavit to the same
effect, and described the fatal nature of her illness. It was further
shown that her death at most benefited Knight by not more than a hundred
pounds, of which he had no need, as he was of independent means.

Altogether, he would seem to have cleared himself effectually. Still the
knocking continued, and night after night the accusation was repeated.
He now resorted, therefore, to a radical step to convince the public
that he was the victim of a monstrous fraud.

Asserting that little Miss Parsons herself produced the mysterious
sounds, and that she did so at the instigation of her father, he secured
an order for her removal to the house of a friend of his, a Clerkenwell
clergyman. Here a decisive failure was recorded against the ghost. It
had promised that it would knock on the coffin containing Mrs. Knight's
remains; and about one o'clock in the morning, after hours of silent
watching, during which the spirit gave not a sign of its presence, the
entire company adjourned to the church. Only one member was found of
sufficient boldness to plunge with Knight into the gloomy depths where
the dead lay entombed; and that one bore out his statement that never a
knock had been heard. The girl was urged to confess, but persisted in
her assertions that the ghost was in nowise of her making.

Afterward, when the knocking had been resumed under more favorable
auspices, word came from the unseen world that the fiasco in the church
was ascribable to the very good reason that Knight had caused his wife's
coffin to be secretly removed. "I will show them!" cried the desperate
man. With clergyman, sexton, and undertaker, he visited the vaults once
more and not only identified but opened the coffin.

Meanwhile all London was flocking to Cock Lane as to a raree-show, on
foot, on horseback, in vehicles of every description. Some, like the
celebrated Dr. Johnson who took part in the coffin opening episode in
Clerkenwell, were animated by scientific zeal; but idle curiosity
inspired the great majority. The gossiping Walpole, in a letter to his
friend Montagu, has left a graphic picture of the stir created by the
newspaper reports.

"I went to hear it," he writes; "for it is not an apparition but an
audition. We set out from the opera, changed our clothes at
Northumberland House, the Duke of York, Lady Northumberland, Lady Mary
Coke, Lord Hertford, and I, all in one hackney coach, and drove to the
spot; it rained in torrents; yet the lane was full of mob, and the house
so full we could not get in; at last they discovered it was the Duke of
York, and the company squeezed themselves into one another's pockets to
make room for us. The house, which is borrowed, and to which the ghost
has adjourned, is wretchedly small and miserable; when we opened the
chamber, in which were fifty people with no light but one tallow candle
at the end, we tumbled over the bed of the child to whom the ghost
comes, and whom they are murdering by inches in such insufferable heat
and stench. At the top of the room are clothes to dry. I asked if we
were to have rope dancing between the acts. We heard nothing; they told
us (as they would at a puppet show) that it would not come that night
till seven in the morning, that is, when there are only prentices and
old women. We stayed, however, till half an hour after one."

The skepticism patent in this letter was shared by all thinking men.
Letter after letter of criticism, even of abuse, was poured into the
newspapers. No less a personage than Oliver Goldsmith wrote, under the
title of "The Mystery Revealed," a long pamphlet which was intended both
to explain away the disturbances and to defend the luckless Knight. The
actor Garrick dragged into a prologue a riming and sneering reference to
the mystery; the artist Hogarth invoked his genius to deride it. Yet
there were believers in plenty, and there even seem to have been some
who thought of preying on the credulous by opening up a business in
"knocking ghosts."

"On Tuesday last," one reads in _The Chronicle_, "it was given out that
a new knocking ghost was to perform that evening at a house in Broad
Court near Bow Street, Covent Garden; information of which being given
to a certain magistrate in the neighborhood, he sent his compliments
with an intimation that it should not meet with that lenity the Cock
Lane ghost did, but that it should knock hemp in Bridewell. On which the
ghost very discreetly omitted the intended exhibition."

Whether or no he took a hint from this publication, it is certain that,
finding all other means failing, Knight now resolved to try to lay by
legal process the ghost that had rendered him the most unhappy and the
most talked of man in London. Going before a magistrate, he brought a
charge of criminal conspiracy against Clerk Parsons, Mrs. Parsons, the
Parsons servant, the clergyman who had aided the servant in eliciting
the murder story from the talkative ghost, and a Cock Lane tradesman.
All of these, he alleged, had banded themselves together to ruin him,
their malice arising from the quarrel which had led him to remove to
Clerkenwell and enter a lawsuit against Parsons. The girl herself he did
not desire punished, because she was too young to understand the evil
that she wrought. Warrants were forthwith issued, and, protesting their
innocence frantically, the accused were dragged to prison.

Their conviction soon followed, after a trial of which the only
obtainable evidence is that it was held at the Guildhall before a
special jury and was presided over by Lord Mansfield. Then, "the court
desiring that Mr. K----, who had been so much injured on this occasion,
should receive some reparation,"[I] sentence was deferred for several
months. This enabled the clergyman and the tradesman "to purchase their
pardon" by the payment of some five hundred or six hundred pounds to
Knight. But the clerk either would not or could not pay a farthing, and
on him and his, sentence was now passed. "The father," to quote once
more from the meager account in _The Annual Register_, "was ordered to
be set in the pillory three times in one month, once at the end of Cock
Lane, and after that to be imprisoned two years; Elizabeth his wife, one
year; and Mary Frazer, six months to Bridewell, and to be kept there to
hard labor." Thus, in wig and gown, did the law solemnly and severely
place the seal of disbelief on the Cock Lane ghost; which, it is worth
observing, seems to have vanished forever the moment the arrests were

       *       *       *       *       *

But, looking back at the case from the vantage point of chronological
distance and of recent research into kindred affairs, it is difficult to
accept as final the verdict reached by the "special jury" and concurred
in by the public opinion of the day. It is preposterous to suppose that
for so slight a cause as a dispute over twelve pounds Clerk Parsons and
his associates would conspire to ruin a man's reputation and if possible
to take his life; and still more preposterous to imagine that they would
adopt such a means to attain this end. Of course, they may have had
stronger reasons for being hostile to Knight than appears from the
published facts. Yet it is significant that when the clerk was placed in
the pillory he seemed to "be out of his mind," and so evident was his
misery that the assembled mob "instead of using him ill, made a handsome
collection for him."

The more likely, nay the only defensible solution of the problem, is
that he, his fellow sufferers, and Knight himself were one and all the
victims of the uncontrollable impulses of a hysterical child. The case
bears too strong a resemblance to the Tedworth and Epworth disturbances
to admit of any other hypothesis. Not that the Parsons girl is to be
placed on exactly the same footing as the Mompesson children and Hetty
Wesley, and held to some extent responsible for the mischievous
phenomena she produced.

On the contrary, the more one studies the evidence the stronger grows
the conviction that in her we have a striking and singular instance of
"dissociation." She was, it is very evident, strongly attached to the
unfortunate Mrs. Knight, doubtless felt keenly the separation from her,
and, whether consciously or subconsciously, would cherish a grudge
against Knight as the cause of that separation. The news of Mrs.
Knight's death would come as a great shock, and might easily act, so to
speak, as the fulcrum of the lever of mental disintegration. Then, dimly
enough at first but soon with portentous rapidity, her disordered
consciousness would conceive the idea that her friend had been murdered
and that it was her duty to bring the slayer to justice. From this it
would be an easy step to the development, in the neurotic child, of a
full fledged secondary personality, akin to that found in the
spiritistic mediums of later times.

Now, for the first time, her faculties would seem to her astonished
parents to be in the keeping and under the control of an extraneous
being, a departed, discarnate spirit; and in this error she and they
would be confirmed by the suggestions and foolish questions of those who
came to marvel. It needed another great shock--there being in those days
no Janet or Prince or Sidis to take charge of the case--the shock of
the arrest and imprisonment of her parents, to effect at least partial
reintegration and the consequent disappearance of the secondary self,
the much debated, malevolent Cock Lane ghost.


[H] It is proper to observe that the name Knight given to the leading
actor in this singular drama rests on inference merely. Doubtless from a
fear of libel suits, the contemporary newspapers and magazines speak of
him only as Mr. ----, or Mr. K----, there being, so far as the present
writer has been able to discover, only one publication (_The Gentleman's
Magazine_) so bold as to refer to him as Mr. K----t. Nowhere is his
identity made clear. Judging from the prominence of those who rushed to
his defense, he would seem to have been a person of considerable

[I] _The Annual Register_ for 1762.



It is comparatively easy, when seated before a roaring fire in a
well-lighted room, to sneer ghosts out of existence, and roundly affirm
that they are without exception the fanciful products of a heated
imagination. But the matter takes on a very different complexion, when
in that same room and without so much as the opening of a door, one is
unexpectedly confronted by the figure of an absent friend, who, it
subsequently appears, is about that time breathing his last in another
part of the world. Especially would it seem impossible to remain
skeptical if there existed between oneself and the friend in question a
compact, drawn up years before in an access of youthful enthusiasm,
binding whichever should die first to appear to the other at the moment
of death.

This, as all students of ghostology are aware, has frequently been the
case; and it was precisely the case with the ghost seen by the famous
Lord Brougham, the brilliant and versatile Scotchman, whose
astonishingly long and successful career in England as statesman, judge,
lawyer, man of science, philanthropist, orator, and author won him a
place among the immortals both of the Georgian and of the Victorian era.

At the time he saw the ghost he was still a young man, thinking far less
of what the future might hold than of the pleasures of the present. In
fact, it is difficult to imagine a more unlikely subject for a ghostly
experience. From his earliest youth, his father, a most matter of fact
person, sedulously endeavored to impress him with the belief that the
only spirits deserving of the name were those which came in oddly
labeled bottles; and in support of this view the elder Brougham
frequently related the adventures of sundry persons of his acquaintance
who had engaged in the mischievous pastime of ghost hunting. Added to
the natural effect of such tales as these was the inherent exuberance of
Brougham's disposition and the bent of his mind to mathematics and
kindred exact sciences.

It was at the Edinburgh high school that he first met his future ghost,
who at the time was a youngster like himself, and became and long
remained his most intimate friend. The two lads were graduated together
from the high school, and together matriculated into the university,
where, in the intervals Brougham could spare from his favorite studies
and recreations, and from the company of the daredevil students with
whom he soon began to associate, they continued their old time walks and

On one of these walks, the conversation happened to turn to the
perennial problem of life beyond the grave and the possibility of the
dead communicating with the living. Brougham, mindful of the views
maintained by his father, doubtless treated the subject lightly, if not
scoffingly; but one word led to another, until finally, in what he
afterward described as a moment of folly, he covenanted with his friend
that whichever of them should happen to pass from earth first would, if
it were at all possible, show himself in spirit to the other, and thus
prove beyond peradventure that the soul of man survived the death of the

So far as Brougham was concerned, this undertaking was speedily
forgotten in the pressure of the many activities into which he plunged
with all the ardor of his impetuous nature. His days were given wholly
to the pursuit of knowledge; his nights to the pursuit of pleasure, as
pleasure was then counted by the roystering young Scotchmen, whose
favorite resort was the tavern, and whose most popular pastime was
filching signs, bell handles, and knockers, and stirring the city guard
to unwonted energy. Under such conditions neither the death pact nor the
solemn minded youth with whom he had made it could remain long in his
memory; and it is not surprising to find that with the end of college
life and the removal of his boyhood's friend to India, where he entered
the civil service, they soon became as strangers to each other.

Brougham himself remained in Edinburgh to read for the law, and
incidentally to develop with the aid of an amateur debating society the
oratorical talents that were in time to make him the logical successor
of Pitt, Fox, and Burke in the House of Commons. He continued none the
less a lover of pleasure, some of which, however, he now took in the
healthy form of long walking trips through the Highlands. In this way he
acquired a desire for travel, and when, in the autumn of 1799, an
opportunity came for an extended tour of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, he
grasped it eagerly. Together with the future diplomat, Lord Stuart of
Rothsay, then plain Charles Stuart and the boon companion of many a
pedestrian excursion, he sailed for Copenhagen late in September, and by
leisurely stages made his way thence to Stockholm, alive to all the
varied interests of the novel scenes in which he found himself; but
encountering little that was exciting or adventurous, until, after a
prolonged sojourn in the Swedish capital and a brief visit to Göteborg,
he started for Norway.

By this time the weather had turned so cold that the travelers resolved
to bring their tour to a sudden end, and to press on as rapidly as the
bad roads would permit to some Norwegian port, where they hoped to find
a ship that would carry them back to Scotland. Accordingly, leaving
Göteborg early in the morning of December 19, they journeyed steadily
until after midnight, when they came to an inn that seemed to promise
comfortable sleeping accommodations. Stuart lost no time in going to
bed; but Brougham decided to wait until a hot bath could be prepared
for him.

Plunging into it, and forgetful of everything save the warmth that was
doubly welcome after the cold of the long drive, he suddenly became
aware that he was not alone in the room. No door had opened, not a
footstep had been heard; but in the light of the flickering candles he
plainly saw the figure of a man seated in the chair on which he had
carelessly thrown his clothes. And this figure he instantly recognized
as that of his early playmate, the forgotten chum who, as he well knew,
had years before gone from the land of the heather to the land of the
blazing sun. Yet here he sat, in the quaintly furnished sleeping chamber
of a Swedish roadside inn, gazing composedly at his astounded friend. At
once there flashed into Brougham's mind remembrance of the death pact,
and he leaped from the bath, only to lose all consciousness and fall
headlong to the floor. When he revived, the apparition had disappeared.

There was little sleep for the hard headed Scotchman that night. The
vision had been too definite, the shock too intense. But, dressing, he
sat down and strove to debate the matter in the light of cold reason.
He must, he argued, have dozed off in the bath and experienced a strange
dream. To be sure, he had not been thinking of his old comrade, and for
years had had no communication with him. Nor had anything taken place
during the tour to bring to memory either him or any member of his
family, or to turn Brougham's mind to thoughts of India. Still, he found
it impossible to believe that he had seen a ghost. At most, he
reiterated to himself, it could have been nothing more than an
exceptionally clear cut dream. And to this opinion he stubbornly
adhered, notwithstanding the receipt, soon after his return to
Edinburgh, of a letter from India announcing the death of the friend who
had been so mysteriously recalled to his recollection, and giving
December 19 as the date of death. More than sixty years later we find
him, in his autobiography commenting on the experience anew, granting
that it was a strange coincidence but refusing to admit that it was
anything more than the coincidence of a dream.

It was in his autobiography, by the way, that he first referred to the
confirmatory letter. This fact, taken in connection with his reputation
for holding the truth in light esteem and with several vague and
puzzling statements contained in the detailed account of the experience
itself as set forth in his journal of the Scandinavian tour, has led
some critics to make the suggestion that his narrative partakes of the
nature of fiction rather than of a sober recital of facts. Against this,
however, must be set Brougham's complete and invincible repugnance to
accept at face value anything bordering on the supernatural. He took no
pleasure in the thought that he had possibly been the recipient of a
visit from a departed spirit. On the contrary, it annoyed him, and he
sought earnestly to find a natural explanation for an occurrence which
remained unique throughout his long life. No one would have been readier
to point out the futility of the apparition if the absent friend had
really continued hale and hearty after December 19. And it is therefore
reasonable to assume that had he wished to falsify at all, he would have
given an altogether different sequel to the story of his vision or
dream, as he preferred to call it, though the evidence which he himself
furnishes shows that he was not asleep.

The question still remains, of course, whether he was justified in
dismissing it as a sheer chance coincidence. If it stood by itself, it
would obviously be permissible to accept this explanation as all
sufficient. But the fact is that it is only one of many similar
instances. This was strikingly brought out only a few years ago through
a far reaching inquiry, a "census of hallucinations," instituted by a
special committee of the Society for Psychical Research.

Enlisting the services of some four hundred "collectors," the committee
instructed each of these to address to twenty-five adults, selected at
random, the query, "Have you ever, when believing yourself to be
completely awake, had a vivid impression of seeing or being touched by a
living being or inanimate object, or of hearing a voice; which
impression, so far as you could discover, was not due to any external
physical cause?" In all, seventeen thousand people were thus questioned,
and almost ten per cent. of the answers received proved to be in the
affirmative. More than this, it appeared that out of a total of three
hundred and fifty recognized apparitions of living persons, no fewer
than sixty-five were "death coincidences," in which the hallucinatory
experience occurred within from one hour to twelve hours after the death
of the person seen.

