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People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott

 

CHAPTER XVI - A STARTLING PROPHECY

On the evening of September 26th last, a prophecy was made in a circle by the spirit "Mrs. Eaton," the fulfillment of which will mark an epoch in the history of modern Spiritualism. She said that on Sunday, September 19th, 1875, in the Eddy circle-room, spirits would materialize themselves in a brightly lighted room, and deliver orations as in life, with persons sitting all about them on the platform. In short, by that time they would have so far overcome or changed the conditions of the manifestations, that the present annoying drawbacks to a perfect investigation of the phenomena would no longer exist. This will be very satisfactory to those who may follow after me, but it comes too late to be of any service to myself. I have had to feel my way to a conclusion through darkened rooms, and at such a physical distance from the cabinet and its occupants, that I have been like a blind man in a strange city. But, nevertheless, as even he may fare on to his journey's end, if he but tread cautiously and make sure of his foothold before venturing to take the next step, so, in spite of all difficulties,

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I feel as if, after moving at snail's pace for two months, the goal were in sight at last.

Did ever a wiseacre "muscular contraction" theorist hear a spirit speak? Has Dr. Carpenter ever known of "unconscious cerebration" imparting speech to a re-incarnated ghost ? Did Sir William Hamilton ever know of " ire-conscious Activity of the Mind," or "Latent Thought " covering itself with a corporeal shape, and give voice to logic and rhetoric? If not, what business has either of them, to say nothing of the minnows who swim beside these great whales in the sea of thought, to pronounce ex cathedra judgment upon phenomena of which these Chittenden marvels are a part ? I have heard a spirit talk-yes, a score of them, and in eight different languages, of which I understood three, so as to know what was said on both sides, while I have had the others translated to me. And on the evening of October 2d I heard one make a speech of five minutes. That afternoon, I had accompanied the artist to the graveyard to take a sketch of Mrs. Eddy's grave, and as we turned to come away I remarked to him, that it would be a good test of the genuineness of these Eddy manifestations, if the spirit of Mrs. Eddy would appear that night and make some allusion to our present visit. We agreed to keep the matter to ourselves and see what might come of it. We reached home without meeting any person, and even if we had been seen, it would naturally be supposed that we had merely been taking one of our usual strolls. The evening came, and we met in the circle-room at the regular hour. The company numbered fourteen, and

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nine spirits showed themselves. The first was old William Brown, who spoke a few words to his son; then a middle-aged lady named Maria Ann Clarke, dressed in dark clothing; then a Mrs. Griswold, who was murdered in Vermont not long ago, and who, upon the occasion of a former visit to this circle-room, gave all the details of the crime to an old friend of hers, a Mr. Wilkins, who was present. Then forth stepped Mrs. Eddy herself, and stood there silent and motionless, looking at the artier and myself, who sat together. She bowed and retired, and we exchanged glances as though not satisfied with the test; but immediately the spirit returned, and evidently addressing her discourse to us, said: "Death, where is thy sting ? Graze, where is thy victory?" I had expected her to speak in the whispered accents of old Mrs. Pritchard, Maggie Brown, and certain other lady-spirits, but she pitched her voice so high and spoke so loud, that she might have been heard in the largest auditorium in New York city.

The surprise was so great, that the unexpected sound thrilled me to the marrow, and I sat staring through the gloom at the woman as I never did at a speaker before or since. She was of a large frame, and had the ample figure that is represented in the portrait published with a former chapter. She wore a white waist and dark skirt. Her hair was in ringlets, as I discovered when she bent forward in profile, in the animation of her discourse. She said, addressing me: "Your writings are true, and be assured the Truth will prevail. A thousand spirits are watching your every step, and wishing you Godspeed. They see the rapid spread of Truth upon earth.; and they and a countless host besides

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are helping it on. Go on, my friend; we will welcome you in gratitude and joy when you come to the other world, for daring to tell the truth, and helping to disseminate it. I thank you for your kindness to my children, who have suffered so much and so long for the good cause." It is needless to say that, barring all compliments, I needed no stenographer to fix upon my memory this astounding address, of which I have given only a fragment. She spoke of her own sufferings and trials upon earth, and denounced with bitter and unstinted anger all who slander and persecute mediums, especially her own children. Her remarks showed very clearly the deep, and hardly eradicable impression made upon her soul by the treatment she received while living here, and the case offers a subject for the thoughtful consideration of psychologists.

