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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER VII - A CHAPTER OF FEET AND INCHES

ASSUME it to be a fundamental principle that, in making scientific researches, results must be self sufficient; requiring neither excuse nor charity of construction, but carrying conviction in themselves. To deserve admission into the field of science, they must, be arrived at under circumstances that absolutely exclude the chance of error. They must, moreover, be capable of re-production at any time, under exactly the same circumstances, by any capable scientist, in any part of the world. I admit, also, that in view of the multitudinous liabilities to self-deception by trusting to the senses, their evidence should be largely excluded. To think I see a body rise in opposition to the law of gravity, as now understood, is to the student of science no evidence that I did see the phenomenon. He says that it is more reasonable to believe my eyesight at fault, or that, if I did see the body rise, trickery was involved, than that the universal law of gravity was disturbed in this particular instance. But if the lifting of the weight can be indicated on an instrument, which having, neither

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eyes nor psychological idiosyncrasies, cannot be deceived, then a new fact is gained for science, and our whole domain of knowledge has to be re-measured.

Applying these rules to my own case, in what attitude do I stand towards the scientific world? The answer is readily given. The collector of a few facts and observer of certain phenomena, which others must classify and analyze: the gatherer of a few of the pebbles on the strand ; gazing over the whole ocean that lies there, inviting the keel of the bold and skillful navigator; but which I cannot explore. As William Morton the common sailor, pushing ahead of his companions, looked out upon the Open Polar Sea that had been the dream of geographical science for ages, and, humble as he was, pointed the way for all future Arctic explorers, so, I trust, that in reporting what is to be seen at the Vermont House of Wonders, this outpost upon the borders of the world known, and gateway of the world unknown, I may at least lighten the labors of those more learned and scientific than I, who are to come this way with the clew of the labyrinth in their hands,

If I am so fortunate as to observe any one thin- so carefully that it commands the thoughtful attention of one trained investigator, and so ultimately leads to the discovery of an occult force, I should be most thankful ; while if I should discover, or assist others to prove the Eddy marvels to be nothing- but chicane, the public will be the gainer and I shall deserve well of it.

I am led to make these remarks, by various criticisms and suggestions received by me from sources worthy of respect. It is proper that I should define my position

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beyond mistake, and declare that, if I misrepresent what I see, hear, and feel, it will be through lack of trained powers of observation, and the consequent deception of my senses, and no other cause. Of course there is danger of this very thing, for I am not capable of doing the work of the man of science, any more than that of the dentist or cabinet-maker. But perhaps I am as competent as the average of laymen, and so we will let it pass at that.

There were one or two pseudo-investigators at the Eddys' during my visit, skipping in for a day or so, and skipping off again, ready to avow that all of William's " materialized spirits" were William in disguise, and all of Horatio's surprising manifestations, the easy tricks of a traveling conjuror. If one tells them of babies being carried in from the cabinet by women ; of young girls with lithe forms, yellow hair, and short stature; of old women and men standing in full sight and speaking to us ; of half-grown children seen., two at a time, simultaneously with another form ; of costumes of different makes; of bald beads, gray hair, black, shocky heads of hair, curly hair; of -hosts instantly recognized by friends and ghosts speaking audibly in a foreign language of which the rnedium is ignorant-their equanimity is not disturbed for an instant. One sound and sufficient rule is applied : exclude everything troublesome, and explain away the rest as fraud. Let the world wag as it will, they are omniscient and infallible; and, with Sir Oracle, say :

" When I ope my mouth, let no (log bark."

The credulity of some scientific men, too, is bound less-they would rather believe that a baby could lift a

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mountain without levers, than that a spirit could lift an ounce. Alfred Wallace, of London, told a friend of mine that if a new fact were presented to Tyndall he would smell it, look at it, taste it, turn it over, handle it, bite it,-and then wouldn't believe. This is an extreme illustration of scientific skepticism, but after all it fairly illustrates the habit which, properly moderated, protects the world from false teaching. At the same time it must be admitted, that this spirit clogs the wheels of Progress, and obliges discoverers to win their just renown at the price of suffering and persecution. The other day a visitor at the Eddys' offered to bet me $1,000 to $100 that he could personate every one of the ghosts he saw that night, with a few dollars' worth of stage properties, and do every "trick" of Horatio's light circle after a day's preparation. All I could say was, that in such case he need not hunt for gold mines, for he had one in his head and fingers.

