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




Dr. Slade attended the meeting of the Research Committee, and, after a short interval, was shown into the front seance room, where he received the members by twos. Mr.


88                                          Psychography.


R. Hannah and I were the last to enter. We found Dr. Slade standing by a common deal table, which, with the three chairs to be occupied by us, was detached by an interval of eight or ten feet from the other articles in the room. I received the slates which were used, one a double-folding, and the other a common school slate, from the members who had entered immediately preceding Mr. Hannah and myself, and took them into the seance room. On the common slate a short message was written whilst it was partially under the table. I then expressed a wish that something might be written in my pocket-book, which I handed to Dr. Slade, with a small bit of my own pencil (blue). We were informed that a trial would be made to give us a message. Dr. Slade held the pocket book over the table, open and in full view, then dropped the bit of pencil on the open leaf, then turned over the half cover so as to close the book, except so far as was prevented by Dr. Slade's thumb being at one corner holding the book. In about a minute, without any action or movement by Dr. Slade, writing was heard to be in progress, the whole book being still in sight, as also were both hands of Dr. Slade, one only being used to hold the book, and a message was written.

A small piece of pencil was then placed on one side of the double slate, and the other side closed over it. The closed slate was then held for an instant by Dr. Slade, partly under the table, but at Mr. Hannah's suggestion, it was put on the top of the table, and pressed down with the tips of Dr. Slade's fingers and thumb. When the slate was brought up and placed on the top of the table, Dr. Slade opened it to show that it was then free from writing. Almost instantly writing was heard, and on opening the slate a sentence was found to be written, which was preserved, and attested by Mr. Hannah and myself by our signatures on the frame of the slate, and the slate handed to Mr. Fitz-Gerald, to whom it belonged. Mr. Hannah is of opinion that no more satisfactory conditions could be required as proof, that Dr. Slade had no active part in producing the writings, than were afforded by these two experiments with the pocket­book and the slate, and I concur with him entirely.


Special Tests of the Writing.                                  89

A series of sittings was given by Dr. Slade to the Research Committee at 38, Great Russell Street, on the 15th December. He was shown into the front seance room, where he received the members by twos.

Mr. Edmands and I were the last to enter, and we found Dr. Slade standing by a bare table, which, with the three chairs to be occupied by us, was detached by an interval of eight or ten feet from the other articles in the room.

Mr. Edmands took into the room the slates to be experimented upon, one a double-folding, and the other a common school slate.

On this common slate a short message was written whilst it was partially under the table. Mr. Edmands then expressed a wish that something might be written in his pocket-book. A very small portion of prepared lead was placed upon it, and Dr. Slade held it, quite open, in sight, but partly covered by the corner of the flap of the table. In about a minute the book seemed to shut without any action on the part of Dr. Slade, and writing was heard to be in progress, the whole book being then in sight, as also were both of Dr. Slade's hands.

A small piece of pencil was then placed on one side of the double slate, and the other side closed down over it. The closed slate was then held for an instant by Dr. Slade, partly under the table, but at my suggestion he put it on the top of the table, and pressed it down with the tips of his fingers and thumb. Almost instantly writing was heard, and on opening the slate a sentence was found, which was, preserved, and afterwards attested by Mr. Edmands and myself signing our names on the frame.

I do not think more satisfactory conditions could be required as proof that Dr. Slade had no active part in producing the writing than were afforded by these two experiments with the pocket-book and the folding slate.

An incident attracted my notice during the sitting which I may be allowed to mention, as it bears on a part of the evidence given in the prosecution, where it was said that Dr. Slade adopted the rather uncouth mode of biting off bits of pencil in order that he might have some pretext for the noise made by "clearing his throat." The only time during


90                                           Psychography

the sitting Dr. Slade indulged in this "knack" was when holding the pocket-book open partly under the table. He had not hitherto bitten a pencil at all, as the sentence on the common slate was written with a largish piece, which had been on the table. The knack seemed spasmodic, or as indicating that he might be in very slight degree in the state which is called "under control." Besides these writings, certain unimportant movements of the table occurred. R. HANNAH.


