People From the Other World by Henry S. Olcott



THINK I occupy, at the end of this series of Chapters, the only secure ground for any person worthy of a moment's thought as an investigator, and it is the one assumed by every intelligent physician in diagnosing an obscure case. I have reasoned by exclusion. That is to say, I reject everything that happens in the presence of these mediums which could be accounted for on the hypothesis of fraud. The physician, placing himself by the bedside of his patient, first carefully notices all the symptoms, and then proceeds with his diagnosis. He says to himself that the trouble assuredly is neither such, or such, or such a disease, nor is it included in a certain group of diseases; and so, telling off malady after malady, he finally reaches either the precise thing he is looking for, or, at least, such an approximation to the truth as to suggest the trial of a certain class of remedies, until the specific is found.

This is what the investigator of these spiritualistic phenomena should do. Given a certain thing done in his presence, he ought to attempt to explain it as:


(1) a trick; (z) the result of some known cause-such as electricity, odic force, or the subtle influence that one person has over the imaginations of others; (3) these all failing, then he ought to observe closely enough to learn whether some new, powerful, occult force is asserting itself; or (4) whether relations had really been established between the world we live in and the world we are tending to. Now all this is within the scope of scientific inquiry; the territory beyond belongs to the Church. It is for Science to observe the facts, deduce the law, and define the conditions; for Religion to follow the moral causes in this life to their moral consequences in the next. This is the true middle ground upon which the two contending powers can compromise in the great conflict that is upon us, and the terrific nature of which is so clearly defined by Tyndall, Draper, and others. Says Professor John W. Draper in his most recently published paper, entitled "The Great Conflict ":

"Whoever has had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the mental condition of the intelligent classes in Europe and America, must have perceived that there is a great and rapidly increasing departure from the public religious faith, and that, while among the frank this divergence is not concealed, there is a far more extensive and far more dangerous secession, private and unacknowledged."

"So widespread and so powerful is this secession, that it can neither be treated with contempt nor with punishment. It cannot be extinguished by derision, by vituperation, or by force. The time is rapidly approaching when it will give rise to serious political results."

"Ecclesiastical spirit no longer inspires the policy of the world. Military fervor in behalf of faith has disappeared. Its only souvenirs are the marble effigies of crusading knights reposing in their tombs in the silent crypts of churches."

After noticing that the antagonism between Religion and Science commenced when Christianity began to


attain political power, and defining the true cause of the same to be found in the natural expansion of the human intellect, through the irresistible advance of human knowledge warring against the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests, he says

"Can we exaggerate the importance of a contention in which every thoughtful person must take part, whether he will or not? In a matter so solemn as that of religion, all men, whose temporal interests are not involved in existing institutions, earnestly desire to find the truth. They seek information as to the subjects in dispute, and as to the conduct of the disputants."

What a curious law of creation; how beneficent and wise, that every human want seems to be provided for at the proper time! Let any one thing necessary for our existence, comfort, or progression fail, and some substitute is found. When the forests in Europe were in danger of extinction, coal was discovered; when the whale fishery failed, mineral oil was struck in Pennsylvania; when the discovery of the iron ores of that region offered us a new source of wealth, the uses of anthracite coal were first learned by the accident of a careless laborer; when the progress of the world demanded the overthrow of ecclesiastical imperialism, the printing-press came to enlighten mankind. That not only dispersed secular knowledge broadcast, but proved the most powerful ally of the Church itself, in widening the boundaries of true Religion. So, also, when the increase of population called for ampler methods of communication by sea and land, steam offered itself as the great desideratum; and, in the progressive development of the same need, the electric telegraph came to unite all the people of the earth together in a constant, heaven-descended tie.

In view of all this, who dares say that, at the very


instant of this "great conflict " between Science and Religion, when the latter is looking about for better weapons to meet the onslaught of her traditional foe, this spiritualistic manifestation has not been made ? If there is anything not beneath contempt in the phenomena, they are calculated to arrest the attention of both antagonists of the Materialists, because, if they are real, their position is untenable ; of the Religionists, because, in their verity they would find an impenetrable armor of defense and an invincible sword of offence against the opponents of Immortality.

