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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER XV - PHILOSOPHICAL TESTS

Among other tests that I desired to apply to Honto, was one to satisfy myself whether she possessed the superhuman power of self-levitation. I accordingly procured a small table-gong, which could be rung by dropping a weight of half an ounce upon the handle from the height of one inch, and took it to Chittenden with me. One evening, when a favorable opportunity offered, I requested the spirit to step upon the handle without ringing the gong, which I had previously placed on the platform at a convenient point for observation.

She assented, but before trusting herself upon the frail knob examined it with characteristic caution and curiosity. She finally gathered up her skirts, and, placing the ball of her right foot upon it, stepped up and bore her whole weight upon it without disturbing the clapper. The experiment was repeated twice at my request. I then asked her to step on it and cause the bell to ring after she stood fairly upon the knob. She did so. Her success seemed to amuse her greatly, and by clapping her hands and in other ways, she testified

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her satisfaction. She advanced her hand towards the unfamiliar object with the caution that one would feel in laying hold of something hot, but finally mustered courage to take it up and ring it over and over again, laughing and dancing like a child pleased with a new toy. Her usual performance with the shawls and gauzes then followed, and she strutted up and down the platform with a long piece of the latter material wrapped around her, as though she were a belle prom- enading in a new mantilla for the public admiration. Just before she was about to bid us adieu, I asked her to place the gong on the railing directly in front of me and ring it, so that I might distinctly see her hand pressing down the knob. She bowed compliance, and putting the article where I designated, retired for a moment into the cabinet, perhaps to gain strength, and then returning, lifted her skirt again, rang the bell with her left foot, and ran out, kissing her hand to us. The wire to which the knob of the gong is attached, is about as thick as a broom straw, and I regarded the experiment as of great importance, until I afterwards found that, by stepping very cautiously, and bearing on very gradually, I could make the knob sustain my own weight. But I could not ring the bell after I stood upon the knob, nor step on it as briskly as she did, without causing it to sound. She was dressed, this evening, in a new white costume throughout.

My reference to her retiring into the cabinet for the purpose of gaining renewed strength from her medium, recalls to mind an account I saw in the London Spiritualist, some time ago, of an experience of Sir Charles

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Isham, Bart, with a famous materialized spirit called "Florence," who appears in the presence of Miss Showers, the medium. Sir Charles was accompanied to the house of Mrs. Makdougall Gregory by a lady, whose description of what occurred he quotes in pre- face to what he has to tell himself. Says the lady

"Florence, who had seemed very willing to receive all the other members of the circle, exclaimed in a distressed and startled tone when I advanced tow and leer: " Not so near ! not so near ! " and then, as if in pain, she added, " There is something comes from her that hurts me -- I feel melting away--I must go back to my medium, to get more power from my medium."

These last sentences were uttered in very feeble, faltering tones, and her appearance gave the impression of one who was fainting away, or sinking away. The face was ghastly pale, and the eyes turned upwards so that the white only was visible. She withdrew behind the curtain, and I returned to my seat ; but in a few moments she reappeared, and I was shortly afterward recalled. Mr. Gregory gave me a rose to present to the spirit. This time I was allowed to come nearer, but my presence still seemed to excite alarm and distress, the spirit again exclaiming : " Not too near ! " not too near! "

She accepted the rose, however, without hesitation, her long attenuated fingers slowly and feebly closing round the stalk, as though she had very little muscular power.

She then said, in a very languid, plaintive tone, " I must go now. I must go now."

It was the same in London with Mr. Crookes' real "Katie King," who had to retire into the cabinet from time to time to gather strength.

