EARLY PSYCHIC EXPERIENCES
Fraud – Temptations of professional mediums – Mediumship not the only profession in which fraud is practised – The worst frauds – The psychic or medium only a telegraph office – Used on account of his peculiar organisation – Personal character does not, apparently, have any connection with the gift – What is a medium? – Fraud and genuine phenomena frequently mixed at a séance – Under favourable conditions professional mediums do not commit fraud – Evil of promiscuous séances – The only cure for fraud – Rejection of evidence obtained through a medium who has been convicted of fraud on some previous occasion, a mistake – Every séance with professional mediums should be judged on its own merits – Darkness sometimes beneficial for tests – Effect of a hostile mental attitude in the sitters – My first séances – Reasons for and against the entire genuineness of Husk – My departure for New York.
No account of experiences in spiritism is of any use without a few remarks on fraud by the narrator; if he neglected to touch upon this disagreeable subject, he would be rightly deemed ignorant of the history of the movement. It is desirable that he should demonstrate to his readers that he is aware, and has always been aware, of its prevalence. It is the canker which destroys his peace and darkens his hours of observation and reflection. More than half his time is occupied with searching self-questions – “Could this or that have been done in a normal manner, and, if so, by what means?” This is the worst feature in the study. Psychical research is full of perplexities and difficulties, even if one is satisfied that the medium is honest; for, all the time, we are dealing with invisible beings who appear to be operating in more than three dimensions; every manifestation is outside of ordinary human experience; not one can be explained by the ascertained laws of nature; and when, in addition to these obstacles, we have doubt as to the fidelity of the medium, the task of investigation is hard enough to make many a man turn back in disgust from the quest. Fraud has been painfully common among professional mediums.
It is, however, no use complaining because, when it comes to physical phenomena, public mediums have to be employed. There are few private psychics who will undergo the exhaustion that is the inevitable accompaniment of manifestations of telekinesis and materialisation. Mental phenomena are inconclusive; no man of ordinary critical judgement will be satisfied with that alone. Thomas Jay Hudson and writers of his type will sweep it all away by dwelling on the powers of the sub-conscious self; and these powers are acknowledged among the classes of investigators. So it comes to this, that he who would peer into the mysteries of nature, and endeavour to discover, experimentally, if life extends beyond the grave, is obliged to employ professional mediums. The temptations of these psychics are great; whatever powers they possess are sporadic and cannot be summoned at will; they find this out early in their development, and, in order to maintain regular séances, they learn the arts of jugglery to “help out” their particular gift at times when they feel they have not got their usual power. People travel long distances to sit with them. They have not the moral courage to say, “I have little or no power today; come another time”. Possibly they do not know how much power they have, nor hoe far their guides can assist them, until they go into trance. If they turn their patrons away from the door, a murmur is soon circulated that they are not reliable, and sitters fail to attend; their income, never large, dwindles away, and they are stranded without means of a livelihood. Having surrendered themselves for two or three years to the trance condition, they cannot adopt any of the ordinary wage-earning occupations of life, and they become destitute. Competition is keen, and they see others prospering by keeping up their séances with artificial assistance. Though we cannot defend, we can at least understand the causes of fraud in mediumship.
And remember, those who possess the gift of mediumship are not the only members of society who fraud. Let us look the matter squarely in the face. Every minister of religion who repeats the Apostles’ Creed and yet does not firmly believe in the birth of Christ from a pure Virgin, His resurrection in His natural body, and His ascension into heaven in the same, is a fraud. Every physician who pays an unnecessary visit to a patient and charges for it is a fraud; every barrister who accepts fees for going into court on behalf of a client and does not attend is a fraud. Fraud is rampant in trade; in the shipping interest; in municipalities; and indeed, in some governments of the so-called Christian countries. It is always outrageously apparent during war, when strict supervision has to be relaxed; and in peace it is only limited by the amount of supervision exercised. It is idle therefore, to talk about fraud as if it were peculiar to mediums.