In the course of this report occurs the name of a scientific gentleman who had great opportunity of observing the phenomena which occurred in Slade's presence, and who has left us a very exact record of some of his observations. Mr. Carter Blake, Doctor of Science, late secretary to the Anthropological Society of Great Britain, and now lecturer on comparative anatomy at Westminster Hospital, is the observer, and his records, beside giving facts, note also some deductions bearing on the source and operation of the force to which I shall have occasion to recur hereafter.


On Monday, the 8th instant, I had the pleasure of visiting Dr. Slade. The manifestations were of the same kind as those described by many of your correspondents. I was struck with the fact that the motive power which pulled at my coat, took a slate from my hand, and carried it under the table, proceeded from my right hand, while Dr. Slade was on my left. The message given on the slate was of the usual character from "Allie." Subsequently, the initials of a deceased person known to myself were written on the slate when the side was turned downwards, and quite invisible to Dr. Slade. Afterwards some writing was obtained on the slate from the same assumed source, the meaning of which was intelligible to myself, and not to Dr. Slade. Hands were seen, and my coat forcibly pulled by some other force than his own. The table was raised up when both his


Special Tests of the Writing.                                 91

hands, and both mine, were on it, and my feet on his. No motion of his feet could have done this. He then leaving the table, it forcibly threw itself in my lap, and subsequently, in a reversed position, on my head. The accordion was played when held by one of Dr. Slade's hands.

The hands shown near me cast a distinct shadow, produced by the sunlight on the table, and on my white waistcoat.

The effect on my mind was the certainty of Dr. Slade's perfect good faith in the matter, and the conviction that the force which produced these singular conditions was intelligent, and acted from a spot or spots separate from the medium.

On Sunday, September 10, 1876, after mass, I visited Dr. Slade at 9.40 a.m., and found him in good health and spirits. Stepping into the back drawing-room, the table, which was covered, had the cloth removed, and the cloth as well as the table were most minutely inspected by me, as had been the carpet on a previous occasion. Dr. Slade sat at the west side of the table, and I at the south. I do not think it necessary in any way further to describe the table than by saying it is of good solid ash, and the carpentry with which it is made is good. The "strut" or "bracket," which may be used to support either of the flaps of the table, is precisely similar to that in a deal table which I have in my own possession. There is, in fact, nothing abnormal or unusual about this arrangement, which I only mention because attention had been drawn to it with a view to infer that there was something suspicious. The chairs around the table (which do not belong to Dr. Slade) are Ordinary cane-bottom chairs, are not connected with any mechanism either, under the carpet, to the ceiling, or in any way whatever. The chair which I will call A was placed by me, after inspection, at the north-east corner of the table, its front face being diagonal with the north side of the table. Another chair (B) was placed in full view of myself, parallel with the eastern face of the table.

Dr. Slade had on French pumps, and his dress was "of the period." I had on heavy side-spring walking boots. Dr. Slade, with a view to show that it was perfectly impossible


92                                          Psychography.

for him to produce any motion of or under the table by his feet, attempted to sit sideways with one of his feet on a chair moved to the south-west corner of the table between us. Failing to be able to sit comfortably in this way, he placed his feet at a distance of about six inches (minimum distance) from the south-west corner of the table. I took off my own boots and placed them behind my chair at the spot marked F, where they could not be touched by any one but myself, and only by my right hand. A sofa was behind me, and the boots were partially underneath this sofa.


I then placed my feet on those of Dr. Slade, and rendered any action on the part of his feet impossible. The slate was then held by him under the table, as already described by Serjeant Cox, and some twenty others, with perfect accuracy. I do not think it necessary to say more than that on the present occasion my attention was chiefly directed to constater the fact that both sides of the slate were carefully examined by me and ascertained not to have any prepared writing or marking. Dr. Slade permitted me to hold the slate in my own hands and turn either side up. The pencil crumb was soon heard writing, and the following message produced on the upper surface of the slate:—


Special Tests of the Writing.                                   93

DEAR SIR,—I present my compliments, and wish you to say Wm. Trippen [or Tuppen] came, and wishes his friends to know he can return. I left earth Aug. 16th, at No. 1, Thomas's Cottage, Bourne-walk, Butler, age 68. Wm. T.


The meaning of the above is perfectly unintelligible to me. While it was being written, Dr. Slade was carrying on a conversation on another subject.

We then proceeded with the seance.