Sifting these death coincidences carefully, the committee for various
reasons rejected more than half, and at the same time raised the total
of recognized apparitions of living persons from three hundred and fifty
to thirteen hundred. This was done in order to make generous allowance
for the number of such apparitions forgotten by those to whom the
question had been put, investigation showing that the great majority of
hallucinations reported were given as of comparatively recent
occurrence, and that there was a rapid decrease as the years of
occurrence became more remote.

As a final result, therefore, the committee found about thirty death
coincidences out of thirteen hundred cases, or a proportion of one in
forty-three. Computing from the average annual death-rate for England
and Wales, it was calculated that the probability that any one person
would die on a given day was about one in nineteen thousand; in other
words, out of every nineteen thousand apparitions of living persons,
there should occur, by chance alone, one death coincidence. The actual
proportion, however, as established by the inquiry, was equivalent to
about four hundred and forty in nineteen thousand, or four hundred and
forty times the most probable number, and this when the apparitions
reported were considered merely collectively as having been seen at any
time within twelve hours after death. Not a few, as a matter of fact,
were reported as having been seen within one hour after death, and for
these the improbability of occurrence by chance alone was manifestly
twelve times four hundred and forty. In view of these considerations the
committee felt warranted in declaring that "between deaths and
apparitions of dying persons a connection exists which is not due to

Had Lord Brougham lived to study the statistics of this remarkable
census of hallucinations, he might have formed a higher opinion of his
ghost; but he would also have been in a better position to deny its
supernatural attributes. For, if the Society for Psychical Research has
made it impossible to doubt the existence of such ghosts as that which
he beheld during his travels in Sweden, it has likewise made discoveries
which afford a really substantial reason for asserting that they no more
hail from the world beyond than do ghosts that are unmistakably the
creations of fancy or fraud. This results from the society's
investigations of thought transference or telepathy, to use the term now
commonly employed.

At an early stage of the experiments undertaken to determine the
possibility of transmitting thought from mind to mind without the
intervention of any known means of communication, it was found that when
success attended the efforts of the experimenters the telepathic message
was frequently received not in the form of pure thought but as a
hallucinatory image; and what is still more important in the present
connection, it was further found possible so to produce not merely
images of cards, flowers, books, and other inanimate objects, but also
images of living persons.

Thus, as chronicled with corroborative evidence in the society's
"Proceedings," an English clergyman named Godfrey telepathically caused
a distant friend to see an apparition of him one night; the same result
was achieved by a Mr. Sinclair of New Jersey, who, during a visit to New
York, succeeded in projecting a phantasm of himself which was clearly
seen by his wife in Lakewood; and similarly a Mr. Kirk, while seated in
his London office, paid a telepathic visit to the home of a young woman,
who saw him as distinctly as though he had gone there in the flesh. In
all of these, as in other cases recorded by the society, the persons to
whom the apparitions were vouchsafed had no idea that any experiment of
the kind was being attempted.

Indeed, there is on record an apparently well authenticated instance of
the experimental production of an apparition not of the living but of
the dead. This occurred in Germany many years ago, when a certain Herr
Wesermann undertook to "will" a military friend into dreaming of a woman
who had long been dead. The sequel may be related in Herr Wesermann's
own words:

"A lady, who had been dead five years, was to appear to Lieutenant N. in
a dream at 10.30 P.M., and incite him to good deeds. At half-past ten,
contrary to expectation, Herr N. had not gone to bed but was discussing
the French campaign with his friend Lieutenant S. in the ante-room.
Suddenly the door of the room opened, the lady entered dressed in white,
with a black kerchief and uncovered head, greeted S. with her hand three
times in a friendly manner; then turned to N., nodded to him, and
returned again through the doorway.

"As this story, related to me by Lieutenant N., seemed to be too
remarkable from a psychological point of view for the truth of it not to
be duly established, I wrote to Lieutenant S., who was living six miles
away, and asked him to give me his account of it. He sent me the
following reply:

"'On the thirteenth of March, 1817, Herr N. came to pay me a visit at my
lodgings about a league from A----. He stayed the night with me. After
supper, and when we were both undressed, I was sitting on my bed and
Herr N. was standing by the door of the next room on the point also of
going to bed. This was about half-past ten. We were speaking partly
about indifferent subjects and partly about the events of the French
campaign. Suddenly the door of the kitchen opened without a sound, and
a lady entered, very pale, taller than Herr N., about five feet four
inches in height, strong and broad of figure, dressed in white, but with
a large black kerchief which reached to below the waist.

"'She entered with bare head, greeted me with the hand three times in
complimentary fashion, turned round to the left toward Herr N., and
waved her hand to him three times; after which the figure quietly, and
again without any creaking of the door, went out. We followed at once in
order to discover whether there were any deception, but found nothing.
The strangest thing was this, that our night-watch of two men whom I had
shortly found on the watch were now asleep, though at my first call they
were on the alert; and that the door of the room, which always opens
with a good deal of noise, did not make the slightest sound when opened
by the figure.'"[K]

It is also significant that, as was made evident by the census of
hallucinations, by far the larger number of apparitions reported are
those of persons still alive and well. In these cases, nobody being
dead, it is absurd[L] to raise the cry of spirits, and the only tenable
hypothesis is that, through one of the several causes which seem to
quicken telepathic action, a spontaneous telepathic hallucination has
been produced. Now, the experiments conducted by the society and by
independent investigators have shown that telepathic messages often lie
dormant for hours beneath the threshold of the receiver's consciousness,
being consciously apprehended only when certain favoring conditions
arise; as, for example, when the receiver has fallen asleep, or into a
state of reverie, or when, tired out after a long day's work, he has
utterly relaxed mentally. This is technically known as "deferred
percipience," and, considered in conjunction with the discoveries
mentioned, it is amply sufficient to dislodge from the realm of the
supernatural the ghost seen by Lord Brougham, and every ghost that is
not a mere imposter.

In the Brougham case the exciting cause of the hallucination seems to
have been the death pact. As he lay dying in India, the mind of the
whilom schoolboy would, consciously or unconsciously, revert to that
agreement with the friend of his youth, and thence would arise the
desire to let him know that the plighted word had not been forgotten.
Across the vast intervening space, by what mechanism we as yet do not
know, the message would flash instantaneously, to remain unapprehended,
perhaps for hours after the death of the sender, until, in the quiet of
the Swedish inn and resting from the fatigues of the journey, Brougham's
mental faculties passed momentarily into the condition necessary for its
objective realization.

Then, precisely as in experimental telepathy the receiver sees a
hallucinatory image of the trinket or the book; with a suddenness and
vividness that could not fail to shock him, the message would find
expression by the creation before Brougham's startled eyes of a
hallucinatory image of the friend who, as he was to learn later, had
died that same day thousands of miles from Sweden. Knowing nothing of
the possibilities of the human mind, as revealed, if only faintly, by
the labors of a later generation, it was inevitable he should believe he
had no alternative between dismissing the experience as a peculiar dream
or admitting that in very truth he had looked upon a ghost.


[J] The committee's report will be found in the tenth volume of the
"Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research."

[K] Translation from the "Journal of the Society for Psychical
Research," Vol. IV. p. 218.

[L] I had originally written "impossible," but a critic of my "Riddle of
Personality," in which this point was taken up, has convinced me that
"absurd" is the better word. The critic in question writes: "what
evidence has the author that an apparition of the living is not a
spirit? Why may not the spirit of the living person have left his body
and appeared to his friend? Such is the view of many people, and it
coincides with certain phenomena in dreams." But, to raise only one
objection: If the apparition appear at a moment when the person seen is
actively engaged elsewhere--it may be in writing a book, or preaching a
sermon--what is it that is seen, and what is it that is writing or
preaching? Is the "spirit" present in both places at the same time--in
the shadowy apparition, and in the living, breathing, busily-occupied
human entity? Assuredly, if it be not "impossible" to raise the cry of
spirits in such a case, it would at all events seem "absurd" to do so.



Modern spiritism, as every student of that fascinating if elusive
subject is aware, dates from the closing years of the first half of the
nineteenth century. But the celebrated Fox sisters, whose revelations at
that time served to crystallize into an organized religious system the
idea of the possibility of communication between this world and the
world beyond, were by no means the first of spiritistic mediums. Long
before their day there were those who professed to have cognizance of
things unseen and to act as intermediaries between the living and the
dead; and although lost to sight amid the throng of latter-day claimants
to similar powers, the achievements of some of these early adventurers
into the unknown have not been surpassed by the best performances of the
Fox girls and their long line of successors.

Especially is this true of the mediumship of a young German woman,
Frederica Hauffe, who in the course of her short, pitiful, and tragic
career is credited with having displayed more varied and picturesque
supernatural gifts than the most renowned wonder-worker of to-day. Like
many modern mediums she was of humble origin, her birthplace being a
forester's hut in the Würtemberg mountain village of Prevorst; and here,
among wood-cutters and charcoal-burners, she passed the first years of
her life. Even while still a child she seems to have attracted
wide-spread attention on account of certain peculiarities of temperament
and conduct. It was noticed that though naturally gay and playful she
occasionally assumed a strangely intent and serious manner; that in her
happiest moments she was subject to unaccountable fits of shuddering and
shivering; and that she seemed keenly alive not merely to the sights and
sounds of every-day life but to influences unfelt by those about her.
This last trait received a sudden and unexpected development when, at
the age of twelve or thirteen, she was sent to the neighboring town of
Löwenstein to be educated under the care of her grand-parents, a worthy
couple named Schmidgall.

Grandfather Schmidgall was an exceedingly superstitious old man, with a
singular fondness for visiting solitary and gloomy places, particularly
churchyards; and he soon began to take the little girl with him on such
strolls. But he discovered, much to his amazement, that though she
listened with avidity to the tales he told her of the romantic and
mysterious events that had occurred within the somber ruins with which
the countryside was liberally endowed, she was reluctant to explore
those ruins or wander among the graves where he delighted to resort. At
first he was inclined to ascribe her reluctance to weak and sentimental
timidity, but he speedily found reason to adopt an altogether different
view. He noticed that whenever he took her to graveyards or to churches
in which there were graves, her frail form became greatly agitated, and
at times she seemed rooted to the ground; and that there were certain
places, especially an old kitchen in a nearby castle, which he could not
persuade her to enter, and the mere sight of which caused her to quake
and tremble. "The child," he told his wife, "feels the presence of the
dead, and, mark you, she will end by seeing the dead."

He was, therefore, more alarmed than surprised when one midnight, long
after he had fancied her in bed and asleep, she ran to his room and
informed him that she had just beheld in the hall a tall, dark figure
which, sighing heavily, passed her and disappeared in the vestibule.
With awe, not unmixed with satisfaction, Schmidgall remembered that he
had once seen the self-same apparition; but he prudently endeavored to
convince her that she had been dreaming and sent her back to her room,
which, thenceforward, he never allowed her to leave at night.

In this way Frederica Hauffe's mediumship began. But several years were
to pass before she saw another ghost or gave evidence of possessing
supernormal powers other than by occasional dreams of a prophetic and
revelatory nature. In the meanwhile she rejoined her parents and moved
with them from Prevorst to Oberstenfeld, where, in her nineteenth year,
she was married. It was distinctly a marriage of convenience, arranged
without regard to her wishes, and the moment the engagement was
announced she secluded herself from her friends and passed her days and
nights in weeping. For weeks together she went without sleep, ate
scarcely anything, and became thin, pale, and feeble. It was rumored
that she had set her affections in another quarter: but her relatives
angrily denied this and asserted that once married she would soon become
herself again.

They were mistaken. From her wedding day, which she celebrated by
attending the funeral of a venerable clergyman to whom she had been
warmly attached, her health broke rapidly. One morning she awoke in a
high fever that lasted a fortnight and was followed by convulsive
spasms, during which she beheld at the bedside the image of her
grandmother Schmidgall, who, it subsequently developed, was at that
moment dying in distant Löwenstein. The spasms continuing, despite the
application of the customary rude remedies of the time, it was decided
to send for a physician with some knowledge of mesmerism, which was then
becoming popular in Germany. To the astonishment of those who thronged
the sick room, the first touch of his hand on her forehead brought
relief. The convulsions ceased, she became calm, and presently she fell
asleep. But on awaking she was attacked as before, and try as he might
the physician could not effect a permanent cure. To all his "passes" she
responded with gratifying promptitude, only to suffer a relapse the
moment she was released from the mesmeric influence.

At this juncture aid was received from a most extraordinary source,
according to the story Frederica told her wondering friends. With benign
visage and extended hand, the spirit of her grandmother appeared to her
for seven successive nights, mesmerized her, and taught her how to
mesmerize herself. The results of this visitation, if not altogether
fortunate, were at least to some extent curative. There were periods
when she was able not merely to leave her bed but to attend to household
duties and indulge in long walks and drives. But it was painfully
apparent that she was still in a precarious condition.

From her infancy she had always been powerfully affected by the touch of
different metals, and now this phenomenon was intensified a
thousand-fold. The placing of a magnet on her forehead caused her
features to be contorted as though by a stroke of paralysis; contact
with glass and sand made her cataleptic. Once she was found seated on a
sandstone bench, unable to move hand or foot. About this time also she
acquired the faculty of crystal-gazing; that is to say, by looking into
a bowl of water she could correctly describe scenes transpiring at a
distance. More than this, she now declared that behind the persons in
whose company she was she perceived ghostly forms, some of which she
recognized as dead acquaintances.

Unlike her grandmother, these new visitants from the unknown world did
not provide her with the means of regaining her lost health. On the
contrary, from the time they first put in their appearance she grew far
worse, suffering not so much from convulsive attacks as from an
increasing lassitude. She complained that eating was a great tax on her
strength, and that rising and walking were out of the question. Unable
to comprehend this new turn of affairs, her attendants lost all
patience, declared that if she had made up her mind to die she might as
well do so as at once, and tried to force her to leave her bed. Finally
her parents intervened, and at their request she was brought back to

Here she found an altogether congenial environment, and for a while
showed marked improvement. Here too, and in a most sensational way, her
mediumship blossomed into full fruition. She had been home for only a
short time when the family began to be disturbed by mysterious noises
for which they could find no cause. A sound like the ringing of glasses
was frequently heard, as were footsteps and knockings on the walls. Her
father, in particular, asserted that sometimes he felt a strange
pressure on his shoulder or his foot. The impression grew that the
house, which was part of the ancient, picturesque, and none too well
preserved cathedral of Oberstenfeld, was haunted by the spirits of its
former occupants.

One night, shortly after retiring to the room which they shared in
common, Frederica, her sister, and a maid servant saw a lighted candle,
apparently of its own volition, move up and down the table on which it
was burning. The sister and the servant saw nothing more; but Frederica
the next instant beheld a thin, grayish cloud, which presently resolved
into the form of a man, about fifty years old, attired in the costume of
a medieval knight. Approaching, this strange apparition gazed
steadfastly at her, and in a low but clear tone urged her to rise and
follow it, saying that she alone could loosen its bonds. Overcome with
terror, she cried out that she would not follow, then ran across the
room and hid herself in the bed where her sister and the servant lay
panic-stricken. That night she saw no more of the apparition: but the
maid, whom they sent to sleep in the bed she had so hurriedly vacated,
declared that the coverings were forcibly drawn off her by an unseen

The next night the apparition appeared to Frederica again, and to her
alone. This time it seemed not sorrowful but angry, and threatened that
if she did not rise and follow she would be hurled out of the window. At
her bold retort, "In the name of Jesus, do it!" the apparition vanished,
to return a few nights later, and after that to show itself to her by
day as well as by night.

It now informed her that it was the ghost of a nobleman named Weiler,
who had slain his brother and for that crime was condemned to wander
ceaselessly until it recovered a certain piece of paper hidden in a
vault under the cathedral. On hearing this, she solemnly assured it that
by prayer alone could its sins be forgiven and pardon obtained, and
thereupon she set herself to teach it to pray. Ultimately, with a most
joyous countenance, the ghost told her that she had indeed led it to its
Redeemer and won its release; and at the same time seven tiny
spirits--the spirits of the children it had had on earth--appeared in a
circle about it and sang melodiously. Nor did they leave her until the
protecting apparition of her grandmother interrupted their thanksgivings
and bade them be gone.