Dr. Draper says :

"The attention of many truth-seeking persons has been so exclusively given to the details of sectarian dissensions that the long strife, to the history of which these pages are devoted, is popularly but little known."

And so we may say that the strife between Science on the one side, and Religion on the other, has been so bitter, deadly, and engrossing, that neither side has had either the time or disposition to notice the rise and secret development of modern Spiritualism, which, after twenty- seven years, has now reached a point where it no longer entreats but commands general attention.

The recognition of this fact is what first prompted me to attempt the investigation of the alleged spirit "materializations" of the Eddy mediums, and the reader will bear me out in the statement, that all my efforts have been to interest American scientists in the phenomena to such an extent that they would commence real investigations, in comparison to which these of mine are but child's play.

I am happy to say that I have succeeded. I have the


best of reasons to know that not only one but a dozen professors in different colleges read all my articles, discuss the facts, and are beginning to feel a call to the work. And  I am also glad to know that many clergymen -so many that I would not like to state the number- are, for the first time in their lives, opening their eyes to the fact that " this materialization business must be looked into." Within a single day of twenty-four hours, I have received requests from three orthodox ministers in charge of prosperous congregations, that I would try to have them admitted to the Eddy circles, and one other was at Chittenden a short time ago, and voluntarily wrote me a certificate of what he had seen.

In a certain place near New York, I know of a congregation of eight hundred persons, of whom, according to the pastor's statement, three hundred are reading about Spiritualism, and some are beginning to hold circles in their private houses. The ministers of two of the churches in Rutland, united with a large number of their most influential fellow-townsmen in giving me an invitation to describe, in a public lecture, the things I saw at the Eddy homestead.

As a final and most conclusive proof of the general interest, I need only point to the universal discussion of the subject by the secular newspapers. Says the Rutland (Vt.) Globe :

"Colonel Henry S. Olcott, the commissioner of The Daily Graphic to investigate and report upon the Eddy "manifestations," has stirred up a breeze throughout the country. Before his first letter from Rutland appeared, the subject of Spiritualism had not been even mentioned in the secular papers since the appearance of Mr. Crookes articles and Mr. Alfred Wallace's pamphlet in England set Europe agog. Now the New York dailies discuss the subject editorially-


nearly all have sent reporters to Chittenden, and their example has been imitated by the journals of Chicago, Hartford, Rochester, Albany, and many other cities. Whatever may be the truth about the Eddy affair, there can be no question that the public mind is very much excited upon the question whether the spirits of the dead return to us or not."

This from a Rutland paper which has all along reflected the bitter and disdainful spirit of the community in which it is published, is something remarkable.

Now these are results-positive, tangible results; and I may well turn to both scientists and churchmen and quote Dr. Draper's language, with the change of a single word, thus :

"So widespread and so powerful is this (interest), that it can neither be treated with contempt nor with punishment. It cannot be extinguished by derision, by vituperation, or by force."

It is the bare narration of facts that has accomplished so much. I have confined myself almost exclusively to such phenomena as have been witnessed by myself or others. I have not attempted to inculcate any of the doctrines of the Spiritualists, as I find them in the works of Mr. Owen, Mr. Sargent, Mr. Peebles, or other writers. Nor have I attempted to elicit from the talking spirits of the Eddy band their views upon the laws of their own existence and communication with us. True, it would have been a waste of time to have made such an attempt, for the Eddy circle is about the most unpromising of places for that sort of thing. One goes there to see phenomena, not to discuss philosophies. It was sufficient for me, if I could see one spirit materialized under such conditions as precluded the possibility of self-deception. That fact was enough to set the world to thinking, for it opened up a boundless realm for scientific


discovery and philosophical and religious inquiry. Let us see how far we have gotten on our way towards the truth.

In the first place, it has been proven that, after making every allowance for fraud on the part of the mediums--for Horatio's removing his hand from his neighbor's bare arm in the light-circle, for his untying and rebinding himself in the dark-circle, and for William's personating every alleged materialized spirit that approximates to his own height and bulk-we have a large balance of marvels to account for.

