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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER XIII - THE RESPONSIBILITY OF SCIENTISTS

SCARCELY ever sit down to write a chapter of this story of my experience among the Chittenden ghosts without feeling the similarity between my mental state and that of one who threads his way through a strange forest by night. At one moment the traveler catches a glimpse of the path under some opening where the starlight comes down, and anon, lost in obscurity he runs against an obstacle that must be surmounted or skirted; his senses are kept constantly on the alert for foes of one kind or another, his eyes strained for pitfalls; a vague sense of danger besets him ; but through all, his courage is sustained by the hope of getting safely out of the woods, and obtaining that security and repose which shall reward him for all the difficulties of the journey. I am continually oppressed with a consciousness of the possibility of deception by the truant senses, to the misleading of many good people who are obliged to depend upon their vigilance for the formation of their own opinions. It is not that I mistrust these mediums more than all mediums, but because, being obliged, so to say, to do my work at arm's length in consequence

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of their peculiar disposition, I am kept forever on the watch.

How vast a pity it is that this matter of the intercourse between the two worlds is so tainted with falsehood as to make such vigilance necessary ; that the observation of its phenomena is so much in the hands of ignorant, dishonest, and even dissolute people; that the most atrocious fraud is often practiced upon honest investigators) and that the sacredest feelings of the heart are trifled with for gain ! But the responsibility for all this is easily placed. It lies at the door of those men of science who could discover to us the fundamental law upon which these things rest, if they would, but do not; so turning us over to charlatans and enthusiasts to be deceived and misled until our own dearly bought experience teaches us, and shames them into tardy action. If it is true that most mediums will cheat, when their real power temporarily leaves them, as it is, that only makes it all the more necessary that competent investigators should set to work without loss of time to discover the rule by which we might know the false from the true phenomena.

The pusillanimity of the men of the laboratory has been as great as the blind violence of the clergy. The one have not dared to pursue investigations that might bring upon them the censure of' an ignorant public; the other have denounced as devilish, if not trivial, a series of phenomena that, if true, will soon be the last refuge of the church from the destructive engineering of the sappers of science. If both had joined forces twenty seven years ago in a patient and thorough investigation

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of these " spiritual " phenomena, the law of their manifestation would have been long ago discovered, and the public would have been spared, at least, the major part of the swindles and trickery by which mediums have defrauded it. Professor Robert Hare, the discoverer of the oxy-hydrogen blow-pipe, and one of the most eminent chemists of his day, whose name I have already mentioned in this work, recognized the duty devolving upon him, and spent some years in an investigation of Spiritualism. The result was his conversion to the belief. His colleagues, instead of applauding his course and awarding him the credit he deserved, set to calling him an imbecile, and, like a pack of hounds in full cry, ran together after the noble quarry, with a scent breasthigh.

This is what they are doing now to Wallace, Crookes, Varley, and the Continental philosophers. This is what their prototypes did to Columbus, Galileo, Harvey, Watt, Faust, and every other man who, being of giant character, could, so to speak, look over the heads of the crowd, and make them feel their own littleness. Mean envy begets spite, and spite malice, and malice cruelty. Until, then, the scientists give a full and fair investigation to this subject, and proclaim in an authoritative manner the truth, we need spend no time in denouncing mediums for charlatanry. We might as justly censure the people of a row of tenement-houses for piling the street full of garbage, while a competent Board of Health was in existence, but neglecting its duty.

It has been observed by frequenters of these 94 circles that the appearance and behavior of Honto are good

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indications of the general character of the manifestations for the evening; if she is active, the seance will be a good one; if not, the reverse. The plain deduction from this is, of course, that she and the other spirits are alike subject to the same laws governing the occurrence of tile phenomena; and not as some devout Spiritualists suppose, that her condition reflects upon that of her fellows by a mysterious exercise of her will upon their power of materialization.