Some of the worst frauds, in my opinion, are those who profess to be able to tell us “how the thing is done”, who account for every manifestation by normal jugglery. These persons require good looking after. It is becoming a lucrative profession to write books describing how all phenomena of the séance room can be produced by normal means; for such works are popular. One word against spiritistic manifestation has more weight at the present time than fifty words in its favour, and the large majority of people in the Western world are antagonistic to any new idea which implies that there are things about us we cannot see, influences that we cannot class, beings whom we cannot sense, by our know organs. A man who is known in his suburban villa only to his tradesmen and a few neighbours, and who would otherwise die in the obscurity his social rank and official importance entitle him to, is called a “savant” if he writes a book calling into question the scientific observation of a Crookes or the truthfulness and honour of a Stainton Moses. I have been told by friends that such books are useful, as they lay before us various tricks which may assist us in detecting fraud in the apparently genuine manifestations of mediums. I deny it. Most of the plausible explanations are simply efforts of the imagination, and not only do no good, but actually throw us off the scent.
In my investigations I have not been assisted by any of these armchair detectives. Nothing that they write about has tallied with what I have seen. By diverting our attention from the real evils of spiritism they are a public nuisance. For a concrete instance of the foolish suggestions pout forward by one of these ignorant know-alls, I would point to a recent work in which there is a description of how slate-writing is performed by trickery. The writer says the sitter brings his own double slate, and the psychic deftly inserts a small piece of chalk (for pencil) previously prepared by being mixed with steel filings. While the slate is being held under the table or elsewhere the psychic moves the pencil by means of a magnet concealed up his sleeve, and does it as in mirror writing. Now, mind, he does not say “This is how I think it might be done”, that would be foolish, but not criminal. He says, “This is how it is done”. He states it as a fact. This statement of fact is untrue; such a thing cannot be done. Even with an Electro magnet in open sight it would be impossible to write twenty legible words; with a man sitting near you and watching you it is not possible to write five legible words without detection.
It is of such stuff as this that books telling us “how the thing is done” are written. When I dipped into them, I said to myself: “Is this all? If so, nothing that I have seen has been explained.” But these writings pay well; they obtain for the authors a reputation for superior astuteness, and bring them into a social atmosphere above their level; for the majority of educated people are anxious not to be disturbed in their amiable doctrines of a Day of Judgement and a fiery material hell in store for those who do not agree with them.
In saying this I do not mean to include those bonafide conjurors who really believe the whole of spiritism is a farce, and are prepared to go to trouble and expense to prove their case; who undertake to repeat the phenomena, and who spend laborious days in practising juggling tricks which they think, sincerely, will account for the phenomena of the séance room. Such men as Mr. William Marriott in England and Mr. David Abbott in the United States are of much use to investigators. I am referring to armchair writers, who evolve their explanations solely from their imagination.
Psychics, or mediums are, after all, only telegraph offices, by which we can, when conditions are suitable, be brought into touch with the next state of consciousness. The gift of true mediumship, like that of poetry, art and invention, is entirely independent of character. At first sight it would appear as fitting and proper that this divine gift of seeing into the next state of being the passive means of bringing consolation to a mourning house, of comforting the bereaved, would be bestowed only upon those who had qualified for it by leading a good life. Nothing of the sort takes place. There are many mediums of good character, but some are rogues.
I remember one excellent American medium who gave me (a perfect stranger to him) some very neat tests, but he was a rogue. I know a good clairvoyant in this country who cannot speak the whole truth, in her normal state, about anything. Once she was a witness in court, and the Judge said of her: “As to that Mrs. —, I do not believe a single word she has said”, and he was right. In the course of my investigations I have witnessed most convincing mental and physical manifestations through psychics of bad moral character. We find all this in the Bible. Look at the case of Balaam, who was probably the most celebrated medium in Syria. Called upon to curse Israel, he tried fraud and could not: the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he blessed them instead. Poetry is a divine gift, yet look at the character of some of the poets. When we go to a telegraph office to send a message, we do not ask the character of the operator or the keyboard. Why, then, expect the mediums we make use of for communication with the unseen world should all be instruments of irreproachable moral character.
At present we have not yet discovered what constitutes the medium. We can only say for certain that it is solely in the presence and near proximity of certain people that phenomena takes place. These people are usually abnormal, and able to put themselves at will into such a condition of passivity as to be highly sensitive to any impressions made upon them by spirits incarnate and discarnate. There are, of course, many different phases of mediumship; but all I feel sure, will some day be proved to be subject to the same law.
But what is this law? It seems to me that the following may be found to be a working hypothesis until we get a better. Man has two bodies – a natural and a spiritual- well described by that eminent psychic the Apostle Paul: “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (1 Cor.xv.44).
