Light and Psychological Review lead ban on Dark Seances

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Light and Psychological Review lead ban on Dark Seances

Post by Admin on Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:08 am

Part 1
People on the forum are well aware of my opposition to Séances held in the dark. My view on these is they fail to provide genuine evidence, except on rare occasions. Additionally they have, since they began with the Koons Spirit house been the subject of fraud. One of the early Spiritualist Journals exposed Jonathan Koons at a séance and the Davenports were exposed on numerous occasions throughout their career.  I have been helping to research a chronology of the Davenports through Spiritualist Journals, Books, Magazines, Newspaper articles (in the USA, Canada, UK, NZ and Aus) and it is an eye opening record. I look forward to seeing the articles that Marc Demarest publishes out of this work.

I have also drawn attention to the 1867 rejection of Dark Séances  by the then American National  Spiritualist body (a move echoed by the current NSAC which insists its membership does any physical mediumship in dim red or blue light because of fraudulent exposures such as Mavis Riffle’s at Camp Chesterfield). I have placed links to let people see an ecopy of DD Home’s Light and Shadows book ( )which is very anti dark séances. I also gave a link to Emma Hardinge Brittens attack upon Dark Cabinets, which is reproduced below.
Interestingly that came from the Psychological Review in 1882. It was, in fact a follow on to a reply about a piece in an earlier issue of the Review from 1882. Marc Demarest has entitled this important issue the Declaration Against Promiscuous Séances  (

Indeed at the time the term Promiscuous Séance was widely in use, mainly in relation to public séances (normally in the dark), for money, by professional mediums. Marc's piece will enable you to read the actual Review which I have extracted below. The Psychological Review is to be found at once again The International Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist and Occult Practices (which involves among others John Pat Deveney and Marc Demarest) are doing a brilliant job. For the magazine below the digitalisation was done by Google but the association are paying for film from libraries and digitalising most of their own material.

The subject is important and the whole issue came from an exposure of Catherine Wood a very successful medium who had previously produced materialisation in the light and under test conditions. Psypioneer covered her history in detail and we have a copy of the book referred to by them, Reminiscences by Smedley in our library. To give background to the exposure you can read about it here . This journal will also give you links to psypioneer’s other articles on Catherine Wood

The Psychological Review
Spiritualism and Psychological Research.
October 1882

It is with the deepest feeling of regret that I have to touch upon what is now a matter of history, viz., the alleged "exposure" of Miss Wood, at Peterborough, though it is no part of my purpose to

allude to it further than is necessary to explain subsequent events. The details are too well known to require repetition, and the whole correspondence may be found in recent numbers of” Light”. Little, however, did I think that the crisis I spoke of last month was so near at hand, when I said that the time was coming upon us when Spiritualists, for the sake of their own honour and that of the cause, would have to call things by very plain names, and when drastic measures would have to be taken to redeem the credit of the movement.

That time has come, and steps have, I am truly glad to say, been initiated to stem the tide of fraud which seemed only too likely to crush public Spiritualism. With what has been we have now little to do; the past may well be left to bury its own dead, and what concerns us now is the future. • It is not a question whether this or that medium has fraudulently simulated the phenomena, but rather whether we can so improve our methods and conditions of investigation as at once to render trickery impossible, and to present the phenomena in such a way as to commend them to the attention of the public.

Feeling the time was ripe for action, and believing that only by such a means could a revival of interest be brought about, and public confidence in the movement be restored, I very gladly joined Mr. Dawson Rogers, the Editor of Light, in drawing up a circular letter (see page 353), stating our views on the matter, and inviting an expression of opinion thereon. This was sent to upwards of one hundred representative Spiritualists, and in less than three days we received between sixty and seventy replies, which, with rare exceptions, were unanimously in favour of the objects stated in the letter. These will be found appended, together with those which were unfavourable, which, for obvious reasons, I have given in extenso. On Tuesday the 26th September, the matter was also brought before the Council of the Central Association of Spiritualists, when the following
resolution was unanimously adopted :-

"That this Council, having had before them the circular recently issued by the editors of Light and the Psychological Review, resolves to appoint a committee to consider the question of the most satisfactory conditions to be observed at physical seances, with the view of eliminating all chances of fraud, whilst affording the best opportunities for the production of phenomena; that the committee consist of the following members :-'-Mr. F. Podmore, Mr. M. Theobald, Mr. D. Fitzgerald, Mr. J. J. Morse, Mr. John S. Farmer, and Mr. E. Dawson Rogers; and that the committee be empowered to invite the co-operation of any other Spiritualist, whether a member of this association or not."

I do not know that I have more to add at present, as my own views are pretty well known to the readers of the Psychological Review. Suffice it to say, that I know of no question upon which Spiritualists have been invited as a body to express an opinion where

such an almost unanimous verdict has been given; and this seems to me to augur well for future usefulness and progress. Six or seven years ago, my esteemed friend and co-worker, "M.A. (Oxon)," {Stainton Moses} first drew attention to the necessity for the purification of circles and conditions, and warned Spiritualists of the evils which would surely ensue if the use of cabinets for the seclusion of mediums were persisted in. That he has proved only too true a prophet, experience has shown, and it now rests with ourselves whether, having awoke to the necessities of the case, we profit by the lessons of the past. There is no fear, however, but that the special committee which has been formed to consider the subject, will deal with it in a manner that will be productive of beneficial results to the cause at large. With these few words, I leave the correspondence to speak for itself, merely adding that a few names were inadvertently omitted from the circular in the hurry of despatch. The committee, however, will be glad to receive the views of any Spiritualist who has not already expressed them.
4 New Bridge Street, LudgateCircus, Londin, E. C.
16th September, 1882.

