People From the Other World
by Henry S. Olcott
PART II -
THE KATIE KING AFFAIR
HAVE stated, in the Preface to this volume, the
circumstances under which my investigation of the
Katie King fiasco, in the city of Philadelphia, was
undertaken. When I expressed the hope (see Page 385)
that some unbiased person would investigate the
case, under proper test conditions, it was farthest from my
thoughts that I would be the one selected for the disagreeable
task. I had neither set myself up as an inquirer into the general
facts of Spiritualism, nor was it a part of my plan to embrace
any comprehensive survey of the subject within the limits of this
work. The Eddy manifestations were my theme, and such other
matters as I might introduce were intended either to aid
in arriving at a just opinion concerning their genuineness, or, at
the most, to show how the phenomenon of materialization, was
regarded by the leaders of opinion in this country.
But, when the Philadelphia journals heralded the fact
that Katie King was no spirit, nor Nelson Holmes and
his wife mediums, I was at once importuned, by--many
respected correspondents, to institute such an inquiry
into the facts as might reveal the exact truth to that
great body of the public who had relied implicitly upon
the reports of Mr. Owen and General Lippitt, and
adopted a belief in the actuality of the so-called materializations.
These requests at last became so numerous and so
urgent that I could no longer doubt as to my duty in the
premises. I was perfectly aware of the difficulty I should
experience in sifting the truth out of the multitude of
conflicting reports that had reached the public ear
through the newspapers. I knew the thanklessness of
the task-the certainty of abuse by one party or the other,
whatever decision I might give--the misrepresentation
of my motives-the challenging of my conclusions.
I was only too well assured that a skeptical public
would neither be grateful if I should prove the materializations
fraudulent, nor friendly if my tests should
have an opposite result. I knew all this, but, nevertheless, did not alter my
determination, for several reasons.
In the first place, I recollected the words of M. Bailly,
the great Frenchman: "In every error there is a kernel
of truth: let us seek to detach that kernel from the
envelop that hides it from our eyes"; secondly, I had
Mr. Owen's own authority for it that " when a man of
honest motive, seeking only the truth, plainly
and impartially narrates his experience, that which he says usually
bears with it to the upright mind an internal warrant of
sincerity" (see his Footfalls, p. 55) ; and, finally, none
but moral cowards hesitate to perform their duty, because
of possible personal consequences. So, on or about the
27th of December, 1874, I addressed a letter to the Hon.
Robert Dale Owen, in which I stated that if Mr. and
Mrs. Holmes were willing to submit their mediumship to
the proof, and would agree to place themselves under
such test conditions as I might prescribe, I would come
to Philadelphia and make the investigation.
I received, by return mail, a letter from Mr. Owen, in
which that most respected and honorable gentleman was
good enough to express himself as follows :
"I am rejoiced at your proposal, and shall always hold myself
your debtor for having made it. Accepted or rejected, proving or
disproving the materializing powers of the mediums, it can eventuate
only in good."
The letter covered the desired invitation from the
mediums; which was in the following language
No. 825 Tenth Street,
PHILADELPHIA, December 28th, 1874.
The undersigned, being willing to afford to intelligent and
impartial investigators proofs of the reality of our mediumship, and,
especially, of the appearance of materialized spirit-forms through
the same, and having confidence in your ability, and disposition to
do equal justice, hereby invite you to attend our sťances, and agree
to submit to such reasonable scientific test conditions as you may
(Signed.) JENNIE HOLMES,
for self, and Mr. NELSON HOLMEs, absent.
To Colonel H. S. OLCOTT.
Upon the 29th, I notified Mrs. Holmes that the invitation
was accepted; and, upon the following Tuesday
(January 5th), I was in Philadelphia, ready to begin. I
found, however, that Mrs. Holmes was at her husband's
place in Vineland, N. J., where he was lying very ill
with a hemorrhage, and that she would not be in town
until the following week. I concluded, therefore, to
employ the interval of time in possessing myself of all
the attainable facts of the case, and, to this end, sought
interviews both with the principal parties through whose
instrumentality the alleged expose had been made,
and with those who still had confidence in the honest
mediumship of the Holmeses.
I obtained from both sides such documents as might
assist me in arriving at a correct judgment. Among
them were original letters from Mr. Holmes to various
correspondents; letters from the pseudo Katie King;
notes written by the alleged spirit to Mr. Owen, to Dr.
Adolph Fellger, and to Mrs. R. K. Stoddard, at various times during last Summer,
and handed to them through the cabinet-window; the original manuscript of the
communication supposed at the time to have been written
to Mr. Owen by the detached spirit-hand of Frederick
W. Robertson, but now alleged to be a fraud and deception ;
and, finally, files of the Philadelphia newspapers,
containing the details of the alleged expose. I tried to
secure a personal interview with the woman who pretended
to have personated Katie King and deceived the
public, but was unsuccessful; it being asserted, falsely,
as I afterward discovered, that she was not in town, nor
was her whereabouts known.
That my readers may understand the nature of the
problem presented to me for solution, it will be necessary
for me to make a brief statement of facts.
" In May, 1874," according to a pamphlet issued by
Dr. Henry T. Child, a Philadelphia Spiritualist, " a spirit
was materialized" at the sťances of Mr. Nelson Holmes
and his wife, Mrs. Jennie Holmes, " and appeared at the
aperture of the cabinet in which Mr. Holmes was sitting,
who gave the name of 'Katie King.' Several other
spirits appeared, some of whom were recognized." On
the l0th of the same month, the author tells us, the
spirit of John King, Katie's father, also made its appearance
and was identified. Dr. Child saw him, and " conversed with
him for some time." The spirit, moreover,
expressed a wish that the Doctor would write out a
correct account of his, (King's) earth-life, from his dictation. He informed him that
he had known him (Dr. Child), for years "as a writer and
worker," that his guides had been at first quite reluctant to have
him, King), come, lest he should take the Doctor "out of the
earth-form," but that no harm should result if the Doctor
would only set to work to write out the ex-buccaneer's
autobiography. The result of this colloquy was, as Dr.
Child informs us in his Preface, that he gave an hour
in private each day to John and Katie, and "received
from them" the narratives embodied in the pamphlet in question.
It will be observed that our author unqualifiedly
asserts two facts; (I) That the materialized spirits of the
man John King, alias Sir Henry Morgan, and the girl
Katie King appeared at the sťances of Mr. and Mrs.
Holmes ; and (2) that the same spirits visited him
an hour each day, and dictated the autobiographical
narratives which compose the pamphlet to which allusion has been made.
Upon examination, these narratives prove to be very
explicit and circumstantial accounts of the earthly
experiences of the man and girl ; the manner of their
deaths; their experiences and progress in the world of
spirits; and their relations to the present spiritualistic
movement upon our earth. They are mutually corroborative,
and at the same time, indorse the reality of the spirit
appearances in the Holmes cabinet. To make his certification
of their genuineness and importance more emphatic, Dr. Child
uses, in the concluding paragraph of his Preface, the following language :
"These narratives, and especially the concluding one, enter quite
fully into an explanation of the spiritual manifestations. The statements
are of a profound character, and the writer, as an amautensis, asks
for them the most candid and deliberate consideration."
At page 35, he introduces the narrative of Katie
King, (the same whom he tells us he saw so often at
the Holmes sťances) with the assertion that " On the
fifth of June 1874, Katie and her father came to me in
my office, and after a brief conversation, she said, ' I
am now ready to begin my narrative,' and I wrote the
"MY DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER:
I should be very sorry if you inferred from the manner in which
I appear and speak to you and other friends when I am materialized
that that is a criterion of my present condition etc."
Here we have the positive assertion, by the Katie
King dictating to Dr. Child, in his office, that the Katie
King whom he had seen materialized at the Holmes'
and who had addressed him rudely, was none other than
herself; and the public was led by this assertion, as
well as by interesting articles contributed by General
F. J. Lippitt, to the Galaxy Magazine, of December,
1874, and by Mr. Owen, to the Atlantic Monthly, of
January 1875, as well as by frequent contributions by
the latter to the newspapers, to imagine that at least the
Katie of the public sťances was really a visitor to us
from the other world.
Such was the general belief until about the 5th of
January 1875, when a card was published by Mr. Owen,
to the effect that circumstantial evidence had come to
his knowledge which made it necessary that he should
withdraw his previous expressions of confidence in the
Holmeses. A similar card was issued by Dr. Child,
who gave notice that, from and after that date, he
would have nothing more to do with the sťances of
those mediums. On the 15th, Mr. Owen wrote me as
"You may have seen in the Banner of Light, or quoted from it,
a brief note of mine withdrawing the assurance hitherto given by
me of confidence in the Holmeses. An explanatory article from me
will appear in the Banner of December 19 (next Saturday).
I believe they have been latterly playing us false, which may be
only supplementing the genuine with the spurious; but it does cast
a doubt on last summers manifestations, so that I shall probably
not use them in my next book on Spiritualism. It is a loss; but
you and Mr. Crookes have amply made it up."
I quote the above because the same in substance has
been said by Mr. Owen in the public prints, and these
paragraphs succinctly define his position at the time.
The promised explanatory article made its appearance
at the time designated, and set forth that the writer
had some reason to fear that the spirit Katie King had
been personated by a woman hired for the purpose by
Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, and that there was more or less
doubt if any of the apparent materializations had been
genuine. A long letter from Dr. Child was also published,
taking the same position. Of course the matter
at once acquired very wide notoriety; the Philadelphia
Inquirer, at various times gave free and detailed accounts
of the manner in which the fraud had been perpetrated;
and the patient and credulously skeptical public for the
thousandth time thanked the gods that this spiritualistic
humbug was finally, and forever exploded.
There was still alas! a flavor of aloes in the sugar
pill. The real name of the woman claiming to have
enacted the part of Katie, as well as that of the person,
through whose instrumentality she had been detected
and induced to expose the nefarious plot, were carefully
On the 9th and 11th of January, the Inquirer printed what purported to be an
autobiographical sketch of "Katie King," duly attested by her oath, under her
pseudonym, before William B. Hanna, Judge of the Orphans' Court, in the presence
of William W. Harding, L. Clarke Davis, John G. Ford, A. C. Lambdin
M. D., Joseph Robinson and John J McKenna. At
this same interview: "the robes, coronet, etc. used by
Katie King, by which name she must be known," were
produced and identified, and in the Inquirer of the 9th,
there appeared, in the editorial columns, the following
"I hereby certify that I witnessed the signing of the above confession
of KATIE KING, and that it was signed, declared and affirmed
to be true by the person who appeared at the sťances of Mr. and Mrs.
Nelson Holmes, No. 50 North Ninth Street, and No. 825 North
Tenth Street, as the materialized spirit of KATIE KING.
HENRY T. CHILD M. D., No. 634 Race St.
This certificate was given four days after I arrived in
Philadelphia, and had announced to Dr. Child, in per-
son, that I was about to make a thorough investigation
into the facts, and into the mediumship of Mr. and
Mrs. Holmes, under strictly test conditions! It will
be observed that its identification of the unknown
woman as the supposed spirit Katie King is unqualified
and precise; as much so, almost, as Dr. Child's previous
certification of the identity of the spirit of the
Holmes sťances, with the spirit who dictated her auto-
biography to him, in his office, during the months of
May and June, 1874.
Reading it in connection with the statements of the
pamphlet, it is difficult to escape a conviction that a
witness who could so place himself on both sides of a
case would be turned out of court as incompetent. If
Mr. Owen was deceived by tricksters into believing the
cunning wench of the cabinets a materialized spirit, no
graver charge could he against him than that of surrendering
his caution too easily to his credulity; but
with Dr. Child the case is far different. He was not,
like Mr. Owen, obliged to depend alone upon his
external senses for the formation of his convictions,
for, as he informs us in his pamphlet, he" has long
been subject to influences from the interior world, and
having been accustomed to see and hear spirits, has
learned, etc." This inner sense, this unerring instinct
of the soul, it was that told him, in the privacy of his
office, that the real John and real Katie were talking to
him, both there and at the Holmes sťances, and his
certification of the fact gave force to the public belief
that the apparitions were real.
That a man so doubly sure, and a seer so doubly
endowed could, at one moment, act as biographer for
a girl spirit, whose identity was made an hundredfold
more certain by weeks of familiar intercourse, and, at
another, certify that the veiled woman exhibiting her
tinsel robes and flummery coronets before a council of
editors, was the self-same phantom, makes it absurd
to place any weight upon his testimony, except as sup-
ported by that of others, or by documents that have
not been tampered with. This, of course, is said with
no ill-feeling towards Dr. Child, and he himself must
have already apprehended the position into which his
precipitate action has forced him before the public.
His friends, who know him best and feel assured of his
personal integrity, may charge him only with a shocking
lack of discretion; but the outside world, who are
never nice (and alas! too often unjust) in their estimate
of motives, are quite as likely as not to find their explanation
for this change of front in the promise or
realization of personal advantage; which, for aught I
can prove, may be the very opposite of the truth.
While this witness is upon the stand, one question
must be asked: If the Katie autobiography was dictated
by the same person who showed herself at Holmes' ;
and the signer of the Hanna affidavit is the same woman
who appeared as the materialized spirit of Katie King;
and Eliza White was the one who swore to the
affidavit, then it must have been Eliza White who
dictated the Katie autobiography to Dr. Child; or, no
autobiography was dictated ; or, the spirit-girl is a
reality, and Eliza is a liar, and Child's later certificate
does not convey the truth: which of these is true?