The phenomena publicly exhibited at the Eddy homestead are of the following character: 1 The so-called materialization of spirit-forms, which occur in a "circle-room" in the second story of the a part of the house. 2. The showing of materialized hands; the "ring test;" writing of names of deceased persons upon cards, by detached hands; and playing on instruments in the light; which usually happen in a circle held at the conclusion of the materialization circle. 3. The playing of musical instruments; voices; the sound of heavy dancing; the moving of ponderous bodies; the floating of musical instruments through the air; the noise of struggles and sword combats between two

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combatants ; the flashing of phosphorescent lights; the touching an patting of our persons by supposed spirit-hands; a concert of musical instruments, numerous enough to require the aid of at least four performers; solo-playing on the harmonicon, accordeon, violin, flute, guitar, or concertina; the improvisation of rhymes by a voice, upon a subject named by any person present; whistling; the imitation of a storm at sea, with the whistling and roaring of the gale, the force of waves, the sucking- pumps,&c., &c.-these in a totally darkened room. All these forms of manifestation I have seen, heard, or felt, and each many times.

My first problem was whether the manifestations were produced with the help of confederates, and I will state the physical conditions surrounding the performers. The room is, as I observed, in a new extension, or L. Its windows are 13 feet 9 inches from the ground. No ladder is owned on the premises. For the use of carpenters engaged in making some small repairs, one was borrowed in the neighborhood. There is but one door of entrance, and this at the end of the room next to the main part of the house. The room is 37 feet 6 inches long and 17 feet wide, with a ceiling 9 feet 2 inches high in the centre, and 6 feet 11 inches at the sides. At the farther or west end is the kitchen chimney, 2 feet 7 inches by 3 feet 4 inches, in the centre of the gable. To the right of the chimney is a closet of the same depth -- 2 feet 7 inches -and a length of 7 feet, with a window in it, 2 feet 6 inches from the floor, and having a 2 feet 2 inch by 2 feet 3 inch opening. The door to the closet or  "cabinet" (for this is

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where the medium, William H. Eddy, sits) is 5 feet 9 7-8 inches high by 2 feet wide. The ceiling of the cabinet at the chimney end is 7 feet 2 inches, and 5 feet at the other end, where the roof slopes. Three sides of the closet are lath and plaster; the fourth the solid brick wall of the chimney. There are no panels to slide, no loose boards in the floor to lift. Every inch is tight and solid. Outside the cabinet a platform as long as the width of the room, and 6 feet 7 inches wide in its widest part, is elevated 23 1-4 inches above the general floor level. Along its outer edge runs a balustrade or handrail, 2 feet 6 inches high, making the height from the floor of the room to the top of the rail, 4 feet 5 1-4 inches. The outside measurements of the L, correspond with those of the circle-room.

For six months after the hall was built, there was no window in the cabinet, but one evening during the excessively hot weather of last July, the medium fainted upon coming out of the stifling place, and the window was cut through.

This window, in consequence of insinuations of its possible use for the introduction of costumes and confederates, I obtained permission to effectually seal up, which I did by tacking a fine mosquito netting over the frame outside, and sealing it with wax stamped with my signet.

This precaution made no difference in what occurred inside. I examined the netting every day until I left the place., about three weeks afterward, and found it just as I left it, with the exception that one night a violent gale and rain-storm made a slight rent, which I

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immediately repaired. Before this covering was put on, the window was watched from the outside, during a seance, and no confederacy was discovered.

The audience occupy the two benches and the chairs shown on the diagram. The circles being held by night, such feeble illumination as there is, comes from a kerosene lamp placed at the south side of the room, at the point indicated in the ground plan. My own post of observation is also shown.

