SEANCES, CIRCLES, THROUGHOUT THE AGES    page 17 

                                                                     

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Berlin in the 1930s

 

 

Is Spiritualism a Fraud? (AKA: The Medium Exposed) is a 1906 British short silent drama film, directed by Walter R. Booth (also credited to J.H. Martin), featuring a medium exposed as a fake during a séance. The trick film is, “one of the last films made by R.W. Paul in collaboration with the trick-film specialist W.R. Booth,” and according to Michael Brooke of BFI Screenonline, “combines elements of the previous year’s The Unfortunate Policeman with a special effects sequence. However, unlike Booth and Paul’s other work, here the mechanisms are deliberately revealed,” “the crucial difference between his illusions and those of a medium is that Booth’s audience knew that they were being deceived, but were happy to go along with the charade for the sake of both entertainment and the pleasure of working out how it was done.” --wikiped

THERE IS NO DEATH
Florence Marryat

CHAPTER III
CURIOUS COINCIDENCES

BEFORE I proceed to write down the results of my private and premeditated investigations, I am reminded to say a word respecting the permission I received for the pursuit of Spiritualism. As soon as I expressed my curiosity on the subject, I was met on all sides with the objection that, as I am a Catholic, I could not possibly have anything to do with the matter, and it is a fact that the Church strictly forbids all meddling with necromancy, or communion with the departed. Necromancy is a terrible word, is it not? especially to such people as do not understand its meaning, and only associate it with the dead of night and charmed circles, and seething cauldrons, and the arch fiend, in propria persona, with two horns and a tail. Yet it seems strange to me that the Catholic Church, whose very doctrine is overlaid with Spiritualism, and who makes it a matter of belief that the Saints hear and help us in our prayers and the daily actions of our lives, and recommends our kissing the ground every morning at the feet of our guardian angel, should consider it unlawful for us to communicate with our departed relatives. I cannot see the difference in iniquity between speaking to John Powles, who was and is a dear and trusted friend of mine, and Saint Peter of Alcantara, who is an old man whom I never saw in this life. They were both men, both mortal, and are both spirits. Again, surely my mother, who was a pious woman all her life, and is now in the other world, would be just as likely to take an interest in my welfare, and to try and promote the prospect of our future meeting, as Saint Veronica Guiliani, who is my patron. Yet were I to spend half my time in prayer before Saint Veronica's altar, asking her help and guidance, I should be doing right (according to the Church), but if I did the same thing at my mother's

25


grave, or spoke to her at a seance, I should be doing wrong. These distinctions without a difference were hard nuts to crack, and I was bound to settle the matter with my conscience before I went on with my investigations.

It is a fact that I have met quite as many Catholics as Protestants (especially of the higher classes) amongst the investigators of Spiritualism, and I have not been surprised at it, for who could better understand and appreciate the beauty of communications from the spirit world than members of that Church which instructs us to believe in the communion of saints, as an ever-present, though invisible mystery. Whether my Catholic acquaintances had received permission to attend seances or not, was no concern of mine, but I took good care to procure it for myself, and I record it here, because rumours have constantly reached me of people having said behind my back that I can be no Catholic because I am a spiritualist.

My director at that time was Father Dalgairn, of the Oratory at Brompton, and it was to him I took my difficulty. I was a very constant press writer and reviewer, and to be unable to attend and report on spiritualistic meetings would have seriously militated against my professional interests. I represented this to the Father, and (although under protest) I received his permission to pursue the research in the cause of science. He did more than ease my conscience. He became interested in what I had to tell him on the subject, and we had many conversations concerning it. He also lent me from his own library the lives of such saints as had heard voices and seen visions, of those in fact who (like myself) had been the victims of Optical Illusions.'---' Amongst these I found the case of Saint Anne-Catherine of Emmerich, so like my own, that I began to think that I too might turn out to be a saint in disguise. It has not come to pass yet, but there is no knowing what may happen.

She used to see the spirits floating beside her as she walked

26


to mass, and heard them asking her to pray for them as they pointed to les taches sur leurs robes. The musical instruments used to play without hands in her presence, and voices from invisible throats sound in her ears, as they have done in mine. I have only inserted this clause, however, for the satisfaction of those Catholic acquaintances with whom I have sat at seances, and who will probably be the first to exclaim against the publication of our joint experiences. I trust they will acknowledge, after reading it, that I am not worse than themselves, though I may be a little bolder in avowing my opinions.

Before I began this chapter, I had an argument with that friend of mine called Self (who has but too often worsted me in the Battle of Life), as to whether I should say anything about table-rapping or tilting. The very fact of so common an article of furniture as a table, as an agent of communication with the unseen world, has excited so much ridicule and opens so wide a field for chicanery, that I thought it would be wiser to drop the subject, and confine myself to those phases of the science or art, or religion, or whatever the reader may like to call it, that can be explained or described on paper. The philosophers of the nineteenth century have invented so many names for the cause that makes a table turn round-tilt-or rap--- that I feel quite unable (not being a philosopher) to cope with them. It is magnetic force or psychic force,---it is it unconscious cerebration or brain-reading-and it is exceedingly difficult to tell the outside world of the private reasons that convince individuals that the answers they receive are not emanations from their own brains. I shall not attempt to refute their reasonings from their own standpoint. I see the difficulties in the way, so much so that I have persistently refused for many years past to sit at the table with strangers, for it is only a lengthened study of the matter that can possibly convince a person of its truth. I cannot, however, see the extreme folly myself of holding communication (under the circumstances) through the raps or tilts of a table, or any other

27


object. These tiny indications of an influence ulterior to our own are not necessarily confined to a table. I have received them through a cardboard box, a gentleman's hat, a footstool, the strings of a guitar, and on the back of my chair, even on the pillow of my bed. And which, amongst the philosophers I have alluded to, could suggest a simpler mode of communication?