The voluminous document, so strongly certified by
the worthy Doctor, demands a brief analysis at this
point. It comprises a personal narrative, and numerous
letters from Mr. Holmes and one from his wife to the
pseudonymous Katie King.
The woman begins by stating that she writes "this
narrative in the interest of truth, and for no other purpose
than to expose the guilty; from no prospect of
personal gain, and entirely without malice towards
any one." She tells us that she "was born on the first
day of January, 1851, in Massachusetts," that she pro-
poses to be known by the public only as "Katie King,"
and adds: " Like all others, I have, of course, a real
name (sic), but the public have no interest in knowing
what it is. I was married (foolish girl) when I was
between fourteen and fifteen years of age. I have one
child eight years old. My husband died upward of two
years ago, leaving me without any means of support,
and through my own exertions I have provided for
my child and my aged mother."
She was helped to a sum of money by a very near
friend of her mother's, and with it set up as a lodging-
house-keeper in the city of Philadelphia; in which
capacity she received Mr. and Mrs. Holmes under her
roof as tenants, in the month of March, 1874. These
persons began to give "their pretended spiritual manifestations, but
Katie King did not appear until some time afterward.
A description of the "dark seance" of Mrs. Holmes follows,
in which she asserts that the speaking of spirits in audible
voices, and the physical
manifestations, are to be explained as trickery and
deception. The dark seance is followed by one for
materialization," in which faces purporting to be those
of spirits are exhibited at the apertures, or windows
of the cabinet, but which, our informant tells us,
are only masks such as can be purchased in the shops
for "ten cents apiece." "They are placed," says she,
"in the hands of the medium and raised up to the
aperture, and by him manipulated to suit surroundingcircumstances."
Shortly after they were settled in a new house, in
Ninth street, the project of engaging this woman to
personate Katie King was broached by Mrs. Holmes.
Prefacing the confession with the remark that it is
useless to repeat all the conversation that passed
between them, although there might be two opinions
upon that point, she says: " I made up my mind to
play the part for a short time, hoping that something
better would turn up in my interest: in the meantime
I would be earning my expenses and doing no one any
harm" Her debut occurred on the evening of May
12th her fair form being clad in a thin, white French
muslin robe, fastened with a belt, a white veil thrown
over her head, and her face and arms being whitened
by a free application of cosmetic. The cabinet had
been duly constructed with a view to this fraud, by
being placed in front of a door communicating with
an adjacent bed-room, and a false panel was made in
its rear wall, through which the pseudo "spirit" could
make her entrances and exits. The reader will please
note this fact, for there will be occasion to refer to it again.
Everything worked to a charm. The face of our
faix but frail one was shown at the aperture to an
admiring circle, withdrawn, shown again, some words
were whispered by her, and " Materialization " was a
fixed fact. It became the talk of the town, crowds
came to witness the lovely apparition, and money
flowed into the coffers of the fortunate showman who,
she gives us to understand was none other than Dr. Child himself.
We are let into the secret of Mr. Owen's appearance at the sťances,
Dr. Child transmitting to him an invitation
from " Katie" to come and see her; much thesame as I,
myself, was, at a later day, invited to come.
He, like myself, was glad of the opportunity to see a
spirit, so pure and gentle, face to face, and in due
course moved to Philadelphia, and was at once addressed
in terms of filial tenderness by the fair ghost, and
reciprocated her affection. She wrote him notes, gave
him a lock of her golden hair (cut from a wig), received
presents of beads, and crosses, and flowers from him,
and generally, used his established reputation and ripe
scholarship as a means of profitable advertisement for
her disgusting trickery. Things went on thus from
bad to worse, dupes being made by hundreds, if not
thousands, and the fame of the spirit spreading through-
out the whole world, wherever books are read and newspapers taken.
Meanwhile, remorse entered the soul of the actress
in this comedy of shame, and, in her pitiful story, she
paints us a picture of herself as she tossed on her couch
in the still watches of the night. " After the first two
or three nights my whole nature" says she, "revolted
at the idea of this gross deception * * *. The interest
manifested by the people kept increasing, which only
aggravated my sensitive nature (sic). I was often sick
at heart; I felt that I was guilty of a great crime.
Night after night was my pillow wet with tears; the
heart would overflow with grief. I appeared to be
surrounded with a cloud of sorrow from which there
was no escape. Here was my helpless little boy, and
frail, old mother looking to me for bread. In my
troubled dreams I seemed to see their eyes riveted on
me, saying, 'Our whole hope and dependence is on
you."' But the theme is too painful ; let us draw the
curtain upon this sacred sorrow of the conscience-
stricken woman! Poor widow! Sweet boy! Helpless old mother!
Success naturally made both the mediums and their
ally bolder, and many pranks were played from first
to last. Among these she mentions the simulated
fading away and reforming of her shape, by the help of
black cloths; the appearance of an Indian-squaw spirit;
the apparition of the late General Rawlings, by some
scoundrelly confederate whose name is suppressed;
the writing of a communication to Mr. Owen, by the
detached hand of the spirit of that famous divine Frederick
W. Robertson; and, finally, the taking of her photograph,
in the character of Katie King, by daylight.
But Nemesis was on her track, and her day of
detection came. A gentleman attendant at the sťances,
whom she describes as having " a very mild, modest
manner," and whose name, in spite of her attempts at
concealment, has since been declared in sundry newspapers to be W. O. Leslie, a railroad contractor residing
in Philadelphia, called at the house one day, while the Holmeses were taking their vacation in Blissfield,
Michigan, (and she was in sole charge of the premises),
and interrogated her. She saw that he suspected her
identity with Katie, and she shuddered; as, indeed, one
of so high-strung a temperament might be expected to
do. But nevertheless she lied to him, and the mild,
modest-mannered man took his leave. Then how
"mean" she felt, for she had told a falsehood, and
furthermore, the gentleman knew that she had. If
any of our readers," she ingenuously remarks, "have
ever occupied the humiliating position of having been
caught in telling a fib, and experienced the mental
suffering which follows, particularly to those who
have a sensitive disposition, they will know something
of the experience of the lady on this occasion."
But the gentleman did not press matters, and for a
time she was safe.
The Holmeses left for the West in July, and our
autobiographer says that by preconcert she followed
them on the 8th of September, reaching Blissfield on
the 12th, and appearing in her favorite character at a
seance the same evening. Blissfield being a small village,
she was confined to her room constantly for fear
that she might be recognized, and a weary time it was
to her. After a fortnight had elapsed a circle was
held one evening to accommodate a party from Adrian,
and an initial person named "Mr. B" caught her in
his arms, and came near exposing the whole deception.
But she escaped from him, through a clever ruse of
Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, and this brought matters in that
quarter to a close. She and Mrs. Holmes left for Cold
Water, Mich., and gradually found their way back to
Philadelphia, via Toledo.
Tired and disgusted with the whole affair, she now
"called on Doctor Child," stated to him that she was
penniless, asked him to help her recover some forty
dollars the Holmeses owed her, and promised that "if
he would comply with my request, I would tell him all
about the particulars of Katie King, that I was fully posted
in the matter, and would tell him everything." But the
Doctor turned a deaf ear to her, which excited her
amazement; as well it might.
She encountered Mr. Holmes at the Doctor's house,
and, a few days subsequently, entered into an arrangement
with that person, to write a letter to the former
retracting what she had said; for as she remarks
"Necessity knows no law: I had just ten cents in my
pocket." The letter was dictated to her by Holmes,
and by her mailed to an acquaintance in Massachusetts,
to be re-mailed thence to Doctor Child, and thus convey
to him the impression that she was far away from Philadelphia.
She no longer lived under the same roof with the
Holmes family, and one day was surprised by a visit
from the "mild and modest" Mr. Leslie, who taxed
her outright with having played the part of Katie, and
offered her pecuniary assistance,-" substantial aid," she
calls it; and adds that he put the question, "Now
please state to me how much it will take to relieve you
from your present embarrassment." This sort of argument
proved as efficacious as it had before on various
occasions, when advanced by Holmes; and, one by one,
she produced the stock of crosses, beads, and jewelry,
which she had accumulated in her character-part by
the donations of admiring visitors at the sťances.
The concluding scene of the comedy was soon played.
On the evening of the 5th of December, a mock seance
was held, at which she enacted for Mr. Owen, Dr.
Child, and two others, the "business " of her spirit role,
and Mr. Owen's card was forthwith given to the public.
It is safe to say that no document connected with this
subject ever made a greater sensation. It was a staggering
blow, not only to the great multitude of lukewarm
investigators, but also to Mr. Owen's warmest
personal friends. These latter could not forgive his
making so unqualified a recantation of all his previous
guarantees of the value of his experiments with these
mediums, without, at least, devoting some time to
putting their mediumship to the proof, and so discovering
and separating the true manifestations from the
I have thus rapidly sketched the story of this woman,
so as to compress within these few pages the substance
of a statement which occupies thirteen columns of solid
type in the Inquirer. The salient points of her pretended
revelation may be stated as follows:
(1) She says she was born on the first of January,1851.
(2) She has a real name, but the public have no
interest in knowing it.
(3) She is a widow; her husband having died two years ago.
(4) The mediumship of Mr. and Mrs. Holmes is a
gross misrepresentation in toto, not only the pretended
" materializations" being fictitious, but also the phenomena
which occur in their dark sťances.
(5) As early as May, 1874, she began to personate
Katie King, in a trick walnut cabinet, provided with
movable boards in the back, by which she entered it
from an adjoining bed-chamber.
(6) The notes given by Katie to Mr. Owen and
others were written by her.
(7) The locks of hair given by her to various persons
were cut from a wig she wore.
(8) She was burdened by shame and grief at the
deception she practiced, and the falsehoods she told.
(9) She played the parts of other spirits beside
and a confederate of hers appeared as General
(10) The photograph sold by Dr. Child as that of
Katie King, was in fact her own portrait.
(11) She joined the Holmeses in Michigan, and
there played Katie to small but select audiences, and
was once actually caught in the arms of a skeptical
(12) She offered to divulge the fraud to Dr. Child,
if he would pay her, or cause the Holmeses to pay her,
a sum of money.
(13) She resumed the criminal relations of conspiracy
with Holmes, and in pursuance thereof wrote the letter
to Child retracting her previous assertions to him.
(14) She finally was offered money by her Unknown
to expose the swindle, accepted the proposition, and
gave, on the evening of December 5th, a mock seance.
It should be stated, further, that, both at this seance,
and at an interview with Mr. Owen and others, the
next day, she was so closely veiled that no one had a
glimpse of her features. "Katie was so completely
disguised," says she, "no one would have recognized her
as the same who had personated the spirit."
The italics are mine, and are designed to call attention
to a performance wholly in keeping with her
behavior throughout this affair. In the concealment
of her name; the concealment of the name of the person
designated in her autobiography as an "amateur
"since asserted to be Mr. Leslie; in the veiling of her face
at the mock-seance and subsequent
interview; worst of all,
in the swearing to her affidavit
under the cover of an alias,
we have conduct that is
calculated to make us view with the
both the veracity of her statements, and the motives
actuating her to make them. When we add to this the
alleged fact of her concealment in Philadelphia, while
pretending to be elsewhere, at the time of my visit,
and the failure of my attempt to get a sight of her,
such confidence as might have been generously
accorded to the story of a self-confessed swindler, liar
and cheat is wholly destroyed.
A person paraded before the public in such a character as
she assumes, must of course expect to be closely
criticized, and have inquiry made into her antecedents;
for her reputation for truth, and her moral character
have a most important bearing upon the question
whether her tale shall be believed.
The word of states' witnesses is always taken with great caution,
and few juries are disposed to deprive an accused person of liberty
or life upon such testimony, when unsupported.
I am sorry to say that an investigation into the personal history
of this woman discloses little to her credit,
and much to the contrary. Her real name is Eliza
Frances White, but she is said to have passed under a
number of aliases, at various times. Her family name is
Potter, and she was born in Lee, Massachusetts,
apparently long before the date sworn to in her pretended
autobiography. Her father, a stonecutter by trade,
moved to Canton, Connecticut, and died there. Her
mother and the rest of the family were then thrown upon
the bounty of Wilson B. White, commonly called " Bub "
White, and took up their abode in the town of Winsted.
Eliza lived with White for some ten or twelve years, and
bore him a son, but I have been unable to ascertain whether they were married.
At the outbreak of the war, he enlisted in the 19th
Connecticut Volunteers, a Heavy Artillery regiment, as
Drum Major, and Eliza joined him in the defenses of
Washington City, where she cooked for an officers' mess,
and worked so hard to support herself as to gain the
commendation of her husband's superiors. After a lapse
of a year and a half, the regiment was ordered to the
front, and Eliza is reported to have abandoned herself to
a life of immorality in Alexandria. Upon the return of
the regiment, at the close of the war, White settled down
in Winsted, and became the proprietor of a low drinking
saloon called the" Rock House." He also traveled
with a " side-show " of natural curiosities and clogdancers
and ballad-singers, and Eliza took part in both
dancing and singing.
The Winsted Press says of her :
It seems that Katie has been known here as the wife of Mr.
Wilson B. White. She left him a while since, Winsted being too
'stoopid' and monotonous for her enterprising spirit, and, following
the leadings of her own sweet will, tarried a while in Brooklyn, then
in Manhattan and finally dropped down upon the city of brotherly
love as a soft, white, spiritual thing, direct from that other city of love,
Where saints and angels dwell."