Both of these bodies he has here now. It is not unreasonable to suppose that, in some people, the spirit body may be loosely connected with the natural, and be freer to exercise its functions than in others. Clairvoyance, clairaudience, and clairsentience are functions of the spirit body, and, by training these gifts may be brought to the front. In the case of the ordinary man or woman the two bodies appear to me to be very closely bound up together, so to speak; and the ever-present demands of the natural body are always to the front, the spirit body never. It is ascertained now beyond doubt that a man’s spirit body can be released from the natural even in life, travel long distances and be seen by mortals. The phenomenon of materialisation, the sudden birth of a simulacrum of the human body and its sudden disappearance, can only be accounted for by supposing that the form we see in the séance room derives its materiality from the medium, sitters and constituents of the atmosphere, but that the nucleus is the spirit or astral body of the medium, the whole being fashioned to meet the necessities of the spirit who wishes to occupy it. The spirit body, according to information given to me, is an extract counterpart of the natural, and is the connecting link between us and the next state. At physical death it departs to its new home.
The spirit body is not necessarily ‘spiritual’ in the religious sense — indeed, very often the contrary. A medium is simply the most efficient vehicle the spirit can find.
Sometimes the attraction is a great supply of animal magnetism, from which the unseen operators draw for strength to perform their remarkable manifestations. Long since I came to the conclusion that genuine and fraudulent phenomena were frequently mixed at a séance, especially promiscuous séances. We may be sure of this: it is easier not to cheat, and false methods are not resorted to until power fails.
Promiscuous séances are a mistake. The circle is generally composed of a number of people who do not know one another. Some come from curiosity; some to try and detect fraud; some, no doubt, from pure motives. But their vibrations do not mix harmoniously, and the result is a strain upon the medium. The best sitting everywhere have been obtained when five or seven sitters, well known to one another, sit with the same psychic once or twice a week for a long time. The cure for fraud is the formation of, say, thirty men and women, bound together by a common desire to learn the truth. They should engage a medium for their meetings only, and he should receive a fixed salary.
Strangers to the society should not be introduced. It is difficult, I know, to prevent a medium from giving séances outside; but his instant dismissal would be the forfeit. One condition of his engagement would be that he must spend at least four hours a day in the open air. The séances should only be held twice a week, and each circle should be composed of not more than seven persons. Mr. Gambier Bolton made a good attempt at the construction of two societies of this nature. They failed from various causes, chiefly because it was at that time impossible to secure the requisite fixed income for the medium; and consequently the latter would probably not cost each member of the society more than ten pounds a year, in addition to a fee of five shillings whenever he formed one of the circle.
The rejection of evidence obtained through a medium who has once or twice previously been convicted of fraud is a mistake.
Every séance should be judged on its own merits. Some of my earliest lessons in this study were obtained through sittings with F. Craddock, who was afterwards exposed wandering about outside his cabinet when he was supposed to be sitting inside in trance. I was present, and have no doubt of his guilt on that occasion.
But under favourable conditions in this country I have sat with this medium, and seen and heard phenomena that were undoubtedly genuine. Everything was in his favour, and there was no incentive to cheat. There is no professional medium in England who has not some time or the other been suspected of fraud; but I can assure the student who wants to enquire that the progress of his education will be very slow, if it does not actually cease, if he sits only with private psychics. Without materialisation and telekinesis, the evidence for the existence of discarnate spirits is not complete.
I wish to say a word about two favourite objections to the practice of spiritism:
(1) Why should mediums be paid?
(2) Why is darkness often necessary? Why should mediums be paid? The true question should be “Why should they not be paid?” Mediumship is a gift, like painting, music, poetry, and oratory. If you deny the right of mediums to payment when they exercise their gift for the benefit of others, on what possible plea do you allow it to parsons, artists, singers, composers or anybody else who is born with a tendency to some particular occupation? The fact is, there is more reason that you should pay mediums than other people. A good psychic is unfitted by the development of his gift for any other occupation, and at any moment may leave him.
Why is darkness often necessary? When people ask me this I say: ”My friend, are you aware that you were generated in the dark; and not only you, but every mammal what was ever born alive? Can you tell me why? When you reply to that question I will tell you why the simulacrum of a human being cannot be generated except in the dark”. The only simulacrum ever born in a good light has been the spirit-body of the medium himself; and this has only been seen once or twice in the last sixty years.
Light disintegrates the materials of which forms and phantoms are composed. After being formed, they may come out in partial light, and remain some time; but their gestation must take place in a cabinet, or, at any rate, in darkness.