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Re: Light and Psychological Review lead ban on Dark Seances

Post by Admin on Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:09 am

Part 2
In view of recent events it seems to us that the time has now arrived when it is incumbent upon all who have the welfare of Spiritualism at heart, to consider carefully and thoughtfully the present state of affairs. That during the past few years the movement has suffered, and the facts of Spiritualism have been damaged and discredited in the eyes of investigators and the public generally, through the exposures, real or alleged, arising out of circles for "form manifestations" with professional mediums, to which the public have been admitted, no one acquainted with the true circumstances of the case will, we think, venture to deny. The reason of this is not far to seek, and a careful study of the question has led us to the conclusion that the conditions peculiar to such circles are mainly responsible for these deplorable results. We therefore suggest that, in the
interests of all concerned, and having regard to the position of the movement before the public, it is desirable that definite action should be taken in the matter.

The question is a grave one and undoubtedly requires a wise discretion in dealing with it. To this end we solicit the advice of those who are well known as tried and experienced Spiritualists. It is proposed that a carefully worded statement shall be drawn up and sent out to Societies and individual Spiritualists all over the country, earnestly inviting all concerned to united public action, such action to have special reference to a re-consideration of the methods of investigation usually adopted. Seeing that experience is showing the only really satisfactory conditions to be (1) the medium in full view, and (2) a sufficiencyof light for careful observation, we think such a statement might contain a caution against the evil results of dark and cabinet sittings

with professional mediums as at present conducted, and also against admitting the public to dark circles of any kind. It might, moreover, draw attention to the fact that in the seclusion of the medium, and in the absence of sufficient light for careful observation, a premium is set upon fraud; that these conditions seem to harbour and invite deception, buffoonery, and delusion; that by their adoption we expose mediums to temptations to which we have no right to subject them; besides, in great probability, sapping their health and exposing them to unknown perils. It should also, we think, point out the want of confidence which these methods induce between medium and sitters.

On the other hand it should, we think, indicate and recommend the adoption of methods which are not open to these objections. That such are possible we are reasonably assured, but after all the question is--In view of the continued obloquy and contempt brought upon Spiritualism by "Exposures," is it wise to continue methods tending in every case, sooner or later, to such disastrous results! In asking your advice and criticism we believe that only by some such action will a revival of interest in the subject be brought about, and public confidence in the movement be restored. We shall esteem it a favour if you will kindly let us know your
views with reference to this matter by return of post, despatching your reply so that it will reach us, at latest, by Tuesday, September 19th. If unable to write more fully, a simple " Yes" or "No" on a post-card, in general approval or the reverse, will be welcome.
Yours faithfully,
E. DAWSONN ROGERS, Editor of "Light."
JOHN S. FARMER, Editor of "Psychological Review."

In order to make the expression of opinion as representative as possible, this Circular is being sent to the following amongst others:-
Adams, E.,  Coffin, W. H., Adshead, W. P., Cooper, R., Ainsworth, Jno.,  Crookes, W., F.R.S., Baikie, R.,M.D.,  Damiani, Sig. G. Barkas, T. P, . Dawbarn, Jas., Barrett, F., Staines.,  Dawe, N. F.,            Barrett, Prof. W. F., Dublin.,  Eglinton, W. Bennett, E. T.,  Elder, A., Binney, F. A.,  Eno, J. C.,   Blackburn, C.,  Everitt, Thos.,  Bland, J. L.,  Fahrig, F. E.,  Borthwick, Lord.,  Fitton, R.,  Bowman, J.’ Fitzgerald, Mrs.,  Brayn; Col., Jersey.,  Fitzgerald, D. G.,  Britten, Mrs. Hardinge.,  Fowler, John., Calder, A. Gill, W., Catling, R., Grant, Thos., Chapman, Jno.,  Grey, J. W., Clarke, R.,  Green, F. G.,

Greenwell, J, N., Hall, S.C., Hannah, R., Harper, R., Harris, Geo., LL.D., F.S.A.,  Hartley, J. H.,        Hunter, W.,  Isham, Sir Chas., James, Capt. Jno., Jones, J. Enmore., Joy, A., Kersey, H. A., Larrad, E., M'Kinney, T., Lamont, Jno., Massey, Gerald., Massey, C. C., Mellon, Mrs., Meugens, J. G.,               Miall Rev. W., Miles, J., Morse, J. J., "M. A. (Oxon.)"{Stainton Moses},  Mould, R., Munro, J. G.,   Myers, F. W. H., Mylne, Jas., Nichols, Dr., Nisbet, Hay., Noel, Hon. R., Nosworthy, Mrs., Oxley, W., Parkes, F. M., Paynter, W., Pearce, C. W., Pearce, H., Pearson, C., Peterson, A. T. T., Podmore, F., Robertson, J., Ponton, F. G., Rhodes, J. T., Rondi, Big. E., Rouse, Jno., Shorter, T., Sloman, J. B., Speer, S. T., M.D., Tapp, G. R., Theobald, Morell., Turner, J. P., Walton, J., Williams, C. E., Wood, Miss.,   Wyld, G., M.D.

