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




I HAVE already alluded, in giving my own personal testimony to one experiment in which I dictated the word which was found written within the slates. I draw attention to this as a noteworthy point in the evidence.


Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace, F.R.G.S., the eminent Naturalist, writes a letter to the Spectator of October 6, 1877, in which he records a similar case:—

SIR,—I trust you may consider the following experiment worthy of record in your paper, because it differs from cases of abnormal slate­writing, of which evidence was adduced at the trial of Slade, and because it affords a demonstration of the reality of the phenomenon, and the absence of imposture, from which there seems no escape. I confine myself to this one experiment, and narrate the essential facts only.

The sitting was at a private house in Richmond, on the 21st of last month. Two ladies and three gentlemen were present, besides myself and the medium, Dr. Monck. A shaded candle was in the room, giving light sufficient to see every object on the table round which we sat. Four small and common slates were on the table. Of these I chose two, and after carefully cleaning, and placing a small fragment of pencil between them, I tied them together with a strong cord, passed around them both lengthways and crosswise, so as effectually to prevent the slates from moving on each other. I then laid them flat on the table, without losing sight of them for an instant. Dr. Monck placed the


Dictation of the Words Written.                              105


fingers of both hands on them, while I and a lady sitting opposite me placed our hands on the corners Of the slates. From this position our hands were never moved, till I untied them to ascertain the result. After waiting a minute or two, Dr. Monck asked me to name any short word I wished to be written on the slate. I named the word "God." He then asked me to say how I wished it written. I replied, "Lengthways of the slate;" then if I wished it written with a large or a small "g," and I chose a capital "G." In a very short time, writing was heard on the slate. The medium's hands were convulsively withdrawn, and I then myself untied the cord (which was a strong silk watch-guard lent by one of the visitors), and on opening the slates, found on the lower one the word I had asked for, written in the manner I had requested, the writing being somewhat faint and laboured, but perfectly legible. The slate, with the writing on it, is now in my possession.


The essential features of this experiment are—that I myself cleaned and tied up the slates; that I kept my hand on them all the time; that they never went out of my sight for a moment; and that I named the word to he written, and the manner of writing it after they were thus secured and held by me. I ask, how are these facts to be explained, and what interpretation is to be placed upon them?—I am, Sir, &c.,                    ALFRED R. WALLACE.


I was present on this occasion, and certify that Mr. Wallace's account of what happened is correct.



Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood, J.P., corroborates the fact from experience of his own with the same Psychic:—


Having engaged Dr. Monck to give me a sitting yesterday evening, I bought a couple of small slates, and tied them face to face with a fragment or two of slate pencil between them before Dr. Monk arrived. The slates were tied tightly together by a double fold of tape, the two ends of the knot being sealed to the framing to hinder the band from slipping.


106                                        Psychography.

In addition to this, I sealed the edges of the slates together, so that they could not be separated from each other in the slightest degree without being broken. The slates were laid on the table, and in the course of the evening, in a fair light, Dr. Monck, under control, desired me to place them on my head, which I did accordingly, keeping hold of them with one hand. He asked me whether I would have the writing signed by my father or my grandfather. I told him, as they were both named Josiah, he might take his choice. He put one hand on the slates, and after a moment we all heard the scratching sound of pencil-writing upon them. As soon as this was done, I took the slates down and laid them on one side till the end of the seance. I then examined them by the full light of the gas, and satisfied myself that the seal on the edges of the slates were unbroken, and called the attention of the other sitters to this essential point. Having cut the tape I found the following message written lengthways on one of the slates, in a direction transverse to that of the tape-binding:—


God bless you for ever.



The Rev. Thomas Colley, late curate of Portsmouth, who has made a great number of experiments with Monck, has in his possession a pile of slates on which dictated messages have been written under conditions which preclude imposture.


Mr. Oxley, of Higher Broughton, near Manchester, records, on the 15th September, 1876, a case in which five sentences were written at the dictation of persons present. Each person wrote his name on a visiting card, and the five cards were then placed in the middle of the table, and covered with a handkerchief so as to secure the requisite darkness. A pencil was placed with the cards. Requested to say what he wished


Dictation of Me Words Written.                              107

written on his card, each observer dictated a short sentence. When Mr. Oxley took the cards from under the handkerchief, these sentences were found written precisely as they had been dictated. The pencil was seen to move under the cover as if in the act of writing, while the Psychic was sitting motionless, in full view, eighteen inches from the pencil. Of the sentences so written, the first contained six words; the second, five; the third, three; the fourth, five, and the fifth, six.


On the next evening but one, another experiment was made, to show the rapidity with which these psychographs can be executed, and the experiment with the marked visiting cards was repeated.