As a matter of fact, darkness admits of very good tests of the genuineness of a medium. Husk’s séances are always held in pitch darkness. I will mention three good tests I obtained when sitting with that medium. When I took a friend to our rooms, I sometimes established him at then end of the oval table, four feet from Husk’s left hand, which was held by a friend of mine.
The candlestick was then put in front of him on the table, and he was asked to put a finger upon it, but not to resist its being moved. After the electric lights were switched off, and the person who did this had returned to his seat, the candle was blown out. In a few minutes I would feel the tap of a small hand on mine, and then the candlestick would be taken away from my friend and put down in the corner of the room with a clatter.
One night a guest of mine arrived in our room half-an-hour before the time appointed for the séance. She dropped her open purse on the floor and the coins rolled about on the carpet. Mr. Gambier Bolton and I picked up all we could find, and the lady declared herself satisfied that she had recovered all that was in her purse. Twenty minutes later the medium (Husk) arrived. In the middle of the séance, “Joey”, one of the spirit habitués of the circle, came to my friend and said: “Mrs. Arnold, here is a penny you dropped on the carpet.” At a subsequent séance I asked Joey how he knew the coin belonged to Mrs. Arnold. He said: “A spirit, who was in the room when she dropped it, told me.”
On another occasion I was at Husk’s house, and “Uncle” one of the controls, came, apparently in front of me, for a little chat. While he was speaking, I turned my head, first well to the left, and round to the right in order to see if I could exactly locate the position of the speaker. Uncle said to me: “Why are you turning your head about from side to side?” I could adduce other instances of satisfactory tests in the dark.
Where materialisation is in question, it is futile for people to lay down any law as to light and darkness. In all physical phenomena the results are more quickly obtained in the dark.
With very highly developed psychics, of whom there are none in Europe, a little light is allowed even during the materialisation phase; as, as I shall presently show, some of the most extraordinary feats are performed by invisible intelligence’s in broad daylight.
There is one medium in England through whom materialisation’s take place who does not go into trance. As he is found talking intelligently with his neighbour when self-illuminated figures are in communication with sitters some feet off, identifying themselves and conversing, there can be no doubt about his psychic power; but I am afraid that there is also little doubt that, on several occasions, he has been detected in fraud.
The best instance I have heard of combined fraud and genuine phenomena at a séance was told to me some years ago by one of the most celebrated scientists in Europe. There was a young man of the company who made himself conspicuous by jeering at the objects of the meeting, and this continued even after the séance commenced. Suddenly he became silent. The séance was a successful one; many messages were given to the sitters.
After the lights were lit, my informant spoke to the young sceptic; “Well, young man, how is it you became so pensive during out sitting?” The reply was: “It was this way. When the séance began, I arranged myself in my seat so that I could tap the underside of the table with my toe without attracting suspicion; and managed to carry on, by this means, the beginning of a message. Presently I became tired of this performance, withdrew my foot and sat in the normal manner; but the message went on. This gave me a considerable scare, and I remained quiet for the rest of the sitting.”
Over and over again it has been noticed that the mental attitude of the sitters has a marked influence on the success of the séances. The atmospheric conditions, though they help or hinder manifestations to a large degree, are not of so much importance. The essential condition is a small, harmonious circle of people bound together by a common faith in the possibility of communication with beings in another state of consciousness; not blindly credulous, but with all their senses on the alter, and passive in their expectations of any individuality. If the medium is in a trance, he will be open to suggestion and sensitive to thoughts around. Suspicion and hostility impress him instantly; and I think it is not too much to say that, if more than half the circle are suspecting fraud, the company as a whole will get it in some form or another.
Personally, I will never again sit in a circle with any pseudo-scientific investigator or avowed materialist. If a man cannot believe that our limited senses are incapable of taking in seven-eighths of the wonders of nature, he is an unfit frame of mind to appreciate what is going on. No more honest man ever lived than Charles Bradlaugh, George Jacob Holyoake, Charles Watts, or Robert Ingersoll. They could not obtain any phenomena which satisfied them that they were in contact with another world.
Bradlaugh once said on the platform; “I have given attention to this subject for twenty years, and have never seen a single phenomenon”. Of course not! Good man as he was, the delicate manifestations of spiritism were not for such as he. The open-minded agnostic is not harmful; but the man who delivers, as he did, that nothing exists but matter cognisable to our poor senses has put on an armour which no spiritual weapon will pierce; he is invulnerable.
