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




I HAVE hitherto alluded only to Slade and Monck as the vehicles of this force, and the Psychics in whose presence these phenomena are produced. Though they afford us, by virtue of their prominence before the public, most available evidence, it must not be supposed that abundant facts of a similar description are not to be found in other quarters. I am precluded from referring to cases where the Psychic is not before the public. For obvious reasons, ladies and gentlemen do not voluntarily expose themselves to the curiosity of those who, only too frequently, reward information given by an incredulous stare, or an insinuation of delusion or imposture. When the plain facts are so far recognised that a profession of belief in their reality does not involve social stigma, or suspicion of a latent craziness, many persons will step forward to give their own testimony. That they do not now do so is not surprising; but the fact remains, though I cannot make use of it for purposes of argument, that these phenomena occur in the privacy of domestic life, are witnessed in many a family where no stranger is admitted, and where no aid in the evolution of the phenomena is sought.


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I have records of experiments with two American Psychics, which I adduce here by way of corroboration. The first is given by the Hon. J. L. O'Sullivan, formerly American Minister at the Court of Portugal, and his experiments were made with Mrs. Harman of San Francisco. The power of obtaining this phenomenon was rapidly developed in her within three weeks, and the progress made was very sudden. The noise made by the act of writing, it will be noted, was different from that observed with Slade, though the more familiar sound of cursive writing could apparently be imitated at will.


Mr. O'Sullivan thus describes what he saw:—


The modus operandi was this. The slate (sponged clean with a small piece of pencil laid upon it, at first like Slade's, but afterwards, by direction, considerably bigger) was held under a common table, about a couple of inches below the table-top, she holding one corner between her thumb and fingers, and I supporting it lightly between mine, at the opposite diagonal corner of the slate. Our other hands were on the top of the table. In this situation it is clear that if she had relaxed her hold, to make any other use of her fingers, the slate must have dropped instantly to the ground, so light was the support contributed to it by me. Nay, more—I having once asked to have my hand touched, there was then written on the slate that I should place my entire hand on the top of the slate, which I did, so that the slate was then held up solely by her thumb and fingers at one corner of it. My hand was then touched, stroked, and patted, and a ring on the little finger taken off, at my request, dropped audibly on the slate, and again put on, with some little difficulty in pushing it over the thickness of the joint.


Sometimes, too, she laid the slate on the open palm of her hand, and then directed me to place my hand under


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hers, so that the entire back of her hand rested on the palm of mine, both hands thus uniting in holding the slate up to with In an inch or two of the under side of the table top. Both of these modes of holding the slate certainly constituted the most complete of test conditions as to the point that the medium's hand could not possibly have had anything to do, either with the touching mine and taking off the ring or with the copious writing on the slate, which would take place as will be seen below. These things were certainly done by no mortal hand. She and I were alone in the room; the table was a common everyday one, standing on an unbroken spread of carpet: will Dr. Carpenter consider that they come within the reach of "unconscious cerebration"?

Another point as to the modus operandi, which differs from the experiences with Dr. Slade. While the slate was being held under the table, we would not hear the scratching of the pencil in the act of writing, but a steady stream as of rapid little ticks on the slate, for all the world like the sound of a stream of electric sparks. We would then hear three loud ticks and the sound of the pencil dropping on the slate, as a signal that it was done. We would withdraw the slate, and there would be the message, always distinctly written. And yet, on my once remarking on this circumstance as being different from what Occurred at Dr. Slade's, and also with Mrs. Francis (another slate-writing medium at San Francisco), the next time we heard, first, the flow of the stream of ticks, and then the scratching sound of writing with a slate pencil, as though to show that they could do that too if they chose.

It was also to be noted that a communication of some length would be given in broken parts, even a sentence being sometimes broken off in the middle. The signal for stopping would be given, as though for rest and recuperation of the force. This will be illustrated below. Seldom would more than twenty or twenty-five words be given consecutively without such an intermission, long enough for me to read, copy, expunge, and rub the slate, and again restore it to its position under the table. It seemed as though some force analogous to electricity flowed down the medium's arm, so as to charge the slate and pencil with some spiritual power,


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so as to establish the conditions under which the spirit hands were able to act. That no mortal hands were, or could possibly have been there, was, I repeat, absolutely certain.


There is now before the public in America a Psychic of very great power, Charles E. Watkins, of Cleveland, Ohio. From several accounts of phenomena observed in his presence, I select now what bears upon my present point, but I shall have reason to recur to him again before my argument is complete.


My friend, Mr. Epes Sargent, of Boston, U.S.A., who is indefatigable in his attempts to convince an unwilling world that there is in and around us something more than materialists would have us to believe, has published in the Spiritualist of Oct. 12, 1877, a very precise account of his experiments with Watkins. On the 18th of September, he tells us, he bought a new slate, protected by paste-board covers, and repaired to Watkins' temporary residence, 46 Beach Street, Boston. Apparently Mr. Watkins was in a very unsuitable frame of mind—worried, out of temper, ill at ease—just the worst state, one would say, for hope of success in an experiment which demands, above all, passivity and ease in the Psychic. It does not seem, however, to have made much difference in the present instance.