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Re: Light and Psychological Review lead ban on Dark Seances

Post by Admin on Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:10 am

Part 3
[It has been found impossible to publish the whole of the replies. Those friends, therefore, who do not see their communications in print will please attribute it to want of space, and they may rest assured' that their letters are being carefully considered by the committee appointed to discuss the matter.-ED. P.R.]

M. A. (OxoN) :-There is no reasonable doubt that reiterated exposures of fraud are dealing a death-blow to Spiritualism as a public and popular movement. Many who are recent investigators are coming to believe that
fraud is mixed up so inextricably with all the manifestations, that it is at least questionable whether there are any free from it. Such will soon abandon the profitless task of endeavouring to sift out what may be, after all trouble, worthless.

I have nothing material to add to what I have repeatedly urged on Spiritualists. I would abolish the cabinet as a pest-house of deceit, and abandon illusory tests connected with it. H a. medium wants to cheat, a cabinet provides the means. If medium is entirely honest, I consider tying in a dark cabinet to be a deceptive test, even when skilfully performed. Not one person in fifty can tie a woman so that she cannot get out of the bonds by normal means, if she is a practised trickster. No human being can tie a medium so that he cannot be released by abnormal means. The only test worth countenancing is a. clear view of the medium during the whole séance, and, of course, in light sufficient for exact observation. And investigation should lead up to a view of the medium and Psychic Form simultaneously

I do not anticipate that promiscuous circles will sit with sufficient patience to attain success under these conditions. It is therefore a question whether any such circles should be encouraged to seek for such manifestations at all. I am strongly disposed to think that materialisation is as difficult and delicate a matter to be obtained in the wholesale way in which public mediums profess to obtain it. The temptation to resort to illicit means when the legitimate fail is enormous, and no medium should be exposed to it. There are also grave reasons for believing that there are dangers of other kinds connected with promiscuous circles for materialisation, as now held, which it is the part of wisdom for Spiritualists to avoid.

I therefore incline to urge that the phenomenon of materialisation should not be sought for at all in promiscuous circles, but that it should be evoked in select circles only, composed of experienced Spiritualists, and without the use of illusory tests. There can, I think, be no two opinions as to the necessity for promptly abandoning methods of experiment which set a premium on fraud, and which have proved well nigh fatal to public Spiritualism. I confine myself to the points on which you ask my advice, though there are other particulars in which public Spiritualism needs purgation.

GEORGE WYLD, M.D. :-In reply to your request for my views on dark séances for materialisations I would say-

1. I consider that I have obtained, through the sense of sight and feeling, demonstrations that Spirits can manufacture forms apparently identical with solid human hands.

2. I have never personally received any demonstration that the entire human form can be thus manufactured; although if hands can be made, the presumption is that solid forms in the likeness of the entire body can
likewise be made.

3. The innumerable instances of the double of living beings and the ghosts of departed human beings appearing in the light, I regard as unanswerable facts; and so the presumption is that such forms may also
sometimes appear at dark séances; but, so far as my experience goes, I have never obtained anv demonstration of this, as the figures which I have seen at these séances might all have been composed of muslin, or of the medium either consciously tricking, or of the entranced medium unconsciously tricking.

4. Those who, for scientific purposes, investigate Spiritualistic phenomena, need not abolish darkness as a factor in these experiments if they take rational precautions, but those who for idle or credulous curiosity sit at dark séances, must thus not only themselves be continually be fooled, but they are guilty of assisting in the encouragement of fraud.

E. HARDINGE BRITTEN:-I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your circular of the 16th inst., to which I hasten to reply as fully as the present moment will permit.

You may judge how deeply I am personally interested in the subject-matter of your circular when I remind you that I have given the last twenty-three years of my life, with all I am and all I have, to the promulgation of what I KNOW to be the truths of Spiritualism. In thus helping to build up a. noble cause I have deemed myself amply rewarded by witnessing its triumphant acceptance in many parts of the world by tens of thousands of capable thinkers. I now see this work to be so holy and sacred-degraded by imposture, and repudiated by the most respectable portion of the community, chiefly on account of the

notorious frauds practised upon it in the name of Mediumship. If I have of late forborne to take any public part in a movement justly and necessarily tabooed by the classes whose influence is most needed to sustain it, it is because I have felt that my single voice was insufficient to stem the tide of fanaticism and credulity which ever seemed ready to shield the imposture, but exercised no charity for the victims imposed upon; neither oould I any longer, with respect to myself, subject my remonstrances to the virulent denunciations which are visited upon those who dare to ask for test conditions in the investigation of so unprecedented a subject as spirit communion. It is not that I fear these ever ready denouncers, but like many other of my most esteemed associates, however willing I have been, and still am, to debate the proven facts of Spiritualism with the enemies of the cause, I shrink with aversion from contest with the foes of "our own• household," especially those who descend to abuse instead of argument, and mistake vituperation for logic.

When I find any well-conducted movement bent on redeeming our noble cause from the vultures that seek only to devour it, I am ready with heart and effort to take my part therein; and in the anticipation that such a desirable result may grow out of your endeavour, gentlemen, I offer you the following suggestions as the fruits of my own personal observation and experience. First, however, I would kindly take exception to those passages in your circular which seem to lay the burden of the imposition practised in" form-materialisation," solely upon" Professional Mediums."

I am in possession of abundant evidence to show that in this country, as in Holland and other places, some of the grossest impositions have been practised in the simulation of the above-named phenomena. by nonprofessional mediums, and without attempting to analyse the motives of either class, I am in a position to show that both have availed themselves of the equivocal conditions furnished by cabinets, darkness, and the credulity of those around them, for practising cruel and heartless deception.