I have long suspected that it is the spirit body which chiefly functions in the séance-room. If I am right, this accounts for much scepticism. A man sees and hears many things which startle him. He is impressed, and goes home wondering what it all means; he goes to sleep wondering; wakes; has his bath and breakfast; and starts out to his business. By this time his spirit-body has taken its customary back seat, his natural body has come to the front, and his objective mind causes him to believe that he has been the victim of delusion.
The first séance I attended was on November 16th, 1904, in a private room – a studio in Acacia Gardens, St. John’s Wood. The medium was Cecil Husk, who is nearly blind.
I believe he can see pictures or writing put very close to his face, but for all the ordinary of life he is helpless, and has to be attended out of doors by a member of his family.
The table on this occasion was circular, and between four and five feet in diameter.
There were twelve people sitting at it, including Mr. and Mrs. Husk and our host and hostess; there was also an organist at the organ, screened from view by a heavy curtain. Among the guests was the materialisation medium, F. Craddock. I sat directly opposite Husk, with a lady on either side of me, both of whom are gifted with psychic powers.
On the table were two cards painted with luminous paint, and contained in aluminium frames with a handle of the same substance at the back, placed face downwards; a cardboard tube, a light zither, which had two phosphorised spots on the bottom of the sounding board. This enabled us to see it when it was elevated above the table.
Husk went into trance. The room was pitch-dark; the organist played a voluntary. In a short time lights were seen moving about over the table. I was only able to see one or two, but my psychic neighbours saw several; and the lady on my right asserted that she could see clouds very faintly illuminated. Scent was detected around us. Presently, an old, feeble voice, sounding from somewhere above and to the right of Husk, as I faced him, offered a Latin prayer, ending by the Benedict. This, I was told, was Cardinal Newman. He went round the table blessing the sitters individually; and after one final collective blessing, we heard no more of him. We then sang “Lead, kindly Light” to the accompaniment of the organ. Spirit voices, bass and tenor, joined in with great vigour from some feet above the medium’s head and on both sides of it. There were, I thought, three of these voices, and they were of a very fine quality; the big room filled with sound. Then a control called “Uncle” made himself known by voice, going round and greeting each member of the circle. He spoke in a natural voice, but as if he had a small stone in his mouth.
Suddenly, a loud bass voice, coming from above and to the left of Husk, called out: “God bless you all”. This was the chief control, John King whose name in earth life was Henry Morgan, the famous buccaneer of the time of Charles II. He greeted everybody in the circle by name except me; I had to be introduced. He told me later that he was three times Governor of Jamaica, and was knighted by Charles II.
John King’s advent is always the prelude to the materialisation’s, but before they took place, the zither (usually known as “the fairy bells”) was intelligently played by a spirit whose name, I afterwards learned was Ebenezer. It rose from the table and soared above the circle, performing all the time a definite tune. Its movements could be watched by the phosphorescent spots on its under-side. It rose to a height of many feet (I judged about ten) above the table, paused there a minute, then came down, and after two or three swirls over our heads, dashed to the floor. Apparently it went through the floor, for faint music could be heard underneath; after a short interval this became louder and louder, until a sudden change in the strength of the tune made us aware that was again in the room. After a few gyrations it was laid down gently on the table.
Materialisations occupied about three-quarters of an hour. About fifteen spirits materialised. Only the face and bust were visible.
These showed by one of the illuminated cards held to the side of the face by the right hand. The women’s faces were swathed in a sort of bandage below the nose. One sitter, who could not recognise his relative, asked for this to be removed; the card was dropped, and presently the form reappeared without the bandage, when he identified his visitor. This time the illuminated card was not held by the handle at the back, but by two small fingers which I saw clasping the side of it. The faces were about two-thirds of life size. Three came to me. They presented themselves over the middle of the table about halfway between the medium and myself. One saluted three times with his illuminated card. I did not recognise it at first, but found out afterwards that it was Admiral T., and officer under whom I had served nineteen years before. The first and third appearances were the same. I could not identify them, and it was not until some months had elapsed that I discovered it was a stranger trying to influence me to bring him into touch with a member of my family.
A Hindu also appeared, either for me or for my left-hand neighbour (Miss Bates). He sank down through the table; I watched him disappear until only his head was visible; the illuminated card (or “slate”, as it is often called) fell over it, and he was gone.
One of Handel’s solos was sung in a deep bass voice of great compass and power; the low notes were such as I had never heard before.