The Waterbury American, another journal of the
vicinity, enters more into details, thus "
" Katie King alias Mrs. White also had some experience in the
variety show business. Some years ago her husband, familiarly
known as "Bub" White, gave a sort of variety entertainment, under
canvas, on the fair grounds in Litchfield, while the annual county
cattle-show was in progress. The show consisted of a wild-cat 'as
ferocious and untamable as a South American hyena,' a singing boy
'with a voice like the mocking-bird's,' and 'Bub,' who was a violin
player, composed the orchestra. Katie King made her debut on that
occasion as a serio-comic vocalist, and as she was endowed with a
good share of personal charms, and appeared in a bewitching costume,
she took immensely, and the country swains poured out their
'dime and a half like water."
Disagreement of a serious nature finally occurred
between the pair, on account of White's enforced support
of Eliza's family, and the interference of an intemperate
son of his in the government of the household. The
result was that, in or about January, 1874, she left
Winsted with her own child, a boy of nine or ten years,
and has been shifting for herself in Philadelphia ever
since. An uncle residing in Brooklyn advanced her some
$6oo to set herself up in the lodging-house business, and
her meeting with the Holmeses followed soon after.
Her sworn statement that she is a widow of two years'
standing, is false. I have recently seen and conversed
with White himself. I pressed him to inform me if he
were ever married to Eliza, and he declined to answer,
remarking that "a man was not obliged to say anything
to criminate himself." Her statement that she is dependent
upon her own exertions for support, for herself and
son, he unhesitatingly contradicted ; for he says he is
worth considerable property, and is ready to provide for
her whenever she returns home and agrees to behave
herself. In fact, as we walked together through the
streets of the village, he pointed out several tenements
which he said were his property. Other persons corroborated
this statement, and I found that it was generally
admitted that he was in comfortable circumstances. He
has a poor opinion of the woman's dramatic talents, and
does not regard her as competent to fill an engagement
in a " variety theatre."
Upon inquiring of a number of respectable citizens of
Winsted, I found that her reputation for morality was
not good, but how much of this is due to prejudice I
cannot say. Parties formerly connected with her husband's
regiment agree in the statement that her conduct
in Alexandria was not that of a virtuous woman.
That her reputed husband is not dead, as she alleges,
the following certificate will show:
WINSTED, CONN., Feb. 5th, 1875.
I hereby certify that I am personally acquainted with a woman
named Eliza White, whose maiden name was Potter; I also know
Wilson B. White, commonly known as " Bob" White, the reputed
husband of the said Eliza ; I am also acquainted with her sister who
is the wife of James Adams, and also with her brother.
The said Wilson B. White is now and has been for many years
a resident of this town, but the said Eliza is now in the city of
Philadelphia, as I am informed; and is, or was at last accounts,
living in the same house with a family of spiritual mediums, whose
names I do not know.
STEPHEN W. SAGE,
Chief of Police.
While in Philadelphia, I met a gentleman named Allen,
said to be a justice of the Peace at Vineland, N. J., and,
as I learn by inquiries made at Lee, Massachusetts, a
trustworthy person, who gave me much information as to
Eliza's early history, which, at my request, he put into
the form of the following affidavit :
"City of Philadelphia, ss State of Pennsylvania.
" Hosea Allen of Landis Township,
Cumberland County and State of New Jersey, a Justice of the Peace,
being duly sworn according to law deposes and says, that he has read
an article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer of January 9th and
11th 1875, entitled, "Katie King," "Her full history as related by
herself," which article is supported by the affidavit of "Katie King," in
which she states she was born on the first day of January, 1851, in
the State of Massachusetts, and that she, in collusion with Mr. Nelson
Holmes and his wife, Mrs. Jennie Holmes, did, at No. 50 North
Ninth Street, Philadelphia, during the last Summer, fraudulently
personate a spirit-form known as " Katie King," from the 12th of
May, 1874, and other alleged spirit-forms which appeared after June
20, 1874, at the sťances given by Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, at that place.
And deponent further says, that he lived at Lee, Berkshire County,
Massachusetts, from 1838 until 1863, that from 1842 until 1857 he
was superintendent of the Methodist Episcopal Sunday-School of
that town, that about 1846, Eliza Potter, (since married to a man by
the name of Wilson B. White,) became a pupil in that Sunday-School,
that she was at that time apparently about six years old, and that he
has every reason to believe she cannot be under thirty-five years,
that she attended the school at irregular intervals for six or seven
years, and continued to live in the town several years after she left
the school; that during that time she was a very wayward girl, and
caused her father a great deal of trouble ; that she was so untruthful
that those to whom she spoke never knew when to believe her, and
that her moral reputation in other respects, was as bad as it could be.
Deponent further says that in June last, he visited Mr. and Mrs.
Holmes at No. 5o North Ninth Street, Philadelphia; that on entering
the sitting-room on that occasion, he saw and recognized Eliza
White (formerly Eliza Potter), who at once recognized him and
called him by name; that he remained at the house two days, during
which time he saw and conversed with her frequently, and cannot be
mistaken as to her identity. That on the same afternoon, Dr. Henry
T. Child, assisted by a mechanic and himself, put up the black
walnut cabinet which was afterwards used at the subsequent sťances,
that they only completed the work a short time before the circle was
to meet on that evening; that he remembers distinctly that Dr. Child
called his attention to the fact that the battens were being fastened
with forty screws ; that as the cabinet was then constructed in his
presence, it was impossible for any one to have entered it or left it by
way of the adjoining room, or in any other manner, without being seen
by all present. That just before the circle commenced that evening, he,
deponent, left his room in the third story, and in passing the door of
the front room, which is directly over the circle-room, he saw Mrs.
White sitting in that room, that frequently while the circle continued,
he heard Mrs. White distinctly humming tunes, the front windows
of both rooms being open, and he also heard her walking about the
room. That five or six different faces appeared at the apertures of
the cabinet; also, several hands and arms were thrust out of the
same apertures during the seance, among which "Katie King"
appeared several times. That the latter spoke in an audible whisper
from the cabinet several times; that while she was so talking, the
singing of Mrs. White in the room above became so annoying as to
cause remark by those in the circle, and interfered with the hearing
of the voice from the cabinet, and that he cannot be mistaken about
the voice humming or singing being that of Mrs. White. Deponent
further says that it was impossible for Mrs. White on that occasion
to have personated " Katie King ;" and he further says that he asked
Mrs. White during his stay at the house, whether she had attended
the sťances at that place, to which she replied, she had attended
them but once, and that she thought them wonderful.
"In Testimony whereof, I hereunto set my hand and affix the
seal this 22d day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and seventy-five.
HOSEA ALLEN, Esqr."
" Sworn and subscribed this 22d day of January, A. D. 1875.
FRANCIS HOOD, [Seal]
This witness, if unimpeached, convicts Eliza of more
perjuries than one, for he not only challenges her age,
but also shows that, upon at least one occasion, it must
have been physically impossible for her to have been
down stairs personating Katie King, when, up stairs, in
the chamber overhead, she was making such a racket as
to disturb the seance while Katie was out of the cabinet,
among the spectators. I give this affidavit for what it is
worth, and those who know judge Allen better than I
can decide what credence to accord to his statements.
I should add that Dr. Child's friends deny emphatically
that he assisted in putting up the cabinet; and, on the
other hand, will say that judge Allen's story of Mrs.
White's being up stairs upon the evening in question,
has been corroborated to me by the statements of others
who were present.
If the reader will now refer back to Eliza's statement
that she began her personations of Katie King in a trick
walnut cabinet in the Ninth Street house, I will venture
a few remarks upon that head.
In her "Autobiography of Katie King," she describes
the cabinet as being made of dark, or walnut boards
across one corner of the room, and illustrates the same
by a diagram, which it is not worth while to copy here.
Now, it happens that in his article in the December
Galaxy, General Lippitt (a gentleman of the most unimpeachable honor) describes the cabinet from which he
saw Katie emerge, as quite a different affair. He says
" The cabinet or sanctum in which spirits were said to clothe
themselves in mortal forms, consisted of the following simple
arrangement: The bedroom door was left open at an angle of 60
deg. ; on the opposite doorpost a second door was attached, which
came out to meet it at the same angle; and when the two doors thus
met, the recess formed was obviously an equilateral triangle, just
large enough to comfortably contain the medium, Mr. Holmes,
seated in a chair. Whenever this little sanctum was to be used, the
light was excluded from above by a triangular piece of wood laid
across the tops of the two doors. This cover was lined on the
inside with black cloth, as were also the insides of the two doors.
The air being thus shut out from the little closet, the necessity of
the air holes through the wood partition was apparent. Through
the one of these two doors which faced the spectators, at the height
of some five feet from the floor, was a circular aperture or window,
about ten inches in diameter, at. which the faces were to be seen.
A black curtain hung on the inside of it, which was drawn aside
just before a face presented itself.
The most searching examination of this sanctum, which was
usually made by invitation just before the sitting commenced, both
on the parlor and on the bedroom side of the board partition, failed
to detect the slightest indication of any trap, wire. or other arrangement
for the use of machinery or for deception. The first two or
three evenings I attended, I made a careful examination myself,
and on one occasion jointly with a professional magician, a pupil of
Blitz, who told me he was perfectly satisfied that " there was no
chance for any trick there."
General Lippitt, in a recent communication to the
Banner of Light, says that the cabinet Eliza describes
was not erected until the 5th of June, whereas his attendance
at the sťances occurred in the early and middle
part of May. It scarcely needs an enumeration of the
wonderful phenomena witnessed by that gentleman-
such as the melting out of Katie's eyes, when she had
been too long exposed to the light ; the simultaneous
appearance of numerous little and big hands at the
aperture; and the identification of sundry spirits by their
relatives-to satisfy us that Eliza's pretended revelations
have no bearing upon his experiences.
I pass over, for the present, the remaining points made
in the so-called Autobiography, because the best answer
to them is to be found in the report of what occurred
during my investigation of the Holmes mediumship.
I cannot too earnestly press upon my readers the
attitude I am determined to maintain towards this whole
spiritualistic question. What I am in search of is proof
positive that the partial or complete materialization of
spirit-forms has occurred, and can occur again under
laws now occult. I have not, nor will I play the part of
the mouchard, searching out the immorality of mediums
or the trickeries they resort to, except in so far as it may
be necessary, in the one case, to weigh their testimony,
and, in the other, to learn how their roguery may be
made impossible of repetition. It is nothing to the cause
of Science that ninety-nine times mediums have tricked,
but it is of prime importance to it to know that in one
solitary case there has been an exhibition of genuine
materialization. The one grain of wheat out values the
whole bin-full of chaff, for that grain may, some day, lead
to an abundant harvest, over the whole earth.
It will be found, therefore, that in this particular
instance, as in that of the Chittenden manifestations, I
will spend very little time in trying to discover whether
the mediums cheated often or seldom, whether Eliza
White glided out of the cabinet frequently in Katie's
costume, and whether the correspondence of Nelson
Holmes has been tampered with. I assume here, as I
did in Vermont, that the mediums can cheat, that they
will cheat if necessary, and that they are disposed to
cheat if the investigator should relax his vigilance for a
moment. And so presupposing, it would be the sheerest
waste of time for me to search back through the whole
American and English career of the Holmeses, to discover
how often, if ever, they played upon the public credulity.
But what I went to Philadelphia to discover, and what
I mean to discuss, is whether Eliza White's charge that
the mediumship of Mr. and Mrs. Holmes was a sham,
and their materializations a wretched fraud upon the
credulity of Mr. Owen and hundreds of other honorable
and earnest persons.
Our case is now nearly disembarrassed of irrelevant
features, Dr. Child's certificate to the identity of Eliza
White and Katie King having been shown to be worthless,
by reason of his previous self-committal to the contrary
fact; and Eliza's own affidavit-narrative being inadmissible
in evidence, by reason of her impeachment by good
and sufficient witnesses. Both she and her endorser
being turned out of Court, the whole question of the
existence of Katie and John King is reopened, and we
must fall back upon the facts, I have been enabled to
collect, under my own test conditions, to ascertain
whether Mr. Owen and General Lippitt ever saw a real
spirit-form in the Holmes' circle-room.
If any further proof of the utter worthlessness of Eliza's
statements concerning the part she pretended to have
played in the Philadelphia comedy were required, it is
more than supplied in the following document:
50 N. 9th St., PHILADELPHIA, PA., I8 August, 1874.
MR. and Mrs. HOLMS
DEAR FRIENDS :-I will try and get your things shipped by next
week. I could not see the furniture man today but will tomorrow.
Doctor Childs comes in here with Dr. Paxson, Mrs. Buckwalter, Mr.
Leslie, Mrs. Childs, and they hold sťances and go on just as though
they owned the house. I don't think Childs is a friend of yours.
He don't act like it. All the time prying into everything and all he
cares for you is to make money off of your mediumship. The man
that called the other day has called again yesterday. His name is
Leslie. Leslie said " Mrs. White are you a medium." I told him I
was. He said I saw your advertisement in the Daily Item last June
but I could today to ask you if you know anything about the
Holmesses as everybody says that it is you that is playing Katie
King. Now you are a poor woman and I can't see why you do it.
