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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER II - TREATMENT OF PUBLIC MEDIUMS

THE story of the persecutions, mobbings, hardships and trials through which the Eddy children were obliged to pass, carries a moral with it, which the intelligent reader can hardly have overlooked. It must have been apparent that we are not dealing with the case of charlatans who have recently taken to the business of trickery for the sake of gain, for these girls and boys seem to have inherited their peculiar temperaments from their ancestry, and the phenomena common to most genuine 11 mediums " of the present day, attended them in their very cradles. It will scarcely be said that children who, like Elisha, were caught up and conveyed from one place to another, and in whose presence weird forms were materialized as they lay in their trundle-bed, were playing pranks to tax the credulity of an observant public, which was ignorant of their very existence. It will not be seriously urged, I fancy, against youth, whose bodies were scored with the lash cicatrized by burning wax, by pinching manacles, by the knife, the bullet and by boiling water,

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who were starved, driven to the woods to save their lives from parental violence; who were forced to travel year after year and exhibit their occult powers for others' gain; who were mobbed and stoned, shot at and reviled; who could not get even an ordinary country school education like other children, nor enjoy the companionship of boys and girls of their own age;--it will not be urged against such as these that they were in conspiracy to deceive, when they had everything to gain and nothing to lose by abandoning the fraud and being like other folk. The idea is preposterous; and we must infer that, whatever may be the source of the phenomena, they are at least objective and not subjective - the result of some external force, independent of the medium's wishes, and manifesting itself when the penalty of its manifestation was to subject the unfortunates to bodily torture and mental anguish.

We must turn back to Fox's "Book of Martyrs" if we would catch the diabolical spirit that has been exhibited towards these men during the fifteen years that they traveled the country to exhibit their wonderful gifts; for, while our times are not those of the Eighth Harry's cruel daughter, the feeling of intolerance in the Church towards these latter-day heretics, is, substantially the same as that which sent Ridley and Latimer Bradford and crammer to the stake, and caused Calvin to procure the death of his learned fellow-Protestant, Servetus. This is the first time within my knowledge, that this side of the medium question has been discussed, and in the hope that the example may be imitated, I will show some of the barbarities inflicted upon these Eddy boys by "committees."

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To understand the matter, persons who have never attended a public spiritist exhibition should be told what the performance is like. In a public hall, upon the platform, is set up a wardrobe, or " cabinet," made of half-inch walnut, seven feet high, six feet wide, two feet deep, and resting on trestles eighteen inches high, to permit a full view tinder the cabinet and satisfy the spectator that there is no communication through traps with its interior. The front is composed of three doors, the side ones swinging to right and left respectively, and the centre one to right. At each end inside is a narrow board seat, supported on cleats, and one of like width runs the width of the cabinet against the back wall. In the upper half of the centre door is a diamond-shaped opening, behind which hangs a black velvet curtain. The mediums enter, and, seating themselves on the end seats, are firmly bound hand and foot by a committee selected by the audience, the cords being passed through auger-holes in the bench. Various musical instruments are placed within, beyond reach of the bound mediums, and, the doors being closed, a variety of curious phenomena occur. The instruments are vigorously played upon, loud percussive noises are heard, bands arc thrust out of the opening, and other exhibitions occur that a strange force is at work. The cabinet doors, self-unbolted, suddenly open, and the two mediums are discovered sitting as before, with not a single knot disturbed.

The committees selected by vote of the audience, usually embrace men who are supposed to be unusually acute, such as detectives; skilful knot-tiers, such as

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sailors and riggers; and those whose education and intelligence are likely to make them competent to fathom the philosophical mystery. In looking over the scrapbooks of the Eddys, I find the newspapers, as a rule, reporting such choice of committeemen, and I also find there the evidences of the unnecessary cruelties practiced in the interest of " science," " religion,", "fairplay," and particularly of what these gentry are pleased to call "the truth."

The reader will please observe that I have not relied upon the diaries or verbal statements of the Eddys themselves in making these strictures, but solely upon the testimony of the editorial descriptions of the whole press, for the journals of nearly every section are represented in this modern Book of Martyrs. Such details of the handcuffings and ligatures, the blisterings and acid corrosions, the torture of constrained positions, of mouth-gags and halter-nooses, as the newspapers did not supply, I have filled in after getting the necessary explanations from the mediums, and the drawings were made from life.

I cannot refrain from making a single quotation from Horatio's diary, under date of November, 1867, for it shows the patient, uncomplaining spirit that possessed the poor farmer-boy under his sufferings. It seems the most appropriate introduction I could make to these sketches. He says: "This day we suffered very much by severe tying and abuse from those who professed to be Spiritualists. But we like martyrs, bore our pain with fortitude. We thanked the Divine Power for preserving us from the gross treatment of our enemies. No mortal

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knows what brutish tying we submitted ourselves to. It would have made mother's heart bleed if she had known what her children were passing through in Canastota."