In reference also to your fourth paragraph, wherein you plead for the exclusion of the public "in dark circles," I would ask, whom you would propose to admit but the public? To me it has always seemed as if. the chief value in holding circles was to convince the public of the truth of spirit communion. When Modem Spiritualism was first known, it found the whole world sceptical, and the millions now convinced of its truth have become converted from their scepticism chiefly by circles. I have often read with astonishment the plea put forth by spiritualists for the exclusion from the circle of all but" sympathisers," "true spiritualists," etc. ; in other words, of all who would not accept whatever was presented without question, or who might be likely to expose palpable fraud.

Now, if spirit circles are only to be held for the delectation or amusement of "true spiritualists," any attempt to redeem Spiritualism from its ill odour in public opinion is superogatory, and the movement itself must end with the "sympathising" few of this generation. If, on the contrary, the aim of those spiritualists who have realised the worth of their belief be, to convince others of the same salvatory truth, there is one of the best methods to be found in circles, and those circles which are not fit for the public may well be deemed equally unfit for private gatherings. I know the outcry that will be raised against this position, and the assertion that "sensitives" require " special conditions and special influences" around them, etc., etc. In answer to well-worn platitudes of this character, permit me to cite some of the experiences of the early mediums, with nearly all of whom I have been intimately acquainted, and associated in circles. The Misses Fox of Hydesville, Messrs. George Redman, J. B. Conklin, Henry Slade, Charles Foster,

and numerous other powerful physical mediums, have sat heterogeneously for all comers in public, as well as private, circles for yeare. Their best tests have generally been given to sceptics, strangers, and very often to
bitter opposers. J. C. Mansfield, Lizzie Keizer, E. C. Wilson, and many of the best American Seers have given their best tests in large public audiences. Mrs. Ada Foye for eight months gave public tests at the end of my lectures in San Francisco, two years ago, to over a thousand people, by rapping, writing, seeing, and clair-audience, the hall being brilliantly lighted, and multitudes of sceptics present. All through America and Australia this same lady has given the same class of tests in public and private without mistake, failure, or the shadow of suspicion during a period of twenty-five years. Miss Laura Edmonds, Mrs. Sweet, several other ladies, and I myself have sat as non-professional mediums, giving tests to all comers. I sat in this way, in the commencement of my public mediumship, for eighteen months in New York City, and, being very enthusiastic in my work, admitted strangers of all classes ; and neither my co• workers nor myself have found that sceptical or " heterogeneous influences " marred our work, or prevented the spirits from giving tests. On the contrary; the spirits were equal to all demands ; and though, now and then, some rarely exceptional person might bring with him a peculiar influence, wholly antagonistic to spirit power, and impossible to overcome or explain, the general rule with us all was, the stronger the sceptic the more striking were the evidences of spirit power and presence. Miss Kate Fox, now Mrs. Jencken, held public circles, made free to the public by the generosity of Mr. Horace Day, under the room in which my séances were held, and I have frequently seen the apartment crowded by scoffing sceptics, as well as by the strangers that sat around her, but I never heard her make one mistake, or failure, in giving correct tests, through rapping and writing.

But, it may be argued, the conditions requisite for "form materialisation” differ essentially from all other phases of phenomena, and imperatively demand cabinets, darkness, or the isolation of the medium. Once more I call experience into court, as my witness, to see if this position is irrefutably proved.

I have known Mr. D. D. Home for many years, and witnessed all his most marvellous and striking phases of mediumship. In my own house, and that of Mr. Howitt, Mr. S. C. Hall, and numerous other friends, I have seen, felt, and been caressed by hands of many sizes, and conditions of warmth, and density. I have also seen arms attached to them, and some faces, visible to all present, and apparently, to sight and touch, as
human as my own; and yet I have never sat with Mr. Home on his own premises, in darkness, nor when he was isolated, in any way from every one in the room. I have sat with Mrs. Underhill (Leah Fox), and in her presence, and that of Robert Dale Owen, and William Lloyd Garrison, luminous forms, one of whom we all recognised as Mr. Underhill's father, came through the door and halted in our sight, the lights burning, by which I had been reading aloud, and the medium, Mrs. Underhill, clinging to me in terror, but neither isolated nor in a cabinet. In the presence of Messrs. Slade, Foster, Redman, and Conklin, I, and scores of other still living witnesses, have seen hands and feet, from the size of infants to those of giants, formed and dissolved before our eyes, and that in brilliantly lighted rooms.

I could re-duplicate examples by hundreds, if necessary, to prove that hands and portions of forms have been exhibited and made palpable to sight and touch in broad light without cabinets, and in circles of hetero•
geneous and sceptical sitters. Of course, we are in no position to ask why the same conditions could not suffice for the materialisation of the entire

form as well as a part; but we, at least, have a right to say, when so much has been manifested, and such illimitable possibilities are predicated for future unfoldment, under conditions which admitted of no shadow of
chance for deception, that neither spirit nor mortal has the right to ask investigators to accord belief to investigations differing only in degree, but not in quality, which are produceable only under the most equivocal
conditions, and which place the inquirer at the mercy of those who are constantly being proved to be remorseless and unscrupulous tricksters.