Whether or no the happy ghost notified others in kindred plight of the
success that had attended her efforts, it is certain that, if the
contemporary records are to be accepted, the few short years of life
remaining to her were largely occupied in ministering to the wants of
distressed spirits. Phantom monks, nobles, peasants, pressed upon her
with terrible tales of misdeeds unatoned, and begged her to instruct
them in the prayers which were essential to salvation. There was one
specially importunate group, the apparitions of a young man, a young
woman, and a new-born child wrapped in ghostly rags, which gave her no
peace for months. The child, they said, was theirs and had been murdered
by them, and the young woman in her turn had been murdered by the young
man. Naturally, they were in an unhappy frame of mind, and until she was
able to send them on their way rejoicing their conduct and language were
so extravagant that they appalled her more than did any other of the
numerous seekers for grace and rest.

The dead were not the only ones to whom she ministered. Side by side
with the gift of ghost-seeing and ghost-conversing, and with the no less
remarkable gift of speaking in an unknown tongue and of setting forth
the mysteries of the hereafter, she developed the peculiar faculty of
peering into the innermost being of spirits still in the flesh,
detecting the obscure causes of disease, and prescribing remedies.
Strange to say, her own health remained poor, and gradually she became
so feeble that from day to day her death seemed imminent. But her
parents were resolved to do all they could for her, and at last
bethought themselves of placing her in the hands of the much talked of
physician, Justinus Kerner, who lived in the pleasant valley town of
Weinsberg and was said to be an adept in every branch of the healing
art, notably in the mesmerism which alone appeared to benefit her. To
Kerner, therefore, she was sent; and it is not difficult to imagine the
delight with which she exchanged the gloomy mountain forests for the
verdant meadows and fragrant vineyards of Weinsberg.

Kerner, who is better known to the present generation as mystic and poet
than as physician, was justly accounted one of the celebrities of the
day. Eccentric and visionary, he was yet a man of solid learning and an
intense patriot. It was owing to him, as his biographers fondly recall,
that Weinsberg's most glorious monument, the well named Weibertrube, was
not suffered to fall into utter neglect, but was instead restored to
remind all Germans of that distant day, in the long gone twelfth
century, when the women of Weinsberg, securing from the conqueror the
promise that their lives would be spared, and that they might take with
them from the doomed city their most precious belongings, staggered
forth under the burden not of jewels and treasure but of their husbands,
whom they carried in their arms or on their backs. Thus was a massacre
averted, and thus did the name of "Woman's Faithfulness" attach itself
to the castle in the shadow of which Kerner spent his days. But at the
time of which we write neither the castle nor poetry held first place in
his thoughts; instead, he was absorbed in the practice of his
profession. And so, with the ardor of the enthusiast and the sympathy of
the true physician, he welcomed to Weinsberg the sufferer of whom he had
heard much and of whom he was to become both doctor and biographer.[M]

It was in November, 1826, that he first met her. She was then
twenty-five, and thus had been for six years in a state of almost
constant ill health. Her very appearance moved him profoundly. Her
fragile body, he relates in the graphic word picture he drew, enveloped
her spirit but as a gauzy veil. She was extremely small, with Oriental
features and dark-lashed eyes that were at once penetrating and
"prophetic." When she spoke his conviction deepened that he was looking
on one who belonged more to the world of the dead than to the world of
the living; and he speedily became persuaded that she actually did, as
she claimed, commune with the dead.

Less than a month after her arrival at Weinsberg, and being in the
trance condition that was now frequent with her, she announced to him
that she had been visited by a ghost, which insisted on showing her a
sheet of paper covered with figures and begged her to give it to his
wife, who was still alive and would understand its significance and the
duty devolving upon her of making restitution to the man he had wronged
in life.

Kerner was thunderstruck at recognizing from her description a Weinsberg
lawyer who had been dead for some years and was thought to have
defrauded a client out of a large sum of money. Eagerly he plied
Frederica with questions, among other things asking her to endeavor to
locate the paper of which the ghost spoke.

"I see it," said she, dreamily. "It lies in a building which is sixty
paces from my bed. In this I see a large and a smaller room. In the
latter sits a tall gentleman, who is working at a table. Now he goes
out, and now he returns. Beyond these rooms there is one still larger,
in which are some chests and a long table. On the table is a wooden
thing--I cannot name it--and on this lie three heaps of paper; and in
the center one, about the middle of the heap, lies the sheet which so
torments him."

Knowing that this was an exact account of the office of the local
bailiff, Kerner hastened to that functionary with the astonishing news,
and was still more astonished when the bailiff told him that he had been
occupied precisely as she said. Together they searched among the papers
on the table; but could find none in the lawyer's handwriting.
Frederica, however, was insistent, adding that one corner of the paper
in question was turned down and that it was enclosed in a stout brown
envelope. A second search proved that she was right, and on opening the
paper it was found to contain not only figures but an explicit reference
to a private account book of which the lawyer's widow had denied all
knowledge. Still more striking was the fact, according to Kerner's
narrative, that when the bailiff, as a test, placed the paper in a
certain position on his desk and went to Frederica, pretending that he
had it with him, she correctly informed him where it was and read it off
to him word by word.

Although the sequel was rather unsatisfactory, inasmuch as the widow
persisted in asserting that she knew nothing of a private account book
and refused to yield a penny to the injured client, Kerner was so
impressed by this exhibition of supernatural power that, in order to
study his patient more closely, he had her removed from her lodgings to
his own house. Thither also, as soon as he learned that their presence
seemed to increase her susceptibility to the occult influences by which
she was surrounded, he brought her sister and the maid servant of the
dancing candle episode.

Then ensued greater marvels than had ever bewitched the family at
Oberstenfeld. Invisible hands threw articles of furniture at the
enthusiastic doctor and his friends; ghostly fingers sprinkled lime and
gravel on the flooring of his halls and rooms; spirit knuckles beat
lively tattoos on walls, tables, chairs, and bedsteads. And all the
while ghosts with criminal pasts flocked in and out, seeking consolation
and advice. Only once or twice, however, did the physician himself see
anything even remotely resembling a ghost. On one occasion a cloudy
shape floated past his window; and on another he saw at Frederica's
bedside a pillar of vapor, which she afterward told him was the specter
of a tall old man who had visited her twice before.

But if he neither saw the ghosts nor heard them speak, it was
sufficiently demonstrated to him that they were really in evidence. The
knocking, furniture throwing, and gravel sprinkling were the least of
the wonders of which it was permitted him to be a witness. Once, when
Frederica was taking an afternoon nap, a spirit that was evidently
solicitous for her comfort drew off her boots, and in his presence
carried them across the room to where her sister was standing by a
window. Again at midnight, after a preliminary knocking on the walls, he
observed another spirit, or possibly the same, open a book she had been
reading which was lying on her bed.

Most marvelous of all, when her father died she herself enacted the rôle
of ghost, the news of his death being conveyed to her supernaturally and
her cry of anguish being supernaturally conveyed back to the room where
his corpse lay, in Oberstenfeld, and where it was distinctly heard by
the physician who had attended him in his last moments. After this
crowning piece of testimony the good Kerner felt that no doubt of her
unheard of powers could remain in the most skeptical mind.

Judge, then, of his dismay and grief when he saw her visibly fading
away, daily growing more ethereal of form and feature, more weak in body
and spirit. It was his belief that the ghosts were robbing her of her
vitality, and earnestly but vainly he strove to banish them. She herself
declared, with a tone of indescribable relief, that she knew the end was
near, and that she welcomed it, as she longed to attain the quiet of the
grave with her father and Grandfather and Grandmother Schmidgall. When
Kerner sought to cheer her by the assurance that she yet had many years
to live, she silenced him with the tale of a gruesome vision. Three
times, she said, there had appeared to her at dead of night a female
figure, wrapped in black and standing beside an open and empty coffin,
to which it beckoned her. But before she died she wished to see again
the mountains of her childhood; and to the mountains Kerner carried her.
There, on August 5, 1829, peacefully and happily, to the singing of
hymns and the sobbing utterance of prayers, her soul took its flight.

But, unlike Kerner, who hastened back to Weinsberg to write the
biography of this "delicate flower who lived upon sunbeams," we must
shake off the spell of her strange personality and ask seriously what
manner of mortal she was. This inquiry is the more imperative since the
doings of the tambourine players and automatic writers, of whom so much
is made in certain quarters to-day, pale into insignificance beside the
story of her remarkable career.

Now, in point of fact, the evidence bearing out the claim that she saw
and talked with the dead is practically confined to the account written
by the mourning Kerner, whom no one would for a moment call an
unprejudiced witness. Already deeply immersed in the study of the
marvelous, his mind absorbed in the weird phenomena of the recently
discovered science of animal magnetism, she came to him both as a
patient and as a living embodiment of the mysteries that held for him a
boundless fascination, and once he found reason to believe in her
alleged supernormal powers, there was nothing too fantastic or
extravagant to which he would not give ready credence and assent.

His lengthy record of "facts" includes not only what he himself saw or
thought he saw, but every tale and anecdote related to him by the
seeress and her friends, and also includes so many incidents of
supernaturalism on the part of others that it would well seem that half
the peasant population of Würtemberg were ghost seers. Besides this,
detailed as his narrative is, it is lacking in precisely those details
which would give it evidential value; so lacking, indeed, that even such
a spiritistic advocate as the late F. W. H. Myers pronounced it "quite
inadequate" for citation in support of the spiritistic theory.

Nevertheless, taking his extraordinary document for what it is worth,
careful consideration of it leads to the conclusion that it contains the
story not so much of a great fraud as of a great tragedy. It is obvious
that there was frequent and barefaced trickery, particularly on the part
of Frederica's sister and the ubiquitous servant girl; but it is equally
certain that Frederica herself was a wholly abnormal creature, firmly
self-deluded, one might say self-hypnotized, into the belief that the
dead consorted with her. And it is hardly less certain that in her
singular state of body and mind she gave evidence not indeed of
supernatural but of telepathic and clairvoyant powers on which she and
those about her, in that unenlightened age, could not but put a
supernatural interpretation.

It is not difficult to trace the origin of the nervous and mental
disease from which she suffered. Kerner's account of her childhood shows
plainly that she was born temperamentally imaginative and unstable and
that she was raised in an environment well calculated to exaggerate her
imaginativeness and instability. Ghosts and goblins were favorite topics
of conversation among the peasantry of Prevorst, while the children with
whom she played were many of them unstable like herself, neurotic,
hysterical, and the victims of St. Vitus's dance. The weird and uneasy
ideas and feelings which thus early took possession of her were given
firmer lodgment by her unfortunate sojourn with grave-haunting
Grandfather Schmidgall. After this, it seems, she suffered for a year
from some eye trouble, and every physician knows how close the
connection is between optical disease and hallucinations. Then came a
brief period of seeming normality, the lull before the storm which
burst in full force with her marriage to a man she did not love. From
that time, the helpless victim of hysteria in its most deep-seated and
obstinate form, she gave herself unreservedly to the delusions which
both arose from and intensified her physical ills--ills which after all
had a purely mental basis. "If I doubted the reality of these
apparitions," she once told Kerner, "I should be in danger of insanity;
for it would make me doubt the reality of everything I saw."

It does not affect this view of the case that she unquestionably
coöperated with her conscienceless sister and the servant girl in the
production of the fraudulent phenomena to which Kerner testifies. Their
cheating was probably done for the sole purpose of making sure of the
comfortable berth in which the physician's credulity had placed them.
Hers, on the other hand, was the deceit of an irresponsible mind, of one
living in such an atmosphere of unreality that she could readily
persuade herself that the knockings, candle dancings, book openings, and
similar acts were the work not of her own hands but of the ghosts which
tormented her. Indeed, researches of recent years in the field of
abnormal psychology show it is quite possible that she was absolutely
ignorant of any personal participation in the movements and sounds which
caused such wide-spread mystification. Sympathy and pity, therefore,
should take the place of condemnation when we follow the course of her
eventful and unhappy life.


[M] Kerner's account of Frederica Hauffe is found in his "Die Seherin
von Prevorst," accessible in an English translation by Mrs. Catharine
Crowe. Students of the supernatural, it may be added, will find a great
deal of interesting material in Mrs. Crowe's "The Night Side of



"So you've brought the devil to my house, have you?"

"No, no, aunty, no! It's not my fault."

With an angry gesture the woman, tall, large boned, harsh visaged,
pushed back her chair and advanced threateningly toward the pale, anemic
looking youth of seventeen, who sat cowering at the far end of the
breakfast table.

"You know this is your doing. Stop it at once!"

The other gazed helplessly about him, while from every side of the room
came a volley of raps and knocks. "It is not my doing," he muttered. "I
cannot help it."

"Begone then! Out of my sight!"

Left to herself and to silence,--for with her nephew's departure the
noise instantly ceased,--she fell into gloomy meditation. She was an
exceedingly ignorant, but a profoundly religious woman. She had heard
much of the celebrated Fox sisters, with tales of whose strange actions
in the neighboring State of New York the countryside was then ringing,
and she recognized, or imagined she recognized, a striking similarity
between their performances and the tumult of the last few minutes. It
was her firm belief that the Fox girls were victims of demoniac
influence, and no less surely did she deem it impossible to attribute
the recent disturbance to human agency. Her nephew was not given to
practical jokes; there had been nothing unusual in his manner; he had
greeted her cheerily as usual, and quietly taken his seat. But with his
advent, and she shuddered at the remembrance, the knockings had begun.
There could be only one explanation--the boy, however unwittingly, had
placed himself in the power of the devil. What to do, however, she knew
not, and fumed and fretted the entire morning, until upon his
reappearance at noon the knockings broke out again. Then her mind was
quickly made up.

"Look you!" said she to him. "We must rid you of the evil that is in
you. I will have the ministers reason with you and pray for you, and
that at once."

True to her word, she despatched a messenger to the three clergymen of
the little Connecticut village in which she made her home, and all three
promptly responded to her request. But their visits and their prayers
proved fruitless. Indeed, the more they prayed the louder the knocks
became; and presently, to their astonishment and dismay, the very
furniture appeared bewitched, dancing and leaping as though alive.
"Verily," said one to his irate aunt, "the boy is possessed of the
devil." To make matters worse, the neighbors, hearing of the weird
occurrences, besieged the house day and night, their curiosity whetted
by a report that, exactly as in the case of the Fox sisters,
communications from the dead were being received through the knockings.
Incredible as it seemed, this report found speedy confirmation. Before
the week was out the lad told his aunt:

"Last night there came raps to me spelling words, and they brought me a
message from the spirit of my mother."

"And what, pray, was the message?"

"My mother's spirit said to me, 'Daniel, fear not, my child. God is with
you, and who shall be against you? Seek to do good. Be truthful and
truth loving, and you will prosper, my child. Yours is a glorious
mission--you will convince the infidel, cure the sick, and console the

"A glorious mission," mocked the aunt, her patience utterly
exhausted,--"a glorious mission to bedevil and deceive, to plague and
torment! Away, away, and darken my doors no more!"

"Do you mean this, aunty?"

"Mean it, Daniel? Never shall it be said of me that I gave aid and
comfort to Satan or child of Satan's. Pack, and be off!"

In this way was Daniel Dunglas Home launched on a career that was to
prove one of the most marvelous, if not the most marvelous, in the
annals of mystification. But at the time there was no reason to
anticipate the remarkable achievements which the future held in store
for him. He was fitted for no calling. Ever since his aunt had adopted
him in far-away Scotland, where he was born of obscure parentage in
1833, he had led a life of complete dependence, not altogether cheerless
but deadening to initiative and handicapping him terribly for the task
of making his way in the world. His health was broken, his pockets were
empty, he was without friends. Cast upon his own resources under such
conditions, it seemed but too probable that failure and an early death
would be his portion.

Two things only were in his favor. The first was his native
determination and optimism; the second, the interest aroused by
published reports of the phenomena that had led to his expulsion from
his aunt's house. Already, although only a few days had elapsed since
the knockings were first heard, the newspapers had given the story great
publicity, and their accounts were greedily devoured by an ever-widening
circle of readers, quite willing to regard such happenings as evidence
of the intervention of the dead in the affairs of the living. It was, it
must be remembered, an era of wide-spread enthusiasm and credulity, the
heyday period of spiritism. So soon, therefore, as it became known that
young Home was at liberty to go where he would, invitations were
showered on him.

