Researches into the Phenomena of Spiritualism
Sir William Crookes
Publisher: Two Worlds Publishing Company Ltd.
Published: 1904 (7th Edition)
Availability: Out of Print
• Preface by Will Phillips
• Foreword (by B. H. Crookes)
• Spiritualism Viewed by the Light of Modern Science
• Experimental Investigation of a New Force
• Psychic Force and Modern Spiritualism
• Notes of an Enquiry into the Phenomena called Spiritual during the years 1870-73
• Miss Florence Cook's Mediumship
• The Last of Katie King
• Sir William Crookes Addresses the British Association for the Advancement of Science
• The Reality of Katie King
• Independent Testimony as to the Mediumship of Florence Cook by Arthur Conan Doyle
• My Spirit Child - Florence Marryat's experiences with Florence Cook in materialisation phenomena by Florence Marryat
- Will Phillips -
WITH A view to supplying the ever-increasing demand for authoritative pronouncements upon the great question covered by the term "Psychic Research", the Two Worlds Publishing Company Limited, has undertaken the reprinting of the fascinating history of the investigations of Mr., now Sir, William Crookes, into the regions tabooed by the bulk of his scientific brethren.
The articles, here quoted, first appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Science, of which Sir William was the able editor; and they have been supplemented by extracts from the speech of the eminent scientist delivered from the chair of the British Association, at its Bristol meeting in 1898, in which speech he declared over again his convictions concerning the value of the results of scientific investigation into what has been known as the realm of the occult.
Some correspondences appearing in the earlier reproductions of the Quarterly articles is withheld from this issue in order that the limit set by the price of the work may not be exceeded. Such deletion is, however, no material loss to the student, as it is, in the main, a repetition of the matter contained in the following pages. The first statements of the scientist were so full, so complete, that, with the diagrams given, they form the clearest and most conclusive answer to any criticism.
The phenomena investigated by Sir William Crookes are so intimately connected with Modern Spiritualism, that his testimony to their truthfulness is a vindication of the claims of the Spiritualists. Whatever may be said by the critic there is no doubt that the events tabulated by the eminent scientist transpired as he recorded them; and what the materialist may say, the Spiritualist declares that these undoubted manifestations, with myriads of others of like purport, establish the certainly of the existence of a world of spirits, with whom it is at times, under certain conditions, possible to open communication.
- B. H. Crookes -
IT IS now many years since an authentic edition of these researches was published, and it is felt that a new edition would be welcomed by many people who have no access to the former one. At the time of his death, Sir William Crookes was preparing to issue a new edition, which might or might not have been recast and enlarged to include his later experiences. However this may have been, there is now no one competent to alter or add to what he has written. Nevertheless, the present volume is not a verbatim reprint of the original. It has been judged expedient to omit, as no longer relevant, certain correspondence challenging and vindicating his competency to make and record the crucial experiments with D. D. Home, and in addition the names of certain gentlemen who were at first referred to by initials, but whose names were subsequently given, have been inserted in the text. With these exceptions, everything is as first published by Sir (then Mr.) William Crookes.
Though not mentioned in the text, it is desirable to put on record that Sir William wrote to several of his friends: "The photographs of Katie King were only permitted to be taken on condition that they should never be published," and from that day to this the condition has been rigidly adhered to, and, it is to be hoped, will be in the future.
A short list of some of the chief landmarks in Sir William's life may be of interest to those readers who have not seen his biography (published 1923).
He was born in 1832 and died in 1919 in his 87th year, both events taking place in London.
In 1897 he was knighted "in recognition of the eminent services he had rendered to the advance of scientific knowledge," and in 1910 he was further honoured by the bestowal of the Order of Merit.
In 1898 he became President of the British Association at Bristol, and the latter half of his Presidential Address, in which he refers to his Spiritualistic Researches a quarter of a century before, has been included in this volume.
In 1913 he was elected President of the Royal Society. In his later years he had been President of the Society for Psychical Research, the Chemical Society, the Society of Chemical Industry and the Electrical Engineers. He was elected a correspondent of the Institut de France in 1906, and was Honorary Secretary of the Royal Institution in Albemarle Street for many years. He was D.Sc. and LL.D. of six English and one Colonial Universities.
Those who are interested to know why all these and other honours were showered upon him in his declining years will find a fairly complete account of his activities in many fields of scientific research for upwards of 60 years, in the biography referred to above, and at the same time will find ample justification for trusting to his accuracy mid judgment in carrying out the research described in the following pages.
Spiritualism Viewed by the Light of Modern Science
- First published in the Quarterly Journal of Science, July 1870 -
SOME WEEKS ago the fact that I was engaged in investigating Spiritualism, so called, was announced in a contemporary: and in consequence of the many communications I have since received, I think it desirable to say a little concerning the investigation which I have commenced. Views or opinions I cannot be said to possess on a subject which I do not pretend to understand. I consider it the duty of scientific men who have learnt exact modes of working to examine phenomena which attract the attention of the public, in order to confirm their genuineness, or to explain, if possible, the delusions of the honest and to expose the tricks of deceivers. But I think it a pity that any public announcement of a man's investigation should be made until he has shown himself willing to speak out.
 "The Athenaeum".