How they were treated by the Canastota committee sketch NO. 4 will show.

Horatio was kept with one hand tied to his neck and tile other to his manacled feet for three-quarters of an hour, the cord around his neck being so tight as to half choke him.

The Little Falls, N. Y., investigators tried the pretty device shown in sketch No. 1.

The medium is tied to a wooden T cross, by whip-cord passing through holes bored for the purpose. He was kept so for the space of an hour, until, owing to the tightness of the ligatures at the wrists, the blood trickled from under his finger-nails.

Sketch NO. 3 will recall a scene of rope-tying, to the minds of the good people of Albany, N. Y., who attended a seance at the house of John McClure; a certain Doctor Perkins being the operator. Here the medium is tied down by his fingers to the floor, the tapes being secured to the latter by tacks, and another tape leading to the door-knob. The worthy Doctor kept this patient in this position some two hours, and it is not surprising that his wrists were so swollen in consequence that he was kept in pain several days thereafter.

Sketch NO. 2 shows a common device of the wily committee men of Moriah, N. Y., and numerous other I places, and the drawing requires no word of comment.

Moriah, N. Y. (perhaps I do not get the name just right, but the Eddys cannot help me), is also responsible

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for the cheerful " bucking " antidote, against charlatanry, seen in sketch No. 6, in which attitude the victim was obliged to stay two mortal hours, the spirits refusing to manifest themselves under such disturbed conditions, and the committee, with astonishing cruelty, declaring they would keep him there until they did. This happened at the house of Esak Colvin.

In sketch No. 5 we have an illustration of ingenious barbarity worthy of the palmy days of the Inquisition:

Two pairs of handcuffs each, on the wrists and ankles, a rope running through the links of each and passing out of the cabinet at top and bottom, and a halter-noose around the neck, drawn just tight enough to choke without quite strangling, made an applauding public feel secure against "humbug." Bristol, Conn., richly deserves the credit for this apparatus, and the additional statement that it was applied for the space of nearly two and a half hours.

Here, finally, in sketch No. 7, we have an effectual device to prevent the exercise of ventriloquial powers in imitation of spirit- voices, which has been tried in so many places (not to mention Sing Sing and other penitentiary establishments) that I forbear to recount them, lest I might weary.

And now let us drop this disagreeable part of our subject.

It matters little to me how the skeptical may undertake to account for these Chittenden mysteries-that concerns themselves alone. They may attribute them to electricity, but if so, they will have to encounter scientists like Varley, the electrician of the Atlantic cable, who,

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after testing them by every electrical apparatus, with twenty-six years' experience to guide him, declares that that subtle agent has nothing whatever to do with their production; of the late Professor Hare, who made the same statement after two years of careful inquiry; of Elliotson, Puysegur, Crookes, Bell, Collier, Gully, the French Academicians, and the London Dialectical Society. If they say it is " animal magnetism "they must face an army of specialists who have exhausted every endeavor to explain away the phenomena as coming under this category. The knee-pan, toe-joint and knuckle worthies, as a class, die a natural death as soon as we get beyond the mere Rochester rappings of 1847, and I feel confident that if Professors Huxley and Tyndall would spend a fortnight at Chittenden, they would see their protoplasms and such-like scientific soothing-syrups flying out of the window upon the entry of the first materialized ghost from William Eddy's closet.

It is scarcely exaggeration to say that this family of mediums, if we may believe their story, is the most remarkable as to psychological endowments of which mention is made in the history of European races. Perhaps among the Chinese, and certain tribes of India (the Yogiswaras, for instance) and of Egypt, parallel cases may be found, but such have not met my eye in the course of a somewhat extensive reading in this branch of literature.

The Eddys represent about every phase of mediumship and seership:--rappings; the disturbance of material objects from a state of rest ; painting in oil and water-colors under influence; prophecy, the speaking of strange tongues; the healing gift , the discernment of

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spirits; levitation, or the floating of the body in free air; the phenomena of instrument playing and the show of hands; the writing of messages on paper upborne in midair, by pencils held by detached hands; psychometry, or the reading of character and view of distant persons upon touching scaled letters ; clairvoyance; clairaudience, or the hearing of spirit-voices; and, lastly, and most miraculous of all, the production of materialized phantom forms, that become visible, tangible, and often audible by all persons present.

Much account has been made of the story told by Lord Dunraven and Lord Adair (and, I may mention, confirmed to me personally by the latter gentleman), of Mr. Home's having been " floated " out of one third-story window at Ashley House and into another; but what will be thought of Horatio Eddy having been carried, one summer night, when he was but six years old, a distance of three miles to a mountain top, and left to find his way home next day as best he could ; of his youngest brother Webster, when a grown man, being carried out of a window and over the top of a house from the presence of three witnesses (from two of whom I have the story), and landed in a ditch a quarter of a mile off; of William being carried to a distant wood and kept there unconscious for three days, and then carried back again; of Horatio being " levitated " twenty-six evenings in succession, in Buffalo, in the Lyceum Hall, when fast bound in a chair, and hung by the back of the chair to a chandelier hook in the ceiling, and then safely lowered again to his former place on the floor? Of Mary Eddy being raised to the ceiling of Hope Chapel, in New York city, where she

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wrote her name ? Of her little boy, Warren, five years old, who is floated in dark-circles, screaming to be let down all the while ? Of a little son of Stephen Baird, of Chittenden, a neighbor of theirs, who has been handled in the same way ?