You look a good deal like Katie King and if you know anything and
will tell me all about it, several gentleman and myself well pay you
$1000, and stand by you and guarantee to protect you, and we will
pay you the money in advance. We want to stop all this spiritual
business that is going all over the country and we will put the
Holmesses down if you will only tell me and my friends all you
know about it. I told him I did not know anything about your
affairs, that if you were not genuine mediums there was none. I did
not see how it could be a humbug as the people had tested the matter
in such a way and had published all over. He said yes I know all
that, but we think you are the one that plays K. K. and if you will
tell us we will pay you and stand by you. I told him I could not
tell anything as I didn't know anything. Soon after a man called
to see me about the same thing he does business 1210 Market street.
I think his name is Roberts. He came one night to see your seance
with a party of young men to tear the cabinet down and catch some
body, but they had their trouble for there pains. He is the same
one that tried to frighten you by sending a lawyer to get his money
back. He talked a long time but acted very strange. I told him
same as I did Leslie. Now what does all this mean I wish you
would come back to this city. I think it would be best for you as I
don't hear anything talked of but K. K. and the Holmesses. How
funny that everybody should think that I am the spirit. How
absurd. But all this causes me great trouble and I don't like it. I
think I will try and keep the house a month. Mrs. Hannis, who
lives at 262 Madison Street, will go in with me I will try my hand
with her a month. Evans is at me all the time to know if I will
take the house. That $50 you gave me to live on and to take care
of your things and ship them is all gone, but I guess something will
turn up to help me out. Your friend F.-anti. Your friend
State of Pennsylvania,
City of Philadelphia. SS.
Nelson Holmes and Jennie Homes
being duly sworn, severally depose and say that the above is a true
copy of a letter received by them at Blissfield, Mich., in the month
of August last, from Mrs. Eliza White, alias Frank Stephens ; that
they have each of them seen the said White, alias Stephens, write,
and that the original document of which the above is a copy, is in
her handwriting, and the handwriting is identical with other letters
received from the same person.
And deponents further say that after they returned from the West
to Philadelphia the said White, alias Stephens, came to see them to
complain that Dr. Henry T. Child had not paid her for the rent of
the house No. 5o North 9th St., which deponents occupied before
going West, but which the said White, alias Stephens, took for one
month upon her own responsibility, but with some expectation that
the said Child would see the rent paid if deponents would return to
the said house ; and the said White, failing to induce deponents to
agree to refund the said rent, which indeed they were unable to do,
significantly remarked that a number of gentlemen of wealth, including members of the Young Men's Christian Association, were ready
to pay her a large sum of money, and she need not trouble them any
In testimony whereof the said deponents have hereunto signed
their names this 25th day of January A. D. 1375.
Sworn and Subscribed, this 25th day of January A. D. 1375.
Here we have our frail Eliza asserting, in a very
emphatic fashion, in confidential correspondence with
her ex-lodgers: (1) That she has been tempted by
Mr. Leslie in the sum of $1,000, and also by a Mr.
Roberts to confess that she played Katie King; (2)
That she denied to both of them unreservedly that she
had ever done so, and asseverated the genuine medium-
ship of the Holmeses, but nevertheless Mr. Leslie
persisted in his suggestions and offers; (3) That she
does not understand what this all means, and hopes the
Holmeses will return to Philadelphia, and thus relieve
her of all this importunity. When we compare this
letter of the 18th of August with her letter from North
Cambridge, Mass., to Dr. Child, repudiating all knowledge
of fraud in the Katie King affair (which she now
avers was written by Homes' dictation), we have very
strong prima facie evidence that her whole story of
having personated the spirit is false.
The Mr. Leslie she alludes to is no doubt the person
of that name who finally engineered the expose of
December 5th, for he was a constant attendant at the
sťances, and no other Mr. Leslie has been mentioned
in connection with this affair. Mr. Roberts is a
nephew of Mr. J. M. Roberts, a wealthy gentleman of
Burlington, N. J., and a staunch friend of the Holmeses
from first to last. He informed me that his nephew
had acknowledged to him that an officer of the
Young Men's Christian Association of Philadelphia,
called upon him several times last summer, and tried
to enlist his services to help break down spiritualism,
in general and the Holmeses in particular, but that he
had declined. Moreover, he has recently re-affirmed,
in a letter to General Lippitt, his denial, and protested
against his being included among the conspirators. I
know no more of the facts of the case than appears in
the documentary evidence, and leave it to the parties
interested to fight it out among themselves. It certainly
will strike the public as strange that Eliza White
should so circumstantially describe the visit and
importunity of Mr. Roberts, if no such things had
ever occurred; and the only possible explanation of the
mystery must be sought either in the personation of
Mr. Roberts by some other individual, or a deliberate
falsehood on the part of Eliza-a falsehood without
In the interest of good morals, it is to be hoped that
Eliza's hints of the connection of her tempters with the
Young Men's Christian Association have no warrant
in fact; for it would be regarded as an infamous outrage
in this day and country, for any religious body
to resort to bribery and the subornation of perjury, for
the purpose of crushing out any other religious faith.
There is still other evidence going to show that
Eliza was not always, if ever, Katie King, for, on the
very evening when she was exploding the whole humbug,
by giving a mock-seance to Mr. Leslie, Mr. Owen,
Doctor Child and another, the things happened that
are related in the following affidavits: which, but for
burdening my report with redundant testimony, I might have
had corroborated by numerous other affidavits to the same effect.
State of Pennsylvania,
City of Philadelphia. ss.
W. H. Westcott, being duly sworn,
says that he resides in the city of Philadelphia, State of Pennsylvania;
that on the night of the 5th of December, 1874, he in company with
some fifteen or twenty persons was present at the residence of Mr.
and Mrs. Holmes, 825 North Tenth street, where a seance was being
held; that between the hours of eight and ten o'clock on said night,
while Mr. Holmes was in the cabinet, he saw issue from the cabinet
the spirit-form of what is known to be "Katie King;" that she first
came to the aperture, showed her face several times, spoke to the
audience, was recognized by many of those present, who had seen
her on several occasions at No. 50 North 9th Street, and afterwards
she opened the door and stepped out among the audience. This
she repeated three times during the seance. And deponent says
that the "Katie King" who appeared on the said evening was the
identical spirit who had shown herself during the preceding two
months at the same place through them mediumship of the said Mr.
and Mrs. Holmes.
In testimony whereof the deponent has hereunto signed his name
this 25th day of January, 1875.
WM. H. WESTCOTT.
Affirmed and subscribed, this 25th day of January, A. D. 1875.
State of Pennsylvania,
City of Philadelphia. ss.
Adolphus Fellger, M.D., being
sworn, says that he is a practicing physician in the city of Philadelphia
and resides at Number 154 North 11th Street; that he has read
the foregoing affidavit and knows the facts therein stated to be true,
he having been present at the seance described. And deponent
further says that he has seen the spirit known as "Katie King" in
all perhaps eighty times, is perfectly familiar with her features, and
cannot be mistaken as to the identity of the Katie King who appeared
upon the evening of December 5th, for, while the said spirit scarcely
ever appeared of exactly the same height or features two evenings in
succession, her voice was always the same, and the expression of her
eyes and the topics of her conversation enabled him to be still more
certain of her being the same person.
AD FELLGER, M.D.
Sworn and subscribed before me this 25th day of January, 1875.
WM. P. HIBBERD,
Doctor Adolf Fellger, who signs one of these affidavits,
is well-known and widely respected as a physician
in Philadelphia. He is beloved by all who have been
so fortunate as to make his acquaintance. Mr. Owen
describes him, in his letter to me of December 28th, as
"a popular and highly esteemed German physician of
this city," (Philadelphia), and his simple word would
outweigh a score of affidavits of your Eliza Whites.
Again, I have before me sundry letters written by
Mr. Holmes to Eliza White and Doctor Child from
Michigan, which speak of Katie King's having appeared
in their circles out there. On the 25th of August he
writes to Dr. Child that they held a seance on the 21st,
at which "Katie came and showed herself splendid,"
while on the 28th he writes to Mrs. White instructions
about packing and shipping his furniture from Philadelphia
Clearly Mrs. White could not be in the latter
city occupying the house, and in Michigan playing the
part of Katie King at one and the same time. On
September 4th, he writes to Child, that "K. K. comes
to us better than ever, but seems troubled about something
that we can't find out. What does she tell you?"
And Eliza does not pretend, in her affidavit to have
gone West before the 12th of September. Who, then,
was personating Katie before her arrival?
The occurrence of the phenomena in Blissfield, while
Eliza was still in Philadelphia is, furthermore, attested
by Doctor Child himself in a letter of July to the
Religio-Philosophical Journal, of Chicago, and in this
same letter he speaks of knowing the woman, and being
able to declare that she was not Katie King.
It does seem as if there never was so tangled a skein
as this to unravel.
In fact, when I review the whole of the evidence in
this case-the assertions and counter assertions of
Eliza; the contradictions of all her material statements
by the Holmeses, and their plausible explanations of
the suspicious sentences in Mr. Holmes' letters to her;
the circumstantially minute descriptions given by Mr.
Owen of things seen by him, which no theory of
personation by Eliza, or any other mortal explains;
the added testimony of General Lippitt; the recent
confession of Mr. and Mrs. Holmes to General Lippitt,
that Doctor Child procured Mrs. White to stand for
the photograph of Katie sold by him; the fact that this
picture bears no resemblance to a portrait of Eliza in
my possession, which was taken after the "Katie photo-
graph; " the rash certificate of Doctor Child as to the
identity of Eliza and Katie, after the fatal statements
in his pamphlet, and his astonishing self-contradictions
in his newspaper contributions-when I consider all
these, I confess that I am completely unable to decide
whether there ever was such a thing as a false personation
of the spirit at all. Like the Comte de Gabalis, I
am tempted to say; "In short I could make neither
head nor tail on't." Nothing but a full confession
by the Holmeses to the fact, backed by corroborative
proof, will throw light upon the foggy subject. Their
450 451 drawing
unsupported assertion would not alone suffice to convict
them, for we have all seen enough of mediums and
mediumship to know that "lying spirits" may just as
well now, as in Bible times, (See I Kings XXII, 19 to
23) control mediums, perhaps even to the denying of
crimes they have committed, and the confessing to
others of which they are wholly innocent.
Look at this very matter of the photograph. General
Lippitt tells us in the Banner of Light, of February 6th
instant, that the Holmeses confessed to him, on the 31st
of January, that Eliza stood for the Katie pictures. Well,
let the reader judge for himself whether this is so or not.
Here we have a copy of that photograph, and, beside it,
one given to me as a portrait of Eliza, and alleged to have
been taken since the other was published by Dr. Child.
Do they look alike? Is there any resemblance between
the two faces in the breadth of jaw-bone, prominence of
cheek-bone, shape and length of nose, curve of nostril,
length of lower jaw, or shape of head-in a word, in
either of those salient features of a head and face which
emaciation does not alter? If I had been permitted to
see the shrinking affiant, I might better judge of the
fidelity of the two portraits, or either, to the original. As
it is, I can only say that the one which the public will
now see for the first time, was given to me by one who has
the best of reasons for knowing whether it is good or not,
and who assures me that it is the woman herself. It was
also identified by the Chief of Police, Mr. Sage, and by
other citizens of Winsted.
The best we can do, under the circumstances, is to put
the whole batch of contradictory testimony about this
entire case in a pigeon-hole, and escape out of this
quagmire of doubt upon the solid ground of fact, as
demonstrated by the experiments and investigations to
which I will now ask the reader's attention.
I reached Philadelphia, as before observed, on the 4th
of January, and called upon Mr. Leslie, Doctor Child,
Mr. Owen, Dr. Fellger and others. I took rooms at
the private hotel of Mrs. Martin, in Girard Street, where
our friend Madame de Blavatsky, was also quartered.
My acquaintance with Mme. de B., begun under such
interesting circumstances at Chittenden, has continued,
and recently become more intimate in consequence of
her having accepted the offer of M. Aksakow the eminent
St. Petersburgh publisher, former tutor to the Czarowitch,
to translate my Chittenden letters into the Russian
language for republication in the capital of the Czar.
I gradually discovered that this lady, whose brilliant
accomplishments and eminent virtues of character, no
less than her exalted social position, entitle her to the
highest respect, is one of the most remarkable mediums
in the world. At the same time, her mediumship is
totally different from that of any other person I ever met;
for, instead of being controlled by spirits to do their will,
it is she who seems to control them to do her bidding.
Whatever may be the secret by which this power
has been attained, I cannot say, but that she possesses it,
I have had too many proofs to permit me to doubt the
fact. Many years of her life have been passed in
Oriental lands, where what we recognize as Spiritualism,
has for years been regarded as the mere rudimental
developments of a system which seems to have established
such relations between mortals and the immortals as to
enable certain of the former to have dominion over
many of the latter. I pass by such of the mysteries of
the Egyptian, Hindoo and other priestly orders, as
may be ascribed to a knowledge of the natural sciences,
and refer to those higher branches of that so-called
White Magic, which has been practiced for countless
centuries by the initiated.
Whether Mme. de B. has been admitted behind the
veil or not can only be surmised, for she is very reticent
upon the subject, but her startling gifts seem impossible
of explanation upon any other hypothesis. She wears
upon, her bosom the mystic jeweled emblem of an
Eastern Brotherhood, and is probably the only representative
in this country of this fraternity, "who, (as Bulwer remarks,)
"in an earlier age boasted of secrets of which the Philosopher's
Stone was but the least; who considered themselves the heirs
of all that the Chaldeans, the Magi, the Gymnosophists, and the
Platonists had taught; and who differed from all the darker sons
of Magic in the virtue of their lives, the purity of their doctrines and
their insisting, as the foundation of all wisdom, on the subjugation
of the senses, and the intensity of Religious Faith."