A man may be a true scientific man, and yet agree with Professor De Morgan when he says: "I have both seen and heard, in a manner which would make unbelief impossible, things called spiritual which cannot be taken by a rational being to be capable of explanation by imposture, coincidence or mistake. So far I feel the ground firm under me; but when it comes to what is the cause of these phenomena I find I cannot adopt any explanation which has yet been suggested... The physical explanations which I have seen are easy, but miserably insufficient. The spiritual hypothesis is sufficient, but ponderously difficult."
Regarding the sufficiency of the explanation, I am not able to speak. That certain physical phenomena, such as the movement of material substances, and the production of sounds resembling electric discharges, occur under circumstances in which they cannot be explained by any physical law at present known, is a fact of which I am as certain as I am of the most elementary fact in chemistry. My whole scientific education has been one long lesson in exactness of observation, and I wish it to be understood that this firm conviction is the result of most careful investigation. But I cannot, at present, hazard even the most vague hypothesis as to the cause of the phenomena. Hitherto I have seen nothing to convince me of the truth of the "spiritual" theory. In such an inquiry the intellect demands that the spiritual proof must be absolutely incapable of being explained away; it must be so strikingly and convincingly true that we cannot, dare not, deny it.
Faraday says: "Before we proceed to consider any question involving physical principles we should set out with clear ideas of the naturally possible and impossible." But this appears like reasoning in a circle: we are to investigate nothing till we know it to be possible, whilst we cannot say what is impossible, outside pure mathematics, till we know everything.
In the present case I prefer to enter upon the enquiry with no preconceived notions whatever as to what can or cannot be, but with all my senses alert and ready to convey information to the brain; believing, as I do, that we have by no means exhausted all human knowledge or fathomed the depths of all the physical forces, and remembering that the great philosopher already quoted said, in reference to some speculations on the gravitating force, "Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature; and in such things as these, experiment is the best test of such consistency."
The modes of reasoning of scientific men appear to be generally misunderstood by Spiritualists with whom I have conversed, and the reluctance of the trained scientific mind to investigate this subject is frequently ascribed to unworthy motives. I think, therefore, it will be of service if I here illustrate the modes of thought current amongst those who investigate science, and say what kind of experimental proof science has a right to demand before admitting a new department of knowledge into her ranks. We must not, mix up the exact and the inexact. The supremacy of accuracy must he absolute.
The first requisite is to be sure of facts; then to ascertain conditions; next, laws. Accuracy and knowledge of detail stand foremost amongst the great aims of modern scientific men. No observations are of much use to the student of science unless they are truthful and made under test conditions, and here I find the great mass of Spiritualistic evidence to fail. In a subject which, perhaps, more than any other lends itself to trickery and deception, the precautions against fraud appear to have been, in most cases, totally insufficient, owing, it would seem, to an erroneous idea that to ask for such safeguards was to imply a suspicion of the honesty of someone present. We may use our own unaided senses, but when we ask for instrumental means to increase their sharpness, certainty and trustworthiness under circumstances of excitement and difficulty, and when one's natural senses are liable to be thrown off their balance, offense is taken.
In the countless number of recorded observations I have read, there appear to be few instances of meetings held for the express purpose of getting the phenomena under test conditions in the presence of persons properly qualified by scientific training to weigh and adjust the value of the evidence which might present itself. The only good series of test experiments I have met with were tried by the Count de Gasparin, and he, whilst admitting the genuineness of the phenomena, came to the conclusion that they were not due to supernatural agency.
The pseudo-scientific Spiritualist professes to know everything: no calculations trouble his serenity, no hard experiments, no long laborious readings; no weary attempts to make clear in words that which has rejoiced the heart and elevated the mind. He talks glibly of all sciences and arts, overwhelmingly the enquirer with terms like "electro-biologize," "psychologize," "animal magnetism," etc.- a mere play upon words, showing ignorance rather than understanding. Popular science such as this is little able to guide discovery rushing onwards to an unknown future; and the real workers of science must be extremely careful not to allow the reins to get into unfit and incompetent hands.
In investigations which so completely baffle the ordinary observer the thorough scientific man has a great advantage. He has followed science from the beginning through a long line of learning and he knows, therefore, in what direction it is leading; he knows that there are dangers on one side, uncertainties an another, and almost absolute certainty on a third: he sees to a certain extent in advance. But, where every step is towards the marvellous and unexpected, precautions and tests should be multiplied rather than diminished. Investigators must work; although their work may be very small in quantity if only compensation be made by its intrinsic excellence. But even in this realm of marvels, this wonderland towards which scientific enquiry is sending out its pioneers, can anything be more astonishing than the delicacy of the instrumental aids which the workers bring with them to supplement the observations of their natural senses?
The Spiritualist tells of bodies weighing 50 or 100 lbs. being lifted up into the air without the intervention of any known force; but the scientific chemist is accustomed to use a balance which will render sensible a weight so small that it would take ten thousand of them to weigh one grain; he is, therefore, justified in asking that a power professing to be guided by intelligence, which will toss a heavy body up to the ceiling, shall also cause his delicately-poised balance to move under test conditions.
The Spiritualist tells of tapping sounds which are produced in different parts of a room when two or more persons sit quietly round a table. The scientific experimenter is entitled to ask that these taps shall be produced on the stretched membrane of his phonautograph.
The Spiritualist tells of rooms and houses being shaken, even to injury, by superhuman power. The man of science merely asks for a pendulum to be set vibrating when it is in a glass case and supported on solid masonry.