Whilst waiting for the next manifestation, I noticed a condition which I had not previously observed with Dr. Slade. His hands being on both mine, in the centre of the table, the muscles of my forearms were seized with a convulsive motion, and the waves of this motion, according to my impression, proceeded from my elbows to the finger tips, and not the converse, as some persons might be led to expect. The sensation was unlike that which would have been produced by an electric battery under the table, and was more like what I should imagine was the sensation of the aura epiletica. Of course I have not the slightest pretensions to the abnormal condition which is called, for reasons unknown to me, "mediumistic," a badly-constructed word, which has apparently been coined on as absurd a model as "ritualistic."

The chair marked A then rose to a distance of nine inches from the ground, preserving its parallelism with the floor, and fell with a violent blow. The arm-chair, E, in the corner of the room, was slid on its castors in the direction of the dotted line in the sketch. My right boot was violently thrown over my head in the air to the point marked G. I requested that the other boot should be placed gently on the chair B, but before the words were out of my mouth it was thrown on the table, striking the hands of Dr. Slade and myself, and producing slight excoriation in his case, and ecchymosis in mine. During all this time his hands were on mine on the table, and my feet on his. No possible motion of any part of his body could have produced any of these effects. The distance between the leg of the chair A and his toe, if the latter had been outstretched, was found to be sixteen inches. The distance between him in his chair and the spot where I had placed the boots was three feet


94                                           Psychography.


four inches, and that from the spot where the boots were to the spot where one of them fell was seven feet three inches, a curved trajectory being added, so as to allow for my height in the chair. I should estimate the line of trajectory at twelve feet. The table was afterwards raised, and thrown in a reversed position on my head.


In the evening I had another seance with Dr. Slade, at which was present a celebrated anatomist, who was satisfied of the bond fide character of the manifestations. I was struck with the identity in so many cases of the phenomena. Both at this and at the previous seance short messages were written by a long pencil—six inches in length—held about nine inches under the table. The public may be amused with the statement that such pencils are invariably rejected by Dr. Slade's controls.


I must quote the evidence of the Rev. John Page Hopps, editor of The Truthseeker, principally because his report shows that he went to Slade with a mind possessed of the various allegations which had been made against him. The usual conditions obtained, and the slate, having been first held by Slade in order to inquire whether anything could be done, was then held in order to put the question, whether writing could be produced so as to fill the slate. To this query the reply, "We will do so soon," was given, the pencil lying at the end of the last letter. Mr. Page Hopps then proceeds:—


The slate was again put under, and then for about three minutes I heard writing. When the sounds ceased, the slate was carefully withdrawn (in this, as in every case, flat as it had lain during the writing). The slate was completely filled with the following "message," addressed, I presume, to me:—


DEAR SIR,—God's will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven: that the Christ-principle of doing good be inculcated as the only saving


Special Tests of the Writing.                                 95

efficacy from selfishness, discord, and error; not simply to be investigated, but unfolded; not to he obtained by formal rites, but because originally implanted, must necessarily be developed in the everlasting life of man, and it only remains for man to place himself under the conditions of harmony to become receptive to the wide-spreading volume of God's universal welcome.—A. W. SLADE.

It may be said that this slate was written already, and adroitly changed; but further on it will be seen that I got, without waiting, a similar slateful on my own marked slate, only produced by me just before the writing occurred.

I had heard of suspicious delays, movements, and noises, elaborate breaking of pencil, throat sounds, and the like. I was astonished at the ease, simplicity, and quiet of the whole thing. I had heard of the slate being detained on Dr. Slade's knees, or disappearing. More than once I saw it at once put under the table, with its top pressed close under the top of the table, and one side of the frame well seen the whole time. I had heard of the writing being done before the slate went into position; I, on each occasion that the writing was produced, heard all the sounds of writing on a slate I had seen was blank. I had heard of the slates being changed; I can only say that, after the sounds of writing were heard by me, the slate was very slowly withdrawn, and, in each case, the pencil lay precisely at the end of the last word. I had heard of the writing being done by Dr. Slade's finger, armed with a tiny grain of pencil, but one of his hands lay on mine upon the table, while part of the other, holding the slate, was in view the whole time, and it never stirred during the writing which I heard, and which on one occasion covered the whole of a moderate-sized slate. I had heard of sympathetic ink and the like; the slate we used was a new one, perfectly grey; the pencil was a soft slate pencil, and the whole of the writing which I examined, was composed of dry pencil dust. I had heard of doubts whether the writing was done on the top or the under side of the slate; in my case I am certain the writing was done on the side between the slate and the table.