Ten spirits appeared this evening--Honto,Mrs. Pritchard, an aged lady, who spoke to her son and to us all in whispered tones; Miss Maggie Brown, who brought out her bouquet of flowers, as usual; Mary Staples and Clarinda Tilden, whose brother was present at this, his second seance; Caroline -, who held a baby in her arms, and at my request, shifted it from

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her left arm, where it was badly seen against the dark background of the curtain, to her right, where it was well relieved against the white wall; De Witt Hitchcock, a young man with black moustache; Clara Arnold, a child of four years, whose father instantly recognized her; and Jonathan Morse, an old man and former neighbor of the Eddys, who addressed us in a heavy bass voice.

One of Horatio's light-circles followed, at which the gentleman and lady whose portraits were given in the illustration to a former chapter, sat beside the medium, The usual manifestations occurred, hands of various sizes being distinctly and often shown in various places, several instruments played upon simultaneously, and the heads and backs of the sitters, including the medium, patted and stroked by the detached hands. Let the reader refer to the picture above alluded to, which is drawn to a scale, and accurately shows the respective distances of the sitters from each other, and from the various points about them, and he will see the impossibility of Horatio's stroking his own face and patting his own head, with his right hand thrust through the opening between the two shawls, without immediately betraying himself by pulling the shawl behind him off the cord that sustains it. I have recently had a letter from Mr. C. O. Poole, a wealthy gentleman residing at Metuchin, N. J., about what he saw at one of these light circles, in company with myself and about thirty other persons. I make the following extracts:

"I saw three hands appear at once that night. You undoubtedly have it all in your notebook, and I need only say, that I am ready

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and willing to certify, and even swear to the facts.

Among other things, I saw the guitar rise above the curtain, at least three feet above Horatio's head, and saw a hand on it apparently strumming the strings. This, of course, was not the medium's, for it would have been a physical impossibility for it to have been there."

The usual writing of the names of deceased friends of the spectators by spirit-hands, upon cards behind and in front of the curtain, was varied upon this occasion for my particular benefit. A number of blank cards were called for, and handed by me to one of the spirit-hands thrust through the curtain to receive them. The pen and inkstand were then passed through in like manner, and immediately a number of cards came showering upon me, over the top of the curtain at a point between the gentleman and lady sitters, and, as it appeared to me, not from the direction they would start from if thrown over by Horatio's liberated right hand behind the curtain. The cards were all blank when I handed them in, and no other cards were on the table at the beginning of the seance. Moreover, each of those thrown at me had something written upon it, and the ink was so fresh that I laid them out separately upon the railing to dry. What was written may be seen by a glance at facsimilies numbers r-6.

I expressed my satisfaction at the favor shown me, and said, that the facsimiles I would give would no doubt be very interesting to the public ; whereupon there was a general ringing of bells, strumming of instruments, and pounding upon the table, that gave a sufficiently marked response to my friendly speech. The next day, when the artist and I compared the cards with the width of a newspaper column, I thought it would be better to have the names written perpendicularly and on

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a narrower strip; so, without saying anything to Horatio, I laid a piece of thick paper on top of a cupboard attached to the wall of his bedroom, in the hope that the ever watchful invisibles, knowing my wish, would favor me with a corrected edition of their signs-manual. The next morning I found the paper covered with signatures, headed with some lines of wretched Latin, and topped off with some equally bad English. I give a facsimile of this remarkable document, which may possess a certain interest in the eyes of many, as probably the first thing of the kind that has appeared in a newspaper.

I am quite aware of the fact that, as a scientific experiment, the procuring of the second set of names has no value, for no one was present when it was written, or can affirm it was not by the medium himself; so I let that pass. But what shall be said of the cards, written in the lightcircle before twenty people, which bear so marked a resemblance to them ? That Horatio could write them with his right hand behind a thick curtain where he could not see the marks his pen was making ? That he could draw a flying bird, a sketch of a house with its rear extension and detached wood shed? That he could ornament names, written piecemeal and not with a continuous pressure of the pen upon the paper, with wreaths ? This theory will hardly cover the probabilities.