Among these was one from the nearby town of Willimantic, and thither
Home journeyed in the early spring of 1851. It was determined that an
attempt should be made to demonstrate his mediumship by the table
tilting process then coming into vogue among spiritists, and the result
exceeded all expectations. The table, according to an eye-witness of the
first séance, not only moved without physical contact, but on request
turned itself upside down, and overcame a spectator's efforts to prevent
its motion. True, when this spectator "grasped its leg and held it with
all his strength" the table "did not move so freely as before." Still,
it moved, and Home's fame mounted apace. From town to town he traveled,
holding séances at which, if contemporary accounts are to be believed,
he gave exhibitions of supernatural power far and away ahead of all
other of the numerous mediums who were by this time springing up
throughout the Eastern States. On one occasion, we are told, the spirits
communicated through him the whereabouts of missing title deeds to a
tract of land then in litigation; on another, they enabled him to
prescribe successfully for an invalid for whom no hope was entertained;
and time after time they conveyed to those in his séance room messages
of more or less vital import, besides vouchsafing to them "physical"
phenomena of the greatest variety.

What was most remarkable was the fact that the young medium steadfastly
refused to accept payment for his services. "My gift," he would solemnly
say, "is free to all, without money and without price. I have a mission
to fulfil, and to its fulfilment I will cheerfully give my life."
Naturally this attitude of itself made for converts to the spiritistic
beliefs of which he was such a successful exponent, and its influence
was powerfully reinforced by the result of an investigation conducted in
the spring of 1852 by a committee headed by the poet, William Cullen
Bryant, and the Harvard professor, David G. Wells. Briefly, these
declared in their report that they had attended a séance with Home in a
well lighted room, had seen a table move in every direction and with
great force, "when we could not perceive any cause of motion," and even
"rise clear of the floor and float in the atmosphere for several
seconds"; had in vain tried to inhibit its action by sitting on it; had
occasionally been made "conscious of the occurrence of a powerful shock,
which produced a vibratory motion of the floor of the apartment in which
we were seated"; and finally were absolutely certain that they had not
been "imposed upon or deceived."

The report, to be sure, did not specify what, if any, means had been
taken to guard against fraud, its only reference in this connection
being a statement that "Mr. D. D. Home frequently urged us to hold his
hands and feet." But it none the less created a tremendous sensation,
public attention being focused on the fact that an awkward, callow,
country lad had successfully sustained the scrutiny of men of learning,
intelligence, and high repute. No longer, it would seem, could there be
doubt of the validity of his claims, and greater demands than ever were
made on him. As before, he willingly responded, adding to his
repertoire, if the term be permissible, new feats of the most startling
character. Thus, at a séance in New York a table on which a pencil, two
candles, a tumbler, and some papers had been placed, tipped over at an
angle of thirty degrees without disturbing in the slightest the position
of the movable objects on its surface. Then at the medium's bidding the
pencil was dislodged, rolling to the floor, while the rest remained
motionless; and afterward the tumbler.

A little later occurred the first of Home's levitations when at the
house of a Mr. Cheney in South Manchester, Connecticut, he is said to
have been lifted without visible means of support to the ceiling of the
séance room. To quote from an eye-witness's narrative: "Suddenly, and
without any expectation on the part of the company, Mr. Home was taken
up in the air. I had hold of his feet at the time, and I and others felt
his feet--they were lifted a foot from the floor.... Again and again he
was taken from the floor, and the third time he was carried to the lofty
ceiling of the apartment, with which his hand and head came in gentle
contact." A far cry, this, from the simple raps and knocks that had
ushered in his mediumship.

Now, however, an event occurred that threatened to cut short alike his
"mission" and his life. Never of robust health, he fell seriously ill of
an affection that developed into tuberculosis. The medical men whom he
consulted unanimously declared that his only hope lay in a change of
climate, and, taking alarm, his spiritistic friends generously
subscribed a large sum to enable him to visit Europe. Incidentally, no
doubt, they expected him to serve as a missionary of the new faith, and
it may be said at once that in this expectation they were not deceived.
No one ever labored more earnestly and successfully in behalf of
spiritism than did Daniel Dunglas Home from the moment he set foot on
the shores of England in April, 1855; and no one in all the history of
spiritism achieved such individual renown, not in England alone but in
almost every country of the Continent.

It is from this point that the mystery of his career really becomes
conspicuous. Hitherto, with the exception of the Bryant-Wells
investigation, which could hardly be called scientific, his pretensions
had not been seriously tested, and operating as he did among avowed
spiritists he had enjoyed unlimited opportunities for the perpetration
of fraud. But henceforth, skeptics as well as believers having ready
access to him, he found himself not infrequently in a thoroughly hostile
environment, and subjected to the sharpest criticism and most
unrestrained abuse. Nevertheless, he was able not simply to maintain but
to augment the fame of his youth, and after a mediumship of more than
thirty years, could claim the unique distinction of not once having had
a charge of trickery proved against him.

Besides this, overcoming with astounding ease the handicaps of his
humble birth and lack of education, his life was one continued round of
social triumphs of the highest order; for he speedily won and retained
to the day of his death the confidence and friendship of leaders of
society in every European capital. With them, in castle, château, and
mansion, he made his home, always welcome and always trusted; and in his
days of greatest stress, days of ill health, vilification, and legal
entanglements, they rallied unfailingly to his aid. Add again that Kings
and Queens vied with one another in entertaining and rewarding him, and
it is possible to gain some idea of the heights scaled by this erstwhile
Connecticut country boy.

He began modestly enough by taking rooms at a quiet London hotel, where,
his fame having spread through the city, he soon had the pleasure of
giving a séance to two such distinguished personages as Lord Brougham
and Sir David Brewster. Both retired thoroughly mystified, though the
latter some months later asserted that while he "could not account for
all" he had witnessed, he had seen enough to satisfy himself "that they
could all be produced by hands and feet,"--a statement which, by the
way, was at variance from one he had made at the time, and involved him
in a most unpleasant controversy. After Brougham and Brewster came a
long succession of other notables, including the novelist Sir Bulwer
Lytton, to whom a most edifying experience was granted. Rapping away as
usual, the table suddenly indicated that it had a message for him, and
the alphabet being called over in the customary spiritistic style, it
spelled out:

"I am the spirit who influenced you to write Zanoni."

"Indeed!" quoth Lytton, with a skeptical smile. "Suppose you give me a
tangible proof of your presence?"

"Put your hand under the table."

No sooner done, than the invisible being gave him a hearty handshake,
and proceeded:

"We wish you to believe in the--" It stopped.

"In what? In the medium?"


At that moment there came a gentle tapping on his knee, and looking down
he found on it a small cardboard cross that had been lying on another
table. Lytton, the story goes, begged permission to keep the cross as a
souvenir, and promised that he would remember the spirit's injunction.
For Home, of course, the incident was a splendid advertisement, as were
the extravagant reports spread broadcast by other visitors.
Consequently, when he visited Italy in the autumn as the guest of one of
his English patrons, he gained instant recognition and was enabled to
embark with phenomenal ease on his Continental crusade.

In order to reach the most striking manifestations of his peculiar
ability, we must pass hurriedly over the events of the next few years,
although they are perhaps the most picturesque of his career, including
as they do séances with the third Napoleon and his Empress, with the
King of Prussia, and with the Emperor of Russia. In Russia he was
married to the daughter of a noble Russian family, and for groomsmen at
his wedding had Count Alexis Tolstoi, the famous poet, and Count
Bobrinski, one of the Emperor's chamberlains. This was in 1858, and
shortly afterward he returned to England to repeat his spiritistic
triumphs of 1855, and increase the already large group of influential
and titled friends whose doors were ever open to him. Had it not been
for their generosity, it is difficult, indeed, to see how he could have
lived, for his time was almost altogether devoted to the practice of
spiritism, and he was never known to accept a fee for a séance. As it
was, he lived very well, now the guest of one, now of another, and the
frequent recipient of costly presents. From England he fared back to the
Continent, again traversing it by leisurely stages. Thus nearly a decade
passed before the occurrence of the first of the several phenomena that
have won Home an enduring place among the greatest lights of spiritism.

At that time his English patrons included the Viscount Adare and the
Master of Lindsay, who have since become respectively the Earl of
Dunraven and the Earl of Crawford. They were sitting one evening
(December 16, 1868) in an upper room of a house in London with Home and
a Captain Wynne, when Home suddenly left the room and entered the
adjoining chamber. The opening of a window was then heard, and the next
moment, to the amazement of all three, they perceived Home's form
floating in the dim moonlight outside the window of the room in which
they were seated. For an instant it hovered there, at a height of fully
seventy feet above the pavement, and then, smiling and debonnair, Home
was with them again. Another marvel immediately followed. At Home's
request Lord Dunraven closed the window out of which the medium was
supposed to have been carried by the spirits, and on returning observed
that the window had not been raised a foot, and he did not see how a man
could have squeezed through it. "Come," said Home, "I will show you."
Together they went into the next room.

"He told me," Lord Dunraven reported, "to open the window as it was
before. I did so. He told me to stand a little distance off; he then
went through the open space, head first, quite rapidly, his body being
nearly horizontal and apparently rigid. He came in again feet foremost,
and we returned to the other room. It was so dark I could not see
clearly how he was supported outside. He did not appear to grasp, or
rest upon the balustrade, but rather to be swung out and in."

To Lord Dunraven and Lord Crawford again was given the boon of
witnessing another of Home's most sensational performances, and on more
than one occasion. This may best be described in Lord Crawford's own
words, as related in his testimony to the London Dialectical Society's
committee which in 1869 undertook an inquiry into the claims of

"I saw Mr. Home," declared Lord Crawford, "in a trance elongated eleven
inches. I measured him standing up against the wall, and marked the
place; not being satisfied with that, I put him in the middle of the
room and placed a candle in front of him, so as to throw a shadow on the
wall, which I also marked. When he awoke I measured him again in his
natural size, both directly and by the shadow, and the results were
equal. I can swear that he was not off the ground or standing on tiptoe,
as I had full view of his feet, and, moreover, a gentleman present had
one of his feet placed over Home's insteps.... I once saw him elongated
horizontally on the ground. Lord Adare was present. Home seemed to grow
at both ends, and pushed myself and Adare away."

The publication of this evidence and of the details of the mid-air
excursion provoked, as may be imagined, a heated discussion, and
doubtless had considerable influence in inducing the famous scientist,
Sir William Crookes, to engage in the series of experiments which he
carried out with Home two years later. This was at once the most
searching investigation to which Home was ever subjected, and the most
signal triumph of his career. Sir William's proposal was hailed with the
greatest satisfaction by the critics of spiritism in general and of Home
in particular. Here, it was said, was a man fully qualified to expose
the archimpostor who had been so justly pilloried in Browning's "Mr.
Sludge the Medium"; here was a scientist, trained to exact knowledge and
close observation, who would not be deceived by the artful tricks of a
conjurer. It was pleasant too to learn that in order to circumvent any
attempts at sleight of hand, Sir William intended using instruments
specially designed for test purposes, and which he was confident could
not be operated fraudulently.

But Home, or the spirits proved too strong for even Sir William Crookes
and his instruments. In Sir William's presence, in fact, there was a
multiplication of mysteries. The instruments registered results which
seemed inexplicable by any natural law; a lath, cast carelessly on a
table, rose in the air, nodded gravely to the astonished scientist, and
proceeded to tap out messages alleged to come from the world beyond;
chairs moved in ghostly fashion up and down the room; invisible beings
lifted Home himself from the floor; spirit hands were seen and felt; an
accordeon, held by Sir William, played tunes apparently of its own
volition, and afterward floated about the room, still playing. And all
this, according to the learned investigator, "in a private room that
almost up to the commencement of the séance has been occupied as a
living room, and surrounded by private friends of my own, who not only
will not countenance the slightest deception, but who are watching
narrowly everything that takes place."

In the end, so far from announcing that he had convicted Home of fraud,
Sir William published an elaborate account of his séances, and gave it
as his solemn belief that with Home's assistance he had succeeded in
demonstrating the existence of a hitherto unknown force. This was
scarcely what had been expected by the scientific world, which had
eagerly awaited his verdict, and loud was the tumult that followed. But
Sir William stood manfully by his guns, and Home--bland, inscrutable,
mysterious Home--figuratively shrugging his shoulders at denunciations
to which he had by this time become perfectly accustomed, added another
leaf to his spiritistic crown of laurels, and betook himself anew to his
friends on the Continent, where, despite increasing ill health, he
continued to prosecute his "mission" for many prosperous years.

As a matter of fact, throughout the period of his mediumship, that is to
say, from 1851 to 1886, the year of his death, he experienced only one
serious reverse, and this did not involve any exposure of the falsity of
his claims. But it was serious enough, in all conscience, and calls for
mention both because it emphasizes the contrast between his earlier and
his later life, and because it throws a luminous sidelight on the
methods by which he achieved his unparalleled success. When he was in
London in 1867 he made the acquaintance of an elderly, impressionable
English-woman named Lyon, who immediately conceived a warm attachment
for him and stated her intention of adopting him as her son. Carrying
out this plan, she settled on him the snug little fortune of one hundred
and twenty thousand dollars, which she subsequently increased until it
amounted to no less than three hundred thousand dollars. Home at the
time was a widower, and it was his belief, as he afterward stated in
court, that the woman desired him to marry her.

In any event her affection cooled as rapidly as it had begun, and the
next thing he knew he was being sued for the recovery of the three
hundred thousand dollars. The trial was a celebrated case in English
law. Lord Dunraven, Lord Crawford, and other of Home's titled and
influential friends hurried to his assistance, and many were the
affidavits forthcoming to combat the contentions of Mrs. Lyon, who swore
that she had been influenced to adopt Home by communications alleged to
come through him from her dead husband. Home himself denied that there
were any manifestations whatever relating to Mrs. Lyon, whose story, in
fact, was so discredited on cross-examination that the presiding judge,
the vice-chancellor, caustically declared that her testimony was quite
unworthy of belief. Notwithstanding which, he did not hesitate to give
judgment in her favor, on the ground that, however worthless her
evidence, it had not been satisfactorily shown that her gifts to Home
were "acts of pure volition," the presumption being that no reasonable
man or woman would have pursued the course she did unless under the
pressure of undue influence by the party to be benefited.

       *       *       *       *       *

If for "undue influence" we read "hypnotism," we shall have a
sufficient, and what seems to me the only satisfactory, explanation of
the Lyon episode and of the most baffling of Home's feats, his
levitations, elongations, and the like. For the rest, bearing in mind
the fate of other dealers in turning tables and dancing chairs, he may
fairly be regarded in the light Browning regarded him, that is to say as
an exceptionally able conjurer who enjoyed the singular good fortune of
never being found out.[N] It must be remembered that not once was there
applied to him the test which is now recognized as absolutely
indispensable in the investigation of mediums who, like Home, are
specialists in the production of "physical" phenomena. This test is the
demand that the phenomena in question be produced under conditions doing
away with the necessity for constant observation of the medium himself.

Even Sir William Crookes, who appreciated to the full the extreme
fallibility of the human eye and the ease with which the most careful
observer may be deceived by a clever prestidigitator, failed to apply
this test to Home; and by so failing laid himself open on the one hand
to deception and on the other to the flood of criticism let loose by his
scientific colleagues. Thus, the apparatus used in the experiment on
which he seems to have laid greatest stress, is described as follows:

"In another part of the room an apparatus was fitted up for
experimenting on the alterations in the weight of a body. It consisted
of a mahogany board thirty-six inches long by nine and one-half inches
wide and one inch thick. At each end a strip of mahogany one and
one-half inches wide was screwed on, forming feet. One end of the board
rested on a firm table, whilst the other end was supported by a spring
balance hanging from a substantial tripod stand. The balance was fitted
with a self-registering index, in such a manner that it would record the
maximum weight indicated by the pointer. The apparatus was adjusted so
that the mahogany board was horizontal, its foot resting flat on the
support. In this position its weight was three pounds, as marked by the
pointer of the balance. Before Mr. Home entered the room the apparatus
had been arranged in position, and he had not seen the object of some
parts explained before sitting down."

