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




BEFORE I summarise the evidence which has been brought forward, I may be permitted to refer in passing to such points of testimony as were brought out in the correspondence in The Times, at the time of the Slade prosecution. Into the vexed questions raised during that period, it is not my purpose to enter. I have no desire to stir up the embers of old fires; nor do I wish to assume a controversial attitude in presenting my evidence. It would be easy for me to impeach the conduct of that memorable prosecution, and to show how much reason we, who have dived somewhat further below the surface than the prosecutors had, have to find fault with the measure of justice served out to us. At another time I shall be ready to do this, even more fully than I have already done it:* for the present, it is outside my line of argument, and would impede my purpose. I have no desire to impugn the action of those gentlemen who have thought it their duty to prosecute Slade. Nor have I any intention of questioning their beliefs. My object is historical, not controversial. My business is simply to place on record facts which, I hope, may lead a discerning public to agree with me in the opinion, that the conclusion they arrived at was hasty, and


*The Slade Case. By M. A., Oxon.


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that the method of investigation employed was not the scientific method. I do not set myself to impugn, or even to influence the beliefs of any man. I only desire to record certain facts, which I invite him to square with those beliefs. If he can disprove my facts, I shall be happy to listen to his argument. If he can accept them, and fit them in to his mind, I shall be happy to recognise a friend in thought. But if he can do neither, and if he still tries to shun my facts—if he falls back on a priori impossibilities, or shifts from one leg to another, in the vain hope of avoiding them by procrastination, halting between two opinions, nearly as uncomfortable in the one as in the other—I can but take off my hat to his logic, and pity his dilemma.


During the agitation that succeeded Professor Lankester's assault upon the slate, several letters found a place in The Times. It is not worth while to quote the correspondence, and I may record here, as strengthening my argument, the experience of a man who is perfectly familiar with these facts, and is, so far, a better judge than one who is not.


Mr. Joy, M. Inst. C.E., late of the R.A., writes from the junior United Service Club thus:—


1. Slade sat on my left, facing me, and in such a position that not only his legs and his feet, but his whole body, as well as both hands and arms, were in full view during the whole seance, except when he was avowedly holding the slate under the table, when one hand and fore-arm were concealed.


2. The writing always came on the upper side of the slate. 3. On one occasion I wrote a question on one side of the


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slate, holding it in such a position that Slade could not possibly see what I was writing, not that it would have made any difference if he had done so; for, after I had turned the slate so as to have the writing downwards, Slade took hold of one corner, while I still held the other, and, while both were thus holding it, we passed it underneath the table, when Slade immediately let go, and placed both his hands on the top of the table. Under these circumstances I got a distinct answer to my question written on the upper side of the slate.


Mr. G. C. Joad adds his testimony:—


I took with me a book-slate—i.e. two slates joined down one side so as to close like a book. I first examined Dr. Slade's fingers; the nails were cut down so low that I do not believe he could have picked up a pin, and there was no mark of a piece of pencil having been pushed between the nail and the flesh. I then inspected Dr. Slade's slate, which was on the table, and initialed one Corner; it was then immediately placed close against the under side of the table at the corner, in such a position that I could see Dr. Slade's thumb on the rim of the slate projecting beyond the edge of the table nearest to him, while the corner of the slate with my initials was just visible beyond the side of the table nearest to me. A scratching was at once heard, and on removal a message was seen written on the upper side where my initials were. I need hardly say I kept my eyes on the visible portion of the slate all the time.


I then produced my own slate, perfectly clean, a tiny piece of pencil was placed between the flaps, the slate was closed, and at once placed beneath the table. I could see by one end that it was kept closed; a message was written inside, the writing was left, and the piece of pencil placed on the inner surface that remained clean. This time Dr. Slade, on the slate being closed, raised it, and rested one corner on the point of my left shoulder, the slate projecting to the front, so that by turning my head I could see the whole of it. It was moved directly from the table to my shoulder, and I did not lose sight of it for a second. A


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scratching began, and on the three taps being heard, the slate was placed on the table and opened, when on the previously clean surface was seen written, "Cannot do more; let this be proof.—Allie." Perhaps I may as well mention that no raps or kicks occurred to distract my attention.



Oakfield, Wimbledon Park, W., Sept. 18th.


And Professor Barrett, F.R.C.S., writes a very commendable letter, in which, protesting against the brute-force argument of Mr. Lankester, he details what he himself obtained—drawing attention to what may throw much light upon obscure phenomena of this kind—viz., the mental phenomena of transfusion of thought, and generally of the action of one mind upon another, across space, without the intervention of the senses.


Soon after my first sitting with Slade I noticed the same suspicious circumstances to which Professor Lankester alludes—namely, the movement of the tendons of the wrist, the coughing, fidgetting, &c., and, in addition, the fact of Slade always sitting back to the light and sideways, so that the front of his person is in comparative shade, though generally in full view. Naturally the first explanation that suggested itself was one something like that given by Professor Lankester, but observations on several subsequent sittings to test this and other theories failed, in my opinion, to establish any one of them so conclusively as Professor Lankester asserts.


Instead of forcibly interrupting Slade and discovering writing when none was supposed to be present—which is the substance of Professor Lankester's exposure, and to which Slade might furnish a ready reply, based upon his ignorance of when the writing does actually occur—I made the following experiment:—


Taking a slate clean on both sides, I placed it on the table so that it rested above, although its surface could not


Correspondence in "The Times."                            125


touch a fragment of slate pencil. In this position I held the slate firmly down with my elbow; one of Slade's hands was then grasped by mine, and the tips of the fingers of his other hand barely touched the slate. While closely watching both of Slade's hands, which did not move perceptibly, I was much astonished to hear scratching going on apparently on the under side of the table, and when the slate was lifted up I found the side facing the table covered with writing. A similar result was obtained on other days; further, an eminent scientific friend obtained writing on a clean slate when it was held entirely in his own hand, both of Slade's being on the table.


This seems to be the place to add the testimony of one who has had the combined advantages of vast opportunity for observation, and of a training in exact scientific methods which fits him to utilise the opportunities placed in his way.


Mr. W. H. Harrison, Editor of The Spiritualist, writes to me—


Before Dr. Slade came to London, years of observation at numerous seances had proved to me that the materialised hands common at seances were most frequently the duplicates of those of the medium, and produced nearly the same handwriting. The first messages I saw produced in the presence of Dr. Slade were given in broad daylight, under such clear test physical conditions as to leave no room for the imposture theory in the mind of any trained or competent scientific observer. I noticed that they were nearly always in the handwriting of the medium; and this, which to an ignorant person would have been indicative of imposture, was in favour of the genuineness of the phenomena to an expert. On leaving the room after the seance I had a short talk with Mr. Simmons, and without telling him what I knew, but merely to test his integrity, I asked him whether the handwriting on the slates bore any resemblance to that of Dr. Slade. Without hesitation, he replied that there was usually a strong resemblance. This shows the truthfulness


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and absence of exaggeration incidental to the statements of Mr. Simmons, who is one of the coolest and quietest men living; had he been prone to making statements in advance of the facts, he would have tried to make the phenomena more wonderful, and have said that there was generally no resemblance between the handwritings. But the truth was thus unreservedly told by Mr. Simmons directly after he reached London, and was forthwith printed by me in The Spirituaiist, for the information of observers at Dr. Slade's seances.


In dealing with such facts, the testimony of skilled observers is of most value. A reputed scientific man, ignorant of astronomy, who entered an observatory and said that he knew more about the work done there than astronomical experts, and who behaved with "bounce" generally, would not be recognised by the scientific world as a creditable representative.