The Spiritualist tells of heavy articles of furniture moving from one room to another without human agency. But the man of science has made instruments which will divide an inch into a million parts; and he is justified in doubting the accuracy of the former observations if the same force is powerless to move the index of his instrument one poor degree.
The Spiritualist tells of flowers with the fresh dew on them, of fruit and living objects being carried through closed windows, and even solid brick-walls. The scientific investigator naturally asks that an additional weight (if it be only the 1,000th part of a grain) be deposited on one pan of his balance when the case is locked. And the chemist asks for the 1,000th of a grain of arsenic to be carried through the sides of a glass tube in which pure water is hermetically sealed.
The Spiritualist tells of manifestations of power, which would be equivalent to many thousands of "foot-pounds," taking place without known agency. The man of science, believing firmly in the conservation of force, and that it is never produced without a corresponding exhaustion of something to replace it, asks for some such exhibitions of power to be manifested in his laboratory, where he can weigh, measure and submit it to proper tests.
For these reasons and with these feelings I began an inquiry suggested to me by eminent men exercising great influence on the thought of the country. At first, like other men who thought little of the matter and saw little, I believed that the whole affair was a superstition, or at least an unexplained trick. Even at this moment I meet with cases which I cannot prove to be anything else; and in some cases I am sure that it is a delusion of the senses.
I by no means promise to enter fully into this subject; it seems very difficult to obtain opportunities, and numerous failures certainly may dishearten anyone. The persons in whose presence these phenomena take place are few in number, and opportunities for experimenting with previously arranged apparatus are rarer still. I should feel it to be a great satisfaction if I could bring out light in any direction, and I may safely say that I care not in what direction. With this end in view, I appeal to any of my readers who may possess a key to these strange phenomena to further the progress of the truth by assisting me in my investigations. That the subject has to do with strange physiological conditions is clear, and these in a sense may be called "spiritual" when they produce certain results in our minds. At present the phenomena I have observed baffle explanation; so do the phenomena of thought, which are also spiritual, and which no philosopher has yet understood. No man, however, denies them.
The explanations given to me, both orally and in most of the books I have read, are shrouded in such an affected ponderosity of style, such an attempt at disguising poverty of ideas in grandiloquent language, that I feel it impossible, after driving off the frothy diluent, to discern a crystalline residue of meaning. I confess that the reasoning of some Spiritualists would almost seem to justify Faraday's severe statement - that many dogs have the power of coming to much more logical conclusions. Their speculations utterly ignore all theories of force being only a form of molecular motion, and they speak of Force, Matter and Spirit as three distinct entities, each capable of existing without the other; although they sometimes admit that they are mutually convertible.
It has been my wish to show that science is gradually making its followers the representatives of care and accuracy. It is a fine quality that of uttering undeniable truth. Let, then, that position not be lowered, but let words suit facts with an accuracy equal to that with which the facts themselves can be ascertained; and in a subject encrusted with credulity and superstition, let it be shown that there is a class of facts to be found upon which reliance can be placed, so far, that we may be certain they will never change. In common affairs a mistake may have but a short life, but in the study of nature an imperfect observation may cause infinite trouble to thousands. The increased employment of scientific methods will promote exact observation and greater love of truth among enquirers, and will produce a race of observers who will drive the worthless residuum of Spiritualism hence into the unknown limbo of magic and necromancy.
Experimental Investigation of a New Force
First published in the "Quarterly Journal of Science", January 1st 1871
TWELVE MONTHS ago in this journal I wrote an article, which, after expressing in the most emphatic manner my belief in the occurrence, under certain circumstances, of phenomena inexplicable by any known natural laws, I indicated several tests which men of science had a right to demand before giving credence to the genuineness of these phenomena. Among the tests pointed out were, that a "delicately poised balance should be moved under test conditions"; and that some exhibition of power equivalent to so many "foot-pounds" should be manifested in his laboratory, where the experimentalists could weigh measure, and submit to it proper tests." I said, too, that I could not promise to enter fully into this subject, owing to the difficulties of obtaining opportunities, and the numerous failures attending the enquiry; moreover, that "the persons in whose presence these phenomena take place are few in number, and opportunities for experimenting with previously arranged apparatus are rarer still."
Opportunities having since offered for pursuing the investigation, I have gladly availed myself of them for applying to these phenomena careful scientific testing experiments and I have thus arrived at certain definite results which I think it right should be published. These experiments appear conclusively to establish the existence of a new force, in some unknown manner connected with the human organization, which for convenience may be called the Psychic Force.
Of all the persons endowed with a powerful development of this Psychic Force, and who have been termed "mediums" upon quite another theory of its origin, Mr. Daniel Douglas Home is the most remarkable, and it is mainly owing to the many opportunities I have had of carrying on my investigation in his presence that I am enabled to affirm so conclusively the existence of this Force. The experiments I have tried have been very numerous, but owing to our imperfect knowledge of the conditions which favor or oppose the manifestations of this force, to the apparently capricious manner in which it is exerted, and to the fact that Mr. Home himself is subject to unaccountable ebbs and flows of the force, it has but seldom happened that a result obtained on one occasion could be subsequently confirmed and tested with apparatus specially contrived for the purpose.