We have the writing of certain names that the medium had no means of knowing; the exhibition of detached hands of various sizes and colors, some deformed by accidental pre-mortem causes; we have the simultaneous playing of musical compositions by such a number of instruments that one or even two men could not have done it ; we have the playing of Georgian and Circassian and Italian music by invisible performers, in response to requests made in languages that neither the medium nor any other person in the room, except the asker, under- stood; we have the pulling of a spring-balance by detached hands unlike the medium's, one with a finger amputated, and the other with tattoo marks upon the wrist, which, in each case, would prove that the medium had nothing to do with the pulling; we have had the playing upon an instrument and the display of hands, beyond the reach of the medium, and when his position and movements were all under easy scrutiny; we have had the passage of a solid iron ring upon the arm of the medium, and its transfer to my own, with both of the medium's hands held by mine, and also the dropping


of the same solid ring from the medium's arm to the floor, in the light, with a lamp standing within two feet of the medium.

We have had the execution of airs upon various musical instruments in concert, in a style so utterly unlike the best efforts of the medium as to preclude the idea that he could have been the performer upon either one of them; we have had, finally, the appearance of a multitude of figures emerging from a closet, where, in the nature of things, it was impossible that any mortal person except one man could have been, dressed in a great variety of costumes, and differing in size, apparent weight, manner, sex, age, and complexion from that person-to make no account of those whom he might have personated if he had been supplied with the appliances of the actor's art.

We have, moreover, and especially, seen some of these figures dressed in Oriental costumes and speaking Oriental languages, besides others who conversed audibly in the modern tongues of Europe. Of the appearance of children and even little babes in arms; of the appearance of two of the former at one and the same time; of the speaking of words and sentences by various children I have heretofore given such circumstantial accounts, and the substantiation of my statements is so easy, that I cite the facts as among the most wonderful of the proofs accumulated during my protracted investigation.

It will not escape the notice of the unprejudiced and intelligent reader that in the above enumeration I have not included one of the things reported by me which


admits of doubt. I have omitted a whole array of so- called "manifestations which might be imitated by an unprincipled and clever medium.

I omit some things that have been described in this series of Chapters, such as the writing of names in characters which are suspiciously like Horatio Eddy's manuscript; the drawing of objects in his light-circle and bedroom; the bell test; the weighing of Honto, which, nevertheless, I regard as a genuine test; the making of my two ribbon wreaths; the bringing of material substances into the dark-circle, and a great many more matters, not because in any one case I have doubts amounting to conviction that fraud was attempted or consummated, but because there is, in my opinion, enough left to challenge the closest scrutiny, and arouse the greatest wonder, after passing by every- thing about the genuineness of which there can be two honest opinions.

Referring to the spirit-writings, (so claimed,) of which facsimiles have been given, it should be observed that the imitation of handwriting in documents, instantaneously produced, is, like most other phenomena of modern Spiritualism, nothing new. I have found, in Lane's " Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians" (Vol. I, pp. 362-3.), an account of the magical performances of a very celebrated Sheikh, named Ismateel Abloo Roo-oos, on the occasion of a visit to him by two Egyptian gentlemen, one of whom was known to, and indorsed by, the author. The Sheikh being asked to show proof of his skill, complied. One of the visitors asked that coffee might be served


to them in his father's set of cups and saucers, which he knew to be at home, a long distance off. In a few minutes the coffee was brought, in the identical cups he had named, or what appeared to be the same. He was next treated to sherbet, in his father's own glasses. He then wrote a letter to his father, and, giving it to the Sheikh, asked that it might be answered. " The magician took the letter, placed it behind a cushion of his deewa'n (divan), and, a few minutes after, removing the cushion, showed him that his letter was gone, and that another was in its place." The visitor opened and read the letter, and "found in it, in a handwriting which, he said, he could have sworn to be that of his father, a complete answer to what he had written, and an account of the state of his family, which he proved, on his return to Cairo, to be perfectly true."