On the second evening of my visit Honto was the first spirit to appear, and she remained insight nearly fifteen minutes. Mrs. Cleveland and Mr. Pritchard occupied their usual chairs at either end of the platform, and Honto danced with the former in a lively manner, balancing, advancing, crossing over, and turning the old lady as though the whole delight of her soul were in the figures of the dance. She would sway first to one side and then the other, raise her hands above her head, bend backwards until her spine was nearly doubled upon itself, like a carpenter's rule, and fling herself about in an exuberance of childish glee. Leaving her partner, she then passed to the other end of the stage, always keeping, step to the music, and balanced to Mr. Pritchard, who, being partially paralyzed, could only take her hands in his, and humor her fancy by waving them from side to side and up and down, as her light feet rose and fell. The spirit-girl held her face close to each of theirs, that they might scan her features, and making Mrs. Cleveland turn about, she stood back against back with her to show us her height. The living woman measures just five feet seven inches, and Honto, holding herself erect,

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was about half a head shorter. The skirt of her dress tonight reached but little below her knees, so that I easily assured myself that she was no man making himself short by bending his legs.

The apparition of a youngish woman holding a baby in her arms followed immediately after Honto's retirement, and caused an exhibition of tender pathos. In the semi-darkness of the room it is, as I have said before, generally but not always the case, that persons cannot recognize the spirits until attention has been specially drawn to them, when their individuality is settled by the general appearance of their form, weight, and motions, in case no words are spoken by them to their questioning friends. In this case the usual query, " Is it for me ? was running along the line, when a woman's voice exclaimed in an agonizing tone, " Is that my baby ? Is it my----; is it CHARLIE ? " The spirit-woman nodded and smiled and held the baby forward for recognition. There was a sob, a wail, an outburst of maternal tenderness: " My darling ! My angel! "-and the poor mother could say no more, for sobs choked her utterance.

This scene was followed by another of like character. A German Jewess of nervous temperament sat beside me on the front bench. The curtain was pushed aside, and there in the cabinets door stood her daughter of twelve years, in a white gown, and with her black hair brushed back from her temples. The mother, overcome with joy, poured forth a volley of questions in German, intermingled with ejaculations., which the happy child tried to answer by rapping assent or dissent with her knuckles upon the door-post, and disappeared as her mother was ready

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to fall into a swoon from excess of emotion themselves,

Ten spirits in all showed themselves, viz.: Honto; an elderly lady; Abby-- the lady Mrs. Carpenter, a and infant; two children; a German, named Abraham Alsbach, who spoke German to his sister; a young lady with long blonde hair, who wore a white dress with low neck and short sleeves and a flowing train-a very pretty spirit; and an aged lady, the grandmother of a person present.

On the next evening the shapes of seven Indians and five whites were seen, and a majority of them were so obliging as to back up to the wall and allow themselves to be measured. In the hopes of aiding, my judgment as to the relative heights of the medium and the several spirits, I caused two strips of white muslin to be painted in feet and inches, and tacked them on the wall at either side of the cabinet door. This would enable the eye to note where the head of each apparition reached at the moment the spirit stepped over the threshold. The painter, however, made the mistake of painting the figures about a third too small, and, therefore, while with the fair light we had the first evening the scale was used I could see heights to within a couple of inches, I had to rely upon Mr. Pritchard to call off the exact figures. One most important result was, at any rate, attained in settling beyond question the fact that figures, able to stand alone and walk, were seen, whose heights varied from 2 feet 1 inch to 6 feet 2 3-4 inches. Of these extremes, one was Santum, the Winnebago spirit, and the other a little white child,

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who leaned against the right hand door post. I timed the intervals between the appearance of four of the apparitions, and found them as follows:

From departure of spirit of

 To the arrival of spirit of

 Interval of time

Santum -Sex, male; height, 6 feet 2 3-4 inches ; dress, Indian, ornamented with stripes of embroidery and fringe of buckskin ; complexion, dark copper.. . . .