Among the remarkable phenomena which occur under Mr. Home's influence, the most striking, as well as the most easily tested with scientific accuracy, are - (1) the alteration in the weight of bodies, and (2) the playing of tunes upon musical instruments (generally an accordion, for convenience of portability) without direct human intervention, under conditions rendering contact or connection with the keys impossible. Not until I had witnessed these facts some half-dozen times, and scrutinized them with all the critical acumen I possess, did I become convinced of their objective reality. Still, desiring to place the matter beyond the shadow of doubt, I invited Mr. Home on several occasions to come to my own house, where, in the presence of a few scientific enquirers, these phenomena could be submitted to crucial experiments.
The meetings took place in the evening, in a large room lighted by gas. The apparatus prepared for the purpose of testing the movements of the accordion, consisted of a cage, formed of two wooden hoops, respectively 1 foot 10 inches and 2 feet diameter, connected together by 12 narrow laths, each 1 foot 10 inches long, so as to form a drum-shaped frame, open at the top and bottom; round this 50 yards of insulated copper wire were wound in 24 rounds, each being rather less than an inch from its neighbour. The horizontal strands of wire were then netted together firmly with string, so as to form meshes rather less than 2 inches long by 1 inch high. The height of this cage was such that it would just slip under my dining table, but be too close to the top to allow of the hand being introduced into the interior, or to admit of a foot being pushed underneath it. In another room were two Grove's cells, wires being led from them into the dining room for connection, if desirable, with the wires surrounding the cage.
The accordion was a new one, having been purchased by myself for the purpose of these experiments at Wheatstone's, in Conduit Street. Mr. Home had neither handled nor seen the instrument before the commencement of the test experiments.
In another part of the room an apparatus was fitted up for experimenting on the alterations in the weight of a body. It consisted of a mahogany board, 36 inches long by 9 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch thick. At each end a strip of mahogany 1 1/2 inches wide was screwed on, forming feet. One end of the board rested on a firm table, whilst the other end was supported by a spring balance hanging from a substantial tripod stand. The balance was fitted with a self-registering index, in such a manner that it would record the maximum weight indicated by the pointer. The apparatus was adjusted so that the mahogany board was horizontal, its foot resting flat on the support. In this position its weight was 3 lbs., as marked by the pointer of the balance.
Before Mr. Home entered the room the apparatus had been arranged in position, and he had not even the object of some parts of it explained before sitting down. It may, perhaps, be worth while to add, for the purpose of anticipating some critical remarks which are likely to be made, that in the afternoon I called for Mr. Home at his apartments, and when there he suggested that, as he had to change his dress, perhaps I should not object to continue our conversation in his bedroom. I am, therefore, enabled to state positively, that no machinery, apparatus, or contrivance of any sort was secreted about his person.
The investigators present on the test occasion were an eminent physicist, high in the ranks of the Royal Society, whom I will call Dr. A. B.; a well-known Sergeant-at Law, whom I will call Sergeant C. D.; my brother; and my chemical assistant.
 It argues ill for the boasted freedom of opinion among scientific men, that they have so long refused to institute a scientific investigation into the existence and nature of facts asserted by so many competent and credible witnesses, and which they are freely invited to examine when and where they please. for my own part, I too much value the pursuit of truth, and the discovery of any new fact in nature, to avoid enquiry because it appears to clash with prevailing opinions. But as I have no right to assume that others are equally willing to do this, I refrain from mentioning the names of my friends without their permission.
Mr. Home sat in a low easy chair at the side of the table. In front of him under the table was the aforesaid cage, one of his legs being on each side of it. I sat close to him on his left, and another observer sat close to him on his right, the rest of the party being seated at convenient distances round the table.
For the greater part of the evening, particularly when anything of importance was proceeding, the observers on each side of Mr. Home kept their feet respectively on his feet, so as to be able to detect his slightest movement.
The temperature of the room varied from 68 degrees to 70 degrees F.
Mr. Home took the accordion between the thumb and middle finger of one hand at the opposite end to the keys (to save repetition this will be subsequently called "in the usual manner"). Having previously opened the bass key myself, and the cage being drawn from under the table so as just to allow the accordion to be pushed in with its key downwards, it was pushed back as close as Mr. Home's arm would permit, but without hiding his hand from those next to him .Very soon the accordion was seen by those on each side to be waving about in a somewhat curious manner; then sounds came from it, and finally several notes were played in succession. Whilst this was going on my assistant went under the table, and reported that the accordion was expanding and contracting; at the same time it was seen that the hand of Mr. Home by which it was held was quite still, his other hand resting on the table.
Presently the accordion was seen by those on either side of Mr. Home to move about, oscillating and going round and round the cage, and playing at the same time. Dr. A. B. now looked under the table, and said that Mr. Home's hand appeared quite still whilst the accordion I was moving about emitting distinct sounds.
Mr. Home still holding the accordion in the usual manner in the cage, his feet being held by those next him, and his other hand resting on the table, we heard distinct and separate notes sounded in succession, and then a simple air was played. As such a result could only have been produced by the various keys of the instrument being acted upon in harmonious succession, this was considered, by those present to be a crucial experiment. But the sequel was still more striking, for Mr. Home then removed his hand altogether from the accordion, taking it quite out of the cage, and placed it in the hand of the person next to him. The instrument then continued to play, no person touching it and no band being near it.
