People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott



UNQUESTIONABLY my first chapter about the materialization of spirit-forms at Chittenden, should be prefaced by some notice of the chronology of this phase of manifestation. But with the meager facilities at my command when the major part of this work was written, I can only glance at the subject. A sparsely settled rural district, far removed from libraries, is a bad place for the collection of historical data, so I must mainly rely upon my memory of many books read in the course of many years.

If I were to refer to ancient times, I might easily cite a host of instances of the alleged reappearance of materialized spirits upon the scene of their premortem activity. I have already alluded in former chapters to a few of the authors in whose writings the diligent student may satisfy his curiosity upon the subject. It suffices to repeat that the sacred writings of most nations, the classics, and the architectural remains of primitive races, afford proofs that the congenital aspirations of the human family for immortal existence, have not gone hungry for lack of sustenance.


Our modern materialists may reason themselves into a comfortable reliance upon protoplasms and final molecules, and glibly set aside the claims of their opponents by endowing pure matter with the promise and potency of every form and quality of life; but, after all, as the London Times truly says:

"Theology is apparently slain only to revive. Professor Tyndall does not solve, and it is obvious that his method cannot enable him to solve, the riddle of the universe. There is, too, another difficulty which he is the first to confess. His analysis of the world's history leaves out one-half of man, and he finds, it impossible to deny to this other side of man's nature a reality as absolute as that which he claims for his physical faculties and for his understanding. The strain of reason and the emotions of his spiritual nature will not rest unrecognized, and when the end of the professor's address is reached, we echo his own thought if we say, 'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in his philosophy.' "

I venture to say, that of those who have given any serious thought to the subject, fifty persons would prefer to have my researches end in indubitable proof that the manifestations are genuine, to one who would like to have me discover fraud beneath the surface. Says Guizot, in his Meditations upon the Religious Questions of the Day ": Belief in the supernatural is a fact natural, primitive, universal, and constant in the life and history of the human race. Unbelief in the supernatural begets materialism, materialism sensuality, sensuality social convulsions, amid whose storms man again learns to believe and pray.

The great address of Tyndall at Belfast opened with the following majestic prelude:

"An impulse inherent in primeval man turned his thoughts and questionings betimes toward the sources of' natural phenomena The Same impulse inherited and intensified is the spur of scientific action to-day. Determined by :it, by a process of abstraction from


experience, we form physical theories which lie beyond the pale of experience, but which satisfy the desire of the mind to see every natural occurrence resting upon a cause. In forming their notions of the origin of things, our earliest historic (and, doubtless, we might add, our pre-historic) ancestors pursued, as far as their intelligence permitted, the -same course. They also fell back upon experience, but with this difference-that the particular experiences which furnished the weft and woof of their theories, were drawn, not from the study of nature, but from what lay much closer to them, the observation of men. Their theories accordingly took an anthropomorphic form. To supersensual beings, which, however potent and invisible, were nothing but species of human creatures, perhaps raised from among mankind, and retaining all human passions and appetites, were handed over the rule and governance of natural phenomena. Tested by observation and reflection, these early notions failed in the Ion, run to satisfy the more penetrating intellects of our race. Far in the depths of history we find men of exceptional power differentiating themselves from the crowd, rejecting these anthropomorphic notion,.-, and seeking to connect natural phenomena with their physical principles.

" But long prior to these purer efforts of the understanding the merchant had been abroad, and rendered the philosopher possible ; commerce had been developed, wealth amassed, leisure for travel and for speculation secured, while races educated under different conditions, and therefore differently informed and endowed, had been stimulated and sharpened by mutual contact. In those regions where the commercial aristocracy of ancient Greece mingled with its Eastern neighbors, the sciences were born, being nurtured and developed by freethinking and courageous men. The state of things to be displaced, may be gathered from a passage of Euripides quoted by Hume ' There is nothing in the world ; no glory, no prosperity. The gods toss all into confusion, mix everything with its reverse, that all of us, from our ignorance and uncertainty, may pay them the more worship and reverence.' Now, as science demands the radical extirpation of caprice and the absolute reliance upon law in nature, there grew with the growth of scientific notion.-, a desire and determination to sweep from the field of theory this mob of gods and demons, and to place natural phenomena on a basis more congruent with themselves. The problem which had been previously approached from above, was now attacked from below ; theoretic effort passed from the super to the sub-sensible. It was felt that to construct the universe in idea, it was necessary to have some notion of its constituent parts-of what Lucretius subsequently called the 'First Beginnings.' Abstracting again from experience,