Immediately upon seeing this series of facsimiles re-produced in the Graphic, (which was not for several weeks after the originals were written, and after they had been forwarded to New York), I noticed the striking similarity in the shape of the letters with Horatio Eddy's

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own manuscript. Public attention was also called to the same fact by a correspondent of the paper. The circumstance is well calculated to excite suspicion of fraud on the part of the medium, and I must regard it as weighing against him. But it is far from conclusive proof of his turpitude ; for, strange as the assertion may seem, I have it from credible authority that communications have been written in exact facsimile of a medium's hand- writing, in his or her presence, when the writing was not done by the medium.

One lady of high social position, and not a public medium, informs me that on one occasion, when she was sitting with her sister, alone, a communication was written by an invisible power, upon a sheet of paper held by her against the under side of the table-top; the writing so resembled her own that she would have been willing to swear that it was written by her own hand, if it had been shown her under any other circumstances.

The next evening found Honto in a very lively mood. She seemed to overflow with animal spirits, running up and down the platform, dancing, kicking up her feet, and producing her shawls from all sorts of unexpected places. Her hair tonight hung loose down her back and was unusually thick. I have previously, I believe, stated that it varies from time to time, not only in the style in which it is worn, but also in its length and mass. This evening its great length and thickness were remarked by a lady spectator, whereupon Honto turned her back towards us, and leaning back, let her luxuriant tresses hang over the platform railing. I should judge that the hair was a yard and a quarter in length, and it was as black

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as jet. She shook her head to straighten it out, and then with a sudden movement threw the whole mass over her face and held her head down so that it covered her face and bust like a thick crape veil. The way she flung it about proved to one even as inexperienced as myself that it was no wig, for it would have been jerked off her head.

There being a number of new comers in the hall, she stood beside Mr. Pritchard to show her height and backed up against Mrs. Cleveland for the same purpose. Finally, the light being good, she planted herself against my height-scale, and Mr. Pritchard laying his cane across the top of her head, we saw that he called the figures, 5 feet 3 inches correctly.

The squaw Bright Star and a number of other spirits also suffered themselves to be measured, the figures being as follows :  

Name

Height

Honto 5 feet 3 inches
Bright Star 5 feet 2 1-2 inches
Swift Cloud 5 feet 5 inches
Santum 6 feet 2 3-4 inch
Piqua 5 feet 3 1-2 inch
Carrie Arnold 4 feet
Wm. Brown 6 feet 1 inch
 An old white man 5 feet 7 inches

On the following evening I tried an experiment that I think is unprecedented in the history of scientific inquiry. It occurred to me, that if the assertion of the spirits that in materializing themselves they accreted matter from the atmosphere by the operation of their own will were true, and that the relative solidity of their materialization is under their control, the thing might be tested by familiar mechanical appliances. I could not conceive of solid matter without weight, and I had had too many proofs of the materiality of the visible spirit-forms to fancy them imponderable and unsubstantial.

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I had not only heard the shock of Honto's feet upon the floor when she leaped over the railing and when she jumped high from the floor in some of her capering; but, both in the dark and light circles, had shaken hands with them, and been touched and playfully struck many times. To my sense of touch they appeared as substantial as any human being in the flesh, the only difference being in their temperature, which was invariably lower than my own, and the skin, which was ordinarily covered with a clammy sweat. To put my theory to the proof, I procured in Rutland one of Howe's Standard platform scales, the capacity and accuracy of which are attested in the following certificate

   RUTLAND, Vt., October 6th, 1874 Henry S. Olcott, Esq.,

DEAR SIR: I hereby certify that the platform scale you procured from me for your weighing experiments, was one of Howe's best "Standards," set true and in perfect order. It will weigh from one ounce to 500 pounds. Its own dead weight is 110 pounds. Respectfully, I. G. KINGSLEY.