I was now desirous of trying what would be the effect of passing the battery current round the insulated wire of the cage, and my assistant accordingly made the connection with the wires from the two Grove's cells. Mr. Home again held the instrument inside the page in the same manner as before, when it immediately sounded and moved about vigorously. But whether the electric current passing round the cage assisted the manifestation of force inside it, is impossible to say.
The accordion was now again taken without any visible touch from Mr. Home's hand, which he removed from it entirely and placed upon the table, where it was taken by the person next to him, and seen, as now were both his hands, by all present. I and two of the others present saw the accordion distinctly floating about inside the cage with no visible support.
This was repeated a second time, after a short interval. Mr. Home presently re-inserted his hand in the cage and again took hold of the accordion. It then commenced to play, at first, chords and runs, and afterwards a well-known sweet and plaintive melody, which was executed perfectly in a very beautiful manner. Whilst this tune was being played I grasped Mr. Home's arm, below the elbow, and gently slid my hand down it until I touched the top of the accordion. He was not moving a muscle. His other hand was on the table, visible to all, and his feet were under the feet of those next to him.
Having met with such striking results in the experiments with the accordion in the cage, we turned to the balance apparatus already described. Mr. Home placed the tips of his fingers lightly on the extreme end of the mahogany board, which was resting on the support, whilst Dr. A. B. and myself sat, one on each side of it, watching for any effect which might be produced. Almost immediately the pointer of the balance was seen to descend. After a few seconds it rose again. This movement was repeated several times, as if by successive waves of the Psychic Force. The end of the board was observed to oscillate slowly up and down during the experiment.
Mr. Home now of his own accord took a small hand-bell and a little card match-box, which- happened to be near, and placed one under each hand, to satisfy us, as he said, that he was not producing the downward pressure. The very slow oscillation of the spring balance became more marked, and Dr. A. B., watching the index, said that he saw it descend to 6 1/2 lbs. The normal weight of the board as so suspended being 3 lbs., the additional downward pull was therefore 3 1/2 lbs. On looking immediately afterwards at the automatic register, we saw that the index had at one time descended as low as 9 lbs., showing, a maximum pull of 6 lbs. upon a board whose normal weight was 3 lbs.
In order to see whether it was possible to produce much effect on the spring balance by pressure at the place where Mr. Home's fingers had been, I stepped upon the table and stood on one foot at the end of the board. Dr. A. B., who was observing the index of the balance, said that the whole weight of my body (140 lbs.) so applied only sunk the index 1 1/2 or 2 lbs. when I jerked up and down. Mr. Home had been sitting in a low easy chair, and could not, therefore, had he tried his utmost, have exerted any material influence on these results. I need scarcely add that his feet as well as his hands were closely guarded by all in the room.
This experiment appears to me more striking, if possible, than the one with the accordion. As will be seen on referring to the cut , the board was arranged perfectly horizontally, and it was particularly noticed that Mr. Home's fingers were not at any time advanced more than 1 1/2 inches from the extreme end, as shown by a pencil-mark, which, with Dr. A. B.'s acquiescence, I made at the time. Now, the wooden foot being also 1 1/2 inches wide, and resting flat on the table, it is evident that no amount of pressure exerted within this space of 1 1/2 inches could produce any action on the balance, Again, it is also evident that when the end furthest from Mr. Home sank, the board would turn on the further side of this foot as on a fulcrum. The arrangement was consequently that of a see-saw, 36 inches in length, the fulcrum being 1 1/2 inches from one end; were he, therefore, to have exerted a downward pressure, it would have been in opposition to the force which was causing the other end of the board to move down.
The slight downward pressure shown by the balance when I stood on the board was owing probably to my foot extending beyond this fulcrum.
I have now given a plain, unvarnished statement of the facts from copious notes written at the time the occurrences were taking place, and copied out in full immediately after. Indeed, it would be fatal to the object I have in view - that of urging the scientific investigation of these phenomena - were I to exaggerate ever so little; for although to my readers Dr. A. B. is at present represented by incorporeal initials, to me the letters represent a power in the scientific world that would certainly convict me if I were to prove an untrustworthy narrator.
In the Quarterly Journal of Science, October 1st, 1871, the illustrious investigator replied to the charges brought against him by those who were not in agreement with his findings, and recorded a series of further experiments. He wrote: When I first stated in this journal that I was about to investigate the phenomena of so-called Spiritualism, the announcement called forth universal expression of approval. One said that my "statements deserved respectful consideration"; another expressed "profound satisfaction that the subject was about to be investigated by a man so thoroughly qualified as," etc.; a third was "gratified to learn that the matter is now receiving the attention of cool and clearheaded men of recognized position in science"; a fourth asserted that "no one could doubt Mr. Crookes' ability to conduct the investigation with rigid philosophical impartiality"; and a fifth was good enough to tell its readers that "if men like Mr. Crookes grapple with the subject, taking nothing for granted until it is proved, we shall soon know how much to believe."
These remarks, however, were written too hastily. It was taken for granted by the writers that the results of my experiments would be in accordance with their preconceptions. What they really desired was not the truth, but an additional witness in favour of their own foregone conclusions. When they found that the facts which that investigation established could not be made to fit those opinions, why - "so much the worse for the facts." They try to creep out of their own confident recommendations of the enquiry by declaring that "Mr. Home is a clever conjurer, who has duped us all." "Mr. Crookes might, with equal propriety, examine the performances of an Indian juggler." "Mr. Crookes must get better witnesses before he can be believed." "The thing is too absurd to be treated seriously." "It is impossible, and therefore can't be." (The quotation occurs to me - "I never said it was possible, I only said it was true.")