Two days after, I saw Dr. Slade again. On this occasion I took two new­framed slates, which I marked. I particularly asked whether it was not possible to get writing


96                                          Psychography.

without putting the slate under the table, and was told it was quite possible. My two slates were then laid upon the table, with a tiny bit of pencil between; and upon them in the full daylight we laid our four hands. I then distinctly heard the sound of writing, and, on lifting up the top slate, found these words written, but very badly:—" We cannot give you a communication, only a proof our power." I remarked that though one or two words (the word "communication," for instance) were very badly written, Dr. Slade at once read them. On my way from Dr. Slade's this slate got broken to splinters—how, I know not; so I returned the next day to try another, again taking two marked framed slates. A first "message" procured under the table as on the first day, but with more agitation of the hand, told me that "they had broken my slate, because they wanted to give me more Anyhow, the result was remarkable. My first slate, held by Dr. Slade, was somehow smashed to atoms, only about two inches remaining in one corner of it. The second I laid on the top of the table, a bit of pencil was put under it, and our hands were then put on or near it. The writing was then heard, and in about three minutes ceased, when, on lifting the slate, this "message" was found, well written, in regular lines, and covering the slate

The spirit of truth, which Jesus prophesied would come in these days of the age of war and force, is that undivided fraternising spirit of all love and goodness that unites the redeemed souls on earth and in heaven into one grand brotherhood of God—to open the way for the coming of this spirit has been the work of mediums-now may they have the strength given them to go on with the good work. A. W. SLADE.

I have the slate in my study now. It has on it my private mark.

The following account, drawn up by the editor of the Spiritualist, and published in that journal, records a remarkable duplication of a message, as well as the production of the original message on slates which were never out of sight of the observers:—

A few days ago Mr. Charles Blackburn, of Parkfield,


Special Tests of the Writing.                                  97


Didsbury, near Manchester, came to London, and invited two thorough disbelievers in Spiritualism, both of them influential men of business well known in the city, to a seance with Dr. Slade. They visited him at 8, Upper Bedford Place on Monday last week, between three and four o'clock in the afternoon. Mr. Blackburn brought with him a slate purchased in Manchester. It was a folding slate—that is to say, it had hinges on the back, and when it was closed the two slates faced each other; the outside case was of wood. A private mark was put upon this slate by a friend of Mr. Blackburn's in Manchester; and a London partner of the gentleman who had made that mark was one of those who attended the seance to watch the results.

The two London gentlemen took the slate into the seance room, and as they held it open, Dr. Slade dropped a piece of pencil upon it, about the size of a grain of wheat. They then tied a string tightly round the slate, after which one of them laid it upon the table, placed his elbow upon it. Writing was heard. They then took the slate into the next room, opened it in the presence of Mr. and Miss Blackburn and Mr. Simmons, and both leaves of the slate were found to be covered with the dry dusty writing, of slate pencil. The crumb of pencil had been somewhat worn in the production of the writing. From first to last the slate never went out of sight of its owners. The seance took place in broad daylight.

Two or three words were spelt wrongly in the message. So after it had been examined, Dr. Slade washed it off, and the pencil was placed in it again to get more writing, under the same conditions. A noise inside the slate like that of writing was heard, and the gentlemen took the slate away for the purpose of opening it at one of their offices. After they had left the house, Dr. Slade passed into a trance, and the communicating intelligence told Mr. Simmons that the sitters had not waited long enough; there was no writing on the slate; the spirits had been rolling the pencil about, trying to take hold of it. This afterwards proved to be the case.

Next day they accordingly came again at 2.30 pm., and obtained writing under the same conditions as at the first


98                                          Psychography.

sitting. After they left the seance room, and before they untied the slate, Mr. Blackburn had a sitting with Dr. Slade, and asked whether there were any writing on the slate this time. The spirits said they would write a duplicate of the message on another slate. This was done while the slate, with a crumb of pencil on it, was held by Dr. Slade flat against the under side of the table. His face was to the light. Mr. Blackburn had previously cleaned the slate himself. He took the message into the next room, the string of the folding slate was cut, and the messages on the two slates were found to be identical, with the exception that the one on the folding slate contained an additional paragraph.


