People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott



I take it for granted that the conductors of two of the great New York dailies would not have successively engaged me to investigate and describe the phenomena at the Eddy homestead, if they had supposed me either of unsound mind, credulous, partial, dishonest, or incompetent; and I, therefore, beg the numerous company of correspondents who have addressed me upon the subject, to spare themselves the trouble, and me the annoyance, of their letters.

"Proffered advice stinks," sayeth an old Arabian proverb more notable for strength than refinement. I know what I am about, and mean to tell just what I saw and how I saw it. To the impertinent people, of many localities, whom I never laid eyes upon, who ask of me to have secret writings read, lucky lottery numbers disclosed, and to write theses upon Spiritualism, to remove their skepticism, I have nothing to say except that their letters go into the nearest grate. I certainly do not care the value of a brass farthing what they believe or disbelieve. If I truthfully report the facts, each has the same chance as myself to make his theory to fit them.


Imagine an Indiana physician sending a dirty package, stitched by a sewing machine, and coolly asking me, a perfect stranger, to furnish him the ammunition to blow up either himself or the Spiritualists, in the following terms, which I give verbatim :

I have read all the subtle arguments of the Spiritualistic professors, am pretty well posted in all their talk of " conditions," &c., &c., but I want a real material " sign," --a test that will be palpable and beyond dispute.

I hereby enclose to you a test that "will convince the Jews," if it can be unraveled. Here are several envelopes, each fastened by a different process, and all of different shape, that cannot be opened without my knowing it. In the centre one are some words written in a peculiar manner.

Now I would like to have this same envelope returned to me, as it is, and with it also a description of the written words just as they are written. This will convince me that there is an intelligence beyond earthly intelligence in existence, and I shall find no difficulty in ascribing this intelligence to disembodied spirits. If the kind spirit will tell the number of envelopes and describe each, -tell from what kind of a slip the paper was cut upon which the words are written - it would of course make the matter more interesting.

Why do I write you ? I will tell you. You appear to be like myself, not yet convinced, yet interested enough to take some trouble to test the matter further.

I am now engaged upon an article on the subject of Spiritualism, in which I shall explain - or attempt to explain - the whole matter under three heads : First, Juglary ; second, Superstition ; and third, Insanity.

I shall wait a reasonable time to bear from you before I continue it, as a solution of this test will spoil all my arguments, speculations, and sophisms.

And a St. Louis person asking to be told what lottery ticket to buy, thus:

Believing, if the manifestations are genuine, that


they have the power to foretell coming events, &c., and seeing no reasons why I may not ask a question through you and this letter,

I would especially beg to be informed of the number that will draw tile capital prize in the Louisville lottery, next November.

Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain, sir, yours truly.

Here is an Illinois damsel who seems to have more affection for the neighbor who visited the gypsy camp than for Lindley Murray:

Being very anxious to know something of the future, thought I would write you and tell you what I wanted to know, and that if you charged me anything, to tell me so in your answer, and I would willingly pay you. Will you please tell me what year and clay in the month myself and my sister next oldest to me will be married. Also give us a description of our future husbands and what their occupation will he in life.

And will you please tell me how long it will be before my mother will be married, she being a widow lady, Also have a half-brother who is owing a debt in another State ; would like to know if he will ever pay that debt up.

Also there is a gentleman, near neighbor, visited camp of gypsies would like to know if he had his fortune told while there ; also please describe the lady he will marry.

One more example will suffice. This comes from Alabama :

I would like to learn the history or genealogy for my family. All I know is that one of my progenitors was a stewart [steward ?] in some lord's family in Europe, and ran off and married the said lord's daughter. I don't know the name of my progenitor (the given name), or the name of the lord or his daughter. Please try to learn what each of their names were, when married and where, and where the lord resided, the names of his children and grandchildren down to my father, what my father's name was and when he died, in fact, all that can be gained in regard to the genealogy of my family. If You will do so, I will be under lasting obligations to you, although a stranger.

If, upon a revision of My MSS. for this work, I preserve these Communications for permanent reference, it is in the hope that I  maybe passed over by that great


company of idle persons, who employ the time that hangs heavy upon their hands to persecute those of their fellow- men who are temporarily thrust before the view of the public. I do not, for one moment, admit the right of those who have never fitted themselves for discussing profound subjects, to intrude their crude notions and inconsequential personalities upon the busy privacy of men engaged in the serious concerns of life.

The Eddys get such letters as these by the score, often as many as forty or fifty by every mail, and I might make this volume more humorous, if not more interesting, by quoting examples ; but I spare the reader.

I have been greatly impressed by this evidence of the wide interest in the subject of Spiritualism; as I have also of the publicity that any novel or exciting story gains by republication in the newspapers. I recollect that Bayard Taylor told me once, that at the foot of the Himalayas, in a garrison library, he encountered some of his own works, and described the deep impression then made upon his mind of the responsibility devolving upon a person who writes for the press. I trust I shall bear the lesson in mind in all that is written for these pages.