"The observers have all been biologised(!) and fancy they saw things occur which really never took place," etc., etc.
These remarks imply a curious oblivion of the very functions which the scientific enquirer has to fulfil. I am scarcely surprised when the objectors say that I have been deceived merely because they are unconvinced without personal investigation, since the same unscientific course of a priori argument has been opposed to all great discoveries. When I am told that what I describe cannot be explained in accordance with preconceived ideas of the laws of nature, the objector really begs the very question at issue, and resorts to a mode of reasoning which brings science to a standstill. The argument runs in a vicious circle: we must not assert a fact till we know that it is in accordance with the laws of nature, while our only knowledge of the laws of nature must be based on an extensive observation of facts. If a new fact seems to oppose what is called a law of nature, it does not prove the asserted fact to be false, but only that we have not yet ascertained all the laws of nature, or not learned them correctly.
I may at once answer one objection which has been made in several quarters, viz., that my results would carry more weight had they been tried a greater number of times, and with other persons besides Mr. Home. The fact is, I have been working at the subject for two years, and have found nine or ten different persons who possess psychic power in more or less degree; but its development in Mr. D. D. Home is so powerful, that, having satisfied myself by careful experiments that the phenomena observed were genuine, I have, merely as a matter of convenience, carried on my experiments with him, in preference to working with others in whom the power existed in a less striking degree. Most of the experiments I am about to describe, however, have been tried with another person than Mr. Home, and in his absence.
Before proceeding to relate my new experiments, I desire to say a few words respecting those already described. The objection has been raised that announcements of such magnitude should not be made on the strength of one or two experiments hastily performed. I reply that the conclusions were not arrived at hastily, nor on the results or two or three experiments only. In my former paper (Quarterly Journal of Science, page 340), I remarked: "Not until I had witnessed these facts some half-dozen times, and scrutinized them with all the critical acumen I possess, did I become convinced of their objective reality." Before fitting up special apparatus for these experiments, I have seen on five separate occasions, objects varying in weight from 25 to 100 lbs. temporarily influenced in such a manner, that I, and others present, could with difficulty lift them from the floor. Wishing to ascertain whether this was a physical fact, or merely due to a vibration in the power of our own strength under the influence of imagination, I tested with a weighing machine the phenomenon on two subsequent occasions when I had an opportunity of meeting Mr. Home at the house of a friend. On the first occasion, the increase of weight was from 8 lbs. normally, to 36 lbs., 48 lbs., and 46 lbs., in three successive experiments tried under strict scrutiny. On the second occasion, tried about a fortnight after, in the presence of other observers, I found the increase of weight to be from 8 lbs., to 23 lbs., 43 lbs., and 27 lbs., in three successive trials, varying the conditions. As I had the entire management of the above mentioned experimental trials, employed an instrument of great accuracy, and took every care to exclude the possibility of the results being influenced by trickery, I was not unprepared for a satisfactory result when the fact was properly tested in my own laboratory. The meeting on the occasion formerly described was, therefore, for the purpose of confirming my previous observations by the application of crucial tests, with carefully arranged apparatus of a still more delicate nature.
He then proceeds to record further experiments with the medium D. D. Home. On trying experiments (previously recorded) for the first time, I thought that actual contact between Mr. Home's hands and the suspended body whose weight was to be altered was essential to the exhibition of the force; but I found afterwards that this was not a necessary condition, and I therefore arranged my apparatus in the following manner:
The accompanying cuts (Figs. 8, 9, 10) explain the arrangement. Fig. 8 is a general view, and Figs. 9 and 10 show the essential parts more in detail. The reference letters are the same in each illustration. A B is a mahogany board, 36 inches long by 9 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch thick. It is suspended at the end, B, by a spring balance, C, furnished with an automatic register, D. The balance is suspended from a very firm tripod support, E.
The following piece of apparatus is not shown in the figures. To the moving index, 0, of the spring balance, a fine steel point is soldered, projecting horizontally outwards. In front of the balance, and firmly fastened to it, is a grooved frame carrying a flat box similar to the dark box of a photographic camera. This box is made to travel by clock-work horizontally in front of the moving index, and it contains a sheet of plate-glass which has been smoked over a flame. The projecting steel point impresses a mark on this smoked surface. If the balance is at rest, and the clock set going, the result is a perfectly straight horizontal line. If the clock is stopped and weights are placed on the end, B, of the board, the result is a vertical line, whose length depends on the weight applied. If, whilst the clock draws the plate along, the weight of the board (or the tension on the balance) varies, the result is a curved line, from which the tension in grains at any moment during the continuance of the experiments can be calculated.
The instrument was capable of registering a diminution of the force of gravitation as well as an increase; registrations of such a diminution were frequently obtained. To avoid complication, however, I will only here refer to in which an increase of gravitation was experienced.
The end, B, of the board being supported by the spring balance, the end, A, is supported on a wooden strip, F, screwed across its lower side and cut to a knife edge. This fulcrum rests on a firm and heavy wooden stand, G H. On the board, exactly over the fulcrum, is placed a large glass vessel filled with water, I. L is a massive iron stand, furnished with an arm and ring, M N, in which rests a hemispherical copper vessel perforated with several holes at the bottom.
