Psychography, A Treatise of Psychic or Spiritual Phenomena 1840 - 1892




I PROCEED now to give my own personal testimony as to what I have witnessed in the presence of two Psychics well known to the public, Henry Slade and Francis W. Monck, selecting those points only which bear on this subject.


I sat alone with Slade in the month of July, 1877; and I carried with me a small slate of white porcelain, taken from my own writing-desk. I held it myself under the table, at a corner furthest from Slade, and obtained a short scrawl upon it, written with a point of lead pencil which I placed upon it. Slade used ordinary states and slate-pencil; and on one of his slates, while we held it jointly, a number of messages were written. The longest and most elaborate of these, which covered both sides of a folding-slate, was written while the slate lay on the table before me. I put my ear down to the cover of the slate, and could distinctly hear the writing in process. The sound was the grating sound of state-pencil deliberately and carefully moved over the slate, and lasted for a considerable time; I should say three or four minutes. I noted especially the fact that the sound came from the slate immediately beneath my ear. I also observed that by a slight change of position the writing could be stopped.


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In order to make my position intelligible, I append an exact diagram of the table used by Slade, which was produced in the court at the Bow Street trial, and which may now be seen by the curious at the rooms of the British National Association of Spiritualists, 38 Great Russell Street. The table used during my experiment was an old one, of about the same size, belonging to the house. It was only when this table was split into pieces that Slade had one constructed for himself. It was made of hard wood, to resist rough usage; and of remarkable simplicity, in order to be easily examined. The subjoined diagram and explanation will enable my readers to understand what Mr. Maskelyne audaciously described at the trial at Bow Street, as if it were a trick-table.



[Detailed diagram of table with cross section]


Fig. 2 represents the table Dr. Slade ordered to be brought to Bow Street; it is a kind of ordinary kitchen table, but


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made of ash. The frame above A was declared by the man who made it to be somewhat larger than the frames commonly used for such tables; he had made it larger, without any order to that effect, to give additional strength. There is, as usual with such tables, no frame round the flaps.

There being no veneering and no framework in each flap—nothing but an honest piece of solid ash—it is easy to see that when Dr. Slade holds a slate, B (Fig. 3), against the solid wooden flap, A, and writing comes, in dry, dusty slate-pencil, all over the upper side of the slate, in the shadow under the flap, how very disturbing such an occurrence must be to the mental equilibrium of hardened materialists.

B D E, Fig. 1, show the under side of the table, but we have put two ordinary brackets at R R, under the flap, B B, whereas Dr. Slade's table had but a single stick bracket under each flap, such as is shown at N, beneath the flap, E E. The slate "in position" is shown at H, where the stick bracket is out of its way, one of the double brackets, R, there, would have been an encumbrance, interfering with the placing of the slate. D D is the part of the table directly connected with the frame, and A A. A A are the tops of the four legs of the table.

Dr. Slade never sits at the flap side of the table at X. He always sits sideways, against the frame at T D, turning his feet in the direction of the lower E, and putting the slate under the table at that corner, so that the observer, who always sits at the same corner in broad daylight, has—or can have if be asks for it—Dr. Slade's hands and feet, and the edge of the slate, always in full view.

Sometimes Dr. Slade, with his thumb on the upper side of the slate at W, pushes the slate, W K, half under the table, as represented at K, then withdraws it, the whole motion being about as quick as the swing of a pendulum, yet during the moment the part of the slate K is in shadow, a sentence is scribbled across it in the dry, dusty writing of slate-pencil.

The position in which we were placed was this: Slade sat sideways at T D, and with his back to the


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window, through which a July sun was streaming; the blinds were up, and every corner of the room was in clear light. I sat at the side opposite to N; my right hand linked with Slade's on the top of the table, so as to form a chain, my left joining his in holding a slate at H. When my hand was raised so as not to touch Slade's hand on the top of the table, the writing at once ceased, and was resumed when contact was again made. It will be seen that other observers have noted this. Mr. F.W. Percival was especially impressed with the ease with which the writing could be stopped by breaking contact, and the rapidity with which a slight touch, even on the cuff of Slade's coat, would set it again into feeble action. He noted it in his printed testimony at the time, and has frequently mentioned it to me since.


The writing on my own porcelain slate was obtained while I held it under the corner at E, Slade not touching it.


The next piece of personal evidence which I adduce was obtained with another Psychic, F. W. Monck. The place was 26 Southampton Row; the time, Oct. 19, 1877, evening; the light, that of a small lamp, sufficient for observation; those present, the Rev. Thomas Colley, late curate of Portsmouth, Mrs. Colley, myself, and the Psychic.


I examined, carefully cleaned, and privately marked, two small school slates, which were apparently quite new; placed a tiny fragment of slate­pencil between their inner surfaces, and tied them securely together, so that they could not slip, nor could anything be


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inserted between them. I fastened my string, moreover, with a peculiar knot. When tied, I myself placed the slates on the table before me, and requested Mr. Colley to lay his finger on one corner, while I placed mine on the corner next to it, and Monck, who sat opposite to us, laid his hands on the corners nearest to him.


I was requested to choose some short word, and to desire to have it written within the slates. I chose snow. The sound of writing was distinctly heard, and I was informed through Monck, entranced, that the word had been written. Three facts were then stated, viz., that a badly­formed S had been erased, and that two other letters had certain specified peculiarities in their formation.


These statements, made, be it observed, while the slates lay before me under my finger, I at once verified by untying the string that bound them together. As they had never left my sight, it is to no purpose to say that my knot was intact. Within the slates I found the word snow written, and with the peculiar formations and erasure which had been specified. In addition, the words "favourite way" were written. While the experiment was in process, we had been conversing about the peculiar way in which names were frequently spelt in these writings, and one of us remarked that, though a particular Christian name was frequently written, it was never spelt in the owner's favourite way. The passing words had been caught up and written at the moment within the slates.


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Reserving comment, I note the following points in this experiment:— I. The slates were new, clean, privately marked, and thoroughly tied.


2. They never left my sight, nor was my hand removed from them even for a moment.


3. They never were out of my own possession after I cleaned and marked them.


4. The light was sufficient for exact observation.


5. The words written could not have been prepared beforehand. 6. I have the corroboration of two witnesses.


One more case I record as a piece of personal experience, before proceeding to the experiments of others. When this subject first came before me, I endeavoured to submit it to a crucial test. For this purpose I made an experiment similar to that first made by Baron Guldenstubbe, of whose name even I had not then heard. I inclosed a piece of paper in a travelling desk of my own, which desk I strapped up in its cover, and placed in my private drawer. The key of that drawer, in which my most private papers are kept, never goes out of my possession, and assuredly I kept it consciously in view during the experiment. I left the paper undisturbed for twenty-four hours, and at the end of that time I found upon it very clear and distinct writing, covering its entire upper surface.


In this case I note the absence of any possibility of deception, conceivable to myself. At the same time, I note also the absence of corroborative testimony.