After knowing this remarkable lady, and seeing the
wonders that occur in her presence so constantly that
they actually excited at length but a passing emotion of
surprise, I am almost tempted to believe that the stories
of Eastern fables are but simple narratives of fact; and
that this very American outbreak of spiritualistic phenomena
is under the control of an Order, which while depending
for its results upon unseen agents, has its existence upon
Earth among men.
The occurrence of the phenomena I am about to
describe is calculated to arouse the deepest interest
in the mind of every student in Psychology. They rob
the episode of the buckle brought from the Russian
General's grave to his daughter in Chittenden of the
greater part of its appearance of improbability; and, taken
in connection with the Compton mysteries, described
in their appropriate place in this PART II, indicate that
we are doing no violence to our sagacity to expect that
before long we may witness in our American "circles"
phases of "manifestations" worthy to be classed with
the ancient and modern mysteries of the countries of
The first evening I spent in Philadelphia, I had a very
long conversation through rappings with what purported
to be the spirit who calls himself " John King." Whoever
this person may be, whether he was the Buccaneer
Morgan or Pontius Pilate, Columbus or Zoroaster, he has
been the busiest and most powerful spirit, or what you
please to call it, connected with this whole Modern
Spiritualism. In this country and Europe we read of his
physical feats, his audible speaking, his legerdemain, his
direct writing, his materialization s. He was with the
Koons family in Ohio, the Davenports in N. Y., the
Williams in London. and the mediums in France and
Germany. Mme. de B. encountered him fourteen years
ago in Russia and Circass a, talked with and saw him in
Egypt and India, I met him in London, in 1870, and he
seems able to converse in any language with equal ease.
I have talked with him in English, French, German,
Spanish, and Latin, and have heard others do the same
in Greek, Russian, Italian, Georgian, (Caucasus) and
Turkish ; his replies being always pertinent and satisfactory.
His rap is peculiar and easily recognizable from others-
a loud, sharp, crackling report. He objects
to the application of tests, but after refusing them, will,
at the most unexpected times, give such as are much
more startling and conclusive than the ones proposed.
He has done this with me, not once merely but dozens of
times; and, really it became the most difficult thing in
the world for me to hesitate a moment longer in giving
up all reserve and acknowledging myself a Spiritualist
I went to Philadelphia without a theory as to the
Holmes imbroglio; the newspaper accounts had been so
confusing that I dismissed the whole subject from my
mind, and determined to start at the very bottom and
build up my belief by degrees. But at my first interview
with "John King," he rapped out the whole secret history
of the affair, telling me the parties concerned in the
pretended exposure, their names, the agents they employed,
the sums of money subscribed, who carried the purse, who
disbursed the funds, and who received the spoils. I was amazed
beyond description, for the information given was the farthest
possible from what seemed credible.
But each day's developments proved it more and more
true, and if I could only have afforded to wait, I have
little doubt but that documentary and parole evidence
would have been forthcoming to substantiate the whole
story! As it is, however, I will have to leave it only half
told, for the bloody experience of 1692 stands as a warning
for all time against relying wholly upon "spectre testimony."
It will be readily imagined that I early demanded of
the supposed spirit some evidence of his supersensual
existence. On the evening of the 6th, I said to him
" If you are in reality a spirit, as you pretend, give me
some exhibition of your power. Make for me, for example,
a copy of the last note from Eliza White to Mr. that
I have in the portfolio in my pocket." He made no
reply, but rattled on about other matters, and did not
recur to the subject that evening. On the evening of
the 8th, however, as we were sitting by the table, Mme.
de B. writing and I reading, John rapped loudly for
the alphabet, and spelt out, " Hand me your dictionary,
under the table, will you?" Mme. de B. did as requested.
"The mucilage." She handed the bottle down. "Your
penknife." She passed that down also. All was quiet
for a moment, when he rapped that we should look. We
took up the dictionary and lo! upon a fly-leaf in the
back part, we found an exact copy of the note I had
referred to two evenings before. The portfolio in which
I carried it, with other documents relating to the case, I
had taken out of my pocket a half-hour before, and laid
upon the mantel-shelf. With this exception, it had not
been out of my possession, and the whole time it lay on
the mantel, it was under my eye and I sat within a few
feet of it. It was impossible, therefore, for any trickster
to have secretly transferred a duplicate to my friend's dictionary.
I crossed over, got the paper, and compared it, and
here we have the two in facsimile.
By placing the one over the other, I found that the
duplicate was not a tracing, for, while the two fitted
in certain places, they would not in others, and there
were just such differences in the formation of the letters
as showed that the duplicate might have been written
by the same person as the other, but at a different time.
The reader will observe the very quaint writing in the
foot-note of the duplicate, signed " J. K." This is
supposed to be John's own autograph, and another
example of it will be found on the communication of
Katie King to myself.
It will be imagined that I awaited the fulfillment of his
promise the next evening with great interest, not to say
anxiety, but I said nothing for fear His Worship might
be induced to postpone the matter indefinitely. Mme.
de. B. and I were alone this time, occupied as before,
when suddenly at John's demand, expressed through rap-
pings, she took a sheet of Bristol-board drawing-paper,
and showing me that both sides were perfectly clean,
threw it under the table. I glanced under the cloth to
see that there was nothing there but the one piece of
paper, which was easily recognizable by its size and
shape. John rapped that I should look at my watch, and
note how long it took him to perform the experiment.
Madame de B. went on with her writing, and no sound
was heard but the scratching of her pen and the ticking
of my watch. When 30 seconds had elapsed John
rapped "Done," and upon going beneath the table, and
seeing the paper, I made an exclamation of disappointment,
for the upper surface was blank. But as I lifted the sheet
from the floor I saw, upon the face that had lain next to
the carpet, a second copy of the same document.
The difference in the formation of the letters between
the original and duplicate is not nearly so marked as
those between this triplicate and the original. Mr.
Betanelly came in at this moment and we compared
456 457 drawing
the writings with the greatest care, only to be more
and more astounded at this fresh exhibition of the
power of our invisible ally. Now let the reader turn
to the story of the visit of the two Egyptian gentlemen
to the old Sheikh, on page 44, and then to the facsimiles
of the writings done for me by the spirits at
Chittenden (which look so suspiciously like Horatio
Eddy's autograph,) and decide whether the mere fact
of such resemblances as all these, would be any proof
positive that a medium had been committing fraud if
he should give. us communications in handwriting very
much like his own.
The portfolio containing Eliza White's Katie-King-
note and John's first duplicate was this time in my
coat-pocket, where it had been constantly since the
preceding evening. John broke in upon our expressions
of surprise by rapping out: " Do you folks want me
to commit forgery for you? I can bring you here the
blank check of any National Bank. and sign upon it the
name of any President, Cashier or other official." I
thanked His Invisible Highness kindly and declined the
favor, upon the sufficient ground that the Police did not
believe in Spiritualism, and I did not care to risk the
chance of convincing them in case the forged papers
should be found in my possession.
I devoted an idle hour this same day to an interview
with a very remarkable " impressible medium," named
Miss Annie M. Bulwer, to whom I was recommended by
Mr. Owen and Dr. Child. I went to her a perfect
stranger, declined to give my name, and nevertheless,
was more interested by what she told me than by anything
I ever got in the same length of time from a person of her
class. She told me my name, described the business
upon which I had come to Philadelphia, spoke of the
probable result (which, I may say, has been in great
measure verified), and favored me with sundry prophecies,
two of which I record as a matter of curiosity. Among
other things she said that I would be invited to England
before long, to act with Messrs. Wallace, Crookes, and
Varley in an important matter connected with Spiritualism, to arise in the future ; and that my present book
would be translated into Russian, German, Polish, and
other languages. Part of her prediction is already in a
fair way of being verified, for the Russian translation is
almost finished, and I am informed that the work is to be
republished in German, at Leipsic. I pray the reader's
indulgence for this digression, but so few -prophecies from
these mediums are placed upon record in advance, that I
thought there would be no harm in breaking through the rule
Mrs. Holmes returned from Vineland on the 11th and
that evening I attended for the first time a seance at her
house. There were present fifteen persons. The first
thing in order was a "dark seance," which I will not
particularly dwell upon, as I afterwards had the opportunity
of holding one in my own rooms, under test
conditions, and will allude to it in its proper place.
I found the cabinet a triangular, bottomless box,
standing in the corner of the room before a window, just
as described in Eliza White's story in the papers; but I
made no remark about it or any of the arrangements that
evening, as I wished to see how things were done.
Mrs. Holmes, of course, occupied the cabinet alone, her
husband being in the country. She went in and sat upon
a chair, closed and bolted the door from the inside, and
somebody outside started a large music-box to playing.
In a few minutes the short, black curtain behind one of
the apertures was drawn aside, and a man's head
appeared, as if floating in the air. It was ghastly pale, a
heavy black beard and moustache increasing the unnatural
pallor by contrast. I went up to the aperture, leaned my
arm upon the bracket-shelf beneath it, and gazed into
the face, which was not twelve inches from me. A
more dreadful sight I had never beheld. The lower
portions, including the wavy silky beard, were perfectly
formed, as, also was the brow; but the eyes were not
materialized, and the cavities they should have filled
were edged with ragged rims, as though the face had
been made of wax and the eyes melted out by the
application of a red-hot iron. To see the thing floating
in the air as buoyantly as a cork in water, and then gaze
at the orbless sockets, was calculated to test weak nerves
to the fullest extent. " Well," I said to the head, " you
are a handsome young man, and no mistake ! Do you
think any damsel of taste would fall in love with such a
face as that?" The lips smiled, and the head wagged
from side to side to mark dissent. I asked many questions,
and was answered by nods and shakes, to signify
"Yes" and "No." A well-formed masculine hand,
matching in color the ghastly face, came up and stroked
the beard, and motioned to me to do likewise. I passed
my hand inside, and felt the beard, and found it soft, silky,
and as warm in temperature as my own. But I was not
satisfied with the seance, for the medium was not under
test conditions, and the cabinet stood where it did during
the time when Eliza White's pretended comedy was
being enacted, Moreover, I was not satisfied with the
movements of the head--they were too stiff and constrained,
and made me think I had possibly been looking
at a cleverly made mask, or inflated rubber head, although
I had never seen its like before.
The next morning I procured some stout unbleached
sheeting, and had a capacious bag made with a draw-
string at its mouth, It was large enough to take in
Mrs. Holmes up to her neck, leaving her room. enough
to be comfortable. I also went to the house, and
myself moved the cabinet from its place in the corner
to the other side of the room, against a dead-wall.
Around its two sides mosquito netting was tacked to
prevent any possible admission of a confederate, through
a movable panel. With a screwdriver I carefully
tested every screw, and found that instead of any one
or two being looser than the rest, (and so corroborating
Eliza's story that she had screwed and unscrewed
them at every seance) each was as solid in the wood as
every other one. I found that Mrs. Holmes measured
5 feet 3 inches in height, while the lower edge of the
aperture was 5 feet 5 inches from the floor. When she
stood upon tip-toe, the top of her head was just visible
from the outside, through the aperture.
Here we have a front-view and ground-plan of the
cabinet. It is made of imitation black-walnut, ornamented
in front with mouldings and panels. The two
sides of the triangle are of matched pine boards, but
the furnace heat has shrunken them so that in places
the tongues have slipped out of the grooves, and light
can be seen through the cracks. The sketch shows
the mosquito-netting tacked around the sides:
Just as Mrs. Holmes was ready to enter the cabinet,
I stopped her and said that as she had consented to
submit to test conditions, I should now begin to apply
them, with her permission. She assented; whereupon
I produced the bag, and she got into it. I secured
myself effectually I believed, against fraud by drawing
the mouth around her neck, just tight enough to
admit of her breathing, without its choking her. I
then sealed the string, close up, with sealing-wax, and
stamped it with my ring. Finally, I removed the chair
from the cabinet, and left her to stand up.
I pushed the door to, and it was immediately bolted on
the inside, the light was made very dim, and we awaited
results. In less than three minutes, a white hand
appeared at one of the apertures. It had no rings
upon the fingers; Mrs. Holmes had several on hers.
Her hand moreover, is of a very peculiar shape, its
outlines being full of curves, and the fingers long and
bony, with the phalanges strongly defined. The hand
shown was plump, well-shaped and large.
Then, after a few minutes there came into view a
partially materialized female face, much worse to look
upon than the male one of the preceding evening. I
could not think of anything to compare it with except
the face of a corpse, half eaten by rats or crabs. It was
framed in a drapery of white muslin stuff, and, like the
other, floated in the air, swimming towards the aperture
now from one side, and now from the other, or rising
from below; then remaining stationary for a moment
or so, it gazed at us in a stiff, blank way, with its eye-less sockets, and its half-formed features, until it was
enough to make one's flesh creep to look at it. But I
went up, stared at it and talked with it by means of its
nods and shakes, until it was able to tell me that it
was the head of Katie King, herself, badly materialized.
Its peculiarities, aside from the dreadful raggedness
of its half made-up features, were a preternatural
narrowness of chin and forehead, and a marked redness
of lips, as though they were stained with vermilion.
I doubt if ever a late supper conjured a worse vision
out of the realm of dreams to affright the dyspeptic
withal, than this one; but it was in a measure, more
satisfactory than a perfect visage would have been, for,
the medium being helplessly confined within the bag,
and no possibility of confederacy existing, it seemed
to show that the face was neither that of a human being,
nor yet a mask, for such masks are never made. It
came several times within sight, and then disappeared
for the evening.