Spiritualism does not depend for its proofs on form materialisation only; and however wonderful and interesting such a. phenomenon might be, if it can only be given under the most equivocal and doubtful conditions,
better to dispense with it altogether than throw a priceless pearl to the dogs, and that simply to gratify a few persons, who are contented to endure the pernicious and often disreputable conditions of the dark circle, and that at the risk of catering to the behoof of unprincipled impostors. I have read with sufficient attention all the attempts to excuse the base frauds that have been perpetrated, and the plea of "evil spirits," "unconscious trances," or the malign influences of heterogeneous sitters, etc., etc. To all this I have but to ask whether the medium was "unconscious,” or under the influence of the wicked exposers, when they brought, made and carefully prepared, the paraphernalia. by which they proposed to delude their victims ? .

I have myself endured the martyrdom and borne the cross which every unpopular cause puts upon the shoulders of its propagandists. Both in public and in private I have endured persecution, desertion, ingratitude, and
scorn, and none have ever felt or manifested more kindly than I have, all the sympathy which my fellow-labourers deserve; nay, it is in my resolve to stand by them and protest against the pharasaical raid made upon them, under the pretence that they alone of all mankind should give life, time, and service for nothing, that I have determined never to lecture even, without the fair compensation that honest labour should ensure in every department of usefulness. I would demand besides justice to mediums, kindness, courtesy, and special sympathy for special conditions of sensitiveness; but that which I demand for them, I surely have a right to demand also for the investigator, and if I feel just indignation towards those who fail to treat mediums with the utmost impartiality and justice, am I to have no pity on those who come to the circle with bleeding hearts, and in the agonising hope to be restored to their banished dead, only to be mocked with rags, tinsel, shams, and puppets ?

There is yet another and a very solemn plea to be made for pure, honest, unadulterated spirit intercourse. There are wild, monstrous, and wholly unsupported theories growing up, on the new soil of Spiritualism, like fungi, ready to eat the life out of the movement, quench its most momentous revealments, and substitute hideous ghosts and phantoms for the immortal existences with whom Spiritualism has brought us face to face. And what is the corrective to these fantastic and groundless fantasies? Nothing under the high heavens but the FACTs of spirit communion. Let a set of remorseless swindlers take our facts away, and we are at the mercy of as many wild theories as there are sects in theology.

There is much more to be said, gentlemen, in behalf of your attempted movement, and in relation to its best methods of practicalisation; but although I can hardly feel that I have written one word too much on so important a subject, I dare not press my individual opinion further on your attention. I can only bid you God-speed, and assure you that inyour attempts to purify and elevate our noble cause from the degradation
which human folly and wickedness

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Re: Light and Psychological Review lead ban on Dark Seances