I caused it to be placed upon the platform, to the right of the cabinet door, and just in front of the chair in which Mr. Pritchard sits. Being denied the privilege of sitting there myself, in consequence, as I am told, of my being of so positive a nature as to affect and repel the spirits (in which particular neither Mr. Pritchard nor Mrs. Cleveland resemble me at all) I had to rely for my experiment upon the gentleman in question. Accordingly, I rehearsed the operation with him thoroughly, until he was able, in the dark, to quickly weigh a person stepping upon the platform and stopping there but a moment. I supplied him with parlor-matches, and after some last instructions waited the auspicious moment.

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When Honto came out she saluted us as usual, and then turned and scrutinized the strange machine with Indian-like hesitancy. I told her what was desired, and she then stepped boldly upon the proper spot, and bent forward to look at the movements of Mr. Pritchard, as his hand moved the poise along the beam. The balance being attained, as we could all plainly hear by the sound of the beam against the pad, she stepped off and passed into the cabinet. A match being struck, Mr. Pritchard read the scale at 138 pounds, which caused the audience no surprise, for, as the reader will observe, by reference to the several pictures of Honto that appear in this volume, she looks like a woman who would weigh from 135 to 145 pounds. But the counter-poise at the end of the beam appeared to me too thin for the l00-pound weight, and upon lighting a second match Mr. Pritchard found that it was only the 50-pound weight, and consequently that the squaw had only weighed 88 pounds.

Honto now reappeared, and I asked her to make herself lighter. She again mounted the platform, and this time it was found that she weighed but 58 pounds. The experiment was repeated a third time, and her weight stood the same as before--58 pounds. The fourth time the reading of the beam showed 65 pounds. Thus, without any change of clothing, and all within the space of ten minutes, this spirit, who weighed at the beginning at least 50 pounds less than any mortal woman of her size and height should weigh, reduced her materiality to the extent of 30 pounds, and, after holding it there several minutes, increased it 7 pounds. Of course it would have been infinitely more satisfactory if I could

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have first peeped into the dark cabinet and then managed the scale myself, for in such case I would not have to report, as to a portion of the facts, upon hearsay testimony ; and I leave to Mr. Crookes, Mr. Wallace, and other intelligent observers, more favorably conditioned than I, the task of following up this novel and suggestive inquiry. Mr. Pritchard is a reputable citizen of Albany, N. Y., retired from business in which he accumulated a competency, and I give his affidavit in corroboration of the facts I have narrated :

MR. PRITCHARD'S AFFIDAVIT.

State of Vermont, County of Rutland, ss.-Edward V. Pritchard, of the City of Albany, State of New York, being duly sworn, deposes and says that on the evening of September 23rd instant, he attended a seance or circle at the house of the Eddy family, in the town of Chittenden, in the county and State aforesaid : that he was invited to occupy a chair on the platform in a room known as the "circleroom," where certain mysterious phenomena known as spirit materializations occurred ; that among other forms presenting themselves and identified by persons in the audience as the shapes of deceased friends and relatives, there appeared the figure of an Indian woman known as " Honto," who approached so close to deponent that he distinctly saw every feature of her countenance, and her entire body ; that he is well acquainted with William H. Eddy, and avers that the said " Honto " bore no resemblance whatever to him in any particular. And deponent further says, that a pair of platform scales being previously placed convenient to his reach, the said " Honto" stood thereupon four separate times for deponent to weigh her, and that, without having apparently changed her bulk:, or divested herself of any portion of her dress, she weighed respectively 88 pounds, 58 pounds, 58 pounds, and 65 pounds at the several weighings. And deponent further says that, having weighed the said William H. Eddy upon the same scales, he finds his weight to be 179 pounds.

E. V. PRITCHARD.

[Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 30th clay of September, A. D. 1875 - H. F. Baird, Justice of the Peace.]