Upon entering Mme. de B.'s rooms this evening, I
found several ladies and gentlemen waiting to be
introduced to me, and they were amusing themselves
with some "mind-reading" tests given by a boy
medium named DeWitt C. Hough. One gentleman
mentally requested that an affirmative answer to his
mental question should be indicated, by the lad's leading
him across the room and placing his, (the gentleman's)
hand upon a portrait of John King, in a glazed
frame, that hung upon the wall. This was done, when
to our surprise it was found that the glass over the
little picture had disappeared, although it had been
noticed in its usual place the same day. This glass
was not restored until nearly a week had elapsed, when,
one evening, John rapped that he wanted a very small
piece of white paper passed under the table, and presently
said that he had brought the glass back again.
Sure enough, there it was, with the small strip of
paper gummed on it, and a line in John's handwriting
to the effect that he had had it away with him.
In entering this circumstance in my notebook, I
appended, by way of pleasantry, the slang expression
"Bully for John! " It will be seen further on how he
returned the compliment.
The next morning, the 13th, Mr. Owen, Mr. Betanelly
and I went to Mrs. Holmes' house without pre-announcement
to hold a private seance. The windows were
darkened, Mrs. Holmes was put into the bag, which was
sealed as before, and the chair was removed. In 70
seconds from the time the door was closed, a hand was
shown at the aperture. I approached the window, and
laying my hand upon the sill, it was patted by a detached
hand, which I found soft, plump, warm and moist. My
hand was then gently pulled down inside the cabinet and
pressed between two hands and caressed. I asked that
I might be allowed to feel the two thumbs at once, and
upon opening my hand the two thumbs were laid between
my thumb and forefinger, and I pressed them. Mr.
Owen's hand was then pressed and caressed. Passing
my hand within again I felt and stroked the man's beard,
as on the former occasion, and afterwards the turbaned
top of a head was raised just up to the aperture, but the
face was not shown. Finally, all three of us laid a hand
each upon the sill, and each was patted by turns.
These were all of the materializations of the seance,
but just before its close a whispering voice addressed me
in German from within the cabinet, giving me the name
" Katrina Gobe," and saying that she had died some
years before, in Philadelphia. Mrs. Holmes is said to be
unacquainted with any language but English.
John King showed himself very clearly at the evening
seance, coming as many as twenty times in sight, and
allowing a number of people to approach him and shake
hands or stroke his beard. I stood at the aperture as
long as I chose. His eyes were perfectly formed tonight,
and moved about, and winked in a very natural manner.
He smiled at me, shook hands, and talked quite at length.
I requested him to float his head up so high that every
one could see that it was not possible for Mrs. Holmes
either to be wearing a mask, or holding one up; where-upon he rose to the extreme top of the window and
thrust his head outside, at an elevation of 6 feet 7 inches
from the floor.
One of the perplexing features of the Katie King affair
was the supposed resemblance between the manuscript of
Eliza White and that of the notes given by " Katie " to
Mr. Robert Dale Owen, Dr. Fellger and others, at the
Holmes sťances. I determined to attempt at least the
procurement of a communication to myself from Katie;
and so, thinking the moment propitious, I asked if Katie
would favor me. The answer came in a whisper: "I'll
do it, Colonel, if I can get power enough." I then passed
through the aperture a sheet of notepaper that I had
purchased on my way from my lodgings, and that was
marked in a way to effectually prevent their palming off
upon me a prepared communication, upon another sheet,
as Eliza White avers Mr. Owen was deceived in the
matter of the Fred. W. Robertson writing. Whatever
became of my paper, it disappeared, for, as soon as the
seance was over, I searched thoroughly all about and no
trace of it could be found.
The next day at 2.30 p. m., I had a seance at my own
rooms. A cabinet was improvised out of the short square
passage between the sitting and bed-room, and a curtain
of black paper-muslin, with two windows cut in it, and
short curtains hanging over them inside, so as to be
raised or dropped at will, was tacked over the sitting-
Those present upon this occasion were Mme. de Blavatsky,
Hon. Robert Dale Owen, Dr. Fellger, Mr.Betanelly, the
medium Mrs. Holmes, and myself. The rear door of the
passage was sealed by Mr. Owen with strips of thin
paper, after Mrs. Holmes had been sealed up in the bag.
Mr. Owen also locked the bedroom door leading into
the passage, and put the key into his pocket. We then
darkened the room and took our places close to the curtain.
In half a minute hands were shown, and, almost immediately
John King's face appeared and was thrust quite through the
aperture. He was perfectly materialized, and came as near
being a handsome man as he ever did, I presume, and that is quite near.
A voice, supposed to be Katie's, spoke to us, and
calling up Mr. Owen and myself, she, or, at all events, a
female hand patted our hands. I asked if she had
written the communication to me yet, but she said she
had not. I then requested that she would hand me the
paper so that I might show it to Mr. Owen. In a moment
it was thrust through the aperture, and Mr. Owen examining
it by the light, found no writing except what I had
written in French in the middle of the page. I passed
the paper back, and it was taken from my hand.
John King allowed Mr. Owen to feel his hand and
beard, and, altogether, the manifestations were quite as
satisfactory if not more so than any I had thus far seen
at Mrs. Holmes' house. They proved beyond question
the fact that, whatever they may be, they depend for
their production neither upon false panels, nor trapdoors,
nor wire machinery. The seance terminated about 5 o'clock.
The public seance was held at 825 North Tenth
Street, at 8 P.M., as usual. A gentleman present suggested
that I should tie Mrs. Holmes' hands together
before putting her into the bag, and I did so; but, to
tell the truth, I thought the precaution so unnecessary
that the tying was a mere pretence. I considered it
perfectly impossible for her to get her hands outside
the bag to use any masks, even if she had such concealed about her.
John King appeared as usual and allowed six or
seven persons, beside myself, to approach and converse
with him or shake hands. As I saw his head floating
free in the air within a few inches of my eyes, I recalled
Eliza's assertion that the faces were ten-cent masks
manipulated by the medium, and the idea occurred to
ask permission to satisfy myself in the most conclusive
way that I was not looking at a mechanical contrivance.
John assenting, I then put my arm in, and swept the air
in a semi-circle beneath his head, coming into contact
with neither stick, nor wire, nor medium's arm. The
drooping ends of his white turban dragged over my
hand as I withdrew it. I then requested him to depress
his head, and passed my arm in like manner as before,
completely over his head, thus finding that it was not
suspended from above by string or wire.
I handed John my signet-ring and asked him to hold
it for a moment so that I might hereafter have it as a
souvenir of the evening's parley. One of the ladies
handed him her ring also, for the same purpose. He
soon returned the second ring, but said he should keep
mine, which I must say I did not fancy, as it was an
expensive intaglio, and I was not in the mood of making
presents to detached heads and hands. Before releasing
Mrs. Holmes from the bag at the close of the seance, I
searched the cabinet in every part, but my ring was gone.
The voice of Katie called me up to the cabinet after
I had resumed my seat, and a hand passed out to me
the sheet of paper I had handled a few hours before.
The previously blank surface was now covered with two
communications to me, in a handwriting which seems
to be identical with the Katie King notes of last
summer, addressed to Dr. Fellger and Mr. Owen, here
given. Let the reader judge for himself
Compare the handwriting of these with that of the
paper received by me from " Katie," here given. That
in the center square is my own.
Such of the persons present as witnessed the delivery
of the paper to me then signed a certificate at my
request, and the seance was brought to a close.
A fresh surprise was in store for me that night, for
when I was about retiring, I turned down the pillow to
put my watch beneath it, arid there lay my ring uninjured.
Its weight is 7 1/2 pennyweights, and the distance it had
been transported was perhaps three-fourths of a mile.
On Monday evening, January 19th, I returned from
a short visit to Hartford, and attended the seance at
the usual place. Mr. Holmes and his wife were both
present this evening, the former having recovered
sufficiently from his hemorrhages to bear traveling.
Mrs. Holmes went inside this evening, and her husband
sat outside. I placed a guitar inside the cabinet.
Instantly after I closed the door, a hand was shown at
the aperture. The guitar was played upon, floated
about, bumping against the sides and roof of the cabinet,
and was violently thrust through the aperture.
The face of John King was shown, but none other, and
nothing unusual occurred, except a violent altercation
between some visitors and the Holmeses, as to whether
it was possible for the former to pass their hands
through the neck of the bag.
I determined that there should be no longer any
doubt upon this subject, so the next evening I took
special care in sealing the bag. I closed the mouth very
tight and sealed the strings with wax to a silver coin
in such a wav that any attempt to open or loosen the
mouth would break the wax. I had a friend present,
an eminent inventor, who made a thorough examination
of the bag and pronounced it impossible for any
trickery to be resorted to. I also caused Mrs. Holmes
to drop her arms by her side, and then pinned her
sleeves to the bag in such a way that she could not raise
her hands more than four inches from the perpendicular.
I had caused to be attached to the left-hand aperture,
at the inside, a cage or basket of wire-cloth, with an
arched crown and flat bottom; intending to have the
faces or hands show themselves within it, if possible.
Before closing the cabinet-door I requested that the
bolt should be thrown back instantly after being shot,
so that I might see if Mrs. Holmes were moving from
her position in the apex of the triangular box. This
was done. I stood ready with hand upon the latch, and
the moment the bolt was drawn I pulled the door open,
and the medium was standing motionless in her bag.
Two guitars placed inside were now played upon
simultaneously, and pushed out of the right-hand
aperture. Within one minute a hand was shown at
the same window. Then the curtain over the other
aperture, and within the cage, was drawn aside. How?
A hand was then shown there, so that all of the thirty
persons present saw it.
Then John King appeared at the right window frequently,
and sundry persons, including General Lippitt, (who was
present for the first time to begin an investigation of the
Holmes affair,) my friend the inventor, and others.
The wire-basket appearing to be too small to permit
of the perfect formation of a head within it, I had the
mechanics enlarge it the next day, by removing the flat
bottom and carrying the sides down to the floor. I
also had it permanently attached to the face of the
cabinet by staples and wire ties that passed through
the boards and were twisted and cut off on the front
face. Here are the certificates of the workmen
PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 19th, 1875 This is to certify that we have attached to the
left-hand aperture of the cabinet in the parlor of 825 North Tenth Street, in
this city, a wire basket with a flat bottom and curved sides and crown, the
meshes of which are at a distance of 1-3 inch apart, or what is known in the
trade as " No. 3 wire-cloth ; " that the said basket is permanently attached to
the said cabinet by staples ; and that it would be impossible for any person to
introduce a hand, face, or any other thing of greater diameter than one-third of
an inch, within the said basket, without removing it by drawing the staples out
of the wood. W. L. WILSON, WM. H. FENNELL, With J. P. FENNELL, Wire Worker, No.
36 N. 6th St. PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 20th, 1875. I hereby certify that the above
described wire-cage was this day altered by removing the bottom sheet, and
extending the sides continuously down to the floor, making the whole height 0f the cage
from floor to crown 7 feet 9 inches. In my opinion it is impossible
to introduce a hand or head within the said cage without taking it
apart. The two edges of the wire-cloth sheets are now permanently
attached to the inner front face of the cabinet by staples driven
home, and tie-wires passing clear through the boards and tied on
the outer face 0f the same. JAMES P. FENNELL,
Wire Worker, 36 N. 6th St., Phil.
The cut affords a very good idea of the form, dimensions,
and penetrability of the cage.
We held a seance at 5 P.M., but it was very unsatisfactory to me, as, relying
upon the cage, I put neither Mrs. Holmes nor her husband in the bag, and both
were inside the cabinet at the same time. I fancied I heard them working at my
wire cage as if trying to effect an opening, but they did not succeed, and
the drawing of the curtain aside, nothing occurred at that aperture. At the
other John King showed himself, and also a female face, purporting to be
Katie's, but not satisfactorily identified.
At the evening seance, a hand and arm appeared within the basket, and
swept across the window and back John King's head also appeared there,
rising from below and dropping again. It was not satisfactory, however, for I
could not understand why, if it were genuine it might not stay as long and
show itself as freely there as at the other window. I had a very clever juggler
with me this evening, one who is famous as a maker of mechanical tricks for
jugglers. He was introduced to me by Mr. Coleman Sellers, the distinguished
engineer, President of the Franklin Institute, and the correspondent mentioned
by Mr. Crookes, in one of his pamphlets, as an ingrained skeptic. Mr. Harding,
the amateur juggler, thought, upon examining the wirecage after the seance, that
there was one spot sufficiently unconfined by the staples to permit of squeezing
hand through and manipulating a mask, so the next day I had this attended to.
At the seance in question two faces were shown at the right aperture-John King's
and another. The former looked natural, and by drawing the curtain aside and
peering in, I saw, at one and the same time, John's head high up to the left,
the door, and Mr. Holmes sitting in the chair before me. John's head was,
therefore, not a mask worn by Holmes.
On the 21st, I had a long consultation with another juggler of acknowledged
skill and also a dealer in
jugglers' apparatus, Mr. Yost by name, who explained
to me the manner in which he fancied that Mrs. Holmes
got her hands out of the bag, to work artificial faces.
It is to make a slight rip or cut in the hem covering
the drawstring, and then draw enough slack string
through inside to enable her to slip out either her
hands, or her whole bust if she chooses. This plan
requires that she shall have one hand free while the
bag is being sealed, so that she can pull on the slack,
and make me believe I am sealing up the mouth
effectually and tightly. The explanation did not seem
satisfactory, but I determined that no such trick should
be played upon me from that time forward, at any rate.
