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
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
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
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,
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
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
188 189-190 drawing
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,
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 ;
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)
||Old Mrs. R__, mother of lady present-Sex,female ; complexion,light ; hair, white : age,about sixty; dress,European
||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
||A child--Sex, male ; age,
six height, -; dress, European
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
198 199-200 drawing
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
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
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
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
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
CHAPTER XIV -
THE DARK CIRCLE