Post by Admin on Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:12 am

Part 4
Rev. W. MIAL:-" I heartily agree as to the expediency of some such
course as you suggest. You will allow me to express the opinion that in
order to meet the requirements of the case, and effectually to lift from
'The Cause ' the opprobrium which is crushing it, any advice which may
be given should be of a kind suitable for public advertisement, and therefore
most stringent. Feebleness in reprehension of the evils sought to be
arrested would, I think, be more injurious than silence and inaction.
The following seem to me to be demanded:-(1) A full admission of the
prevalence-the frequent occurrence of gross deception. (2) An avowal
of the conviction of its extreme heinousness. (3) A statement of the
possibility, in some cases, of the mediums being blameless. (4) Urgent
counsel that, in view of the liability of very intelligent 'sitters' to be
imposed on, and so to come to lend their countenance to fraud, all
results obtained through professional mediums in dark or dimly lighted
séances, or when the entire person of the medium is placed beyond the
possibility of sight or touch, should be regarded by all Spiritualists as
tabooed, and that the support and adhesion of those Spiritualists who
fail so to regard them be deprecated and repudiated. I venture thus to
express my impressions as to what is needed, relying on your kindne66
to attribute my doing so to interest in the subject."
T. BARKAS, Esq., F.G.S., Newcastle•on-Tyne :-"I desire briefly to
reply to the paragraphs in the order of their occurrence :-(1) I accept
every statement in this paragraph. (2) It is of vital importance that the
opinions of experienced and educated Spiritualists should be obtained.
(3) A statement, such as that proposed would be invaluable, but before
issuing it, it ought to be sent in proof to all those to whom this circular
has been forwarded, with a request for suggestions and criticism, and the
revised proof should be forwarded for final correction to about twenty
Spiritualists of known precedence, who have contributed to the literature
of Spiritualism. (4) Speaking generally I agree with the statements in
this paragraph. (5) The suggestions are valuable, and should be considered
in the document proposed to be issued."
J. R. GREENWELL, the Secretary of the Dalston Association, thinks
"it will be better to remain in ignorance of a future life demonstrated.
than to so frequently suffer and feel ashamed to own we are connected
with such an ‘ism.' I am at one with you in both propositions, (1)
medium in full view, and (2) a sufficiency of light for careful observation.
. . . With Miss Wood and Mrs. Mellon, we, in Newcastle-on-Tyne, sat
for some time in conformity with your two propositions, and every one
was highly satisfied with the results. Why they were discontinued I
am at a loss to say. I am fully persuaded of the necessity and
importance of adopting these means. We may have to wait some time
before success crowns our efforts, but far more preferable will it be to
meet with failure and disappointment than expose our mediums and ourselves
to so much suffering and indignity."
R. HANNAH:-" Much stress should be laid on the importance of conducting
such séances in the most simple and straightforward manner so
as to avoid any pretence for an accusation of dishonesty. Such of
my own experiences as would be most valuable and convincing to beginners
has always been in the light, as with old Mrs. Marshall, with Forster in
bright sunshine, with Slade in like conditions, and with a Committee of
the Dialectical Society in full gas light, when with no other mediumship
than that of the members themselves, after comparatively few sittings
together, a heavy dining table moved from six to about fifteen inches
eleven or twelve times in various directions as requested. The record by
Mr. Wallace there and then may be seen in the Report, and it was
attested by all present at the time. I give this experience to show that
the medium power desiderated is not by any means unattainable."
A. JOY. M.I.C.E.-" I have long considered that séances for physical
manifestations with public mediums are of very doubtful utility in for•
warding the higher aims of Spiritualism; and that they are generally, if
not always, so demoralising to the medium that they had better be discontinued
altogether by those who look upon Spiritualism as a means of
raising mankind, unless conditions can be secured which will give confidence
to the investigators and protect the medium from the demoralising
influences I have referred to. I doubt much whether such conditions are
attainable in a general way; but the question is worthy of inquiry and
discussion, and I therefore cordially concur in your proposal."
C. C. MASSEY:-" I assent generally to the suggestions contained in
the circular issued by yourself and Mr. Farmer. But I think also that
to any recommendations addressed to the public there should be added
strong representations of the usually fallacious and nugatory character
of ' tests.' I mean such as are imposed by the investigators or suggested
by or through the medium. But for these I imagine the most credulous
would not be imposed upon by 'manifestations ' which did not carry with
them intrinsic evidence of their genuine character. It is the belief that
adequate precautions have been taken against simulation when this is
not really the case that makes inexperienced or enthusiastic persons the
victims of deception, and offers opportunities to the fraudulent medium.
And I am inclined to think that this system may offer an obstacle to the
evolution of true phenomena. I would also suggest the election of a
representative Council of Spiritualists to decide upon and conduct the
prosecution of persons pretending to be mediums in cases of undoubted
fraud. I think if such proceedings were undertaken by Spiritualists it
would have a very salutary effect both within and without the movement."
GERALD MASSEY:-" I have been so long and so much out of the
'movement,' and so absorbed in other matters, that I have not the data
to form an opinion on the subject. If it were thought worthwhile to
call a few people together for a confabulation on the subject, I should take
sufficient interest to look in if invited. It seems to me that a preliminary
discussion would be necessary before publishing a programme."
J. J. MORSE:-" I quite concur in the need of some such action as your
circular points to, alike in the interests of media and the cause, otherwise
the repeated experiences of alleged " exposures " are calculated to prove
insurmountable obstacles in the present progress of the movement,
preventing its usefulness to the world, and marring its value to believers."
HAY NISBET, Glasgow:-" I fully acquiesce in the suggestions you
make. If speedy measures are not taken we will soon be in a mess like
the Americans. Go a-head."
S. T. SPEER, M.D.:-" I entirely concur with the spirit in which the
circular is drawn up. The progress of ' Spiritualism' has, I conceive,
been absolutely blighted during the last ten years by these miserable
exposures, immunity from which has now become imperative."
R. FITTON, Manchester:-" I quite agree with its contents, but would