Mr. Sargent was alone, and the time was about noon on a clear, bright September day. The phenomena all centred round a belief in intercourse with the Spiritual world. Mr. Sargent wrote six names on six different slips of paper, concealing the movement of


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his hand from Watkins, who, however, had turned his back and made no effort to see what was being written. "Without touching the pellets—only pointing at them with a slate-pencil—Watkins gave the name written on each." Mr. Sargent unfolded them one by one, and found that in every instance he was right. His power of clairvoyance was very strong, and I think it likely that this supersensuous condition is a frequent concomitant of the state in which Psychography becomes possible.


Mr. Sargent's narrative, so far as it bears on my present subject, reads thus:—


He now handed me two slates, which I cleaned thoroughly with a wet towel, which I had asked for. The theory that by some chemical process there might be some writing upon a slate ineffaceable by scrubbing, but made visible after a minute or two, was wholly disproved by subsequent occurrences. Mr. Watkins did not touch the slates after I had washed them. He simply placed a crumb of slate-pencil between them, and told me to hold them out at arm's length. This I did, first satisfying myself once more that they did not bear the mark of a single letter on any of their surfaces. I held the two joined slates out in my left hand, the medium being some four feet distant from them. "Do you hear writing?" asked he. I put my ear down, and distinctly heard the light scratching of the bit of slate-pencil. "It is finished," said he, as a slight rap came on the slate. I did not see how there could have been time for more than a simple name to have been written; but when I took one slate from the other, there, on the surface of the lower slate, was a letter of fifty-four words, signed with the name of a deceased brother, which name I had not written down among those on the pellets. The letter was characteristic, but gave no startling proof of the writer's identity. The hand-writing had a general resemblance to my brother's, but I omitted to


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take steps to compare it carefully before the writing was rubbed out.

A still better test was in store for me. The little slate, in stiff pasteboard covers, which I had bought an hour before, and brought with me, had rested untouched near my right elbow on the table. Mr. Watkins now took it up, lifted a cover, put a crumb of slate-pencil on the surface of the slate, closed the cover, and handed the slate to me. I know that there was no manipulation, no delay, no possibility of trick on his part. I know that no "prepossession" or expectancy of my own was a possible factor in the case, if I can be permitted to use my reason in saying so. I looked at the slate on both sides—satisfied myself (though there was no occasion for this under the circumstances) that it had not been tampered with, then held it out, and the name written on it was Anna Cora Mowatt, afterwards Ritchie, whose funeral I attended at Kensal-Green in London, when Mr. Varley, Mr. D. D. Home, Mrs. Cox, Mr. Harrison, and other Spiritualists were present.

I held my own slate out a second time, and then came the words: "My dear brother.—Yours, Lizzie." Her name had not been even written or Uttered by me up to this time. Lizzie was the name by which we had always called her, though she usually signed herself Elizabeth.

Again I held out my own slate, and there came the words:—"My dear son, God bless you. Your father, who loves you dearly.—Epes Sargent."

During these intervals the slate was held by me, and there was no possible way by which any human trick or jugglery could have been practised. The sunshine still streamed into the room; the medium sat there before me; no other person was present. No more stringent conditions could have been demanded, even by Messrs. Lankester and Donkin. The medium, however, writhed as if in torture every time the slate-writing took place. It was evidently accompanied by some powerful nervous excitement on his part.

Mr. Chas. E. Watkins is twenty-nine years old, and a man of a highly nervous and sensitive temperament. He is a far different person intellectually from what I had been led


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to expect. He showed, by flashes, a high order of mind, and I regret that I could not have taken down in shorthand some of his remarks.


He now took my slate, and, after I had re-examined it, he held it out in his own hand, and in less than ten seconds one side was fully covered with a letter from my sister Lizzie. Here it is:—



I come to you this morning with my heart full of love for you, and I think that perhaps you may believe that it is me, your own sister. George is here with me.                                Your loving sister,


If you ever doubt spirit communion, look at this slate.

Your sister, LIZZIE.


I still have the slate, with the writing uneffaced. There were no punctuation marks, but the word "believe" was underlined. The whole was written in less than twelve seconds.


His brother, Mr. James Otis Sargent, a man of calm and clear mind, and a thoroughly capable observer, also went to experiment with Watkins, and his testimony corroborates that of Epes Sargent. He is good enough to send me the following account of an interview with C. E. Watkins, at his room, No. 46 Beach Street, Boston, on the 19th day of September, 1877:—

Watkins and myself were the only persons present. He handed me some slips of paper on which I wrote the names of five deceased persons, folding up each paper as soon as I had written the name upon it, so that its contents were thoroughly concealed. While I was doing this, W. left the room.

When he came back, the five folded papers, all mixed together, lay on the table under my right hand. Without


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touching them, he requested me to pick out one of them and hold it in my left hand. I did so. After walking across the room once or twice, and laying his hand on my head, he told me correctly the name that was written on the paper. In like manner, he told me the names written on the remaining papers, while I held them, one by one, tightly grasped in my hand.