The iron stand is two inches from the board, A B, and the arm and copper vessel, M N, are so adjusted that the latter dips into the water 1 1/2 inches, being 5 1/2 inches from the bottom of 1, and 2 inches from its circumference. Shaking or striking the arm, M, or the vessel, N, produces no appreciable mechanical effect on the board, A B, capable of affecting the balance. Dipping the hand to the fullest extent into the water in N, does not produce the least appreciable action on the balance.
As the mechanical transmission of power is by this means entirely cut off between the copper vessel and the board, A B, the power of muscular control is thereby completely eliminated.
For convenience I will divide the experiments into groups, 1, 2, 3, etc., and I have selected one special instance in each to describe in detail. Nothing, however, is mentioned which has not been repeated more than once and in some cases verified, in Mr. Home's absence, with another person possessing similar powers.
There was always ample light in the room where the experiments were conducted (my own dining room) to see all that took place.
Experiment One: The apparatus having been properly adjusted before Mr. Home entered the room, he was brought in, and asked to place his fingers in the water in the copper vessel, N. He stood up and dipped the tips of the fingers of his right hand in the water, his other hand and his feet being held. When he said he felt a power, force, or influence, proceeding from his hand, I set the clock going, and almost immediately the end, B, of the board was seen to descend slowly and remain down for about 10 seconds; it then descended a little further, and afterwards rose to its normal height. It then descended again, rose suddenly, gradually sunk for 17 seconds, and finally rose to its normal height, where it remained till the experiment was concluded. The lowest point marked on the glass was equivalent to a direct pull of about 5,000 grains. The accompanying figure is a copy of the curve traced on the glass.
Experiment Two: Contact through water having proved to be as effectual as actual mechanical contact, I wished to see if the power or force could affect the weight, either through other portions of the apparatus or through the air. The glass vessel and iron stand, etc., were therefore removed, as an unnecessary complication, and Mr. Home's hands were placed on the stand of the apparatus at P. A gentleman present put his hand on Mr. Home's hands, and his foot on both Mr. Home's feet, and I also watched him closely all the time. At the proper moment the clock was again set going; the board descended and rose in an irregular manner, the result being a curved tracing on the glass, of which Fig. 12 is a copy.
Experiment Three: Mr. Home was now placed 1 foot from the board, A B, on one side of it. His hands and feet were firmly grasped by a bystander, and another tracing, of which Fig. 13 is a copy, was taken on a moving glass plate.
Experiment Four: (Tried on an occasion when the power was stronger than on the previous occasions). Mr. Home was now placed three feet from the apparatus, his bands and feet being tightly held. The clock was set going when he gave the word, and the end, B, of the board soon descended and again rose in an irregular manner, as shown in Fig. 14.
The following series of experiments were tried with more delicate apparatus, and with another person, a lady, Mr. Home being absent. As the lady is a non-professional, I do not mention her name. She has, however, consented to meet any scientific men whom I may introduce for purposes of investigation.
A piece of thin parchment, A, Figs. 15 and 16, is stretched tightly across a circular hoop of wood. B C is a light lever turning on D. At the end, B, is a vertical needle point touching the membrane, A, and at C is another needle point, projecting horizontally and touching a smoked glass plate, E F. This glass plate is drawn along in the direction, H G, by clockwork, K. The end, B, of the lever is weighted so that it shall quickly follow the movements of the centre of the disc, A. These movements are transmitted and recorded on the glass plate, E F, by means of the lever and needle point, C. Holes are cut in the side of the hoop to allow a free passage of air to the underside of the membrane. The apparatus was well tested beforehand by myself and others, to see that no shaking or jar on the table or support would interfere with the results: the line traced by the point, C, on the smoked glass was perfectly straight in spite of all our attempts to influence the lever by shaking the stand or stamping on the floor.
Experiment Five: Without having the object of the instrument explained to her, the lady was brought into the room and asked to place her fingers on the wooden stand at the points L M, Fig. 15. I then placed my hands over hers to enable me to detect any conscious or unconscious movement on her part. Presently percussive noises were heard on the parchment, resembling the dropping of grains of sand on its surface. At each percussion a fragment of graphite which I had placed on the membrane was seen to be projected upwards about 1-50th of an inch, and the end, C, of the lever moved slightly up and down. Sometimes the sounds were as rapid as those from an induction-coil, whilst at others they were more than a second apart. Five or six tracings were taken, and in all cases a movement of the end, C, of the lever was seen to have occurred with each vibration of the membrane.
In some cases the lady's hands were not so near the membrane as L M, but were at N O, Fig. 16.
The accompanying figure 11 gives tracings taken from the plates used on these occasions.
Experiment Six: Having met with these results in Mr. Home's absence, I was anxious to see what action would be produced on the instrument in his presence. Accordingly I asked him to try, but without explaining the instrument to him.
I grasped Mr. Home's right arm above the wrist and held his hand over the membrane, about 10 inches from its surface, in the position shown at P, Fig. 16. His other hand was held by a friend. After remaining in this position for about half a minute, Mr. Home said he felt some influence passing. I then set the clock going, and we all saw the index, C, moving up and down. The movements were much slower than in the former case, and were almost entirely unaccompanied by the percussive, vibrations then noticed.
Figs. 18 and 19 show the curves produced on the glass on two of these occasions.