I have put the question to clever men thus: Suppose yourself, after having been able to write and talk to me, suddenly deprived of the powers of speech and touch, and made invisible, so that we could not understand each other by signs, what better means than by taps or tilts on any article, when the right word or letter is named, could you think of by which to communicate with me?

And my clever men have never been able to propose an easier or more sensible plan, and if anybody can suggest one, I should very much like to hear of it. The following incidents all took place through the much-ridiculed tipping of the table, but managed to knock some sense out of it nevertheless. on looking over the note book which I faithfully kept when we first held seances at home, I find many tests of identity which took place through my own mediumship, and which could not possibly have been the effects of thought-reading. I devote this chapter to their relation. I hope it will be observed with what admirable caution I have headed it. I have a few drops of Scotch blood in me by the mother's side, and I think they must have aided me here. Curious coincidences.

It was not until the month of June, 1873, that we formed a Home Circle, and commenced regularly to sit together. We became so interested in the pursuit, that we used to sit every evening, and sometimes till three and four o'clock in the morning, greatly to our detriment, both mental and physical. We seldom sat alone, being generally joined by two or three friends from outside, and the results were sometimes very startling, as we were a strong Circle.

28


The memoranda of these sittings, sometimes with one party and sometimes with another, extend over a period of years, but I shall restrict myself to relating a few incidents that were verified by subsequent events.

The means by which we communicated with the influences around us was the usual one. We sat round the table and laid our hands upon it, and I (or anyone who might be selected for the purpose) spelled over the alphabet, and raps or tilts occurred when the desired letter was reached. This in reality is not so tedious a process as it may appear, and once used to it, one may get through a vast amount of conversation in an hour by this means. A medium is soon able to guess the word intended to be spelt, for there are not so many after all in use in general conversation.

Some one had come to our table on several occasions, giving the name of Valerie, but refusing to say any more, so we thought she was an idle or frivolous spirit, and had been in the habit of driving her away. One evening, on the 1st of July, however, our circle was augmented by Mr. Henry Stacke, when Valerie was immediately spelled out, and the following conversation ensued. Mr. Stacke said to me, Who is this? and I replied carelessly, "O! she's a little devil! She never has anything to say. The table rocked violently at this, and the taps spelled out.

le ne suis pas diable.

Hullo! Valerie, so you can talk now! For whom do you come?

Monsieur Stacke.

Where did you meet him?

On the Continent.

Whereabouts?

Between Dijon and Macon.

How did you meet him?

'In a railway carriage.

What were you doing there''

29


Here she relapsed into French, and said,

Ce M'est impossible de dire.

At this juncture Mr. Stacke observed that he had never been in a train between Dijon and Macon but once in his life, and if the spirit was with him then, she must remember what was the matter with their fellow-passenger.

Mais oui, oui-il etait fou, she replied, which proved to be perfectly correct. Mr. Stacke also remembered that two ladies in the same carriage had been terribly frightened, and he had assisted them to get into another. Valerie continued, Priez pour moi.

C'Pourquoi, Valerie?

Parcequej'ai beaucoup, pe'che'.

There was an influence who frequented our society at that time and called himself Charlie.

He stated that his full name had been Stephen Charles Bernard Abbot,' ---that he had been a monk of great literary attainments--- that he had embraced the monastic life in the reign of Queen Mary, and apostatized for political reasons in that of Elizabeth, and been earth bound in consequence ever since.

Charlie asked us to sing one night, and we struck up the very vulgar refrain of Champagne Charlie,, to which he greatly objected, asking for something more serious.

I began, Ye banks and braes o' bonnie Doon.

Why, that's as bad as the other, said Charlie. It was a ribald and obscene song in the reign of Elizabeth. The drunken roysterers used to sing it in the street as they rolled home at night.

"You must be mistaken, Charlie! It's a well-known Scotch air.

It's no more Scotch than I am, he replied. The Scotch say they invented everything. It's a tune of the time of Elizabeth. Ask Brinley Richards.''

Having the pleasure of the acquaintance of that gentleman, who was the great authority on the origin of National

30 Ballads, I applied to him for the information, and received an answer to say that Charlie' was right, but that Mr. Richards had not been aware of the fact himself until he had searched some old MSS. in the British Museum for the purpose of ascertaining the truth.

I was giving a sitting once to an officer from Aldershot, a cousin of my own, who was quite prepared to ridicule every thing that took place. After having teased me into giving him a seance, he began by cheating himself, and then accused me of cheating him, and altogether tired out my patience. At last I proposed a test, though with little hope of success.

Let us ask John Powles to go down to Aldershot, I said, and bring us word what your brother officers are doing.

0, yes! by Jove! Capital idea! Here! you fellow Powles, cut off to the camp, will you, and go to the barracks of the 84th, and let us know what Ma or R- is doing. The message came back in about three minutes. Major Rhasjust come in from duty, spelt out Powles. He is sitting on the side of his bed, changing his uniform trousers for a pair of grey tweed.

I'm sure that's wrong, " said my cousin, because the men are never called out at this time of the day.

It was then four o'clock, as we had been careful to ascertain. My cousin returned to camp the same evening, and the next day I received a note from him to say, That fellow Powles is a brick. It was quite right. R- was unexpectedly ordered to turn out his company yesterday afternoon, and he returned to barracks and changed his things for the grey tweed suit exactly at four o'clock.

But I have always found my friend Powles (when he will condescend to do anything for strangers, which is seldom) remarkably correct in detailing the thoughts and actions of absentees, sometimes on the other side of the globe.

 

 

 

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