Now, to give this "test" evidential value, the disembodied spirit
supposed to be acting through Home should have caused the registering
index to record a change in weight without necessitating, on the
spectators' part, constant scrutiny of the medium's movements. But, in
point of fact, a change in weight was recorded only when Home placed his
fingers on the mahogany board. It is true, that he placed them on the
end furthest from the balance, and the evidence seems sufficient that he
did not cause the pointer to move by exerting a downward pressure. But
as one critic, Mr. Frank Podmore, has suggested there is no proof that
he did not find opportunity to tamper with the pointer itself or with
some other part of the apparatus by attaching thereto a looped thread or
hair. To quote Mr. Podmore:

"It is by the use of such a thread, I venture to suggest, that the
watchful observation of Mr. Crookes and his colleagues was evaded. Given
a subdued light and opportunity to move about the room--and from
detailed notes of later séances it seems probable that Home could do as
he liked in both respects--the loop could be attached without much risk
of detection to some part of the apparatus, preferably the hook from
which the distal end of the board was suspended, the ends [of the
thread] being fastened to some part of Home's dress, _e.g._, the knees
of his trousers, if his feet and hands were under effectual

Moreover, it must not be forgotten that, barring the Crookes
investigation, Home's manifestations for the most part occurred in the
presence of men and women who, if not spiritists themselves, had
implicit confidence in his good faith and could by no stretch of the
imagination be called trained investigators. Indeed, it seems safe to
say that had present day methods of inquiry been employed, as they are
employed by the experts of the Society for Psychical Research, Home, so
far at any rate as concerned the great bulk of his phenomena, would
quickly have been placed in the same gallery as Madam Blavatsky, Eusapia
Paladino, and those other wonder workers whom the society has

In the matter of the levitations and elongations, however, it is not so
easy to raise the cry of sheer fraud. Here the only rational
explanation, short of supposing that Home availed himself if not of the
aid of "spirits" at least of the aid of some unknown physical force,
seems to be, as was said, the exercise of hypnotic power. The accounts
given by Lord Dunraven, Lord Crawford, and Sir William Crookes show that
he had ample scope for the employment of suggestion as a means of
inducing those about him to imagine they had seen things which they
actually had not seen. In this connection, it seems to me, considerable
significance attaches to the following bit of evidence contributed by
Lord Crawford with regard to the London levitation:

"I saw the levitations in Victoria Street when Home floated out of the
window. He first went into a trance and walked about uneasily; he then
went into the hall. While he was away I heard a voice whisper in my ear
'He will go out of one window and in at another.' I was alarmed and
shocked at the idea of so dangerous an experiment. I told the company
what I had heard and we then waited for Home's return."

After it is stated that Lord Crawford, not long before, had fancied he
beheld an apparition of a man seated in a chair, it is easy to imagine
the attitude of credulous expectancy with which he, at all events, would
"wait for Home's return" via the open window. And the others were
doubtless in the same expectant frame of mind. "Expectancy" and
"suggestibility" will, indeed, work marvels. I shall never forget how
the truth of this was borne home to me some years ago. A friend of
mine--now a physician in Maryland, but at that time a medical student in
Toronto--occasionally amused himself by giving table-tipping séances, in
which he enacted the rôle of medium. There was no suspicion on his
sitters' part that he was a "fraud." One evening he invoked the "spirit"
of a little child, who had been dead a couple of years, and proceeded
to "spell out" some highly edifying messages. Suddenly the séance was
interrupted by a shriek and a lady present, not a relative of the dead
child, fell to the floor in a faint. When revived, she declared that
while the messages were being delivered she had seen the head of a child
appear through the top of the table.

With such an instance before us, it can hardly be deemed surprising that
Home should be able to play on the imagination of sitters so sympathetic
and receptive as Lords Dunraven and Crawford unquestionably were. To
tell the truth, Home's whole career, with its scintillating,
melodramatic, and uniformly successful phases is altogether inexplicable
unless it be assumed that he possessed the hypnotist's qualities in a
superlative degree.

It may well be, however, that in the last analysis he not only deceived
others but also deceived himself--that his charlatanry was the work of a
man constitutionally incapable of distinguishing between reality and
fiction in so far as related to the performance of feats contributing to
the success of his "mission." In other words, that he was, like other
historic personages whom we have already encountered, a victim of
dissociation. There is no gainsaying the fact that he was of a
distinctly nervous temperament; and it is equally certain that he chose
a vocation, and placed himself in an environment, which would tend to
make a dissociated state habitual with him. But this is bringing us to
the consideration of a psychological problem which would itself require
a volume for adequate discussion. Enough to add that, when all is said,
and viewed from whatever angle, Daniel Dunglas Home, was, and remains, a
fascinating human riddle.


[N] But a "conjurer" who in all probability should not be held to strict
account for his deceptions. On this point, see below.

[O] "Modern Spiritualism," Vol. II, p. 242.



When the biography of the late Richard Hodgson is written one of its
most interesting chapters will be the story of his investigation into
the strange case of Lurancy Vennum. Archinquisitor of the Society for
Psychical Research, the Sherlock Holmes of professional detectives of
the supernatural, in this instance Hodgson was forced to confess himself
beaten and to acknowledge that in his belief the only satisfactory
solution of the problem before him was to be had through recourse to the
hypothesis that the dead can and do communicate with the living.

As is well known, subsequent inquiries, and notably his experiences with
the famous Mrs. Piper, led him to the enthusiastic indorsement of this
hypothesis; but at the time of the Vennum affair, with the recollection
of his triumphs in Europe and Asia fresh in his mind, he was still a
thoroughgoing if open minded skeptic; and to Lurancy Vennum must
accordingly be given the credit of having brought him, so to speak, to
the turning of the ways. Oddly enough too, scarce an effort has been
made to assemble evidence in disproof of his findings in that case and
to develop a purely naturalistic explanation of a mystery which his
verdict went far to establish in the minds of many as a classic
illustration of supernatural action. Yet, while it must be admitted that
until recently such a task would have been extremely difficult, it may
safely be declared that the phenomena manifested through Lurancy Vennum
were not a whit more other-worldly than the phenomena produced by the
tricksters whom Hodgson himself so skilfully and mercilessly exposed.

To refresh the reader's memory with regard to the facts in the case, it
will be recalled that Lurancy Vennum was a young girl, between thirteen
and fourteen years old, the daughter of respectable parents living at
Watseka, Illinois, a town about eighty-five miles south of Chicago and
boasting at the time a population of perhaps fifteen hundred. On the
afternoon of July 11, 1877, while sitting sewing with her mother, she
suddenly complained of feeling ill, and immediately afterward fell to
the floor unconscious, in which state she remained for five hours. The
next day the same thing happened; but now, while still apparently
insensible to all about her, she began to talk, affirming that she was
in heaven and in the company of numerous spirits, whom she described,
naming among others the spirit of her brother who had died when she was
only three years old. Her parents, deeply religious people of an
orthodox denomination, feared that she had become insane, and their
fears were increased when, with the passage of time, her "fits," as they
called her trances, became more frequent and of longer duration, lasting
from one to eight hours and occurring from three to twelve times a day.
Physicians could do nothing for her, and by January, 1878, it was
decided that she was beyond all hope of cure and that the proper place
for her was an insane asylum.

At this juncture her father was visited by Mr. Asa B. Roff, also a
resident of Watseka, but having no more than a casual acquaintanceship
with the Vennums. He had become interested in the case, he explained,
through hearing reports of the intercourse Lurancy claimed to have with
the world of the dead, the possibility of which, being a devout
spiritist, he did not in the slightest doubt. Moreover, he himself had
had a daughter, Mary, long dead, who had been subject to conditions
exactly like Lurancy's and had given incontrovertible evidence of
possessing supernatural powers of a clairvoyant nature. In her time she
too had been deemed insane, but Mr. Roff was confident that she had
really been of entirely sound mind, and equally confident that the
present victim of "spirit infestation," to use the singular term
employed by a later spiritistic eulogist of Lurancy, was also of sound
mind. He therefore begged Mr. Vennum not to immure his daughter in an
asylum; and Mrs. Roff adding her entreaties, it was finally resolved as
a last resort to call in a physician from Janesville, Wisconsin, who was
himself a spiritist and would, the Roffs felt sure, be able to treat the
case with great success.

This physician, Dr. E. Winchester Stevens, paid his first visit to
Lurancy in Mr. Roff's company on the afternoon of January 31. He found
the girl, as he afterward related, sitting "near a stove, in a common
chair, her elbows on her knees, her hands under her chin, feet curled
up on the chair, eyes staring, looking every way like an old hag." She
was evidently in an ugly mood, for she refused even to shake hands,
called her father "Old Black Dick" and her mother "Old Granny," and at
first kept an obstinate silence. But presently, brightening up, she
announced that she had discovered that Dr. Stevens was a "spiritual"
doctor and could help her, and that she was ready to answer any
questions he might put. Now followed a strange dialogue. In reply to his
queries she said that her name was not Lurancy Vennum but Katrina Hogan,
that she was sixty-three years old, and had come from Germany "through
the air" three days before. Changing her manner quickly, she confessed
that she had lied and was in reality a boy, Willie Canning, who had died
and "now is here because he wants to be." More than an hour passed in
this "insane talk," as her weeping parents accounted it, and then,
flinging up her hands, she fell headlong in a state of cataleptic

Dr. Stevens promptly renewed his questioning, at the same time taking
both her hands in his and endeavoring to "magnetize" her, to quote his
own expression. It soon developed, according to the replies she made,
that she was no longer on earth but in heaven and surrounded by spirits
of a far more beneficent character than the so-called Katrina and
Willie. With all the earnestness of an ardent spiritist, the doctor
immediately suggested that she allow herself to be controlled by a
spirit who would prevent those that were evil and insane from returning
to trouble her and her family, and would assist her to regain health. To
which she answered that she would gladly do so, and that among the
spirits around her was one that the angels strongly recommended for this
very purpose. It was, she said, the spirit of a young girl who on earth
had been named Mary Roff.

"Why," cried Mr. Roff, "that is my daughter, who has been in heaven
these twelve years. Yes, let her come. We'll be glad to have her come."

Come she did, as the greatly bewildered Mr. Vennum testified next
morning during a hasty visit to Mr. Roff's office.

"My girl," said he, "had a sound night's sleep after you and Dr. Stevens
left us; but to-day she asserts that she is Mary Roff, refuses to
recognize her mother or myself, and demands to be taken to your house."

At this amazing information, Mrs. Roff and her surviving daughter
Minerva, who since Mary's death had married a Mr. Alter, promptly went
to see Lurancy. From a seat at the window she beheld them approaching
down the street, and with an exultant cry exclaimed, "Here comes my ma,
and 'Nervie'!" the name by which Mary Roff had been accustomed to call
her sister in girlhood. Running to the door and throwing her arms about
them as they entered, she hugged and kissed them with expressions of
endearment and with whispering allusions to past events of which she as
Lurancy could in their opinion have had absolutely no knowledge.

Mr. Roff who came afterward, she greeted in the same affectionate way,
while treating the members of her own family as though they were entire
strangers. To her father and mother it seemed that this must be only a
new phase of her insanity, but to the Roffs there remained no doubt that
in her they beheld an actual reincarnation of the girl whom they had
buried twelve years before--that is to say, when Lurancy herself was a
puny, wailing infant. Eagerly they seconded her entreaties to be
allowed to return with them; and, Mrs. Vennum being completely
prostrated by this unexpected development, it was soon decided that the
little girl should for the time being take up her residence under the
Roff roof.

She removed there February 11, and on the way an event occurred that
vastly strengthened belief in the reality of her claims. The Vennums and
the Roffs lived at opposite ends of Watseka; but the latter family, at
the time of Mary's death in 1865, had been occupying a dwelling in a
central section of the town. Arrived at this house, Lurancy
unhesitatingly turned to enter it, and seemed much astonished when told
that her home was elsewhere. "Why," said she, in a positive tone, "I
know that I live here." It was indeed with some difficulty that she was
persuaded to continue her journey; but once at its end all signs of
disappointment vanished and she passed gaily from room to room,
identifying objects which she had never seen before but which had been
well-known to Mary Roff. Her pseudo-parents were in ecstacies of joy.
"Truly," they said to each other, "our daughter who was dead has been
restored to us," and anxiously they inquired of her how long they might
hope to have her with them. "The angels," was her response, "will let me
stay till some time in May--and oh how happy I am!"

Happy and contented she proved herself and, which was remarked by all
who saw her, entirely free from the maladies that had so sorely beset
both the living Lurancy and the dead Mary. For her life as Lurancy she
appeared to have no remembrance; but she readily and unfailingly
recollected everything connected with the career of Mary. She was well
aware also that she was masquerading, as it were, in a borrowed body.
"Do you remember," Dr. Stevens asked her one day, "the time that you cut
your arm?" "Yes, indeed. And," slipping up her sleeve, "I can show you
the scar. It was--" She paused, and quickly added, "Oh, this is not the
arm; that one is in the ground," and proceeded to describe the spot
where Mary had been buried and the circumstances attending her funeral.
Old acquaintances of Mary's were greeted as though they had been seen
only the day before, although in one or two cases there was lack of
recognition, due, it was inferred, to physical changes in the visitor's
appearance since Mary had known her on earth.

Tests, suggested and carried out by Dr. Stevens and Mr. Roff, only
reinforced the view that they were really dealing with a visitant from
the unseen world. For instance, while the little girl was playing
outdoors one afternoon, Mr. Roff suggested to his wife that she bring
down-stairs a velvet hat that their daughter had worn the last year of
her life, place it on the hat stand, and see if Lurancy would recognize
it. This was done, and the recognition was instant. With a smile of
delight Lurancy picked up the hat, mentioned an incident connected with
it, and asked, "Have you my box of letters also?" The box was found, and
rummaging through it the child presently cried, "Oh, ma, here is a
collar I tatted! Ma, why did you not show me my letters and things
before?" One by one she picked out and identified relics dating back to
Mary's girlhood, long before Lurancy Vennum had come into the world.

She displayed, too, not a little of the clairvoyant ability ascribed to
Mary. The story is told that on one occasion she affirmed that her
supposed brother, Frank Roff, would be taken seriously ill during the
night; and when, about two o'clock in the morning, he was actually
stricken with what is vaguely said to have been "something like a spasm
and congestive chill," she directed Mr. Roff to hurry next door where he
would find Dr. Stevens.

"But," protested Mr. Roff, "Dr. Stevens is in quite another part of the
city to-night."

"No," she calmly said, "he has come back, and you will find him where I

Quite incredulous, Mr. Roff gave his neighbor's door-bell a lusty pull,
and the next moment was talking to the doctor, who, unknown to the
Roffs, was spending the night there. With his aid, it is perhaps worth
adding, brother Frank was soon relieved of the "spasm and congestive

In this way, continually surprising but constantly delighting the happy
Roffs, Lurancy Vennum remained with them for more than three months,
professing complete ignorance of her identity and enacting with the
greatest fidelity the rôle of the spirit who was supposed to have taken
possession of her. Early in May, however, she called Mrs. Roff to one
side and informed her in a voice broken by sobs that Lurancy was "coming
back" and that they would soon have to take another farewell of their
Mary. This said, a change became apparent in her. She glared wildly
around, and in an agitated tone demanded, "Where am I? I was never here
before. I want to go home." Mrs. Roff, heartbroken, explained that she
had been under the control of Mary's spirit for the purpose of "curing
her body," and told her that her parents would be sent for. But within
five minutes she had again lost all knowledge of her true identity, and
seemingly was Mary Roff once more, overjoyed that she had been permitted
to return.

For some days she continued in this state, with only occasional lapses
into her original self; then, on the morning of May 21, she announced
that the time for definite leave-taking had at last arrived, and with
evident grief went about among the neighbors bidding them good-by. It
was arranged that "sister Nervie" should take her to Mr. Roff's office,
and that Mr. Roff should thence escort her home. En route there were
sharp interchanges of personality, with the spirit control dominant; but
when the office was reached it became evident that she had fully come
into her own again. The night before she had wept bitterly at the
thought of leaving her "father." Now she addressed him calmly as "Mr.
Roff," called herself Lurancy, and said that her one wish was to see her
parents as soon as possible. Nor, as the Vennums were quickly to
discover, did she return to torment and alarm them by the weird actions
of the preceding months. On the contrary, they found her healthy and
normal in mind and body, completely cured, as a result, the Roffs
emphatically declared, of the intervention of the spirit of their
beloved daughter.