As the question of personal identity is one of paramount importance, at any rate in a case of this kind, let me remark that the figure was plainly that of a woman, to say nothing of the voice, which, while partaking of the strong Vermont provincial accent of the whole family, was sharp and in a high key--the key of a female voice. Moreover, the lady was recognized by sundry of her former acquaintances in the room, who greeted her; in addition to her children, of whom, there were two present. I have seen this lady several times, and heard her make several speeches. In one of these she said: " I am the mother of these mediums, and they are the children of my body. I want this understood. I want it known that this is no fraud, but a real exhibition of spirit-power and spiritual existence. It is for that, that I come back to this scene of my earthly sufferings."

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Again, on the evening of October 9th, confining her discourse to me, she referred to a conversation I had had that day with the artist about certain subjects for illustrations, and suggested her death-bed scene, where, she said, her children in the spirit-world had materialized, and stood beside their surviving brothers and sisters, while her own life was ebbing away.

My attention was early called to the question of the dynamics of these Eddy spirit manifestations, and after settling the matter of their weight, I determined to attempt to throw some light upon the direct power that the spirits could exert. The spring-balance occurred to me, as it did to Mr. Crookes (whose excellent pamphlet I unfortunately could not obtain until some time after my own experiments were concluded), and I accordingly procured two of  standard quality, of Mr. L. G. Kingsley, of Rutland, the house that furnished me the platform-scales, each of a weighing capacity of fifty pounds. I wished to test the power of the detached hands seen in Horatio's light- circle, as the demonstration of power by them would be a more striking and satisfactory test than in the case of the fully materialized forms, into which the question of personation was inevitably more or less entangled.

Let the reader refer to the sketch of the light-circle, in the XIIth chapter, and notice the relative positions of the shawl from the railing, and also where the spirit- hand is thrust through the shawl, and where the feet

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of the sitters are aligned. My experiment was two- fold, viz, : to ascertain how much the hands could pull horizontally, and how much vertically. One of the balances I fastened with a stout cord to the handrail, allowing a sufficiency of cord to bring the hook of the balance within easy reach of the spirit-hand, this was for the horizontal pull. The other I attached to a strong ring, made for the purpose, and screwed into the floor, just between the left foot of the gentleman sitter. and the right foot of the medium. The horizontal pull , was tried on the evening of September 30th. The audience numbered twenty-six persons. The weather outside was rainy and blustering; temperature low ; ten new arrivals that day; and generally the conditions would be regarded as unfavorable. The persons sitting beside Horatio were Mr. Goodsell, of Minnesota, and Mr. Wilkins, of Vermont, whose addresses can be furnished  if desired. Some instrument-playing and card- writing occurred, and the guitar, tambourine, and several bells were thrown over the curtain; after which a left hand was thrust out, and by the opening and closing of the fingers, indicated to me, standing close by, that they were ready for my experiment.

I stepped upon the platform and handed the hook to the hand, which grasped it, moved its fingers on and off the hook to get a firm hold, as any one naturally would, if he were about to exert his full force in that way, and then easily, steadily, and without spasmodic action, compressed the spring until the pointer ran down to the 40 pound mark. To prove that the force had not been exhausted, the spring was held there until I reached

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out my hand to take back the balance, and then was allowed to recoil as gradually as it had been compressed. Forty pounds, therefore, was the measure of the horizontal pull. The hand was the left one--large, broad, and white. I stood within a foot of it when it pulled, and my attention was attracted to a peculiarity which proved that it did not belong to Horatio's body. Upon the wrist, at the root of the thumb, there were two thin parallel lines of tattooing in blue India ink. Horatio exclaimed, while the spirit was pulling, that it was bracing itself for it by pressing the other hand against his (Horatio's) back; and he gave way to the pressure and leaned slightly forward, as if this were the case. If he had been pulling, he would naturally have leaned back, so as to exert his force against the spring.

The vertical pull was made on the evening of October 2d, when I myself sat next to Horatio in the light- circle. The hand tonight was the right hand of "George Dix," as I recognized by its mutilation in the loss of the little finger. It has been asserted, upon the barest suspicion, that this appearance of the loss of the finger is deceptive, the medium having the trick of bending his down so as to seem, but not in reality to be missing. My answer to this is that this experiment was made with this hand not more than six inches from my eyes, and with so good a light in the room that I could read the small figures on the dial with ease. Moreover, I noticed how the skin was drawn down into the cavity of the cicatrix, when the wound had healed. I, furthermore, remarked that the hand was as

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white as marble, the wrist broad and with no depression where it joined the hand; and when the fingers clutched the hook to pull, the inside was partially turned toward me so that I could see the blue veins half concealed beneath the fat, and the projection of the tendons as they contracted in the strain. The pull was steady, as before, but more powerful, for the whole 50 pounds was indicated by the pointer on the dial. The balance was then relinquished, and in testimony of his satisfaction at the result, Dix slapped me heartily on the back and tickled me in the ribs. I said: "It seems as if the spirit could pull 100 pounds more, if the apparatus would allow of it," and assent was given by vigorous pounding upon the table behind me.