Mr. Home is not the only one besides the Eddys who has been thus transported through mid-air, for, since 1347, authenticated reports will be found in the books of a like thing happening to Edward Irving, Margaret Rule, St. Philip of Neri, St. Catharine of Columbina, Loyola, Savonarola, Jennie Lord, Madame Hauffe, and many others whose names I do not at present recall, and in the absence of a library cannot transcribe.

Does any one care to ask me what I think? I answer, Nothing; I watch and wait and report, holding myself open to conviction in the spirit which the great Arago describes in an old article on Mesmerism: " The man who, outside of pure mathematics, pronounces the word 'impossible,' is wanting in prudence."

I make no apology for having now devoted two preliminary chapters to personal details respecting the Eddy family history; for the intelligent reader, before he could give credence to the miraculous events that I shall describe as occurring in their presence, would of necessity ask what sort of people they are--whether they were of suspicious antecedents, whether they had amassed a fortune by their exhibitions, whether they are making money by them now, or what motive impels them to continue in their present public relation ? I stated above that they traveled for the profit of others; by which I meant to say that when William,

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Horatio, and Mary were young children, their father, having failed to cowhide their demons out of them, hired them out to a showman for four years, they receiving nothing but their bare expenses; and that at the expiration of that time they were hired by various other speculators, and during the ensuing eleven years received an average of under ten dollars a month apiece. I mean, furthermore, to say that their house and farm would not sell for $3,500 all told; that they do all their housework themselves; that half their visitors are poor and sponge on them for board, and, the other half paying eight dollars per week, the family have saved enough to put some necessary repairs on the house; and finally that they unite in saying that the greatest good fortune that could befall them would be to have their mediumship cease, so that they might work like other farmers and enjoy life like them. They are the galley-slaves of the invisible powers back of the " manifestations," who not only obsess them at their caprice by day while about household duties, and in the evening during the regular circles, but pursue them in the silent watches of the night, playing the pranks of the old-time poltergeists, and making it uncertain whether or no they will wake in bed or in the crotch of  some tree on the summit of an adjacent mountain.

The sketches which accompany this chapter represent with fidelity the appearance of the dining-room, kitchen, and pantry, or buttery, over which extends the one large room where the nightly circles are held. They are intended to show that no trapdoors afford to confederates the opportunity of communication from below.

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The dining-room communicates directly with a large apartment in the main part of the house, now used for a general sitting and reception room, but which, until the new hall was built, was the circle-room. The kitchen and pantry are side by side, beyond the dining room, and separated from it by a lathed and plastered partition, with doors joining from each into it. There is also a door which gives communication from the kitchen to the pantry through their dividing longitudinal partition. The ceilings of kitchen and pantry are lathed and plastered. The kitchen is an odd, dingy little place with smoky walls and a worn floor, but it affords a retreat for the family when the house is crowded with visitors; and such of the latter as at such times are privileged to sit with "the boys" about the cooking-stove, and smoke a pipe, and chat upon the day's topics, are regarded with much of the same envy as the favorite at Court, who is passed by obsequions lackeys into the presence, while the rest cool their heels in the corridor.

I have had my days of favor, like the courtier, and passed many a pleasant hour in this little kitchen, in an atmosphere so dense with pipe smoke that we could barely see each other across the room. I have sung my songs and told my comic stories, and heard Horatio sing his songs, and William tell, in his own pathetic way, of the cruelties he suffered in boyhood, and I really fancied that by keeping on my good behavior, I might be allowed to do my work pleasantly and thoroughly. But-however, I will not anticipate.

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If the reader will turn to the rear view of the Eddy homestead, he will observe in the gable of the L extension, just over the square window of William's cabinet, two other windows. These light a cock-loft over the circle-room. I confess that it never occurred to me to go up there and see what sort of place it might be, as after careful inspection of the room itself I was satisfied that no communication existed between the two; but one afternoon a lady visitor, subject to trance obsessions, and professing to be influenced by a spirit at the time, called my attention to the fact that, with all my shrewdness, I had overlooked this cock-loft. Though I could not imagine how spirit or mortal could detect the omission in the penciled notes in my pocket diary, I nevertheless went up a ladder in the adjoining vestibule, and, creeping through ancient cobwebs, from rafter to rafter, I saw that there was nothing worth coming to see. The mystery could not be solved there.

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CHAPTER III - PERSONAL MATTERS