The last event of the materialisation’s was a series of wafts of air, lasting two or three minutes and closely resembling the effects of a punkah, also loud scratches on the table.
While these scratches were going on the voice of Uncle was heard warning the spirit not to make such a noise. He was answered by a voice from the centre of the table calling Chupra, Chuprao! (shut up, shut up!).
Before he departed Uncle came to each person in the circle, addressing them by name, to say Goodnight. The voice sounded to me as if coming from below my knees. In all subsequent séances the voices have all appeared to come from one and a half to two feet above the table. I cannot account for this; it may have something to do with the peculiar build and supports of the round table, which we never used afterwards.
During the evening, Craddock’s guide Sister Amy was seen by clairvoyants standing behind him. She had several conversations with her medium and his neighbours. During the singing of “Abide with me” I heard a very audible “goodnight” and learnt that it came from Amy, who was going away. She was unable to hear the singing, and the abrupt interruption was quite unintentional.
When this séance was over I was much astonished. I later attended some séances with Husk that were far more fruitful of phenomena and better in every way; but this was my first, and I felt great surprise that such manifestations should be neglected by scientific men, and that they were not better known to the public. The singing, materialisations’s and direct voices all appeared to be quite genuine. I was not particularly affected by the spiritualistic aspect of the séance, though I saw one or two touching incidents of meeting with departed friends; the thing that disturbed me was the apparent indifference of the outside body of thinking people.
The next séance I attended was in the Psychological Society’s Room, 67 George Street, Portman Square, on November 22, 1904, the medium again Husk, and the circle composed of sixteen sitters. The manifestations were very similar to those in St. John’s Wood, but I saw John King several times plainly. He materialised the face and bust life-size and came to me four times, once two feet above my head. It was a strong face and very dark. I estimate the distance from the place where he materialised above my head to Husk’s body in the chair in the circle to be four feet across. Admiral T. came to me quite distinctly and spoke a few words; it was a fair likeness. The mysterious stranger who presented himself before also came, but I was not to know his identity until later. Cardinal Newman, as before, gave the Gloria in Excelsis, and pronounced the Benedictine in the Italian style, as if there were an “h” after “c”; this I found, on enquiry, was his custom in life. Two of three materialised heads and busts presented themselves to each sitter, who, as a rule, identified them as departed friends. A lady sitting next to me identified her son, and when the illuminated card (slate) was dropped, had a conversation with him. At the end of the séance there was a chant of Greek pre-sets that we did not hear on the previous occasion; it was very melodious and effective.
On November 29th 1904, I sat with Husk again in the same room with fifteen others in the circle, including, as on two previous occasions, the medium and his wife. The first manifestation was a series of cold wafts over the backs of our hands, which were connected to our neighbours’ all round the table. The Cardinal came as on previous occasions, bestowing his blessing collectively and individually; on arriving and departing he exhibited a bight cross in front of each person. We sang “Lead, kindly light” as usual, one deep bass voice and two tenors joining in. The fine voice sang part of a solo, “Rocked in the cradle of the Deep”. It collapsed, apparently through want of strength, before the second verse was finished. I said, “That is Foli”. Immediately three taps came on the table in front of me, indicating assent.
John King made himself known with the stentorian “God bless you all”, and greeted each sitter individually. His deputy, “Uncle” always comes at the beginning of the séances, and goes round to each member of the circle. The materialisations began soon after John arrived. He always presents himself first, and is never satisfied until each sitter has seen him clearly. About thirty-five or forty spirits shoed themselves in form. They were all smaller than life-size, but most of them were recognised. The face of a woman came to me, the lower half of the face swathed in a bandage. I said, “Are you a relative?” (emphatic bow of the head). “Are you my —-?” mentioned a relative (no movement). Then the head swerved suddenly to the left. I knew it by the profile and called out the relationship. It collapsed and three knocks came on the table directly in front of me, indicating assent. It was Iola.
The zither, or as we were accustomed to call it, “the fairy bells”, performed various gyrations round the table over the heads of the sitters, playing a regular tune, before and after the materialisations. The spirit that works it is known as Ebenezer. The last thing it did was to dash down on the floor, and apparently go through it, for we heard faint sounds below; these became louder and louder, till a crack was heard and the playing was again loud in the room, where the instrument was laid down gently on the table.
Mr. Cecil Husk’s séances have been the theme of many discussions amongst spiritists.