Mr. Charles Goodsell's address is Howard Lake, Wright Co. Minn., and he writes me as follows, about the light-circle at which the above events occurred

" If you recollect, I was sitting beside Horatio, when you first tried the power of the materialized hand which pulled the spring balance. The indicator showed that it pulled forty pounds. I know that I held Horatio by the left hand, while his right clasped my wrist. I am positive that it was a left hand that hooked the middle finger in- to the hook of the balance, and pulled. Furthermore, two hands reached out and patted me on the head and shoulders. While my hands were clasping Horatio's, the iron ring was put upon his left arm, and slipped down on to the back of my left hand."

If I had been in any doubt about seeing the baby-hand, previously described, there was no occasion for it to continue, for on this occasion the hand of a child touched me in the back, and upon my mentally requesting it to show itself, was thrust out and patted me on the cheek. It disappeared, but when I mentally asked that it might be held at my lips, it came again, and

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remained there until I could kiss it (for it was said that it was the hand of one who bore to me the tenderest of ties). Several other hands, large and small, women's and men's, wrote cards before my eyes, each being closely scrutinized as it appeared. My senses were wide awake, beyond all question, for this was the first opportunity given me to sit with the medium, in a whole month's sojourn in the house, and I determined that no detail, however slight, should be overlooked.

I was more than glad to be able to satisfy myself wholly as to the famous " ring test," the philosophy of which the mediums, the Spiritualists, and the spirits themselves had tried to explain to me. I had seen the thing done in the light a number of times, the ring dropping from off Horatio's arm, as he sat before me with his hands bound ; but all this was not entirely satisfactory to one who was furnishing to a wide circle of readers the materials for the formation of belief, and whose duty was to make no mistake. When the ring test was about to be given, I was requested by the medium to take both his hands in mine and keep a firm hold. It must be remembered that, up to this moment, he had been grasping my bared left arm with his two hands. At the beginning of the sťance his hands were very cold, but I noticed that they gradually grew warmer, until, just before the ring-test, a shiver ran through his frame, a sudden chill passed into them and they became icy cold. I never felt hands so cold before, except upon a corpse that had been laid in ice.

Our hands crossed, my right holding his right, and his left my left. The iron ring used for the experiment

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was then exhibited through the shawl by another hand, so that all could see it, and then dropped upon the floor at my feet, striking it with a metallic sound, and rolling off the platform. After all who chose had had an opportunity to examine it, it was passed back, and taken behind the curtain by the detached hand. I then felt an arm and shoulder pressing against my back, as I sat touching the edge of the table behind me, and the ring, and a cold hand that held it touched the bare, warm skin of my left forearm. Another tremendous shock ran through the medium's body, and instantly the iron ring slid down from his arm over my right wrist and hung there. There was just distance enough between our arms for the large ring to touch both his and mine, and at the moment of the shock, it seemed to me that the side of the ring next to Horatio's, dissolved into a vapor, while the one next to mine remained solid, for it moved away from my skin directly through his arm, or else opened so as to permit his to pass through its own substance, and the next instant it dangled upon my wrist.

This is an astounding story, I know, but everything happened just as described. I neither relaxed my hold upon his hands for an instant, nor lost sight of the smallest detail of the experiment. I was neither psychologized nor deceived, and no theory of "muscular contraction" is sufficient to explain or cover the facts. The explanation given to me of the phenomenon by a spirit is that, the medium's system being negative and the sitter's positive, a strong current of a fluid, which, for lack of a better name, they call refined electricity, is sent through from the one to the other, and as it passes

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through the intermediate metal, being obliged to escape at the poles, it overcomes the cohesion of the particles, and the solid is changed into a vapor. By suddenly reversing this process, the substance is re-solidified, and the ring becomes as it was before. They claim that they have the same control over the cohesion of the particles of our gross matter as they have over what we term gravity ; that is, that by an exercise of their own subtle power they can as readily dissolve a solid as they can lift it. Let every one do as he likes with the explanation : I give it as it was received.