We held a test seance at 4 o'clock that day, at which,
among others, Mr. Owen and General Lippitt were present.
At my last interview with John King, at Mme. de
B.'s rooms, I requested him to give me a private sign
when I should next see him at Holmes', and he consented.
He came to the aperture at this afternoon
seance, and looking at me, he gave the sign by turning
his head from left to right and back again twice in
succession. He also gave to Mme. de B. a certain
sign known only to themselves.
A detached hand was shown inside the cage, and
then we tried a very interesting test. Premising by
saying that Mr. Holmes, like his wife, is unacquainted
with any foreign language, I fancy the reader will
share my surprise, when I state that at the request of
Mr. Owen, Doctor Fellger, Mme. de B., Mr. Betanelly
and myself, expressed in Italian, German, Latin, Russian,
Greek, Georgian, Turkish, French and Spanish,
this hand within the wire-cage gave signal after signal,
as many times in each instance as we severally indicated
in these various languages. The hand purported to be
that of John King, and hence I said in another place
that he seemed to understand every language, a second
Magliabecchi. We were as much astonished as Appollonius
himself was in India, where, he tells us, the
sages have the magical power of understanding and
speaking the languages of those who come to them
from the most distant countries.
John also addressing me in English, said he would
look after one of my sons, whose name is an unusual
one, and one that certainly no person in the room had
heard me mention.
Mr. Owen, General Lippitt and I very carefully
scrutinized John's face as it appeared at the right
window. It seemed perfectly natural, the eyes were
thoroughly materialized, and were rolled about in
every direction, by request.
Twenty-seven persons were present that evening at the
public seance. I attended to the bag with unusual care,
making Mrs. Holmes keep her hands by her 'side constantly;
holding the mouth of the bag in such a way that
there could be no slack; pinning her sleeves down further
than usual; examining and testing the string in every way
after that; and then calling up every person in the room
by turns to see if it were possible for the captive medium
to get a hand out to play tricks. I then closed the door,
which as usual was bolted on the inside by somebody
whose hands were not sealed up in a bag, and before I
could turn down the gas, in the chandelier over my head,
a detached hand was thrust out of the right aperture!
John showed himself, and I had a long conversation with
him in French, he replying correctly by movements of
his head. Among other things, I asked him if it was his
own voice that had spoken to me in English that after-
noon about my son, and he answered affirmatively. He
allowed a number to approach, and gallantly kissed his
hand to several of the ladies. I saw the movement of
his lips, and the sound of the osculation was so audible
that all in the room could hear it. It was no mask.
There was a rattling and scraping on the wire-cage, as
though something hard were being drawn over the
meshes, but nothing happened inside, except that the
curtain was drawn aside.
Another face beside John's appeared, but it was not
recognized. A number of hands were also shown, of
different sizes, among them one fair, well-formed, plump
hand of a woman, so peculiar in its shape that I examined
Mrs. Holmes' hands after the seance, only to again
observe the thin, long thumb, and peculiar sickle-shaped
curve of the outer edge of the palm.
The London Spiritualist, of February 1st, 1873, contains a
bit of prima-facie evidence in favor of Katie King's
having actually appeared through the mediumship of the
Holmeses. It is a report of a seance at Mrs. Makdougall
Gregory's, 21 Green St., Grosvenor Square, London, and
the paper editorially certifies to the fact that Katie King
showed herself, and two old gentlemen, one with a white
beard, and one old lady.
In a previous number of the same paper, Mr. J. C. Luxmoore
avers that he saw at Mr. Holmes' rooms, at 1111
Old Quebec Street, the identical Katie King whom he
had seen three times before at Hackney in the presence
of Florence Cook.
Finally, in the paper called The Medium and Daybreak,
a correspondent reports, in a card dated March 24th, 1873,
that he attended a Holmes seance " at which many spirit-
faces were shown, among them that of the elder Katie
King, who spoke in her usual whispers, and was very
palpable and distinct."
I had now been so long in Philadelphia without seeing
the full form of Katie King that, despairing of her appearance,
and having accomplished the main object of my
experiments-to test the "materializing" powers of the
mediums, I was growing impatient to depart. At an
afternoon test seance, both mediums sat outside at my
request for a time. There were rappings inside the
cabinet, and some scrapings upon the wire-cage, but the
experiment was a failure, and as no faces appeared, I sent
Mr. Holmes inside, and sealed him up in a new bag I
had had made, and pinned his sleeves to it. In five
seconds a hand was shown at the right window: then two
hands were shown together, and then John King appeared,
showing me his full head and shoulders.
At the evening seance, the usual precautions were
taken, and as usual hands were shown and John appeared
and spoke to me. A woman's hand and arm were thrust
quite out of the window, and after an intermission of a
few minutes there came a face which struck me as soon
as I saw it as the Katie King of the Holmes photograph.
If it was not the identical face, it at any rate seemed to
be, and this impression was made upon the mind of General
Lippitt, also. I scrutinized it very closely. The
face was not smooth and well rounded, but seemingly
roughly finished. The eyebrows were straight and black;
the contour of face oval, rather long and thin ; the dark
hair lay smooth upon the brow. A gauzy white material,
wrapped around it, framed the head, and made it look
unnatural and ghastly.
Our test seance began at 4 P.M. the next day. John,
and the Katie like the photograph appeared several
times. The latter borrowed General Lippitt's pocket-
knife, and cut off and handed him a lock of her hair,
which, upon subsequent comparison with locks in the
possession of Mr. Owen and Dr. Fellger, was found to be
identical in texture, and color-the latter, a peculiar
glorious shade of golden brown.
While looking at this head I saw something inside the
cabinet that I would like to have some one more capable
than myself explain: I saw the Katie King head, with
the mouth of a bag drawn tightly about her neck as the
bag was drawn about the medium's, and a hand, which
was attached to an arm that came from another direction,
took hold of and fondled mine. Now, one thing is perfectly
clear: this hand and arm did not belong to Mrs. Holmes'
body, for the seal on the bag's mouth was found
unbroken after the seance. And again, if Mrs. Holmes
had managed to get her hand and arm out, what bag was
that which I saw drawn tightly about the neck of the
"Katie King" there? for the bag could not be both
closed and open at once. I leave the Philadelphia
Editors to display their preternatural shrewdness in
explaining this riddle. I will help them so far as to say
that the bag had no false lining nor slack string; there
was no duplicate bag in the cabinet; no confederate could
either have been in there before the seance or got in at
any time while it was progressing; and I have not exaggerated
or falsified the fact.
On the evening of the 24th, I had the circle at my
own lodgings, a different suite of rooms from that in
which the former seance was held. A cabinet was
improvised in the same manner as before, the black
muslin curtain with apertures, hanging over the front
door, and the other door being sealed by General Lippitt
to prevent the admission of any person or thing from behind.
Nine persons were present, including the two mediums.
Mrs. Holmes was put into the bag, and Mr. Holmes sat
outside the cabinet with us. I completed the sealing of
the string, and then began to drive in a few tacks to bold
the curtain to its place, but before I could drive the
second tack, a detached hand was thrust into view from
the upper aperture, quite a distance above the medium's head.
John King showed himself very distinctly, and calling
up Mr. Betanelly communicated to him, in his own
language (the Georgian), a secret that he supposed none
knew except himself. He kissed his hand several times,
by request, and also saluted the cheek of a lady, who
offered it for the purpose. I stood at the aperture and
talked much with him, he addressing me in a voice audible
to all, and I not a foot distant from his face. Katie,
or what purported to be she, also showed herself, but
badly materialized, --her eyes being not more than half-
formed. With her permission, I thrust my arm through
to feel the medium, and Katie, whom I saw at my right
as a dim, indistinct shape, guided my hand to the place
by taking me by the coat sleeve. This was necessary,
as the aperture was so high that I had to stand upon
tip-toe to get my arm through, and could not look in
Mrs. Holmes' direction while my arm was inside. I
repeated this experiment to make assurance doubly sure,
and this time carefully felt the medium's head, neck,
shoulders, and passed my hand down her arm, which was
unmistakably inside the bag, the spirit-hand clutching
my sleeve the whole time! Mrs. Holmes' eyes were
tightly closed, her face was deathly cold, and her forehead
covered with a clammy dew.
General Lippitt was permitted to do the same thing,
and has published an account of the seance in the Banner
of Light, of date February 6th, 1875. General L. noticed
in Katie's accent this evening certain dialectic peculiarities
which were associated in his memory with the Katie
he had seen last May in the Holmes sťances.
After this satisfactory experiment, I requested Mr. and
Mrs. Holmes to favor us with a "dark seance," and, this
being agreed to, the nine persons in the company drew
their chairs together and joined hands, Mr. and Mrs.
Holmes being separated from each other. Under these
circumstances, we were all touched by invisible hands,
myself often and in various places, sometimes three or
four of us were touched simultaneously, a pair of hands
were laid upon my head, a bunch of plumes was swept
across our faces, and then a cloth of some light fabric,
and, finally, at Mme, de B.'s order, some beautiful lights
danced in the air over her head and then disappeared.
These phenomena were similar to what had occurred
almost every evening in Mrs. Holmes' "dark-circles,"
but in this instance there was absolutely no possibility
of trickery, and this account will suffice for all.
The next evening my last test seance was held, and it
was a very notable one. While my experiments had
demonstrated beyond doubt the fact that many phenomena
occur in the presence of the Holmeses, which
are not due to trickery, yet I had seen neither Katie
King nor any other spirit, in full form, and I was not
entirely satisfied with the results of my labors. It was
here that Mme. de B. brought her wonderful power to
the test. Summoning John King, she intimated her
will that Katie should step out of the cabinet that evening,
and he wrote her with his own hand a message to
the effect that her orders should "be obeyed." This
communication is in my possession, and General Lippitt
has seen it.
A select company of six persons, besides the two
mediums, met at Mr. Holmes' residence at 8 o'clock,
and after taking the usual precautions against fraud
(including a strange exercise of Mme. de B.'s power,
which threw Mrs. Holmes into a death-like trance, and
so made her perfectly incapable of resorting to trickery),
the light was dimmed, and we sat in silence waiting for
the working of the mystic spell.
Phenomenal disturbances soon began - raps were heard
all over the cabinet, various voices addressed us from
within its recesses, and a detached hand, coming out of the
right aperture, and gliding down the face of the cabinet,
clutched a small hand-bell that stood upon a table, and,
ringing it all the while, rose again to the aperture and
disappeared with it, within.
This last manifestation was calculated to startle one
out of all his preconceived notions of both anatomy and
gravity, and it really gave to the seance a most uncanny
aspect. But the crowning test was to come. We heard
the bolt drawn inside, and in breathless silence watched
the cabinet door swing slowly open. I sat within a few
feet of the entrance, and plainly saw at the threshold a
short, thin, girlish figure, clad in white from crown to
sole. She stood there motionless for an instant, and
then slowly stepped forward a pace or two. By the
obscure light we could see that she was shorter and
much more delicately built than the medium, and her
dress with its trailing skirt, and the long veil that completely
enveloped her form, were as crisp as though just
from the hands of the modiste. Who she was or what she
was, I do not know, but one thing I do know,-she was
not Jennie Holmes, nor any puppet or confederate of
hers. And I know, further, that Mme. de B., who sat
next to me, uttered one word in a strange tongue, and
the spectre immediately withdrew as noiselessly as she
When the meeting broke up we found Mrs. Holmes in
her bag, with its unbroken seals, and in so deep a catalepsy
as to alarm Dr. Fellger at first. It was some minutes before
she had either respiration or a pulse; and as she is recovering
I leave her and the case with these conclusions:
(r). While it may be possible that either Eliza White
or somebody else assisted the Holmeses to deceive the
public, by personating Katie King, the evidence hitherto
attainable does not enable us to designate any one of the
phenomena observed and described by Mr. Owen or
General Lippitt as probably fraudulent. The accuser of
the Holmeses is apparently successfully impeached; and
her endorser, Dr. Child, shown to be incompetent to testify.
The decision of the moot question being, therefore, of
necessity made to depend upon the issue of my own
course of experiments
(a). The real mediumship of both Nelson and Jennie
Holmes, and " especially the appearance of materialized
spirit-forms through the same," seem to be demonstrated.
(3) The Philadelphia experiments have a most important
bearing upon those of Mr. Crookes, in London, and
of myself, at Chittenden, Vt., and Havana, N. Y.
(4 ) The very grave question whether the visits and
behavior of spirits are within human control, is forced
upon our attention. Its examination, moreover, involves
the verification or rejection, by modern scientific processes,
of the Biblical, historical, and traditional accounts
of intercourse between man and the angel world; the
definition of the laws of so-called Magic and Sorcery;
the formulae of evocation and exorcism; and the moral
effects of this intercourse upon humanity.
We cannot afford that another day shall be lost.
The Hour is come: let the Man step to the front.
THE COMPTON TRANSFIGURATION
I do not know of any author who has defined the position
which the student of science occupies in our
day, better than Professor Huxley himself. In a
recent essay, he says: "The only opinion he (the
votary of science) need care about, if he care for any --
and he is all the wiser and better if he care for none--
is that of about a dozen men, two or three in these
islands (Great Britain), as many in America, and half
a dozen on the continent. If these think well of his
work, his reputation is secure from all the attacks of
all the able editors of all the " influential organs" put together."