This account is drawn up from testimony given to us by Mr. Blackburn, Mr. Simmons, and Dr. Slade.


And this satisfactory method of endeavouring to obtain writing on the investigator's own slate was successful in the case of Mr. J. Seaman, well known in the newspaper world, who writes from 11 Southampton Street, Strand, and who, primed (as in a case above noted) with all that suspicion could instil, obtained what convinced him of the bona fides of Slade, and of the reality of his power:—


On Friday morning last, the 1st inst., at about noon, I called, with my friend, Dr. Carter Blake, at 8 Upper Bedford Place, and was introduced to Dr. Slade, who was quietly chatting with Mr. Simmons and another gentleman in the drawing-room—the room which will go down to posterity as the apartment where Simmons "winked" and "pumped the visitors." I found Mr. Simmons without his "wink," but he certainly "pumped me," for as he politely asked me to remove my overcoat, he ascertained from my answer that I was only wearing one. But no use was made of this discovery by him. Dr. Slade, who took me into the back room, did not sit with his back to the window, but full in the light. He never once rested the slate (my own) on his knee, but held it in such a manner that I saw quite one


Special Tests of the Writing.                                 99

third of it, and his thumb the whole of the time. His arm did not move "as in the manner of writing," and was only moved when the slate was placed nearer to me, or on my head. The tendons of his wrist were perfectly motionless, and the writing was not curved. It consisted of four distinct messages:—

(a) Eight words in one straight line.

(b) Twelve words in three straight lines. (c) Three words in one straight line. (d) Six words in two straight lines.

The lines for the most part extended parallel with the longer side, and right across a twelve-inch framed ordinary school slate. All the messages were written on the top side of the slate, which I had previously marked "top" and "bottom," to distinguish the two surfaces. Of this I am as certain as I am of my own existence. My attention was not attempted to be directed to a supposed light on my elbow, though I confess I diverted Dr. Slade's attention to a picture on the wall, the subject of which was familiar to me, with a view to see if he would attempt to write or do anything else when he fancied I was off my guard. We conversed the whole time. Raps were heard from many parts of the room and furniture. The table was lifted evenly from the floor, while I held Dr. Slade's hands with my hands, and guarded his feet with my feet. Had he used his knees (which were plainly in sight), the table would have tilted, rather than have been raised easily. A bell placed under the table, out of reach, but in my sight, was rung while Dr. Slade was standing up, and then rapidly lifted from the ground, moved towards my left to above the level of the table, and then violently hurled between us towards my right, and fell with a crash on the extreme right of the table, thus describing nearly a circle. I was touched on the right hip, which was too far off to be reached by Dr. Slade's feet (always in view). In my sitting position at that moment first my right leg and then the leg of the table were, as it were, guarding my right side from any attack from where Dr. Slade sat. The "force" was evidently behind me on my right. Confirmatory of that view, the chair on which I sat,


100                                        Psychography.

and while I sat on it, was suddenly pushed from behind towards the table and towards Dr. Slade, whose white and red striped socks and French pumps were visible in their natural position. I say pushed in preference to pulled, because the sensation was of some one behind my chair. I looked round to see who or what was there. Where I sat before this pushing was quite out of radius for Dr. Slade's outstretched foot to hook me and the chair towards him. I have seen too many conjurers, and performed too many sleight-of-hand tricks myself, not to know when the critical moment arrives for the success of the trick in hand; but at this sitting I saw no evidence of trickery of any kind. I leave to others to explain the phenomena. I can only say that I am convinced the writing was on the top side of the slate, on which alone Dr. Slade's thumb (always full in view) rested; when the writing was produced on the slate, as it rested on my head, the knuckles of his hand were pressed against my temples, and while there, no movement of Dr. Slade's fingers took place. Dr. Slade was suffering in bodily health during my visit, and expressed himself satisfied with the results of the sitting. Not one word was said about spirits while I remained at 8 Upper Bedford Place.


11 Southampton Street, Strand, London, W.C.