deprecate any hard and fast lines being laid down, because the conditions
under which form manifestations take place are so varied and peculiar
that it is useless to formulate them for the guidance of all investigators.
I may state that I have attended several séances for this kind of phenomena
25 VOL V.
during the last fifteen years, all of which were in the dark or semi•
darkness, thereby leaving room for doubt and strong suspicion of their
genuineness. I will not state the name of any instrument, because I
believe in the possibility of form manifestations and under good conditions
of the genuine mediumship of the instruments. I have, however,
made up my mind to have nothing to do with such meetings where total
darkness is demanded, and I think on no account ought strangers to the
phenomena to be admitted."
A. CALDER:-" My opinion given with diffidence is, that cabinets and
total darkness should be abolished."
J. B. SLOMAN, Plympton:-" Your circular has my entire sympathy,
and I am thoroughly in accord with you on the matter. I have been
convinced for some time past that action was necessary on the part of
Spiritualists to deal with the subject of 'Form-Manifestations' by paid
or professional mediums. Dark cabinet séances are unsatisfactory to
sitters, and 'demoralising' to the medium ; they offer a premium to fraud,
destroy the confidence and harmony that should exist between the circle,
and sooner or later appear bound to result disastrously both to the medium
and the cause. Any lengthened observations on my part are
unnecessary. I can leave it in your more able hands to give expression
thereto. You will deserve the thanks of all true Spiritualists for taking
action in the matter. To have one's highest and holiest feelings trifled
within such a manner by conscienceless individuals for purposes of
personal gain is monstrous, and making our blessed cause a bye-word and
reproach with the public."
JAMES DAWBARN, London:-" To your question,' Is it wise to continue
methods tending in every case sooner or later to such disastrous results?'
I most decidedly say No !"
W. EGLINTON:-" Replying to your circular of the 16th inst., my opinion
is that professionalism in Spiritualism should be opposed in every shape
and form. The methods of investigation at public circles are not only
damaging to the reputation of the medium, but ridiculous in the eyes of
the world. Put your veto on such proceedings : let all Spiritualists carefully
read and follow out the propositions contained in an admirable letter
in Light for September 9th, signed by 'C. C. M.,' upon the subject of
'tests,' and I feel confident that all mediums having the cause at heart
will work in unison with Spiritualists to the desired end, thus giving rise
to a newer and purer system of propagating Spiritualism. Whilst thus
expressing myself on the question of professional mediumship, it should
be distinctly understood I am entirely of opinion that if we grant the
existence of an agency external to the medium, and upon the efforts of
which we hope to make converts, we have no earthly right to impose our
conditions, whether of light or darkness, cabinet or no cabinet, without in
the majority of instances consulting the view of the said agent. This
latter essential I believe to be the only true method of harmonic investigation."
PROFESSOR BARRETT :-"The circular has come to hand. It would be
most desirable to call a sort of ecumenical council of delegates from all
the country societies, but I quite think that dark sittings should be stead•
fastly discouraged."
RoBERT CATLING, Peterborough :-" I most corilially support your
ideas in reference to physical mediums."
G. F. GREEN, Plumstead:-"In reply to your circular of 16th I concur
in thinking some public action is called for, and I wait to see what form
you propose it should take."
J. G. MILES, Cardiff:-" I heartily agree with the remarks and suggestions
in your circular of 16th ult."
T. GRAHAM PONTON, Danes Inn:-" Many thanks for issuing your
circular, every word of which I most cordially endorse. I have long been
of opinion that we Spiritualists have been lacking in bringing about an
investigation, thorough and accurate, which shall prove to the world at
large either that for years, despite the evidence of our senses, we have
been the victims of a monstrous delusion carried out by a series of
exceptionally clever conjurers, or, as I believe, despite exposures of
mediums, that the spirits of the departed oa.n and do hold communion
with us. I am but a Spiritualist of fifteen years' standing, but have seen
a good deal of phenomena produced through mediums, and also of so called
exposures of mediumship worked by professional conjurers . I
venture, therefore, to make . suggestion, and it is this :-A committee of
the Central Association of Spiritualists for the purpose of investigation
should be formed, consisting of twelve members, all tried and experienced
Spiritualists, among whom there should be an admixture of ladies; that
they should meet once or twice a week with a medium with whose
materialisations previous experience has been had ; that the room should
be fairly well lighted, and the form of the medium always in view of the
sitters. It must, however, it seems to me, be understood that the members
of such a circle should make it a duty to be present each time of sitting,
and to wait patiently the development of events. If it be three years the
time will be well expended, if a dozen mediums are tried in succession ;
money will be well expended in proving either that the thousands of
Spiritualists on the face of the globe are or are not the victims of a
R. B.AIXIE, M.D., Edinburgh :-" I concur most fully in the sentiments
therein expressed, and shall be most happy to forward its objects in any
way that can be pointed out."
C. PEARSON, London:-" I have carefully read your circular referring
to the great discredit attaching to Spiritualism on account of the dishonesty
of mediums in resorting to fraudulent methods at séances, and I
heartily concur in the necessity of adopting precautions by. which such
practices may be prevented in the future. I think the suggestions given
in the fourth paragraph of the circular are admirable, and if they were
adopted in Spiritualistic circles generally, much of the odium now attaching
to the movement would be avoided.
"People who form circles for form-manifestations cannot be too careful
in selecting those who are really earnest in seeking the truth on this important
subject; and all who merely join circles from motives of idle
curiosity should be rigorously excluded."
ROBERT HARPER, Birmingham:-" In response to your circular, I beg to
state that I heartily endorse the sentiments set down. I would be
glad to see the project carried out. At the same time, I am of opinion
that some advice should be tendered as to what forms of manifestations
should be cultivated, and how to obtain them."
T. EVERITT, Hendon; J. ENMORE JONES, London; J. LARRAD, Leicester
(on behalf of himself and also the Society there), R. S. CLARKE,
Plymouth; J. L. BLAND, Hull; H. A. KERSEY, Newcastle; William
GILL, Brighton; T. McKINNEY, Peterborough; Mrs. NOSWORTHY, Liverpool;
J. C. ENO, London; F. M. PARKES, London; S.C. HALL, London;
T. H. EDMANDS, Sunbury; J. ROUSE, Croydon; W. PAYNTER, Cardiff;