In his famous first article in the Quarterly Journal of Science for July, 1870, Mr. Crookes, in enumerating the

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results that he shall expect the Spiritualists to help him to attain, before he can ask his scientific brethren to investigate the phenomena, says :

" The Spiritualist tells of bodies weighing 50 or 100 pounds being lifted up into the air without the intervention of any known force; but the scientific chemist is accustomed to use a balance which will render sensible a weight so small that it would take 10,000 of them to weigh one grain ; he is, therefore, justified in asking that a power, professing to be guided by intelligence, which will toss a heavy body up to the ceiling, shall also cause his delicately poised balance to move under test conditions."

Again, he says in the same article :

"The first requisite is to be sure of facts; then to ascertain conditions ; next, laws. Accuracy and knowledge of detail stand fore most among the great aims of modern scientific men. No observations are of much use to the student of science unless they are truthful and made under test conditions ; and here I find the great mass of spiritualistic evidence to fail. In a subject which, perhaps, more than any other, lends itself to trickery and deception, the precautions against fraud appear to have been, in most cases, totally insufficient, owing, it would seem, to an erroneous idea that to ask for such safe- guards was to imply a suspicion of the honesty of some one present."

I quote these sensible words, not to help me in my investigations at this place, for my researches are completed, but to call the attention of other investigators in various other portions of the country who may happen to read these lines, to the true method which should guide their researches. The absolute ponderosity of a materialized spirit has at least been suggested by the weighing experiments at Chittenden, and it remains only for those who have access, say, to such compliant and intelligent spirits as Mr. Crookes' "Katie King," or Miss Showers' "Florence " and "Lenore," to make careful supplemental experiments, under test conditions, and thus solve one of the most important problems ever broached to the scientific world.

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I saw Honto, on one evening (October 15th), melt away as far up as her waist, just as she was ready to pass into the cabinet; once I saw a long lance, with a tapering steel head and a tuft of drooping ostrich plumes below it, suddenly materialized, in the hand of a male spirit; once, one of Honto's knitted shawls instantly formed, in a pile, on the floor, before she even stretched her hand towards the place to pick it up ; and once a little animal, like a squirrel or a large rat, suddenly appeared, walked about, and disappeared on the platform, almost frightening poor old Mrs. Cleveland out of her wits. If I ask Mr. Crookes to tell me by what law these things happen, he would undoubtedly answer: "Show me fifty such cases, happening under test conditions, and then we will weigh these things on our scales and try to discover the law."

"George Dix," the sailor-spirit, tried to enlighten me upon the subject, one evening. He said that man, in his earth-life, is nothing but a materialized spirit, a living entity encased in a covering of flesh. To keep himself and this case together, he must consume and assimilate tons of the material portions of animal and vegetable food. If he stops the process he becomes dematerialized, or uncased, in a very brief time. On the other hand, spirits can do in a moment what before death it took them years to accomplish - materialize a body to cover them. In the atmosphere they find ready for use, an inexhaustible supply of the same matter as that which exists in the animal and vegetable, only in a diffused and sublimated form; and by a supreme creative effort of the will they instantly collect the scattered particles into such shapes as they choose.

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What shall we say to all this? That it is silly, useless even if true, impossible, unscientific? Lord Bacon sets it down as a law unto himself, never to "reject upon improbabilities until there hath passed a due examination;" Benjamin Franklin, when asked in regard to the use of some discovery, retorted : "What's the use of a new-born baby?" Arago, the astronomer, says that  he is wanting in prudence who, outside of pure mathematics, pronounces the word impossible;" forty- four years after Harvey had announced his immortal discovery of the circulation of the blood, a paper was read to the French Academy of Sciences to prove such a thing impossible (see Owen's "Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World," p. q3); and when Morse asked Congress for an appropriation to make a practical test of his telegraph, the application was treated with derision by some wiseacre statesmen, as being too silly to be seriously entertained. Who, then, except our Dr. B--s, can in the face of such examples afford to turn his back upon any of the phenomena presented for our inspection by the class of persons called mediums? Who, I mean, that has any reputation for intelligence and fairness to lose ?

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CHAPTER XVI - A STARTLING PROPHECY