On our being seated at the table, the gas was turned a little lower to modify the glare, but with quite sufficient light to let us see every object in the room distinctly. A good sized slate was lying on the table, and Dr. Monck (to whom I sat opposite) told me to take it up, clean it, show it to all assembled, and then to hold it under the table with my right hand. I did so, and, beginning to count, I had got to nine, when Dr. Monck said, "I think it is done." On bringing it up, I found one side and part of the other covered with writing, containing a message of eighty words. This most extraordinary experiment was accomplished in nine seconds, and certainly the medium did not touch the slate at all, for his hands were on the table, in full view, and he sat quite motionless. As soon as I put the slate under the table, I felt most distinctly the fingers of a hand gently touch my hand all over; it then took the slate from me for about half the time I was counting, and then returned it, again touching and stroking my hand.


My pencil was placed on the table, and we saw it begin to move: when it was raised, it floated in a horizontal position an inch above the table, and maintained that position


108                                        Psychography.

while I counted thirty. The experiment of the writing on the marked card was repeated.

One of the sitters placed a slate under the table, the medium not touching it, and in about half a minute a message was written, containing thirteen lines, with seventy-five words. The medium then placed a small folding-slate on my head, touching it with his finger only for a moment. (I had cleaned the slate, and all saw there was nothing on it.) I counted three, and on opening the slate seventy-one words were written, in a beautifully neat hand. Again, on the following evening, seventy-one words were written in an extremely short space of time.


Dr. George Wyld contributes important evidence on this point. He has kindly put down for me an exact record of a crucial experiment, which I append in his own words. The bearing of this fact upon such allegations as those on the faith of which Slade was adjudged by the public to be an impostor is plain to see:—

I expected to be called as a witness in the second trial of Slade, and as Lankester's evidence was that "there was no time to produce the writing, and that therefore it had, in his case, been previously prepared," it seemed to me most important to be able to swear that writing could be produced by spirit-power with a rapidity beyond the capacity of human hands.


Accordingly I visited Slade, who readily consented to make a trial as I suggested.

We sat down to his usual table. Slade sat with his left hand resting on the table, and with his right hand he held an ordinary slate, on which was placed the customary bit of slate-pencil. This slate he passed steadily but rapidly below the corner of the flap of the table at his right hand. Each time he so passed it I examined the slate. He so passed it two or three times, without any result; but at last, after passing it as usual, on its emergence from below the flap of the table I found these words written in dusty slate-pencil writing, "Let this convince you."


Dictation of the Words Written.                               109

I could not time Slade's actions while in progress, but subsequently I imitated his mode of passing the slate as closely as I possibly could, and my friends found that the operation occupied from three-quarters of a second to a second and a-half. I then timed the writing, and could find no one capable of writing the words in less than three seconds.


I considered at the time, and still consider, this experiment a complete refutation of Lankester's objection as to time.    GEO. WYLD, M.D.


12 Great Cumberland Place, Hyde Park, Dec. 30, 1877.


These facts receive a remarkable corroboration from two experiments recorded by Miss Kislingbury. The Psychic in this case was Watkins, above alluded to, and the experiments have a value which I shall hereafter note, which induces me to quote them in extenso, [in their entirety] although I have before noticed the writing of the Russian word:—


Having read in The Spiritualist of October 12th, Mr. Epes Sargent's account of Mr. Watkins's slate-writing manifestations, and hearing at the same time that Mr. Watkins had arrived in New York, I took an early opportunity of visiting him, in company with my friend, Madame Blavatsky.


The medium began by asking us to write the names of three or four deceased friends on slips of paper, which he tore before our eyes from a fresh sheet of writing-paper. After writing the names, we folded the papers up tightly, at his request, and laid them in a little heap in front of us on the table. Mr. Watkins then stirred the pellets round with the point of a pencil, in order that we might not be able to distinguish one from the other. Rd requested me to take one in my hand, and to fix it on the point of his pencil; then holding it at arm's length, he said immediately, "This is the name of a sister of yours in the spirit-world, Clara Kislingbury, is that so?" Opening the pellet, I found the name to be correct; the statement that it was the name of my sister was equally so. The names on the three other


110                                         Psychography.


pellets were rightly given, as well as the degree of relationship, including that of my maternal grandmother. I observed that Mr. Watkins had more difficulty in finding the name of one who was a friend, not connected with my family. He said at once, "This is the name of some one not a relation, I cannot see it so clearly;" but he finally succeeded in giving it correctly.

In the case of Madame Blavatsky, one of the names written by her was in Russian character, and the medium made several unsuccessful attempts to pronounce it, but at last declared it to be too "crack-jaw," and said he would try to get it written. He requested Madame Blavatsky to place her hand on a slate, under which he laid a small crumb of slate-pencil, in the manner of Slade. Mr. Watkins did not hold the slate. An instant after, on turning up the slate, the appellation, consisting of three names, was found written in full, and in Russian characters, with this curious exception, that one or two letters were exchanged for those of Latin character, having the same phonetic value; as, for instance, an f, pronounced in Russian v, but written b, was substituted for the latter. I will revert to this fact further on.