I now threw the papers aside, and took the slates, two of which, precisely alike, were lying on the table. I cleaned each slate carefully on both sides with a damp towel. Watkins then sat down at the table, opposite me, laid one slate on the table, bit off a little piece of slate-pencil and laid it on the slate, put the other slate over it as a cover, placed his two hands flat on that, and told me to put my hands on his, which I did. In a moment he drew out his own hands, so that my hands were left with the slates beneath them. Then he said that if I put my ear down I would hear the pencil writing. I put my ear down (not forgetting, however, to keep an eye upon him), and I heard distinctly the sound of the pencil. While I was listening, the pencil gave three slight taps, and then the sound stopped.

I lifted the upper slate, and on the under one two communications were written. The first purported to come from a deceased brother, whose name was on one of the papers; the second from my father, whose name I had not written. The handwriting of the two was quite different. I did not recognise it. But the signature of the second communication, in the peculiar form of some of the letters, was like my father's signature.

The slates were now cleansed again, the bit of pencil was placed between them, and I held them myself at arm's length, Watkins not touching them or me. On opening them I found a short communication signed with another of the names that I had written. The next time Watkins held the slates, and a message appeared purporting to be from a deceased sister named in one of my papers.

Here the seance ended. It took place in broad daylight. I watched every movement of the medium, and there was no possibility of fraud. There was nothing in the messages by which I could identify them as coming from the persons


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named; but that they were written by some mysterious agency I have no doubt.


Cedar Square, Roxbury, Nov. 20, 1877.


Mr. John Wetherbee, of Boston, U.S.A., gives a similar testimony. He is a well-known writer on psychological subjects, and has devoted prolonged attention to them. Few writers in America are more entitled to speak on these subjects, or command more attention by their utterances. He testifies thus:—


I followed an impression I had, and bought two new slates at a store, and had holes bored in the frames, and tied the two slates together, and sealed the knots. The slates were clean, and the medium never touched or saw the inside of them. I had charge of them, and they were never out of my sight. The room was as light as a clear afternoon sun shining into it could make it. The tied slates lay on the table before me and before him— not under table, but on the table. It took some little time, for the new slates were not in so good mesmerically charged condition as the slates in his common use are; but I felt as though I would like to have the writing on the new slates, so I was patient, and was well paid for my patience, for after a while I heard the atom of pencil that I had put in the slates before tying them together beginning to write, after which I cut the strings, and found one of the slates filled with a communication signed by the name of a well-beloved friend and relative who died some seven years ago.


Now, my good reader, I know—as well as I know that the sun has shone to-day—first, that, as I said, the slates were new and clean; secondly, that no one in the room or out of the room (the only occupants being the medium and myself) wrote the communication on the slate; and, thirdly, that it must have been done by an invisible, intelligent being or beings, and could not have been done in any other conceivable way. I make this statement as strongly as I know how, and my oath shall be attached if needed.


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I had many communications besides the one described with the tied slates. I will describe one which was on his own slates, but just as good a test, for my eyes are open and my head is level. I took his two slates, and washed them clean, and laid one on the other, like a double slate, and held them out at arm's length, and three feet or more from the medium, and he never once touched them; the bit of pencil began to write; I had put it between the upper and under slates; then I opened them, and on each slate was an intelligent communication—one from a relative and one from a friend. Both, it will be seen, were written at the same time, both by different spirits and on different subjects, and the handwriting of each was very different also.

Dr. H. B. Storer, 29 Indiana Place, Boston, has the same story to tell. I give his record:—

I took his own two slates, first examining them, to know, as I positively do, that there was no writing upon them. I placed them together, the medium simply dropping a crumb of slate-pencil between them, and held them at arm's length in my left hand, in the bright light of the sun, the medium sitting within about three feet of the slate, convulsively writhing, while the noise of scratching was feebly heard, apparently on the slates. In some two or three minutes, I should think, he said: "It is done," and I separated the slates and found a short message written in a large, bold hand, and signed "Dr. Warren." I know that some invisible but intelligent being, other than the medium or myself, wrote that message, and such a being I call a spirit.

Mr. Chester A. Greenleaf writes from Chicopee, Mass., under date, Nov. 14th, 1877:—

My wife received a long communication on new double slates bought and screwed together by myself, and untouched by Watkins. The moving of the tiny pencil was heard by her while Watkins was standing in a doorway about twelve feet distant from where the slates were held by her.

Mr. Watkins seems to obtain this phenomenon under


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almost any prescribed condition. It is recorded of him (Aug 25 ult.) that he submitted his powers to a crucial testing on the public platform. Two new slates were bought, and kept in the possession of the chairman of the meeting, Dr. Beals, and by him carried to the platform. A committee, consisting of two gentlemen who are not believers in the phenomena called Spiritual, and one who is, was chosen from the audience. The usual preparations having been made, the slates were held by Watkins and the three gentlemen. "Soon the scratch of the pencil was heard, and on taking the slates apart, a message of fifty words was found on one of them; the committee affirming the impossibility of any substitution of slates, or of chemical writing."


I have now brought forward testimony sufficient for my purpose. If what I have adduced does not establish my case, then no amount of proof would suffice. I pass to another class of evidence.