B -- R-- Sex, male ; complexion, white; hair,light ; age, fourteen height, 4 feet 9 inches dress, European (jacket and trousers dark, white shirt, black tie)

M.S.

B__R__ Old Mrs. R__, mother of lady present-Sex,female ; complexion,light ; hair, white : age,about sixty; dress,European

1  45

Mrs. R___ Swift Cloud " - S e x,male ;complexion, copper; hair, black;height, 5 feet to inches; dress, Indian (blue jacket with fringed sleeves,brown or grayhunting-shirt, worn outside, leggings fringed, and feather in hair)

1  30

Swift cloud A child--Sex, male ; age, six height, -; dress, European

2  35

4  30

This was a Saturday night, and according to rule no circle was held the following evening, but an event of serious import to at least one person occurred which is worth recounting. The house being crowded with visitors, William Eddy had for a  bed-fellow a Mr. Carpenter, of Malone, New York, a gentleman who impressed me as a person of candor and intelligence, and who has enjoyed the advantage of much general travel, as well as a voyage around the world. William had shaved off his moustache during the hot weather,

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but was now allowing it to grow, and it had attained a length of perhaps half an inch. On Sunday night the two retired and lay awake talking, when Mr. Carpenter was afforded a first-class sensation, which I prefer him to describe in his own fashion:

CHITTENDEN, VT.,Sept. 21st,1874. Mr. Olcott,

DEAR SIR: In compliance with your request, I repeat the events of last night, as follows:

After retiring to bed as usual, with William Eddy, we lay talking for some time, when he suddenly became silent. A shiver or slight convulsion seemed to run through his body, and I heard a voice say:  "Now I 've got you just where I want you." I asked: "Whom do you mean ; do you mean me?" The voice replied, " No; Mr. Eddy." I then asked: "Who is it? Is it Mr. Morse ?" The voice replied, " No, it's Asa Perkins." Addressing William apparently, the voice continued: " I'll learn you not to keep me around here all day and not let me come. I'll put a mark on you so you'll know me when I want to come again." I then heard the scraping of a razor, and the voice said : " There, I've put a mark on you, so I guess you'll know me when I want to come again." I asked the kind of a mark he had put on William. The voice said: "I've cut one side of his moustache off ; you just feel." I felt his lip, and sure enough, one side of his moustache was gone.

The spirit then left and William came to himself again. The voice had told me not to tell William what had been done, so I said nothing.

In the morning William discovered the trick when he looked in the glass, and was so angry that he declared he would go at once to New York and take the first vessel for Europe, and put himself in such a condition that neither spirits nor mortals could play tricks on him. He was vexed at all who saw him for not telling of it at once.

The razor with which the shaving was done, lay on a shelf in the corner cupboard, and to get and use it, of course, the spirit must have materialized himself. 

HENRY CARPENTER

No wonder that the medium was out of temper, for it foreboded no good to him if, after resigning himself to mediumship, he should be at the mercy of any passing poltergeist, and no friendly power stood by to protect

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him from harm. He presented a comical enough appearance with his lip half shaved, and his indignation was forcibly expressed at all who had suffered him to go about for an hour or so looking like such a fright, without telling him of his misfortune.

The weather on Monday evening was favorable, the moon shining brightly, the temperature of the air low, and a hard frost beginning. Eight spirits showed themselves -four Indians and four whites. Honto came first, and went through her usual performance, "materializing" shawls, pieces of cloth, and white lace, and dancing. She moved to the extreme south end of the platform, and stood there making signs to Horatio Eddy which he did not understand. She was just turning to go back, when Mrs. Eaton's shrill voice, calling from within the cabinet, said "She wants to smoke." I filled my own pipe and handed it to Horatio, who lighted it, and gave it to the squaw ; and then we had the astonishing spectacle of a materialized spirit from the other world, walking about and drawing such great whiffs from a tobacco-pipe, that the glowing contents of the bowl cast a ruddy glow upon her coppery features. Alas! for all our poetical fancies about vapory forms, and snowy robes, and shining wings, and harps of gold---there stood a smoking squaw before us, in feature, costume and complexion the type of her race, and with no more appearance of spirituality about her than any of the women in the room, who sat there regarding her with amazement!