the leaders of scientific speculation reached at length the pregnant doctrine of atoms and molecule,- the latest developments of which were set forth with such power and clearness at the last meeting of the British Association." But, if I may humbly criticize one of so lofty an intellect, it appears to me that the course of scientific inquiry has led our modern philosophers too far towards the opposite extreme from that of Euripides. To disabuse the world of the notion that the powers of nature are not subject to the domination of gods and demons, which was a common belief so late as the XVIIth Century, and upon which the persecutions for witchcraft were based, it is not necessary to deny the existence of these invisible beings to whom the ancients applied the terms quoted, but whom we classify as developed and undeveloped spirits.

To prove the potentiality of the ultimate of matter, it is not necessary that we should ignore the existence of spirit. To demonstrate the organic and inorganic constituents of the human body, does not involve the denial of the existence of the soul. If Tyndall and his associates would but once admit, that there may be forms of matter and essences so subtle as to escape the test of their crucibles and scales, they would be at a point whence a whole new universe of research would open before them, inviting them to reach out for richer rewards of fame than ever before repaid the study and labor of philosopher or chemist.

In looking back to the early days of American history, I cannot now recall any stories of "materialization" prior to the close of the seventeenth century, when the storm of fanaticism arose that cost many worthy


people their lives on the charge of witchcraft, In Mr. Upham's " History of Salem Witchcraf " will be found many instances of persons being taken hold of by visible supernatural forms, of persons being sat upon by spectres while lying in their beds, of animals suddenly entering rooms in a mysterious manner and as suddenly disappearing, to say nothing of levitations (such as that of Margaret Rule), rappings, the throwing about of heavy articles, and the hearing of spirit-voices by many witnesses. True, Mr. Upham ascribes the whole thing to trickery, assuming that by practice (acquired in the course of a single winter with the help of a half-breed Barbadoes slave-woman !) a few ignorant girls had "become wonderful adepts in the art of jugglery, and probably of ventriloquism; " but does this explanation satisfy any really candid inquirer ? Especially, does it satisfy any person who, in the presence of our modern mediums, has seen the same things repeated ?

It was the prevalent belief among the learned of all professions, at the epoch in question, that the North American Indians had migrated hither, by way of Behrings Straits, under a compact with the Devil to transfer allegiance from God to him; receiving in return certain occult powers, by which they were enabled, not only to injure their fellow men, but also exercise more or less control over the elements. Witches were persons who had entered into a secret treaty with the Evil One through his allies, the Indians, and Cotton Mather, Sam. Parris, and other theologians of influence in the infant colony inculcated the doctrine that the execution of these unfortunates would find favor in the sight of God,


and proportionately distress and cripple the power of the Arch Enemy of mankind.

The Salem witchcraft tragedies were followed by such a reaction, that tardy justice was done to the families of the victims of the popular frenzy, and nothing was said about supernaturalism- at least nothing, I think, that aroused general interest-until the present dispensation was ushered in at the little cabin of Michael Weekman, in 1847, where, in the family of John D. Fox, its then lessee, there bubbled up the tiny spring that is now so great a river. The raps and poundings which will always be known as the " Rochester Knockings " and forever perpetuate the memory of Kate and Margaret Fox, were followed by many other and more wonderful forms of manifestation, such as the lifting of heavy bodies, the phenomenal increase and diminution of their normal weight (the lightest articles acquiring marvelous ponderosity and the heaviest equally notable levity), the ringing of bells, the playing by unseen performers on instruments, and, finally, by the materialization of spirit-hands, faces, and full forms.