Needless to say, the people of Watseka and the surrounding country had
watched with breathless interest the progress of this curious affair;
but it was not until three months after the "possession" had ended that
the public at large obtained any knowledge of it. The first intimation,
outside of unnoticed reports in local newspapers, came through the
medium of two articles contributed by Dr. Stevens to the August 3 and
10, 1878, issues of _The Religio-Philosophical Journal_, one of the
leading spiritist organs of the United States. Traversing the case in
the fullest detail, and emphasizing the fact that up to the moment of
writing the principal actor had had no return of the ills from which she
had previously suffered, Dr. Stevens gave it as his unqualified
conviction that the spirit of Mary Roff had actually revisited earth in
the person of Lurancy Vennum, and had been the instrument of her cure.
This view naturally commended itself to spiritists, but by the
unbelieving it was vigorously combatted, not a few insinuating or openly
alleging that Dr. Stevens's narrative was a work of fiction. The
veracity of the Roffs was also attacked. "Can the truthfulness of the
narrative," one skeptical inquirer wrote Mr. Roff, "be substantiated
outside of yourself and those immediately interested? Can it be shown
that there was no collusion between the parties?" And another asked him,
"Is it a fact, or is it a story made up to see how cunning a tale one
can tell?"

Waxing indignant, Mr. Roff wrote a long letter to _The
Religio-Philosophical Journal_ denouncing the imputation of fraud,
giving the names of a number of men who would vouch for his integrity,
and concluding with the statement: "I am now sixty years old; have
resided in Iroquois county thirty years; and would not now sacrifice
what reputation I may have by being party to the publication of such a
narrative, if it was not perfectly true."

Following this there appeared in _The Religio-Philosophical Journal_
several letters from well-known Illinois professional men warmly
indorsing Mr. Roff's character, and an announcement to the effect that
the editor, Colonel J. C. Bundy, himself of undoubted honesty, "has
entire confidence in the truthfulness of the narrative and believes from
his knowledge of the witnesses that the account is unimpeachable in
every particular." As for Dr. Stevens, Colonel Bundy declared that he
had been personally acquainted with the physician for years, and had
"implicit confidence in his veracity." After all this, accusations of
perjury and deception were obviously futile, and, no adequate
non-spiritistic interpretation being forthcoming, there was an
increasing tendency to accept the view advanced by those who had
participated in the affair.

Such was the situation at the time of Richard Hodgson's advent.
Primarily, as will be remembered by all who have followed the work of
the Society for Psychical Research, Dr. Hodgson had come to this country
to investigate the trance mediumship of Mrs. Leonora Piper. But his
attention having been called to the Vennum mystery, he visited Watseka
in April, 1890, and instituted a rigorous cross-examination of the
surviving witnesses. Dr. Stevens was dead, and Lurancy herself had
married and moved with her husband to Kansas, but Dr. Hodgson was able
to interview Mr. and Mrs. Roff, Mrs. Alter, and half a dozen neighbors
who had personal knowledge of the "possession." All answered his
questions freely and fully, reiterating the facts as given in Dr.
Stevens's narrative, and adding some interesting information hitherto
not made public. In the main this bore on the question of identity and
tended to vindicate the reincarnation theory. It also developed that
while Lurancy had grown to be a strong, healthy woman, she had had
occasional returns of Mary's spirit in the years immediately following
the chief visitation; but that these had ceased with her marriage to a
man who, Roff regretfully observed, had never made himself acquainted
with spiritism and therefore "furnished poor conditions for further
development in that direction."

Appreciating the fact that Mr. Roff and his family would furnish the
best possible conditions for such development, and that he must be on
his guard against unconscious exaggeration and misstatement, Dr. Hodgson
nevertheless deemed the evidence presented to him too strong to be
explained away on naturalistic grounds. Contributing to _The
Religio-Philosophical Journal_ an account of his inquiry and of the
additional data it had brought to light, he described the case as
"unique among the records of supernormal occurrences," and frankly
admitted that he could not "find any satisfactory interpretation of it
except the spiritistic."

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet, as was said at the outset, it may now be affirmed that another
interpretation is possible, and one far more satisfactory than the
spiritistic; this, too, without impeaching in any way the truthfulness
of the testimony given by Dr. Stevens, the Roffs, and the numerous other
witnesses. To begin: apart from the supernatural implications forced
into it by the appearance of the so-called spirit control, it is clear
that the affair bears a striking resemblance to the instances of
"secondary" or "multiple" personality which recent research has
discovered in such numbers, and which are due to perfectly natural, if
often obscure, causes. In these, it has already been pointed out, as the
result of an illness, a blow, a shock, or some other unusual stimulus,
there is a partial or complete effacement of the original personality of
the victim and its replacement by a new personality, sometimes of
radically different characteristics from the normal self.

A sufficient example is the case of the Rev. Thomas C. Hanna, for
knowledge of which the scientific world is indebted to Dr. Boris
Sidis.[P] Following a fall from his carriage, Mr. Hanna, a Connecticut
clergyman, lost all consciousness of his identity, had no memory for the
events of his life prior to the accident, recognized none of his
friends, could not read or write, nor so much as walk or talk,--was, in
fact, like a child new born. On the other hand, as soon as the rudiments
of education were acquired by him once more, he showed himself the
possessor of a vigorous, independent, self-reliant personality, lacking
all knowledge of the original personality, but still able to adapt
himself readily to his environment and make headway in the world.
Ultimately, through methods which are distinctively modern, Dr. Sidis
was able to recall the vanished self, and, fusing the secondary self
with it, restore the clergyman to his former sphere of usefulness.

This, of course, is an extreme example. The usual procedure is for the
secondary personality to retain some of the characteristics of the
original self--as the ability to read, write, etc.--and give itself a
name. In this way Ansel Bourne, the Rhode Island itinerant preacher,
became metamorphosed into A. J. Brown, and, without any recollection of
his former career or relationships, drifted to Pennsylvania and began an
entirely new existence as a shopkeeper in a small country town.
Similarly with Dr. R. Osgood Mason's patient, Alma Z., in whom the
secondary personality assumed the odd name of "Twoey," spoke, as Dr.
Mason phrased it, "in a peculiar child-like and Indianlike dialect," and
announced that her mission was to cure the broken down physical organism
of the original self, which remained completely in abeyance so long as
"Twoey" was in evidence. Here, as is apparent, we have a case almost
identical with that of Lurancy Vennum, the sole difference being that
"Twoey"--who, by the way, is credited with having exercised seemingly
supernormal powers--did not pose as a returned visitant from the world
of spirits.

Thus far, then, depending on the argument from analogy, the presumption
is strong that Lurancy's case belongs to the same category as the cases
just mentioned. In the one, as in the others, we have loss of the
original self, development of a new self, and the enactment by the
latter of a rôle conspicuously alien from that played by the former. The
one difficulty in the way of unreserved acceptance of this view is the
character of the secondary personality which replaced Lurancy's original
personality. Here the positive claim was made that the secondary
personality was in reality the personality of a girl long dead, and by
way of proof vivid knowledge of the life, circumstances, and conduct of
that girl was offered. But on this point considerable light is shed by
the discovery that in a number of instances of secondary personality in
which no supernatural pretensions are advanced there is a notable
sharpening of the faculties, knowledge being obtained telepathically or
clairvoyantly; and by the further discovery that it is quite possible to
create experimentally secondary selves assuming the characteristics of
real persons who have died.

In this the creative force is nothing more or less than suggestion.
There is on record, indeed, an instance of mediumship in which the
medium, an amateur investigator of the phenomena of spiritism, clearly
recognized that his various impersonations were suggested to him by the
spectators. This gentleman, Mr. Charles H. Tout, of Vancouver, records
that after attending a few séances with some friends he felt a strong
impulse to turn medium himself, and assume a foreign personality.
Yielding to the impulse, he discovered, much to his amazement, that
without losing complete control of his consciousness, he could develop a
secondary self that would impose on the beholders as a discarnate
spirit. On one occasion he thus acted in a semi-conscious way the part
of a dead woman, the mother of a friend present, and the impersonation
was accepted as a genuine case of spirit control. On another, having
given several successful impersonations, he suddenly felt weak and ill,
and almost fell to the floor.

At this point, he stated, one of the sitters "made the remark, which I
remember to have overheard, 'It is father controlling him,' and I then
seemed to realize who I was and whom I was seeking. I began to be
distressed in my lungs, and should have fallen if they had not held me
by the hands and let me back gently upon the floor.... I was in a
measure still conscious of my actions, though not of my surroundings,
and I have a clear memory of seeing myself in the character of my dying
father lying in the bed and in the room in which he died. It was a most
curious sensation. I saw his shrunken hands and face, and lived again
through his dying moments; only now I was both myself, in an indistinct
sort of way, and my father, with his feelings and appearance."

All of this Tout explained correctly as "the dramatic working out, by
some half conscious stratum of his personality, of suggestions made at
the time by other members of the circle, or received in prior
experiences of the kind." In most instances, however, the original self
is completely effaced, and no consciousness is retained of the
performances of the secondary self; but that an avenue of sense is still
open is sufficiently demonstrated by the readiness with which, in
hypnotic experiments, seemingly insensible subjects respond to the
suggestions of the operator. Here, therefore, we find our clue to the
solution of the mystery of Lurancy Vennum. A victim of a psychic
catastrophe, the cause of which must be left to conjecture in the
absence of knowledge of her previous history, she was placed in
precisely the position of the adventurous Mr. Tout and of the inert
subjects of the hypnotist's art. That is to say, having lost momentarily
all knowledge and control of her own personality, the character her new
personality would assume depended on the suggestions received from those
about her.

Yet not altogether. Dr. Stevens's detailed record contains a reference
which indicates strongly that the spiritistic tendency manifest from the
onset of her trouble was to some extent predetermined. A few days before
the first attack she informed the family that "there were persons in my
room last night, and they called 'Rancy, Rancy!' and I felt their breath
on my face"; and the next night, repeating the same story, she sought
refuge in her mother's bed. These fanciful notions, symptomatic of the
coming trouble and possibly provocative of it, would act in the way of a
powerful autosuggestion, and would of themselves explain why there
resulted an inchoate, tentative, vague personality, instead of the
robust, definite personality that assumes control in most cases.

At first, the reader will remember, she sought vainly and wildly and
wholly subconsciously--it cannot be made too clear that she was no
longer consciously responsible for her acts--for a satisfactory self of
ghostly origin. The aged Katrina, the masculine Willie, and other
imaginary beings were tried and rejected; principally, no doubt, because
her thirteen-year-old imagination was unequal to the task of investing
them with satisfactory attributes. From her relatives she obtained no
assistance in the strange quest. They, disbelieving in "spirits,"
persisted in calling her insane--a comfortless and far from beneficial
suggestion. But with the intervention of the Roffs and Dr. Stevens
everything changed. Not questioning the truth of her assertions, they
confirmed her in them, and offered her into the bargain a ready-made

Here at last was something tangible, a starting-point, a
foundation-stone. Mary Roff had had a real existence, had had thoughts,
feelings, desires, a life of flesh and blood. And Mary, they assured the
poor, perturbed, disintegrated self, could help her regain all that she
had lost. Very well, let Mary come, and the sooner she came the better.
For knowledge of Mary, of her characteristics, her relationships, her
friends, her earthly career, it was necessary only to tap telepathically
the reservoir of information possessed by Mary's family; and there would
be available besides a wealth of data in chance remarks, unconscious
hints, unnoticed promptings. She had been too long in search of a
personality not to grasp at the opening now afforded. Focused thus by
suggestion,--that subtle, all-pervasive influence which man is only now
beginning to appreciate,--the basic delusional idea promptly took root,
blossomed, and burst into an amazing fruition. Banished were the
spurious Katrinas and Willies. In their stead reigned Mary, no less
spurious in point of fact, but so cunningly counterfeiting the true
Mary that the deception was not once detected.

Mark too how suggestion sufficed not only to create the Mary personality
but to expel it and restore the hapless Lurancy to perfect health. If
the responsibility for the creation rests on Dr. Stevens and the Roffs,
to them likewise belongs the credit for the cure. Their insistence on
the fact that Mary's spirit could and would be of assistance, was itself
as powerful a suggestion as could be hit upon by the most expert of
modern practitioners of psychotherapeutics; and in unconsciously
persuading the spirit to set a limit to its time of "possession" they
made another suggestion of rare curative value. To the suggestionally
inspired fixed idea that she was not Lurancy Vennum but Mary Roff was
thus added the fixed idea, derived from the same source, that in May she
would become Lurancy Vennum again, and a perfectly well Lurancy. It was
as though the Roffs had actually hypnotized her and given her commands
that were to be obeyed with the fidelity characteristic of the obedience
hypnotized subjects render to the operator.

When the time came the transformation was duly effected, though, as has
been seen, not without a struggle, a period of alternating personality,
with Mary at one moment supreme and Lurancy at another. But this is a
phenomenon that need give us no concern. Exactly the same thing happened
in the last stages of the Hanna case. Nor do the fugitive recurrences of
the Mary personality signify aught than that Lurancy was still unduly
suggestionable. Note that these recurrences, according to the available
evidence, developed only when the Roffs paid her visits; and that they
ceased entirely upon her marriage to a man not interested in spiritism,
and her removal to a distant part of the country.[Q]


[P] In his "Multiple Personality."

[Q] It is proper to add that since the recent publication of this paper
as a contribution to _The Associated Sunday Magazine_, the charge of
fraud has been revived in connection with the "Watseka Wonder." It is
asserted by a resident of Watseka that although Lurancy Vennum
unquestionably was a sufferer from "nervous trouble," she consciously
impersonated the "spirit" of Mary Roff, her motive being a desire to be
near one of the Roff boys, with whom she imagined herself in love.



The name of Dr. John Dee is scarcely known to-day, yet Dr. Dee has some
exceedingly well-defined claims to remembrance. He was one of the
foremost scientists of the Tudor period in English history. He was famed
as a mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher not only in his native
land but in every European center of learning. Before he was twenty he
penned a remarkable treatise on logic, and he left behind him at his
death a total of nearly a hundred works on all manner of recondite
subjects. He was the means of introducing into England a number of
astronomical instruments hitherto unused, and even unknown, in that
country. His lectures on geometry were the delight of all who heard
them. In Elizabeth's reign he was frequently consulted by the highest
ministers of the crown with regard to affairs of State, and was the
confidant of the queen herself, who more than once employed him on
secret missions. He was interested in everyday affairs as well as in
questions of theoretical importance. The reformation of the calendar
long engaged his attention. He charted for Elizabeth her distant
colonial dominions. He preached the doctrine of sea-power, and, like
Hakluyt, advocated the upbuilding of a strong navy. He was, in some
sort, a participant in Sir Humphrey Gilbert's scheme for New World

In a word, Dr. John Dee was a phenomenally many-sided man in an age that
was peculiarly productive of many-sided men. Even yet, the catalogue of
his interests and accomplishments is by no means exhausted. Indeed, his
chief claim to fame--and, paradoxically enough, the great reason why his
reputation practically died with him--lies in the fact that he was one
of the earliest of psychical researchers. At a time when all men
unhesitatingly entertained a belief in the overshadowing presence of
spirits and their constant intervention in human affairs, Dr. Dee
resolved to prove, if possible, the actual existence of these mysterious
and unseen beings. To encourage him in his ghost-hunting zeal was the
hope that the spirits, if actually located by him, might reward his
enterprise by unfolding a secret that had long been the despair of all
medieval scientists--the secret of the philosopher's stone, of the
precious formula whereby the baser metals could be transmuted into
shining gold. With the heartiest enthusiasm, therefore, Dr. Dee went to
work, and although the spirits with whom he ultimately came into
constant communication brought him no gold but many tribulations, he
remained an ardent psychical researcher to the day of his death.