It will be remembered that beneath the circle-room are the dining-room, a small kitchen, and smaller buttery, all of which were illustrated in Chapter II. The ceilings of the rooms beneath, are the old lathed and plastered ceilings that have been there for many years. The new story was only added last spring, before which time the circles were held in a large sitting or reception room in the main house. The new circle-room floor is supported on beams of 6 by 4 inch stuff running across the L, and comprises two layers of boards; one rough, laid with open joints, and the upper one of planed, but not tongued and grooved, lumber. This is the common fashion in this section of the country, as I ascertained by examining a new house in course of completion a short distance from the Eddy homestead, There is no floor below the platform floor, but the outer edge of the platform rests upon a stout timber, and its floor, laid like the rest in two layers, is nailed to transverse ribs framed into the crosstimber and the outside plate. By going with a candle into the two little dark pantries opening out from the kitchen and buttery respectively, the whole carpentry

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of the platform and cabinet can be easily seen. One of the cuts gives a sectional view of the same.

I have made two careful examinations of this matter - once with the artist, and once with a Massachusetts inventor, who was good enough to give me the follow certificateing certificate:

CHITTENDON, Vt., September 26th, 1874-The undersigned, an inventor of many years' experience, a mechanician, and the grantee of twenty-three patents by the United States Government, hereby certifies that, at the request of and in company with Mr. H. S. Olcott he has thoroughly examined the walls, window, ceiling and floor of William H. Eddy's "cabinet," and the floor of the platform upon which it opens, and that there is no possible means by which confederates could be introduced into the said cabinet, except through the open door, in full face of the audience ; nor any place where costumes or apparatus could be stowed. Furthermore, that after witnessing numerous materializations by alleged spirits, he is perfectly satisfied that the phenomena, whatever may be their origin, are not produced by jugglery, the personation of characters by Win. H. Eddy, or chemical or mechanical device. As to their being spiritual appearances, he has not become perfectly satisfied, for his previously entertained opinions as to a future state, have not been of a nature to allow him to concede the possibility of visits by the inhabitants of another world to this. 0. F. MORRILL, Chelsea, Mass.

A glance at the ground plan of the circle-room will show that, not only can no one get to the medium, after he goes into the cabinet, by entering the door of the circle-room, without detection, but no one can leave the circle to assist. The light, although very dim, is still quite sufficient to make the movements of every person in the room visible.

Stress has been laid upon the fact that members of the Eddy family, sit with the spectators and usually in the front row. But, in the first place, there are times when neither of the family, except William, is in the

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room; secondly, they as often sit behind the last bench as on tile front one; and in the third place, it makes no difference where they sit, for no one could move a foot away from his place without being seen by every one else in the room.

Over the circle-room there is nothing but an unfloored cock-loft, in which a man cannot stand upright. Between the braces, the lathing and plaster of the ceiling of the room below are exposed to view, and there is no sign of trap or opening. Moreover, when I examined the place, the old cobwebs stretched from rafter to rafter, showed that no one had preceded me that way, for a long time at least.

I now claim that I have demonstrated the inaccessibility of the cabinet to evil-disposed persons, and so eliminated one most important Source of deception. The question is therefore narrowed down to the following point: Granted that certain forms, apparently differing in sizes, colors, costumes, sex, and age, present themselves on the platform, they must be either, (1) deceptive personations by one man, or (2) the manifestations of an occult force. There is no escape from the syllogism. The battle must be fought out at that cabinet door. I realized this the first day I came; I realize it tenfold now. The weeks I spent there, were weeks of as hard mental labor as I ever gave to any subject in my whole life. I passed through every degree of incredulity and distrust. I was ever on the watch lest I might miss some new circumstance calculated to overturn my formed opinion, and ever ready to confess myself a dupe of impostors if the fact could

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be demonstrated to me. But I finally reached the same point with Mr. Morrill -that whatever might be thought of the cause of the phenomena, they were not due to charlatanry or prestidigitation. And yet better men than I have been deceived before, and how am I better entitled than they to the public confidence, for the stories I tell? Why should I expect sober-minded men and women to believe there is no fraud in all this, until they have the same opportunities as myself to see all and ponder on all? And how, especially, can I ask men of exact science, trained to accept nothing, absolutely nothing, without full and complete demonstration- mathematical demonstration? I do not; and, therefore, my office is to first tell my tale as clearly, succinctly, candidly as lies within my power, and let it carry conviction as far as it will, in its perfect integrity of statement.

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CHAPTER VIII - MATERIALIZATION