Another squaw who appeared that evening was a new comer, unknown to any one present, but claiming

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to be one of the band influencing a medium visitor. She was a very short woman, not above five feet high, and of a very much darker complexion than Honto. She wore a dress of dark blue or black, apparently the former-trimmed with bands of large beads that clattered as she walked. Her moccasins and leggings were also trimmed with them, and her hair was very long and thick, and hung free down her back.

Mrs. R__ saw her son again tonight, and in reply to her question: "Are you happy, my son?" I heard him distinctly say: "I am, mother!" There was no ventriloquism by somebody within the cabinet, for I dimly saw his lips move, and at the same time he made a reassuring gesture to lend emphasis to his words.

And now will the reader go back a paragraph and note what may have escaped his notice: That while Honto was out on the stage, a dozen feet distant from the cabinet, and with her back towards it, we were addressed by another person from within its dark recess! It having been demonstrated that William has no confederates, it is in order for the skeptics to choose between the alternatives of admitting that Honto and he are not identical, or of accounting for the presence of a second person in a place where it was a physical impossibility for any mortal to be.

Another circumstance going to prove the same thing I find I have omitted to mention, viz: Whenever Honto passes one of her materialized shawls or pieces of cloth into the cabinet, after exhibiting it to the audience, it is not thrown in, but handed to some other person behind the curtain. Who it is, we know not, for we

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never see the form, nor even a hand. The action is not done in a way to attract attention, for it is so natural; and I suppose I must have seen it a dozen times, before I appreciated its importance as evidence in favor of the defendant, which, of course, the medium must be regarded as being.

Other evidence, and of the best kind, going to show that the forms appearing upon the platform are not the medium, is afforded in the following certificate, which has been handed to me by one of the signers. It so happened that the whole of this party found themselves together at Chittenden on a second visit, and I was thus enabled to procure their joint testimony as to the interesting facts stated :

CHITTENDEN, October 21st,1874

We hereby certify that at a circle, held on the 28th of April last, in the new hall at the Eddy homestead, among other things that occurred, was the following, which we regarded as very conclusive as to the genuineness of the spirit materializations : "Santum" was out on the platform, and another Indian of almost as great stature came out, and the two passed and repassed each other as they walked up and down. The stranger chief retired first, and Santum followed him. At the same time, a conversation was being carried on between "George Dix," " Mayflower," old " Mr. Morse and " Mrs. Eaton," inside the cabinet. We recognized the familiar voice of each.

We had all examined the cabinet that evening, and helped clear it of some plaster and other rubbish. There was no window in it then.

R. HODGSON, AL D., Stoneham, Mass. GEORGE RALPH, Utica, N. Y. SARAH A. EHLE, Utica, N. Y. CORA C. EHLE, Utica, N. Y. HERMON EHLE, Utica, N. Y.

Observe the points covered in this document:

1.Two giant Indian spirits are seen at once, walking up and down; 2. A conversation between four voices is

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going on inside the cabinet, while the two Indians are outside, in view; 3. There was no window then in the cabinet; this seance being held in April, three months after the circle-room was built, and the window not being cut through the wall until the following July.

On the next evening I saw more spirits than on any other single occasion but one, during my whole visit. Seventeen showed themselves, and all were whites. There were of babies, 2; small children, 3; women, young and old, 5 ; and adult males, 7. The theory that deceptive imitations of little children were made by wrapping white rags around one or both the medium's legs, as occasion required, was destroyed by the circumstance that the smallest child, not a babe, I saw that evening, bowed and curtsied to its mother, in reply to her question as to its identity.