Just when he began his explorations of the invisible world it is
impossible to say. But it must have been at a very early age, for he was
barely twenty-five when a rumor spread that he was dabbling in the black
arts. Two years later, in 1554, he was definitely accused of trying to
take the life of Queen Mary by enchantments, and on this charge was
thrown into prison. For cellmate he had Barthlet Green, who parted from
him only to meet an agonizing death in the flames, as an arch-heretic.
Dee himself was threatened with the stake, and was actually placed on
trial for his life before the dread Court of the Star Chamber. But he
seems to have had, throughout his entire career, a singularly plausible
manner, and a magnetic, winning personality. He succeeded in convincing
his judges both of his innocence of traitorous designs and his religious
orthodoxy, and was allowed to go scot free. Elizabeth, on her accession
to the throne, naturally looked on him with favor, as one who had been
persecuted by her sister; and with the more favor since it was widely
reported that he was on the eve of making the grand discovery for which
other alchemists had ever labored in vain. A man who might some day make
gold at will was certainly not to be despised; rather, he should be
cultivated. Nor was her esteem for Dee lessened by the success with
which, by astrological calculations, he named a favorable day for her
coronation; and, a little later, by solemn disenchantment warded off the
ill effects of the Lincoln's Inn Fields incident, when a puppet of wax,
representing Elizabeth, was found lying on the ground with a huge pin
stuck through its breast.

As a matter of fact, however, Dee was making headway neither in his
quest for the philosopher's stone nor in his efforts to prove the
existence of a spiritual world. In vain he pored over every work of
occultism upon which he could lay his hands, and tried all known means
of incantation. Year after year passed without result, until at last he
hit on the expedient of crystal-gazing. As every student of things
psychical is aware, if one takes a crystal, or glass of water, or other
body with a reflecting surface, and gaze at it steadily, he may possibly
perceive, after a greater or less length of time, shadowy images of
persons or scenes in the substance that fixes his attention. It was so
with Dr. Dee, and not having any understanding of the laws of
subconscious mental action he soon came to the conclusion that the
shadowy figures he saw in the crystal were veritable spirits. From this
it was an easy step to imagine that they really talked to him and sought
to convey to him a knowledge of the great secrets of this world and the

The only difficulty was that he could not understand what they said--or,
rather, what he fancied they said. The obvious thing to do was to find a
crystal-gazer with the gift of the spirit language, and induce him to
interpret for Dr. Dee's benefit the revelations of the images in the
glass. Such a crystal-gazer was ready at hand in the person of a young
man named Edward Kelley. Among the common people, as Dee well knew,
Kelley had the reputation of being a bold and wicked wizard. He had been
born in Worcester, and trained in the apothecary's business, but,
tempted by the prospect of securing great wealth at a minimum of
trouble, he had turned alchemist and magician. It was rumored that on at
least one occasion he had disinterred a freshly buried corpse, and by
his incantations had compelled the spirit of the dead man to speak to
him. There was more truth in the report that the reason he always wore a
close-fitting skull-cap was to conceal the loss of his ears, which had
been forfeited to the Government of England on his conviction for
forgery. Of this last unpleasant incident Dr. Dee seems to have known
nothing. At any rate, with child-like confidence, he sent for Kelley,
told him of the properties of his magic crystal--which the now
thoroughly infatuated doctor represented as having been bestowed on him
by the angel Uriel--and asked Kelley if he would interpret for him the
wonderful words of the spirits.

Kelley, as shrewd and unscrupulous a man as any in the annals of
imposture, readily consented, but on pretty hard terms. He was to be
taken in as a member of Dr. Dee's family, retained on a contract, and
paid an annual stipend of fifty pounds, quite a large sum in those
times. On this understanding he went to work, and day after day, for
years, regaled the credulous Dee with monologues purporting to be
delivered by the spirits in the crystal. Everything Kelley told him, Dr.
Dee faithfully noted down, and many years later, long after both Dee and
Kelley had been carried to their graves, these manuscript notes of the
séances were published. The volume containing them--a massive, closely
printed folio entitled "A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed for
Many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits"--is one of the great
curiosities of literature. A copy of the original edition is before me
as I write, and I will quote from it just enough to show the character
of the "revelations" vouchsafed to Dee through the mediumship of the
cunning Kelley.

"Wednesday, 19 Junii, I made a prayer to God and there appeared one,
having two garments in his hands, who answered, 'A good praise, with a
wavering mind.'

"God made my mind stable, and to be seasoned with the intellectual
leaven, free of all sensible mutability.

"E. K. [said] 'One of these two garments is pure white: the other is
speckled of divers colors; he layeth them down before him, he layeth
also a speckled cap down before him at his feet; he hath no cap on his
head: his hair is long and yellow, but his face cannot be seen.... Now
he putteth on his pied coat and his pied cap, he casteth one side of his
gown over his shoulder and he danceth, and saith, "There is a God, let
us be merry!"'

"E. K. 'He danceth still.'

"'There is a heaven, let us be merry.'

"'Doth this doctrine teach you to know God, or to be skilful in the

"'Note it.'

"E. K. 'Now he putteth off his clothes again: now he kneeleth down, and
washeth his head and his neck and his face, and shaketh his clothes, and
plucketh off the uttermost sole of his shoes, and falleth prostrate on
the ground, and saith, "Vouchsafe, oh God, to take away the weariness of
my body and to cleanse the filthiness of this dust, that I may be apt
for this pureness."'

"E. K. 'Now he taketh the white garment, and putteth it on him.... Now
he sitteth down on the desk-top and looketh toward me.... He seemeth now
to be turned to a woman, and the very same which we call Galvah.'"

Side by side with the esoteric and transcendental utterances which
Kelley credited to the spirits, he cleverly introduced sufficient in the
way of references to the elixir of life and the transmutation of metals,
to keep alive in Dee's breast the hope of ultimately solving the crucial
problems of medieval science. All the money Dee could procure was spent
on ingredients for magical formulas, and to such lengths did his
enthusiasm carry him that before long he was reduced to poverty. He
became so poor, in fact, that when, in the summer of 1583, the Earl of
Leicester announced his intention of bringing a notable foreign visitor,
Count Albert Lasky of Bohemia, to dine with Dee, the unhappy doctor was
compelled to send word that he could not provide a proper dinner.
Leicester, moved to pity, reported his plight to the queen, who at once
belied her reputation for niggardliness by bestowing a liberal gift on
the Sage of Mortlake, as Dee was now styled at the Court. The dinner
accordingly took place, and was a tremendous success in more ways than

Lasky turned out to be an exceedingly excitable and impressionable man,
and his curiosity was so aroused by the occult discourse of his host
that he begged to be admitted to the séances. Always alert to the main
chance, Kelley, after a few preliminary sittings of unusual
picturesqueness, inspired the spirits to predict that Lasky would one
day be elected King of Poland. It needed nothing more to induce the
happy and hopeful count to invite both Dee and Kelley to return with him
to Bohemia. He would, he promised, protect and provide for them; they
should live with him in his many turreted castle, and want for nothing.
Here, indeed, was a pleasant way out of their present poverty, and Dee
and Kelley readily gave consent. Nor did they leave England a moment too
soon. Scarcely had they taken ship before a mob, roused to fury by
superstitious fears, broke into the philosopher's house at Mortlake and
destroyed almost everything that they did not steal--furniture, books,
manuscripts, and costly scientific apparatus.

Of this, though, Dee for the moment happily knew nothing. Nor, for all
his long intercourse with the spirits, was he able to foresee that he
was now embarking on a career of tragic adventure that falls to the lot
of few scientists. At first, however, all went well enough. Lasky
entertained his learned guests in lavish fashion, and, assuming their
garb of long, flowing gown, joined heartily with them in the ceremonies
of the séance room. But as time passed and their incantations redounded
in no way to his advantage, he gradually lost patience, and broadly
hinted that they might better transfer their services to another patron.
Whereupon, closely followed by the irrepressible Kelley, Dee removed to
the court of the emperor, Rudolph II, at Prague. He had dedicated one of
his scientific treatises to the emperor's father, and in his simplicity
firmly believed that this would insure him a warm and lasting welcome.
But Rudolph, from the outset, showed himself far from well-disposed to
Dee, Kelley, and their attendant retinue of invisible spirits. When Dee
grandiloquently introduced himself, in a Latin oration, as a messenger
from the unseen world, the emperor curtly checked him with the remark
that he did not understand Latin. And the next day a hint was given him
that, at the request of the papal nuncio, he and Kelley were to be
arrested and sent to Rome for trial as necromancers. Before night-fall
they were in full flight, to remain homeless wanderers until another
Bohemian count, hearing of their presence in his dominions, took them
under his protection on the proviso that they were to replenish his
exchequer by converting humble pewter into silver and gold.

In this, of course, they signally failed, and the next few years of
their lives were years of the greatest misery. This, at any rate, so far
as Dee was concerned. Kelley, with pitiless insistence, drew his pay
regularly, and when funds were not forthcoming, refused to act as
crystal-gazer and spirit interpreter. On one of these occasions Dee
tried to replace him by training his son, Arthur Dee, as a
crystal-gazer; but, try as he might, the boy said he could see in the
crystal nothing but meaningless clouds and specks. Had Dee not been
thoroughly infatuated this might have disillusioned him, and convinced
him that Kelley had simply been preying on his credulity. But the old
man--he was now well advanced in years--saw in his son's failure only
proof of Kelley's superior gifts, and by dint of great sacrifices
contrived to find the money necessary to persuade him to return to his
post. At last a day came when money could no longer be found, and then
Kelley definitely determined to break the partnership. According to one
account, he informed Dee that, for the sake of his immortal soul, he
could no longer have dealings with the spirits; that they were spirits
not of good but of evil, and Mephistopheles was their master; and that,
did he continue to traffic with them, Mephistopheles would soon have
him, body and soul. Another version--given by the astrologer, William
Lilly, who is said to have been consulted by the friends of King Charles
I. as to the best time for that unhappy monarch to attempt to escape
from prison--says that one fine morning Kelley took French leave of Dee,
running away with an alchemically inclined friar who had promised him a
good income. Whatever the facts of his final rupture with his
long-suffering master, it is certain that, after a romantic career, in
which he gained a German baronetcy, Kelley was clapped into prison on a
charge of fraud, and broke his neck while trying to escape.

Dr. Dee, in the meantime, a sadder if not a really wiser man, had found
his way back to England, where he essayed the difficult task of
retrieving his ruined fortunes. Elizabeth smiled on him as graciously as
ever, and at Christmas time sent to him a royal gift of two hundred
angels in gold. But he needed more than an occasional bounty; he needed
the assurance of a steady income, and the chance to pursue again his
scientific studies undisturbed by the phantoms of gnawing want. So, in a
memorial, "written with tears of blood," as he himself put it, Dee
begged the queen to appoint a commission to investigate his case and
review the evidence he would produce to prove that his services to the
nation warranted a reward. Promptly the commission was appointed, and as
promptly began its labors. This led to what Isaac Disraeli, perhaps
Dee's best biographer, has described as a "literary scene of singular

Let me depict it in Disraeli's little known words: "Dee, sitting in his
library," says Disraeli, "received the royal commissioners. Two tables
were arranged; on one lay all the books he had published, with his
unfinished manuscripts; the most extraordinary one was an elaborate
narrative of the transactions of his whole life. This manuscript his
secretary read, and, as it proceeded, from the other table Dee presented
the commissioners with every testimonial. These vouchers consisted of
royal letters from the Queen, and from princes, ambassadors, and the
most illustrious persons of England and of Europe; passports which
traced his routes, and journals which noted his arrivals and departures;
grants and appointments and other remarkable evidences; and when these
were wanting, he appealed to living witnesses.

"Among the employments which he had filled, he particularly alluded to a
'painful journey in the winter season, of more than fifteen hundred
miles, to confer with learned physicians on the Continent, about her
majesty's health.' He showed the offers of many princes to the English
philosopher, to retire to their courts, and the princely establishment
at Moscow proffered by the czar; but he had never faltered in his
devotion to his sovereign.... He complained that his house at Mortlake
was too public for his studies, and incommodious for receiving the
numerous foreign literati who resorted to him. Of all the promised
preferments, he would have chosen the mastership of St. Cross for its
seclusion. Here is a great man making great demands, but reposing with
dignity on his claims; his wants were urgent, but the penury was not in
his spirit. The commissioners, as they listened to his autobiography,
must often have raised their eyes in wonder, on the venerable and
dignified author before them."

Their report was terse, direct, and wholly favorable, inspiring the
queen to declare that Dee should have the mastership of St. Cross, and
that immediately. But days passed into months, and months into years,
and Elizabeth's "immediately" still belonged to the future. For some
reason she soon lost all interest in the returned Sage of Mortlake.
Again and again he memorialized her, once with a letter vindicating
himself from the accusation of practising sorcery. Her sole reply was to
grant him finally the uncongenial post of warden of Manchester College,
from which he retired after some mortifying experiences with the minor
officials. Nor did he fare better at the hands of Elizabeth's successor.
Steadily he sank lower in the scale of society, until at last he was
forced to sell his books, one by one, to buy bread. And still, for all
his poverty, he pressed constantly forward in his adventurings into the
invisible world. If his friends deserted him, he would at least have the
companionship of "angels." As his hallucinations grew, his youthful
buoyancy returned. He would leave England, would fare across to the
Continent, and there seek out men of a mind like unto his own. Joyfully,
he made ready for the journey; but, even while he packed and planned,
the call came for another and a longer voyage. In the eighty-first year
of his age, 1608, the aged dreamer became in very fact a dweller in the
spirit world.

Of his place in the history of mankind, it is not easy to write with any
degree of finality. There can be no doubt that he was utterly swept off
his feet by the domination of a fixed idea. And it is not possible to
point to any specific contributions which he made to the advancement of
learning, worldly or otherwise. Still, it is equally certain that he
was anything but a negative quantity in an age resplendent for its
positive men. He played his part, however mistakenly, in the
intellectual awakening that has shed such luster on the times of
Elizabeth; and, if only for his overpowering curiosity, and his intense
and unfailing ardor to get at the truth of all things, natural or
supernatural, he merits respect as a forerunner of the scientific spirit
which in his day was but feebly striving to loose itself from the
bondage of bigotry and intolerance.



Psychical research, of which so much mention has been made in the
preceding pages, may be roughly yet sufficiently described as an effort
to determine by strictly scientific methods the nature and significance
of apparitions, hauntings, spiritistic phenomena, and those other weird
occurrences that would seem to confirm the idea that the spirits of the
dead can and do communicate with the living. It is something
comparatively new--and like all scientific endeavor is the outgrowth of
many minds. But so far as its origin may be attributed to any one man,
credit must chiefly be given to a Cambridge University professor named
Henry Sidgwick.

At the time, Sidgwick was merely a lecturer in the university, a post
given him as a reward for his brilliant career as an undergraduate. He
was a born student and investigator, a restless seeker after knowledge.
Philosophy, sociology, ethics, economics, mathematics, the classics,--he
made almost the whole wide field of thought his sphere of inquiry. And
after awhile, as is so often the case, his learning became too profound
for his peace of mind. He had been born and brought up in the faith of
the English Church, and had unhesitatingly made the religious
declaration required of all members of the university faculty. But
little by little he felt himself drifting from the moorings of his
youth, and doubting the truth of the ancient doctrines and traditions.
Honestly skeptical, but still unwilling to lose his hold on religion, he
turned feverishly to the study of oriental languages, of ancient
philosophies, of history, of science, in the hope of finding evidence
that would remove his doubts. But the more he read the greater grew his
uncertainty, especially with respect to the vital question of the
existence of a spiritual world and its relation to mankind.

While he was still laboring in this valley of indecision, Sidgwick was
visited by a young man, Frederic W. H. Myers, who had studied under him
a few years earlier and for whom he had formed a warm friendship.
Myers, it seemed, was tormented by the same scruples that were harassing
him. It was his belief, he told Sidgwick, that if the teachings of the
Bible were true--if there existed a spiritual world which in days of old
had been manifest to mankind--then such a world should be manifest now.
And one beautiful, starlit evening, when they were strolling together
through the university grounds, he put to his old master the pointed

"Do you think that, although tradition, intuition, metaphysics, have
failed to solve the riddle of the universe, there is still a chance of
solving it by drawing from actual observable phenomena--ghosts, spirits,
whatsoever it may be--valid knowledge as to a world unseen?"