With such encouraging words as these before me, I
shall proceed to tell the story of my remarkable
experience at Havana, N. Y., hoping at least to deserve
the good opinion of their author, and the dozen colleagues
whom he had in mind while penning the
sentences above quoted. If Mr. Huxley is not now
willing to follow the theory of Evolution to its legitimate
conclusions, and discover to us man as he exists
in the spirit-world, there is satisfaction in knowing
that the time is not far distant when he will be compelled,
by the accumulation of phenomena similar to
those hereinafter described, to acknowledge that his
immortality is a demonstrable scientific problem.
At one of my last interviews with the alleged spirit
John King, in Philadelphia, he told me that if I would
go to the village of Havana, Schuyler County, New
York, I would see a phase of manifestation entirely
new to this country, and the precursor of a whole
series of unprecedented interest and importance. In
short, he gave me to understand that we were about to
witness the advent of the psychological mysteries which,
for many ages, have been confined to the temples and
pagodas of Egypt and Hindostan.
Acting upon this information I found myself in the
village designated, on the evening of the 29th of January,
of the present year (1875). The medium I sought
was a poor woman, named Elizabeth J. Compton, living
with a second husband, and the mother of nine
children, of whom five girls and one boy are alive.
Her maiden name was Houghtenning, and she was
born August 16th, 1829. On September 3d, 1848, she
was married to George W. Souls, in the town of Barrington,
Yates County, N. Y. Her husband, Souls,
was for many years an invalid, and she supported the
whole family by the hard labor of washing. Her
rounded shoulders, angular frame, horny palm, and
the fingers bent out of shape by constant immersion in
the hot suds of the wash-tub, abundantly corroborate
the story of her faithful exertions and honest toil.
Coming of laboring people, marrying in her own
class, and having the cares of a large family so soon
thrust upon her, she had no time to obtain an education,
and she can neither read nor write.
Like the Eddys, she inherits mediumship, her paternal
grandmother and an aunt having been known as
"witches," and reported to possess the evil-eye. Her
maternal grandmother, an Indian squaw, was brought
up among the whites, but was not unfamiliar with the
rude sorceries that prevailed among her people. Like
the case of the Eddys, also, the medianic power
descends to her children. I sat at a table alone with
the youngest, a pretty little girl of five years, and with
my hand laid upon her tiny little hands, the rappings
occurred all over the table. This child is also said
to be clairvoyant, as well as several of her sisters.
Mrs. Compton first saw a spirit when a child of
nine years, and after that her lucidity was frequently
demonstrated. The exceedingly limited space at my
command forbids mention of many instances, related to
me by herself, of visions, prophetic warnings, and
encounters with spiritual beings that occurred in her
experience. Suffice it to say that they were of a character
similar to those which have been fully described in
this book in connection with the psychological history
of the members of the Eddy family.
Her mediumship for physical phenomena dates
from March 1873, when a neighbor, calling in one
evening, proposed that they should "form a circle" in
the chamber where Mr. Souls was lying sick. She
was so little familiar with Spiritualism that she sup-
posed the circle meant was the "praying-circle" of the
Methodists, and readily consented. A table was drawn
up near the bed, and, taking their places at it, she says
she was astonished to hear rappings under their hands,
and still more so when a communication was spelled out,
purporting to come from a young man named Melville
Barton, who had been murdered a day or two before,
and for whose body search was then being made. The
spirit described the murder, and indicated where his
body would be found; which information the next day
proved to be true.
Sittings of a similar character were held frequently
after this, and the rappings grew louder and louder.
Mr. Souls finally died, and then he, too, began to
manifest his presence in the spirit, One night a slate
belonging to Mr. Souls was lying upon a projecting
timber in the room, and she heard the noise of the
pencil moving over its surface, although no person
was near it. Upon examination, it was discovered
that a communication had been written upon the slate by
an invisible hand; and after that this form of manifestation
was repeated very frequently.
On the evening of the 12th of February 1874, her present
husband, Mr. Compton, being at the house, it was proposed
that they should try to get "materializations," and accordingly
a blanket was tacked over a doorway for the experiment.
Six spirit-hands were shown around the edges of the blanket,
and the affair becoming known, the experiment was repeated in
many houses in Havana and the adjacent village of Watkins,
with uniformly satisfactory results. Before long, the figure
of a spirit-child appeared, and then faces and busts of
various persons were shown. In April, the spirits began to
talk in their own voices, and flowers and other material objects
On the 6th of September, a young girl, calling her-self Katie Brink, an Indian warrior of the Seneca tribe,
and a squaw named "Starlight" stepped out of the
improvised cabinet, in full form. Since the date mentioned,
only six different spirits have walked out, viz:
Katie Brink, the Seneca, Starlight, Katie Weaver, a
Mrs. Rhodes and the Rev. Gardiner Crum. No more
than three have appeared upon any one evening, and
usually only two-Seneca and Katie Brink-are seen.
Such are the statements made to me by Mrs. Compton
and corroborated by other persons. I repeat them without comment.
The sťances are now held in a second-story chamber,
fifteen feet square, and devoted exclusively to this purpose.
Across one corner, a plastered partition has
been run, forming a triangular cupboard, or closet,
just large enough to admit of a person sitting in the
apex of the triangle. There is no window, trap or
outlet, the walls being all solid, and the floor securely
fastened down, with the boards running under the
mop-board, except one which is badly matched; but
this is nailed to the joists by a dozen nails, and cannot
be pried up without breaking it into pieces. The
angles of three rooms join directly underneath this
cabinet, and the ceilings of all are perfectly solid. The
following sketch gives an idea of the external appearance
of the cabinet.
It will be observed that there is no aperture in the
wall, but an open space is left by sawing off the upper
portion of the door; across this opening a curtain of
black muslin stretches upon a wire inside the frame.
My first seance with the medium was on the evening
of January 30th. The spectators, numbering a halfdozen sat upon chairs in the room, about eight feet from
the cabinet. Mrs. Compton took her seat on the chair
inside, the lamp in the room was turned down very
low, and for a long time nothing interesting occurred.
Finally the door opened and the figure of an Indian
appeared on the threshold, spoke to us, greeted me
cordially, but did not emerge, as he said the medium
was in too weak and prostrated a condition to afford
him the power requisite.
The following evening, the girl Katie Brink showed
herself, and walked about, touching various persons,
patting their heads and cheeks. Clad in a flowing robe
of crisp white muslin, her head covered with a bride-veil
that fell down to her knees, gliding about with velvet
footsteps, speechless, and half-seen in the obscurity, she
reminded me of Goethe's Bride of Corinth
" By the waning lamp's uncertain gleaming
There he sees a youthful maiden stand,
Robed in white, of still and gentle seeming,
On her brow a black and golden band."
Passing from the other spectators, she came to me,
sitting apart and with one hand laid against the cabinet
wall, and first gently stroking my head, she sat upon my
knee, and passing an arm over my shoulder kissed me
upon my left cheek. Her weight seemed scarcely as
much as that of a child of eight years, but her arm felt
solid upon my shoulder, and the lips that caressed me
were as natural as life. By pre-arrangement, I passed
into the cabinet, while the girl was outside, and found no
medium there, although I not only examined every nook,
but, the better to assure myself that I was not `psycholo-
gized,' felt the chair, the walls and all the space about.
There could be but one alternative here: Either the
`spirit' was no spirit, but the medium, or, the medium
had been transfigured, after the fashion of the Oriental
thaumaturgists. I determined to settle that question
conclusively before leaving town.
The next evening, having obtained Mrs. Compton's
cheerful consent to submit to my tests, I removed her
earrings, and seating her in the chair in the cabinet,
fastened her in it by passing some "NO. 50" sewing-
thread through the perforations in her ears, and sealing
the ends to the back of the chair, with sealing-wax, which
I stamped with my private signet. I then fastened the
chair to the floor, with thread and wax in a secure manner.
Observe, in the sketch, how impossible it was for her
to move an inch from her place: she could not have been
more firmly fixed to her seat, if irons had been passed
through her flesh, and riveted in the wood. A slight pull
would suffice to snap the frail thread, and betray her
attempt to cheat.
The persons present, beside myself and the medium,
were John S. Smith, and J. H. Hardy, of Elmira, N. Y ;
Mrs. Florence Beardsley, of London, Canada; Benjamin
Wickes, of Havana, N. Y; David Lee, of Washington;
Mrs. Margaret Compton, of Havana; William Anderson
and friend, of Watkins; Mr. Peter Compton; and two of
the medium's little girls. All but myself sat upon chairs
placed in a double row opposite the cabinet door; and I
took my place near the railing of the stairway, not more
than five feet from the same. In front of me stood a
Fairbanks platform-scale, which, in hope of verifying the
Chittenden weighing experiment, I had procured for the
The light being lowered, as is usual in these sťances,
and the cabinet-door closed, we sang vigorously for some
minutes, when across the aperture above the door floated
a pair of hands, from left to right, and then disappeared.
Then came another pair of larger size; and then a voice,
(which, if not that of the late Daniel Webster, was its
counterpart in depth, sonorousness, and fullness of tone
as I recall it to memory), addressed me, giving me full
instructions and cautions as to how I was to proceed.
In entering the cabinet while the spirit was outside, I
was at liberty to feel everywhere, and satisfy myself that
the medium was not there, but I must be careful not to
actually touch the chair. I might pass my hands as near
it as I chose, but actual contact with its substance I was
requested to avoid. Then, again, I was to lay upon the
platform of the scale a covering of some kind so that the
spirit need not come into contact with the wood or metal.
I promised compliance, and soon had the satisfaction
to see the white-robed girl in the open doorway. She
stepped out, moved around, touched several persons, and
then approached the scale. I sat ready with one hand
upon the poise and the other at the end of the beam, and
as she stepped up, took her weight without the loss of a
second. She then retired into the cabinet; whereupon,
lighting a parlor-match, I read the figures. She weighed
only seventy-seven lbs., although she had not the stature
of a child. Can the reader imagine my feelings as I sat
there in the gloom, not more than a foot-and-a-half from
a speechless and veiled figure, a supposed visitor from
the other world, who had gathered unto herself an evanescent
corporeal body, of which my scales could now take
cognizance, and the next moment would be dissipated
into a vapor more unsubstantial than the electric fluid
itself? This was, indeed, being face to face with the
dead, or rather with the quick who had tasted death, and
passed on into an immortal life where death is known no
more, and the grave is regarded as the birth-bed of the
The spirit came out again, and then I entered the
cabinet, looking carefully everywhere, and feeling
cautiously but thoroughly all about, but, as before,
finding no vestige of the medium. The chair was there,
but no bodily presence sat in it.
I then asked the spirit-girl to make herself lighter
if possible and she stepped again upon my scales. As
rapidly as before, I got the beam at poise, and, she
retiring as before, I read the figure--fifty-nine pounds.
She appeared yet again, and this time passed from
one to another of the spectators, patting this one's
head, the other's hand, sitting upon Mr. Hardy's knee,
laying her hand gently upon my head, stroking my
cheek, and then mounting the scale for me to make my
final test. This time she weighed only fifty-two pounds,
although from first to last there had been no apparent
alteration in her dress or bulk.
The scientific reader will now recall the weighing
of Honto by Mr. Pritchard, and be pleased to see the
figures in comparison with those above :
SPIRIT KATIE BRINK
||67 1/2 lbs
||62 2/3 lbs
It is quite unnecessary to dwell upon the importance
of these experiments as opening up a most remarkable
field of scientific inquiry. It is to be regretted that I
was prevented, (by the necessity of completing this
volume to fulfill publishers' engagements), from pursuing
the subject; but a beginning has, at least, been
made. I should add that the ascertained stature of
Honto is 5 feet 5 inches; while that of the Havana
spirit, as by actual measurement, varied within ten
minutes, from 5 feet 10 1/2 to 4 feet 8 3/4. These
measurements were not taken upon the same evening as the
weighing, but at the preceding seance. Upon this
occasion I found Mrs. Compton's height to be 5 ft. 4
inches, and the Indian chiefs 5 ft. 5 7/8 inches.
After the weighing "Katie" appeared no more; but
after a few minutes had elapsed we were addressed in
the guttural base of the Indian chief, and he showed
himself at the door. A colloquy ensued in the Indian
language between him and Mr. Hardy, who lived some
years among the Western tribes, and who certified to
the reality of the speech uttered by the spectre chief.
The Seneca again could not come out because of alleged
lack of power, but before retiring he gave a terrific
war-whoop that made the rafters ring again, and then
a peace-whoop as an adieu. This manifestation
alone would seem to indicate that the poor, nervously
fluttering medium had no part in the appearance of at
least this one spectre.
After the brave's retirement, we had some more
conversation with sundry spirit-voices, and then the
light being turned up, various faces floated into sight
above the door and faded away, and then the circle closed.
I went inside with a lamp, and found the medium just as
I left her at the beginning of the seance, with every thread
unbroken and every seal undisturbed ! She sat there, with
her head leaning against the wall, her flesh as pale and as
cold as marble, her eyeballs turned up beneath the lids, her
forehead covered with a death-like damp, no breath coming
from her lungs, and no pulse at her wrist. When every person had
examined the threads and seals, I cut the flimsy bonds
with a pair of scissors, and, lifting the chair by its back
and seat, carried the cataleptic woman out into the
open air of the chamber.
She lay thus inanimate for eighteen minutes; life
gradually coming back to her body, until respiration
and pulse and the temperature of her skin became
normal. . . I then put her upon the scale. . . .
She weighed one hundred and twenty-one pounds!