I must say that I felt no shock whatever at any time, but perhaps, being so positive as they say I am, the thing worked the other way, and the medium got a charge of my surplus "magnetism."

One night Mayflower told me, as an evidence of the superior knowledge of the spirits, that she herself could harden and weld copper, and make a small machine that would lift the house we were in, as easily as I could my hat. When I asked her why she would not impart some of her knowledge for the benefit of the world, her reply was that, when our men of science got so far progressed as to lose their empty conceit, and discover that they hardly knew the alphabet of science, and were prepared to learn, these and many more important discoveries would reward them. We must hasten slowly on our path up the Parnassian hill, learning, little by little, and as the child acquires by degrees to creep, walk, and run, all that goes to make up the sum of human knowledge.

There was another, and unsolicited, exhibition of spirit- power this evening. In the corner of the recess behind

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Horatio stood an extra chair, which had not been noticed when the shawls were hung. During the sťance this chair was lifted perpendicularly twice or three times directly behind Horatio's head, so as to show above the top of the curtain, and it was at last surmised that they desired to have it taken away; so William Eddy, who was standing near by, took it from the invisible holder. The perpendicular height of the lift and weight of the chair being ascertained, I allowed two seconds as the time consumed in the raising, and then made the following calculation, to arrive at the measure of force exerted

Chair weighed................. 8 3-4 pounds. Perpendicular height........ 5 feet 5 inches. Time (estimated)............. 2 seconds.

1 horse power is 33,000 pounds lifted 1 foot in 1 minute; consequently

8.75 x 30 x 5.16 =  1,354     33,000 /1,354 = 24.36, or nearly one-quarter of a horse power.

Next to Honto, and old Mr. Brown, the talking spirit, who usually open and close the sťances, the spirit I have most frequently seen is that of the mother of Mr. Pritchard, of Albany; who has been recognized over and over again, not only by him, but by his sister and her grand- children, some of whom have been invited to come up to the platform and receive the old lady's embraces and blessings. She almost always speaks, sometimes addressing a few sentences to the audience, but usually confining her remarks to her own friends. Her materialization is, all in all, the most satisfactory I have ever seen, for there have been so many and satisfactory opportunities to be satisfied of her identity. Her son is an elderly gentleman, whose height I have verified as five feet five inches scant. His mother has frequently made him stand beside

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her, and then called our attention to their respective statures.

One night, I got Mr. Pritchard to place her back against my scale, and he reported her height as just five feet; which I am satisfied is correct, as he is almost, if not quite, a full head taller. On the evening of September 27th she seated herself in a chair by her son's side, and held a long private conversation with him about a projected visit of her daughter, Mrs. Packard, of Albany, to Chittenden. They were both absorbed in themselves, and I noticed the old lady fingering her white muslin apron in a peculiar manner, with both hands, pinching it up little by little into folds, until she reached the bottom hem, and then, smoothing it out, beginning the same trick again. Upon calling Mr. Pritchard's attention to this after the sťance, he told me that this was an old habit of his mother's in life, and would serve to identify her spirit to any of her former acquaintances. She could sit in this way, he said, by the hour, while interested in conversation, pinching up and smoothing out her apron in an absent-minded fashion; just as some persons tie strings around their fingers, and others tear paper into bits.

My old chemical professor used to sit in his laboratory. and lecture to me, keeping the thread of his thought together by cutting foolscap into strips, which he would proceed to roll into spills and then toss away. A certain other friend of mine, the handsome young president of a New York insurance company, has the trick of cutting up all the envelopes on his desk, with a business-like air, as though he intended to put the scraps to an important

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use; but they are finally divided into square bits and litter the floor of his office. If I should see the returning shade of either of these persons, in a room even darker than the Eddy hall, I think I should recognize them all the easier by the exhibition of these little habits which were so closely identified in my mind with their  earthly selves .

These unconsidered trifles go farther towards proof of the  identity of the appearing spirits, than even the pronunciation of names, or the giving of information about affairs within the knowledge of the sitter. No theory of probabilities appears broad enough to cover the chance of William Eddy's perfecting the details of a personation to such minuteness as to imitate little, personal tricks and habits, too unimportant to be remarked by any but those who are on the most intimate terms with the one simulated, and at the same time, too trivial to be suggested in advance of their occurrence, even to the minds of such.

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CHAPTER XVII - A CHAPTER OF MARVELS