Gazing gravely into the eager face of his companion, and weighing his
words with the caution that was characteristic of him, Sidgwick replied
that he had indeed entertained this thought; that, although not over
hopeful of the result, he believed such an inquiry should be undertaken,
notwithstanding the unpleasant notoriety it would entail on those
embarking in it. Would he, then, make the quest, and would he permit
Myers to pursue it by his side? Long and earnestly the two friends
talked together, and when their walk ended, that December night in 1869,
psychical research had at last come definitely into being.

In the beginning, however, progress was painfully slow and uncertain.
"Our methods," as Myers afterward explained, "were all to make. In those
early days we were more devoid of precedents, of guidance, even of
criticism that went beyond mere expressions of contempt, than is now
readily conceived."

It was realized that no mere analysis of alleged experiences in the past
would do; that what was needed was a rigid scrutiny of present-day
manifestations of a seemingly supernormal character, and the collection
of a mass of well authenticated evidence sufficient to justify
inferences and conclusions. Earnestly and bravely the friends went to
work, and before long had the satisfaction of finding an invaluable
assistant in the person of Edmund Gurney, another Cambridge man and an
enthusiast in all matters metaphysical.

At first, to be sure, Gurney entered into psychical research in a
half-hearted, quizzical way, expecting to be amused rather than
instructed. And he derived little encouragement from the investigations
carried on by Sidgwick, Myers, and himself in the field of spiritistic
mediumship. Fraud seemed always to be at the bottom of the phenomena
produced in the séance room. But his interest was suddenly and
permanently awakened by the discovery, following several years spent in
patiently collecting evidence, of facts pointing to the possibility of
thought being communicated from mind to mind by some agency other than
the recognized organs of sense. At once he made it his special business
to accumulate data bearing on this point, his labors ultimately leading
him into an exhaustive examination of hypnotism, as he found that the
hypnotic trance seemed peculiarly favorable to "thought transference,"
or "telepathy."

Meantime, the example of this little Cambridge group had been followed
by other investigators; and in 1876, before no less dignified and
conservative a body than the British Association for the Advancement of
Science, the proposal was made that a special committee be appointed for
the systematic examination of spiritistic and kindred phenomena. The
idea was broached by Dr. W. F. Barrett, professor of physics at the
Royal College of Science, Dublin, and was warmly seconded by Dr. Alfred
Russel Wallace and Sir William Crookes, two distinguished scientists who
had already made adventures in psychical research and were destined to
wide renown as ghost hunters.

For some reason nothing was done at the time; but five years later
Professor Barrett renewed his suggestion, asking Myers and Gurney if
they would join him in the formation of such a society. That, they
replied, they would gladly do, provided Sidgwick could be induced to
accept its presidency. Having long before realized that the field was
too extensive for thorough exploration by any individual, however
gifted, Sidgwick willingly gave his consent. And accordingly, in
January, 1882, the now celebrated Society for Psychical Research was
formally organized, its first council including, besides Sidgwick,
Myers, Gurney, and Barrett, such men as Arthur J. Balfour, afterward
Prime Minister of Great Britain; the brilliant Richard Hutton; Prof.
Balfour Stewart; and Frank Podmore, than whom no more merciless
executioner of bogus ghosts is wielding the ax to-day.

Unfortunately, the first council also numbered several avowed
spiritists, notably the medium Stainton Moses; and the society's
birthplace was in the rooms of the British National Association of
Spiritualists. These two facts created a wide-spread suspicion that the
society was actually nothing more than an adjunct to the spiritistic
movement. Nor was confidence wholly restored by the hasty withdrawal of
the spiritistic representatives as soon as they learned that strictly
scientific methods of inquiry were to prevail; or by the accession, as
honorary members, of national figures like W. E. Gladstone, John Ruskin,
Lord Tennyson, A. R. Wallace, Sir William Crookes, and G. F. Watts.

To the scientific as well as the popular consciousness, the society was
little better than an assemblage of cranks, with strangely fantastic
notions, and only too likely to lose its mental balance and help
ignorant and superstitious people to lose theirs. Conscious, however, of
the really serious and important nature of their enterprise, and cheered
by Gladstone's comforting assurance that no investigation of greater
moment to mankind could be made,[R] the members of the society applied
themselves zealously to the business that had brought them together.

Sensibly enough, they adopted the principle of specialization and
division of labor. While one group carried on experiments designed to
prove or disprove the telepathic hypothesis, another engaged in a
systematic examination of the alleged facts of clairvoyance. A third, in
its turn, under the skilful guidance of Gurney, investigated the
phenomena of the hypnotic trance, with results unexpectedly beneficial
to medical science. A special committee was also appointed to collect
and sift evidence as to the reality of apparitions and hauntings, making
whenever possible personal examinations of the seers of the visions and
the places of their occurrence. Finally, there were various
subcommittees of inquiry into the physical phenomena of spiritism,--the
knockings, table turnings, production of spirit forms, and similar
marvels of the Dunglas Home type of "medium." From the outset, these
subcommittees demonstrated the value of psychical research, as a
protection to the interests of society, by exposing, one after another,
the fraudulent character of the pretended intermediaries between the
seen and the unseen world.

In this region of inquiry no one was more successful than a recruit from
distant Australia, by name Richard Hodgson. Hodgson, unlike Sidgwick and
Myers and many others of his associates, had not engaged in psychical
research from the hope that the truths of the Bible might thereby be
demonstrated. His motive was that of the detective eager to unravel
mysteries. From his boyhood he had had a singular fondness for solving
tricks and puzzles of all sorts; and when, in 1878, he came to England
to complete his education at Cambridge, he naturally gravitated into the
company of Sidgwick, Myers, and Gurney, as men busied in an undertaking
that appealed to his detective instinct. He was radically different from
them in temperament and point of view--not at all mystical, full of
animal spirits, fond of all manner of sports, and interested in occult
subjects only so far as they furnished working material for his nimble
and inquiring mind. The Cambridge trio, however, took kindly to him,
invited him to join the Society for Psychical Research, and two years
after its formation were instrumental in sending him to India to
investigate the methods of Madam Blavatsky, the high priestess of the
theosophic movement which was then winning adherents throughout the
civilized world.

From this inquiry he returned to England with an international
reputation as a detective of the supernatural. With the aid of two
disgruntled confederates of the theosophist leader, he had demonstrated
the falsity of the foundations on which her claims rested, and had shown
that downright swindling constituted a large part of her stock in trade.
With redoubled ardor he now plunged into the task of exposing the
spiritistic mediums plying their vocation in England, and for this
purpose enlisted the assistance of a professional conjurer, S. J. Davey,
who was also a member of the Society for Psychical Research.

Davey, after a little practice, succeeded in duplicating by mere sleight
of hand many of the most impressive feats of the mediums; doing this,
indeed, so well that some spiritists alleged that he was in reality a
medium himself. Hodgson, for his part, by clever analysis of the Davey
performances and of the feats of Davey's mediumistic competitors,
brought home to his colleagues in the Society for Psychical Research a
lively sense of the folly of depending on the human eye as a detector of
fraudulent spiritistic phenomena. His crowning triumph came with his
exposure of Eusapia Paladino, the Italian medium who is still enjoying
an undeserved popularity on the European continent.

But in time even Hodgson met his Waterloo. Sent to the United States to
investigate the trance phenomena of Mrs. Leonora Piper, he was forced to
confess that in her case the theory of fraud fell to the ground, and as
is well known he ended by developing into an out and out spiritist. A
few days before Christmas, 1905, he suddenly died in Boston; and, if
reports from the spirit world may be accepted, the once-renowned ghost
hunter has himself become a ghost, visiting in especial two of his
American colleagues, Prof. William James and Prof. James H. Hyslop.[S]

To return, however, to the early days of the Society for Psychical
Research. Valuable as were the results obtained by Hodgson and his
associates on what may be called the anti-swindle committees, they had a
distinctly negative bearing on the supreme object of inquiry--proof of
the existence of a spiritual world in which human personality exists
after the death of the body. Some enthusiasts did not hesitate to
proclaim at an early date that such proof had actually been secured,
basing this assertion on the seemingly supernatural facts brought to
light by the committees on telepathy, clairvoyance, and apparitions. But
the society, under the leadership of the cautious Sidgwick, who was its
president for many years, steadily refused to countenance this view, and
insisted that before any definite conclusions could be reached far more
evidence would have to be assembled. Thus the first ten years of the
society's existence were marked by few positive results,--the most
important being the statement of the case for telepathy and of its
possible relationships to apparitions and hauntings, as well as to the
purely psychical phenomena of spiritualism.

Indeed, the society formally expressed its acquiescence in the
telepathic hypothesis as early as 1884, in the words, "Our society
claims to have proved the reality of thought transference--of the
transmission of thoughts, feelings, and images from one mind to another
by no recognized channel of sense." But to no other dictum did it commit
itself until ten years more had passed when, following the so-called
census of hallucinations, it gave voice to its belief that between
deaths and apparitions of the dying person a connection existed that was
not due to chance. And since then the society has contented itself with
steadily accumulating evidence designed to throw light on the causal
connection between deaths and ghosts, and to illumine the central
problem of demonstrating scientifically the existence of an unseen world
and the immortality of the soul.

Individuals, of course, have been free to express their views, and from
the pens of several have come striking and suggestive analyses of the
evidence assembled in the course of the society's twenty-five years. In
this respect, beyond any question, primacy must be given the writings of
Myers. Even before the organization of the society, his personal
researches had led him to suspect that, whatever the truth about the
life beyond the grave, there was reason for radical changes of belief
regarding the nature of human personality itself. In the light of the
phenomena of the hypnotic trance, clairvoyance, hallucinations, and even
of natural sleep, it seemed to him that, instead of being a stable,
indivisible unity, human personality was essentially unstable and

And as the years passed and he was enabled to coördinate the results of
the investigations carried on by the different committees, he gradually
became convinced that over and beyond the self of which man is normally
conscious there existed in every man a secondary self endowed with
faculties transcending those of the normal wake-a-day self. To this he
gave the name of the "subliminal self," and, in the words of Professor
James, "endowed psychology with a new problem,--the exploration of the
subliminal region being destined to figure thereafter in that branch of
learning as Myers's problem."

Not content with this, he gave himself, with all the earnestness that
had originally drawn him into activity with Sidgwick, to the
formulation of a cosmic philosophy based on the hypothesis of the
subliminal self and its operations in that unseen world of whose
existence he no longer doubted. Here he laid himself open to the charge
of extravagance and transcendentalism, and undoubtedly exceeded the
logical limit. But for all of that his labors--cut short by death six
years ago, and only a few months after the death of his beloved master,
Sidgwick--have been little short of epoch marking, and amply suffice to
vindicate the existence of the once despised, and still by no means
venerated, Society for Psychical Research.

Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, and Mr. Frank Podmore are other
members of the society who have granted the outside world informative
glimpses of its workings and discoveries. Sir William Crookes, of
course, is best known as a great chemist, discoverer of the element
thallium, and inventor of numerous scientific instruments; while Sir
Oliver Lodge's most striking work has been in electricity, and more
particularly in the direction of improving wireless telegraphy. But both
have long been actively interested in psychical research, and perhaps
most of all in those phases of it bearing on the telepathic hypothesis,
their great aim being to discover just what the technique of telepathic
communication from mind to mind may be.

Mr. Podmore, on the other hand, like Richard Hodgson, has chiefly
concerned himself with psychical research from the detective, or
critical, standpoint. He began his labors late in the '70's, associating
himself with the Cambridge group, and has consistently maintained the
attitude of a skeptical, though open minded, investigator. To-day, to a
certain extent, he may be said to occupy the place so long filled by
Henry Sidgwick as a sane, restraining influence on the less judicial
members of the society, who would unhesitatingly brush aside all
objections and embrace the spiritistic hypothesis with all its
supernatural implications.[T]

Of course, psychical research has by no means been confined to the
English organization. All over the world investigators are now probing
into the mysteries of the seemingly supernormal. But, as a general
thing, their methods scarcely reach the strict standards set by the
organized inquirers of England, and as a natural consequence they are
more easily deceived by tricksters.

This is particularly true of the European ghost hunters, whose laxity of
procedure, not to say gullibility, was clearly shown by the ease with
which Hodgson exposed the pretensions of Eusapia Paladino after
Continental savants had pronounced her feats genuine. And it is even
more strikingly exhibited by the pathetic fidelity with which they still
trust in her, notwithstanding the Hodgson exposure, and the fact that
they themselves have on more than one occasion caught her committing
fraud. In the United States, however, psychical research worthy of the
name took root early, owing to the establishment of an American branch
of the English society under the capable direction of Dr. Hodgson. A
year or so ago, after his death, this branch was abandoned. But in its
place, and organized along similar lines, there has arisen the American
Institute for Scientific Research, the creation of Prof. James H.

Until a few years ago occupant of the chair of logic at Columbia
University, Professor Hyslop is unquestionably one of the most
conspicuous figures in psychical research in this or any other country.
Like Professor Sidgwick, he first became interested in the subject
through religious doubt, and forthwith attacked its problems with the
zeal of a man whose principal characteristics are intense enthusiasm,
resourcefulness of wit, and intellectual fearlessness. As everybody
knows, his experiences with Mrs. Piper led him to unite with Hodgson and
Myers in regarding the spiritistic hypothesis as the only one capable of
explaining all the phenomena encountered. But he is none the less able
and eager to expose fraud wherever found, and if only from the police
view-point his society will undoubtedly do good work. Associated with
him are many of the American investigators formerly identified with the
English society; some of whom, notably Prof. William James of Harvard,
the dean of psychical research in the United States, also keep up their
connection with the parent organization.

Summing up the results of the really scientific ghost hunting of the
last twenty-five years, it may be safely said that if the hunters have
not accomplished their main object of definitely proving the existence
of a spiritual world, their labors have nevertheless been of high value
in several important directions. They have exposed the fraudulent
pretensions of innumerable charlatans, and have thus acted as a
protection for the credulous. They have shown that, making all possible
allowance for error of whatever kind, there still remains in the
phenomena of apparitions, clairvoyance, etc., a residuum not explainable
on the hypothesis of fraud or chance coincidence. They have aided in
giving validity to the idea of the influence of suggestion as a factor
both in the cause and the cure of disease. They have given a needed
stimulus to the study of abnormal mental conditions. And, finally, by
the discovery of the impressive facts that led Myers to formulate his
hypothesis of the subliminal self, they have opened the door to
far-reaching reforms in the whole sociological domain,--in education, in
the treatment of vice and crime, in all else that makes for the
uplifting of the human race.


[R] Gladstone's words were--"Psychical research is the most important
work which is being done in the world--by far the most important."

[S] For details of the Hodgson "manifestations" the reader may consult
Professor Hyslop's recently published book "Psychical Research and the
Resurrection"--particularly Chaps. V-VII.

[T] A new work by Mr. Podmore is announced for immediate publication,
with the characteristic title of "The Naturalization of the
Supernatural." It is said to contain a detailed analysis of the work of
various well-known mediums.

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I. Early Phases of the Problem

II. The Subliminal Self

III. "Pioneers of France in the New World"

IV. American Explorers of the Subconscious

V. The Evidence for Survival

VI. The Nemesis of Spiritism


I. D. D. Home and Eusapia Paladino

II. The Census of Hallucinations

III. Hypnotism and the Drink Habit

IV. Hypnoidization

V. Spiritism vs Telepathy

VI. Hints for further reading

"A singularly well balanced judgment is needed to succeed in the task
set for himself by Mr. H. Addington Bruce in his discussion of men's
latent powers. But he has distinctly proved that he is possessed of that
rare gift.... The book is one of great value and written in a style that
will bring enlightenment to many readers."--_The Outlook._

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Transcriber's Note:

Puctuation errors (e.g. commas used instead of periods, incorrect
quotation marks) have been corrected without note. Unusual spellings
(e.g. accordeon, breesquely, roystering) have been retained.

The following corrections were made:

*p. 145: litttle to little (clergymen of the little Connecticut village)

*p. 157: oustide to outside (how he was supported outside)

*p. 181: ignoance to ignorance (professing complete ignorance)


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