At the same time, however, that these things were going on and the attention of the civilized world was arrested by them, similar phenomena were happening in other private families. The Davenports, of Buffalo, N. Y., were having some slight premonitions of the future career they were destined for, but the physical manifestations did not occur in their presence until February, 1855. A year before this the Koons family, of Athens County, Ohio, had instrumental and vocal concerts by the spirits, and materialized bands wrote communications.


But the Eddys tell me that they had been seeing materialized spirit-forms from their childhood, and their mother before them, and, in the absence of conflicting evidence, I suppose that the credit will have to be awarded to them of witnessing the first instances of this highest form of physical manifestation, occurring in our time. And yet, notwithstanding this fact, and the additional one, that no family so gifted in these rare psychological traits is to be found in history, their names are not even mentioned in Epes Sargent's "Planchette," one of the most scholarly works on Spiritualism in our language. It should be remarked, however, in explanation of this fact, that Mr. Sargent informs me that he applied to the Eddys for permission to visit their home, and was refused by Horatio; who probably answered his letter in haste, not recognizing the name as that of so able an author and so enlightened a Spiritualist.

One evening, in March, 1872, the Eddy family were sitting about the fire, when an event occurred that ushered in the series of materializations that have culminated in the public sťances now given nightly. William had cut his foot very badly with an axe, and was confined to his bed in an adjoining room. Suddenly, without warning, the grandmother's spirit in full materialized form appeared at the threshold, and gave instruction for some salves to apply to the wound, and a cooling draught to abate the fever that had set in ; after which she disappeared. Shortly after this, when Delia Eddy was engaged in reducing some maple-sugar over the kitchen fire, the spirit of a man of short stature suddenly materialized himself, frightening her


so that she dropped a pan of sugar she was carrying. The spirits then told the family that William was to be developed as the greatest medium of the age, and that he must no longer sit for the instrument-playing exhibitions, as he had been doing for a number of years, but must go into the cabinet or closet alone and take no bells or instruments with him.

These instructions being obeyed, spirit-faces soon began to appear, and finally Santum, the giant Winnebago chief, whom my readers will recollect my mentioning in connection with the seance at Honto's cave, stalked out in full form. For a long while no other spirit came, but finally they made their appearance. "Electa," a light-complexioned squaw, about seventeen years of age, who always brings her pet robin with her, and who forms one of the spirit-band who perform instrumental music at the dark circles, (many of which I have attended, and which will be described in due time), was among the earliest visitors. Then the deceased members of their own family appeared among them Miranda, who came hand in hand with a young man, named Griffin Grinnell, to whom she had been betrothed. The lovers, parted for a while by death, were reunited beyond the grave.

Francis and James, their deceased brothers, came too. Then, as people began to flock to the old farmhouse, their personal friends manifested their presence, the first, or nearly the first (for the family cannot definitely decide the point), being a Mrs. Anny Barker, wife of G. Barker, of Habbellton, Vt. One evening, a young lady visitor saw the shade of her father, the


late Captain Johnson, United States Navy, who came in citizen's clothes. The daughter mentally requested him to appear to her in his uniform, whereupon he retired for a moment and then returned in full naval dress, with sword and epaulettes.

This is one instance among many of the doing of something by the apparitions in response to mental requests made by spectators. The thing has occurred to me several times, as will be seen further on. It should also be noted that this supposed spirit re-appeared in the uniform of his rank, and it is hardly credible that William Eddy, in addition to all the other costumes uninformed skeptics imagine his wardrobe to contain, should have a fall assortment of army and navy uniforms, for officers and privates.

What tender memories in many minds cling about this rude apartment, where so many can say:

Ere the evening lamps are lighted, And, like phantoms grim and tall, Shadows from the fitful fire-light Dance upon the parlor wall ; Then the forms of the departed Enter at the open door ; The beloved, the true-hearted , Come to visit me once more.