Mr. Pritchard, who sat next to me on my right in the front row, was called to the platform by Mrs. Eaton's voice, and when he reached there, his two nephews William and Chester Packard, late of Albany, N. Y., came out in turn to greet him ; the former shaking hands with him, and laying his left hand upon his uncle's shoulder.

At the close of the evening, Mrs. Eaton's voice, addressing me, said that William was being developed for a new and startling phase of mediumship, the nature of which she did not condescend to explain.

I have a memorandum among my notes of this day, that a number of persons from different localities, were turned back upon applying for admission to the farmhouse; and at the risk of appearing over-urgent, recall

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attention to what I have previously said upon this subject. I have seen respectable persons refused, after making very long journeys, and assuming expenses that I am sure they could ill-afford, to have the satisfaction of seeing their loved and lost ones. It is a bitter disappointment in any case, to have the door shut in one's face under such circumstances, but to those whose hearts are bleeding from wounds just inflicted, it must have been agony. All my sympathies have gone out to some sad-eyed women, whose wistful gaze has lingered about the door, as the horses' heads were finally turned towards Rutland. I have felt at such times the desire for unlimited wealth, that, after proving the reality of these phenomena, I might buy this place, erect great buildings, pension off the brothers for life, and throw open the doors of a new and capacious circle-room to all who might come.

But what can these boys do ? Their ancient house holds only a score of strangers, even with close packing, and they are forced to establish rules of admission, and stand by them. If people will come from Michigan or Minnesota, from Kentucky or South Carolina, without assuring themselves in advance of bed and board, the responsibility of exclusion rests with them. I have had some of my own personal acquaintances served so, and did not remonstrate. But it would save disappointment and trouble to all concerned, if some sort of system were inflexibly maintained. It seems to me that it would be a very easy matter for the family to issue cards to applicants, good for so many days from and after such a date. As things are mismanaged at present, good, candid people are often refused, and penniless or deceitful marplots

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often received. It will be found in every instance, I think, where visitors have gone away dissatisfied with the genuineness of the manifestations, that they have stayed less than a week, and so had next to no opportunity to really see or understand the phenomena as they are.

Nearly every one of the scurrilous attacks that have appeared in newspapers, has been written by just such superficial investigators, and the family owe it to themselves to take nobody for less than one week. But it is a waste of words to talk to them about their reputations as mediums, their duties to the public, or their treatment of visitors. Their reply is, that the house is their home, they invite none to come, and they have the right to say whom they will accept, and whom reject. As to their reputations, they profess to care nothing as to what is said concerning them, good, bad, or indifferent. They are a strange family, and seem to reserve their worst treatment for those who are most desirous to befriend them. There are exceptions, but this seems the rule.

Another argument in favor of the establishment of such a rule as that above suggested, is the uncertainty as to a visitor seeing his friends in any short stay. I have frequently known of their being favored in their first seance, and, again, as often of their seeing nobody they cared for, even after waiting patiently for a week or more. If we could "call up" whomsoever we chose, as Saul did the shade of Samuel, it would be another  matter, but under present conditions the visits of our angel friends seem to depend upon laws beyond their control or our own.

For my part, I confess that, in view of the uncertainty

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of our being able to demonstrate their identity even when they do come, if they come at all, in consequence of our ignorance of the limits to the mischievous power of the jugglers of the other world to cheat us with counterfeit presentments of our "deceased" friends, and the unsatisfied feeling that their flitting appearance before our eyes leaves behind, I care less that any individual person should come, than that any spirit at all should be able to break down the wall between the two worlds. In short, if I can be satisfied through these " manifestations" of the great basic fact of Immortality, I am satisfied to wait with a cheerful heart for the coming of that hour, common to us all, when the mystery of life will be solved, and the veil be drawn aside to let the glorious light stream in.

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CHAPTER XIV - THE DARK CIRCLE