Figs. 17, 18, 19 are magnified.
These experiments confirm beyond doubt the conclusion at which I arrived in my former paper, namely , the existence of a force associated, in some manner not yet explained, with the human organization, by which force increased weight is capable of being imparted to solid bodies without physical contact. In the case of Mr. Home, the development of this force varies enormously, not only from week to week, but from hour to hour; on some occasions the force is inappreciable by my tests for an hour or more, and then suddenly reappears in great strength. It is capable of acting at a distance from Mr. Home (not infrequently as far as two or three feet), but is always strongest close to him.
Being firmly convinced that there could be no manifestation of one form of force, without the corresponding expenditure of some other form of force, I for a long time searched in vain for evidence of any force or power being used up in the production of these results.
Now, however, having seen more of Mr. Home, I think I perceive, what it is that this psychic force uses up for its development. In employing the terms vital force, or nervous energy, I am aware that I am employing words which convey very different significations to many investigators; but after witnessing the painful state of nervous and bodily prostration in which some of these experiments have left Mr. Home - after seeing him lying in an almost fainting condition on the floor, pale and speechless - I could scarcely doubt that the evolution of psychic force is accompanied by a corresponding drain on vital force.
I have ventured to give this new force the name of Psychic Force, because of its manifest relationship to certain psychological conditions, and because I was most desirous to avoid the foregone conclusions implied in the title under which it has hitherto been claimed as belonging to a province beyond the range of experiment and argument. But having found that it is within the province of purely scientific research, it is entitled to be known by a scientific name, and I do not think a more appropriate one could have been selected.
To witness exhibitions of this force it is not necessary to have access to known psychics. The force itself is probably possessed by all human beings, although the individuals endowed with an extraordinary amount of it are doubtless few. Within the last twelve months I have met in private families five or six persons possessing a sufficiently vigorous development to make me feel confident that similar results might be produced through their means to those here recorded, provided the experimentalist worked with more delicate apparatus, capable of indicating a fraction of a grain instead of recording pounds and ounces only.
As far as my other occupations will permit, I purpose to continue the experiments in various forms, and I will report from time to time their results. In the meanwhile I trust that others will be induced to pursue the investigation in its scientific form. It should, however, be understood that, equally with all other scientific experiments these researches must be conducted in strict compliance with the conditions under which the force is developed. As it is an indispensable condition of experiments with frictional electricity that the atmosphere should be free from excess of moisture, and that no conducting medium should touch the instrument while the force is being generated, so certain conditions are found to be essential to the production and operation of the Psychic Force, and unless these precautions are observed the experiments will fail. I am emphatic on this point, because unreasonable objections have sometimes been made to the Psychic Force that it is not developed under adverse condition dictated by the experimentalist, who, nevertheless, would object to conditions being imposed upon himself in the exhibition of any of his own scientific results. But I may add that the conditions required are very few, very reasonable, and in no way obstruct the most perfect observation and the application of the most rigid and accurate tests.
Just before going to press I have received from my friend, Professor Morton, an advance sheet of the Journal of the Franklin Institute, containing some remarks on my last paper by Mr. Coleman Sellers, a leading scientific engineer of the United States. The essence of his criticism contained in the following quotation:
"On page 341 (of the Quarterly Journal of Science) we have given a mahogany board 36 inches long by 9 1/2 inches wide, and 1 inch thick, with at each end a strip of mahogany 1 1/2 inches wide screwed on, forming feet. This board was so placed as to rest with one end on the table, the other suspended by a spring balance, and, so suspended, it recorded a weight of 3 pounds; i.e., a mahogany board of the above dimensions is shown to weigh 6 pounds - 3 pounds on the balance, and 3 pounds on the table. A mechanic used to handling wood wonders how this may be. He looks through his limited library, and finds that scientific men tell him that such a board should weigh about 13 1/2 pounds. Did Mr. Crookes make this board himself, or did Mr. Home furnish it as one of his pieces of apparatus?... It would have been more satisfactory if Mr. Crookes had stated, in regard to this board, who made it... Let it be discovered that the 6 pound mahogany board was furnished by Mr. Home, and the experiments will not be so convincing."
My experiments must indeed be convincing if so accomplished a mechanician as Mr. Coleman Sellers can find no worse fault with them than is expressed in the comments I have quoted. He writes in so matter-of-fact a manner, and deals so plausibly with dimensions and weights, that most persons would take it for granted that I really had committed the egregious blunder he points out.
Will it be believed, therefore, that my mahogany board does weigh only 6 pounds? Four separate balances in my own house tell me so, and my greengrocer confirms the fact.
It is easy to perceive into what errors a "mechanic" may fall when he relies for practical knowledge on his "limited library," instead of appealing to actual experiment.
I am sorry I cannot inform Mr. Sellers who made my mahogany board. It has been in my possession about sixteen years; it was originally cut off a length in a wood-yard; it became the stand of a spectrum camera, and as such is described with a cut in the Journal of the Photographic Society for January 21, 1856 (vol. II page 293). It has since done temporary duty in the arrangement of various pieces of apparatus in my physical laboratory, and was selected for these particular experiments owing to its shape being more convenient than that of other available pieces of wood.
But is it seriously expected that I should answer such a question as "Did Mr. Home furnish the board?" Will not my critics give me credit for the possession of some amount of common sense?