I have sat with him over forty times, and have only once suspected fraud. On that occasion the conditions were bad, and I am by no means sure that my doubts were reasonable. Even supposing my first ideas were correct, there were good reasons for attributing the trick I thought I had witnessed to unconscious fraud. I have a great deal more to say about him on my return from America. In the meantime it is well to state what arguments might be alleged for and against his genuineness.
Let us commence with such arguments as may be put forward for his reliability. He is, to all intents and purposes, blind. He enters a room with some fourteen people in it. Some greet him — some do not. They when his controls come, at a time when we believe him to be in a trance, they speak to each sitter by name in the correct order round the table.
It is true that his wife, on the occasion described above, was with him, and sat next to him; but the unerring certainty with which this recognition was cannot be accounted for by her assistance, for it was practically impossible for her to locate the precise seat of each member of the circle before the light was extinguished, and she seldom knew the names of all. Moreover, after his wife died, his niece brought him to our rooms, and there was no change in the accuracy with which his controls greeted the sitters; nor indeed, was there any difference in the manifestations, except that the forms did not get so far away as before from the medium. One of the well-known ladies in our society always held his left hand. Supposing his right hand was free (and, I admit, this must be taken into consideration), it would be impossible for him to manipulate the fairy bells or the materialisation’s; it would not assist him to remove the candle and put it down in a corner of the room; it would be no help to him in the singing, which is, perhaps, the most extraordinary phenomenon that occurs when he is present. It is rational that one of the members of the circle who sits next to him should be a person to whom he is thoroughly accustomed.
The manifestations that occur through the mediumship of Husk when in private rooms are far better than those which happen in his own house. All those investigators who have been present at both agree on this point.
The materialisation’s which represent the sitters’ friends are less than life-size. If frauds, they must be dummies. But, if dummies, how is it the lips are seen to move when they speak? And, if dummies, they would appear more natural. I have seen faces even half life-size - for they vary very much – but none that I can remember which looked fresh and of good colour, such as you would expect from a face intended to simulate that of a human being. There was a parchment appearance about all that came to me, and there is an undefinable look of Husk in some. This “Husky” appearance is just what we ought to expect, unless we are to suppose that the medium through whom they manifest has imparted nothing of individuality to the form and face.
The movements of the fairy bells while playing defy all normal explanation. I have seen feeble attempts to account for them by supposing there is a small musical box inside, started and stopped by a stick used in the right hand of the medium. This, and the supposition that he also moves the instrument, the zither, are idle stories, for the deliberate strumming on the strings of the instrument, as if by human fingers is always distinctly heard, and the instrument often soars twelve feet away from the medium.
It apparently goes through ceilings, walls, floors, and doors, and plays on the other side.
The singing is astonishing in volume, and goes on just the same when Husk happens to have a cold. He has himself, I believe a very good voice; but this would not enable him to sing tenor, bass and all the shades between, and this without the knowledge of his left-hand neighbour.
Different languages are spoken by spirits to sitters. When foreigners attended, they always carried on short conversations with their friends on the other side. I have heard twelve languages spoken at different séances.
On the other hand, I should be very sorry to declare that Husk has never been known to “help out” the manifestations. He sits too often, and it is not possible for a psychic to have power at his command all the year round, especially if he holds séances three or four times a week. I think it is possible he may occasionally put forward dummies in his own house. Nineteen years ago he was once detected impersonating a spirit. From my own personal knowledge or observation, I cannot say I have ever detected him; but I can conceive a séance where fraud and genuine phenomena both occur. His séances are too regular and frequent to escape the natural inference that artificial aid is brought in.
Numerous testimonies have been given, by people of all shades of intelligence and social standing, to the recognition of speech and sight of deceased friends through the mediumship of Cecil Husk. Thousands have sat with him. Many have been introduced under feigned names, and have been detected by the controls. Hundreds have been comforted in bereavements. I may be wrong, and I hope I am, in thinking that all his home séances are not true throughout. Of one thing I am quite sure – that he has, for over twenty years – exercised a genuine gift, and that, in private rooms when I sat with him, there was only one occasion when I suspected fraud, and that once it may have been unconscious on his part.
In December 1904, I determined to go to New York, and sailed on the 17th from Southampton, arriving on Christmas Day. With the various evidences of spirit presence that I received while in New York and Boston I propose to deal with in the next chapter.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published November 2011
Size: 229 x 152 mm