Mr. Watkins next took two small slates, and placing a point of pencil between them, held them firmly together at one end, while I held them at the other. The slate did not rest upon the table, but was held by us at arm's length, both standing. In a few moments one of the slates was covered on the inner side with writing signed "Alice Carey." The handwriting was not known to me, but was familiar to the medium, as frequently appearing in his experiments.

I use the word "experiments" advisedly, for two reasons. The first is, that Mr. Watkins did not "sit," except momentarily, during the whole hour that we were in his company, and then more often on the table than elsewhere. He walked nervously about the room, and occasionally fixed his eyes on us with a vacant look, especially when about to utter the desired name, or to describe something about the sitter. The second reason is, that Mr. Watkins does not habitually use the terms commonly accepted by Spiritualists, neither does he accept unreservedly the usual explanation of the phenomena, viz., that they are produced by the spirits of the


Dictation of the Words Written.                              111


departed, whose names are signed on the slate. He boldly volunteered the opinion that they are in many cases produced by the action of his own spirit, reading (independently of his will or knowledge) that which is latent in the mind of the sitter, or is immediately projected from it. He prefers to call the phenomenon "independent slate-writing," instead of "spirit-writing."

In the course of the experiments, Mr. Watkins said that in each instance, just before the writing began, he felt a sudden "drawing" from his whole body, and that he was unable to articulate distinctly; as soon as the writing was finished there was another jerk, and he felt himself again.

One more incident. Mr. Watkins told me to place my hand on a slate which was lying near me, and on which I had ascertained that there was nothing written. Mr. Watkins himself was at that moment lying back in a rocking-chair at a distance of at least eight feet from me, and talking to Madame Blavatsky. He ceased speaking for a moment, and then bidding me turn up the slate, I found it covered with writing, purporting to be a communication from my sister Clara, and signed with her name. The writing was quite unlike that signed "Alice Carey," but neither was it like mine or my sister's. The names of two other relatives which I had previously written on the pellets were mentioned, but not those of others equally dear to me, and of the same degree of relationship, and who were equally in my mind, but were not written down.

The above experiences are to my mind suggestive of a theory which will explain the discrepancies in the spelling of the Russian name. I leave the application to those whom it may concern, and who are more qualified than myself to form correct conclusions. Let it be borne in mind, however, that the medium himself avers that, except on rare occasions, and those special to himself—that is, when not sitting for the public—he has not only no evidence of the agency of departed spirits, but that there is no necessity for the hypothesis, nothing ever occurring which could not be performed by the action of his own spirit, working independently of his body, and seeking in the psychic emanations of those present the information (?) he is enabled to give them.

New York, October 26th, 1877


112                                         Psychography. The second experiment is recorded thus:—

The subject of will-power, and its probable influence on some spiritual manifestations, having been much discussed between Madame Blavatsky and myself, I determined to try an experiment in that direction. I went alone to Mr. Watkins, and I asked him to write some single word on a slate, and to turn the side of the slate so written on against the surface of the table, in order that it should not be seen by me. I in my turn did likewise. I then requested Mr. Watkins to hold with me my own double slate, between the folds of which I had placed a crumb of slate-pencil, and to will that his word should be written on it. I also willed that my word should be written. Mr. Watkins seemed rather incredulous over the business, and was genuinely surprised on opening the slates to find that the word I had willed should be written was upon the slate. "Let us try again," he said. "Very well," I replied; "but suppose we write something more this time, a sentence of three words." Mr. Watkins wrote, as appeared later on, the words, "God is love." I wrote "Love is eternal." Mr. Watkins took the folding slate with which we had before operated into his hands, saying: "I am impressed to hold the slate alone." Suddenly it struck me that he was stealing a march upon me, and I insisted on taking hold of the other end—first satisfying myself that nothing had been written. We heard the pencil at work, and on opening the slate found two sentences written: one was Mr. Watkins's, "God is love;" the other was not my sentence, but a third, "Truth is mighty." I was immensely puzzled. "This is the effect neither of my will nor of yours, Mr. Watkins; whose is the third will that has been at work?" "I think I can tell you," he said; "while you were writing your sentence on the slate, I, having finished mine, began guessing what yours might be, and I thought 'Truth is mighty;' that is how I account for it." "I did not ask you to think, Mr. Watkins, but to will; however this is an interesting experiment, and goes still further to prove the theory I have in my mind. Now let us try another." But a sitter was announced, and I had no further opportunity of testing the strength of my own will-power against that of Mr. Watkins.