I now ask the reader to refer to my report of the Katie King affair, in Part II, and examine the facsimiles, there given, of the specimens of direct spirit-writing, obtained by me at two different sťances with a non-professional lady medium, which seem to be the most curious and striking manifestations of the kind on record. In the light of such facts as these we may well suspend judgment as to the source of the writings given to me through Horatio Eddy's mediumship.

That I am very far from satisfied with the results attained at Chittenden is already known. This arises from the fact that if barely a fair chance had been given me to apply tests and prescribe conditions, I would have made this work one of the most interesting ever written in its array of conclusive experiments. There never was


so great an opportunity afforded to the investigator to obtain satisfying proof of the immortal existence of human spirits, nor ever one so maliciously and ignorantly destroyed by spirits or mortals. Mr. Crookes' investigations were limited by the tests he could apply to a single spirit, or at most one or two more, while here were nearly or quite four hundred encountered, nearly every one of which ought, if their appearance had been regulated by intelligent control, to have aided in the contribution of something valuable to our store of knowledge.

But it is idle now to deplore what cannot be mended. We have gathered together enough to point the men of science in the direction which they should take. Enough has been rescued from oblivion to show the church the importance of neglecting no longer the chance that offers to get proof palpable to sustain them in their defense against the assault of the Materialist and the Atheist. The harvest truly is ready, but the laborers are few.

There being no chance to fortify our philosophy or improve our system of ethics by the teachings of the Chittenden ghosts, it will be asked, as indeed it already has been many times, of what use are these phenomena? What do they promise to effect for the welfare of man- kind ? It is not my province to answer. It suffices that these are the phenomena-permitted to occur, in the providence of God, or by procurement of the devil, as you will-a positive, easily proven fact.

It surely needs no great discernment to see that if they are not fraudulent they demand instant investigation. And to the further question, why, if they are real manifestations, they are made in such a place, among such


people and such surroundings, I simply reply that I do not know. In other times it was a cause of reproach among the Pharisees that Christ was born in a stable among beasts, and was followed by disciples of base birth, instead of seeing the light in some stuccoed palace in the Jerusalem Fifth avenue, and having a company of perfumed aristocrats at his heels. I leave it to the straw- splitters to settle the question to their own satisfaction, and content myself with recording the fact that the phenomena of Chittenden are apparently real, at least to a certain extent, and they cannot be ignored any longer.

And now let me state a few facts by way of conclusion. I have heretofore confined my narrative to accounts of the reunion of separated families and the visits of friend- ship made by the people of the other world to those they love in this. I have reserved for my last Chapter an incident that shows that the time has possibly come when the trite adage " murder will out," is to have a terrible significance. It is always so much pleasanter to dwell upon the agreeable than the horrible, upon what attracts and charms rather than upon that which startles and appalls, that, I take it, no further explanation will be required of the fact above stated. But if any other reason were needed for the reservation of the story of the Griswold murder for the last Chapter, it may be found in my desire to leave upon the minds of a certain class of readers a strong impression that, should the investigation of these spiritual phenomena result in the confirmation of their verity, a most important source of aid to the cause of justice might thus be discovered and availed of. If materialized spirits can address audiences, as I have


heard them in the Eddy house, is there any reason why, after a time, they may not take the stand in a court of justice and testify against their murderers? What a day to be remembered would that be when the fictions of Shakspeare's imagination should be paralleled by the facts coming within our personal experience; when our modern Hamlets, Banquos, and Duncans would stalk into the presence of judge and jury and show their bleeding wounds to the horror-stricken assassin.

Now, of course, this will appear absurd to the great majority of persons who read this, and so it would have seemed to me before I went to Chittenden and saw what I did there; but what does the reader say when I tell him that on the evening of September 28th I saw the spirit of a woman who was murdered on the night of Sunday, August 27th, 1865, at Williston, Vt., by a New York rough named John Ward alias Jerome Lavigne, by the procurement of her son-in-law, Charles Potter? That after her murder the woman appeared there with all her wounds upon her and described the whole scene? Does that look as if it were quite so absurd to imagine that the same thing may, one day, be seen in a court-room, either with or without the presence of a "materializing medium?" It is prophesied by the spirits at Eddys' that next September they will address the audience in that circle-room in full light and with people sitting about them upon the platform; why should not an equal effort be made to deter from crime, and, if need be, punish it?

Mrs. Sarah Walker Griswold, a lady sixty years of age, lived with her husband on their farm in the town of Williston, and their adopted daughter and niece and


her husband, Charles Potter. On the morning of the murder the Potters, their children, old Mr. Griswold, and Potter's brother went to Canada, leaving with Mrs. Griswold only a small boy, about thirteen years of age. On Monday morning a neighbor went to the house and discovered the body of Mrs. Griswold lying, half. naked, in a calf-pen some rods from the house in a horribly mutilated condition.

The surgeons "found wounds on the left side of the head, fracturing the skull, which were undoubtedly produced by some blunt instrument. On the right side of the head were four or five contusions, probably made by the same instrument. There were also several stabs in the neck, one about two inches in length, from left to right, and severing the right external jugular vein. These wounds were evidently made by some sharp-pointed instrument. Two cuts were found on the back of the left hand, also on the back of the right hand, and one an inch and a half deep on the left side of the chin, passing to the right up to the centre of the lip. The knees were badly bruised as was the left side of the chest."

In due course of time the murderer was tracked and brought to justice; and the guilt of Potter being brought home to him, he also fell into the hands of the law. The artist has represented, in the picture accompanying this, the appearance of the spirit of Mrs. Griswold when she first came to the Eddy circle-room. When I saw her she presented a natural appearance, and was neatly attired in a white dress. On a previous occasion she was seen by a friend who knew her in life, a Mr. P. P.


Wilkins, of Winooski Falls (Vt.), who writes me that:

"Mrs. Griswold materialized herself and I recognized her. She grasped my hand and presented me with a flower." The motive prompting Potter to the murder was a threat on her part to change her will so as to cut off his wife and himself from any share in her property, which she had accumulated in California in the course of a long residence there." The series of cuts relating to Honto, and the one introducing Mrs. Pritchard in a group with her song are designed to show that I am warranted in the assertion that the exact height of certain spirits has been ascertained by comparing them with that of living persons. Here we have Mrs. Pritchard measuring with her son, and the spirit squaw in such close relation to Horatio (whose height is 5 feet 11 inches), Mrs. Cleveland (5 feet 7 inches), Mr. Pritchard (5 feet 5 inches), and Mr. Ralph, of Utica, N. Y., that even if I had never seen her standing with her back against my scale affixed to the wall, at either side of the cabinet- door, I need have been at no loss to discover that she bears no resemblance in this particular to William Eddy, whose height (5 feet 9 inches) and weight (179 lbs.) have already been stated. If more has been said of this girl in these Chapters than of any other single spirit, it is because she has been oftener seen and more closely noticed. She holds the same relation to the Eddy circles, in frequency and variety of her appearances and acts, as does Katie King to the circles of Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, of Philadelphia. It is not true that she

* See PACE 265

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is always the first spirit to appear, nor that she appears every evening, as the attentive reader will recollect; but she causes more of a sensation than almost any other of the weird visitors at the Chittenden sťances by the vivacity of her performances, her thorough enjoy- ment of the situation, and her great flow of animal spirits. If it is ever discovered that she and her medium are identical, I shall have to confess that there are possibilities of deception in the transformation of personal appearance within the reach of this Vermont farmer, beyond anything I ever read of since the tales of the Yogiswara and Peruvian sorcerers, and of Zilto, the necromancer of the Court of King Wenceslaus, at once excited my wonder and aroused my skepticism.

And now I turn my face away from Chittenden, and close the record of my interesting experiences at that place; leaving each reader to digest the facts, and form a belief for himself. I doubt if three more memorable months were ever passed by any one; and in future years I shall never be able to recall the secluded farm-house and its ghostly memories, without thinking of Tom Hood's verse:

" And over all there hung a shade of fear, A sense of mystery the spirit daunted, And said, as plain as whisper in the ear, The place is haunted."

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