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Re: Light and Psychological Review lead ban on Dark Seances

Post by Admin on Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:13 am

Part 5
Miss WOOD, E. ADAMs, Cardiff; W. C. ROBSON, Newcastle-on-Tyne;
Col. BRAYN, Jersey; W. P. ADBREAD, Belper; John FOWLER, Liverpool,
also "cordially," "heartily," and "fully" approve of the circular and
its object.
T. SHORTER, late Editor of the Spiritual Magazine :-" I quite approve
of the suggestions in your circular of the 16th instant. They are good,
as far as they go, but I fear that they do not go far enough, and that we
shall never get to the root of this evil until we altogether discountenance
professional mediumship for physical manifestations. I took this ground
twenty years ago in the Spiritual Magazine, when this mischief was but
just beginning to appear. More recently I delivered two addresses to the
' Dalston Association' on the same subject, and I again proposed to bring
the question under the consideration of the late B.N.A.S., I think about
two years ago, in reply to an invitation I received to read a paper to that
body, but my offer was declined. Had the question then been thoroughly
ventilated, I think much of the scandal that has since arisen might have
been averted. The adoption of your suggestion would, I think, considerably
mitigate the evil, but would not eradicate it : something more than
the pruning-knife is required. However, I cannot here argue the question,
but every year's experience deepens and confirms the conviction I
have so long entertained upon this matter, and supplies only too many
fresh illustrations of its truth."
JAMES ROBERTSON and J. MUNRO, Glasgow:-" I duly received your
letter, and, subsequent to perusal, handed it to a friend, and we desire
jointly to express our thorough appreciation of the attempt that is making,
or proposed to be made, to reform the conditions which have hitherto by
a great number of Spiritualists been deemed absolutely indispensable to
the production of 'form' manifestations, but which, in the light of recent
experiences, have been proved worse than useless to subserve the end in view
in their adoption, viz., the demonstration of the reality of a spirit-world,
and the power of the inhabitants thereof to make themselves physically
There can be no questioning the fact, that all the real evidence thus
obtained is practically nullified and robbed of its importance for investigators
by the revelations of such frauds as that attempted in the house
of Mr. Catting, of Peterborough ; while the cry against dishonesty on the
part of mediums is unavailing. Doubtless, for some time to come, many
will ventilate their indignation against Miss Wood; whilst others will be
found to take up the cudgels in her defence-each side having a raison
d'etre for its contention. The essential point at issue, however, is not
Miss Wood's act, nor the motive or influences which impelled her, but
rather the state of things which render it possible for such frauds to be
"Surely it is time for Spiritualists to wake up to a recognition of the
dangers attendant upon the practice of sitting for physical manifestations
in almost total, if not absolute darkness, and to dispense for ever
with cabinets, and all other questionable paraphernalia. Should a reform
in this direction be accomplished, no doubt we would hear of 'successful'
séances less frequently; but then the winnowing would and could only
affect the spurious and fraudulent manifestations, the residuum being
thoroughly satisfactory, and admitting of no cavil. Even should the abolition
of cabinets, and the substitution of light for darkness, result in the
total lapse of the phenomena of form-manifestation, no harm would accrue
to the cause, for it would then have been proved that it required
thoroughly untrustworthy conditions to produce them; and, consequently,
whether genuine or the reverse, such phenomena were ipso facto worthless
as evidence.
"We think it would be a wise proceeding to send a carefully worded
statement broadcast amongst societies and individual Spiritualists, with
a view to the revisal and reform of the methods adopted of holding physical
séances, as by this means those who are unacquainted with Spiritualism,
but ready to investigate, might have wiser advice imparted to
them by those who know the subject and its difficulties.
"You invite suggestions, but we cannot think of any better method of
achieving the results aimed at than those set down in your circular letter.
Spiritualists ought clearly to understand that they are helping neither
themselves nor the movement by adopting certain methods of research ;
while those who are not yet Spiritualists should have due warning and
proper instructions concerning the false and the true way of proceeding
in search of physical and spiritual truth."
F. PODMORE, London:-" I have just received the joint circular from
yourself and Mr. Farmer. I am very glad that you and he are taking
action in the matter. I quite agree with the general tone of your recommendation.
I think we should strive to cultivate such a tone of public
feeling in the matter that dark séances, or any séances under imperfect
test-conditions (i.e., cabinet-séances of all kinds) amongst a promiscuous
circle, should be regarded by Spiritualists themselves as culpably foolish,
if not actually disreputable, as they are already regarded by the outside
"At the same time, as darkness and freedom from tests may, and conceivably
do, aid the development of manifestation, I should not be prepared
to discountenance dark séances amongst select private circles of permanent
sitters, who know each other and the medium thoroughly well. I think
a very wide distinction should be drawn between the two kinds of circles
-the diligent and patient knot of investigators, and the promiscuous
motley (in the old sense) gathering of curiosity-hunters.
Mrs. NICHOLs, London:-" Though your circular was not sent to me,
I think proper to remark respecting it that different circles of enquirers
are likely to differ in their methods, and, though you may advise them,
you have no Pope to trouble them if they do not take your advice. As
regards our circle, we are under orders, and sit in the dark if we are
requested to do so ; and it would take a stronger power to induce us to
disobey than is likely to be brought to bear upon us. The inner justification
of entire good faith in medium and sitters seems to me of more value
than any quantity of rules and regulations and conditions."
Dr. NICHOLS, London:-" In reply to your circular I beg to say that I
cannot consent to have imposed on me, or to impose on others, any conditions
or limitations in the investigation of Spiritualism, any more than
in that of any other science. I have had satisfactory manifestations in
full light, partial light, and perfect darkness: with cabinets and without.
I think the Spirits who operate should be free to choose their own conditions,
and I have found the tests suggested by the Spirits themselves
better in many cases than any I have been able to contrive. Mediums
should not be treated like malefactors until we have conclusive proof
that they are dishonest." •
Mas. FITZGERALD, London:-" I write at once to say that I heartily
approve of the circular sent to me ; and I consider that until we take such
means as you suggest, the fingers of ridicule will not cease to be pointed
at us l We have suffered long and patiently, and the time has come for
stringent steps to be taken to rescue our great cause from the odium which
has been cast upon it.
MOREL THEOBALD:-'' I think it (the proposed statement) should be
very carefully drawn up by a special committee. While it should depict
the conditions carefully to be observed in investigation11, it should as
carefully avoid making such restrictions as would prevent psychic phenomena.
altogether. The conditions for private and for public sittings
should certainly be different. More latitude can be admitted in one
than the other. I am convinced, from sittings I have had with some
members of the Phenomena Committee of the S.P .R, that their caution
imposes a restraint which will, for a time, at least, keep at arm's length
all the more delicate phenomena.."
J.P. TURNER, Leamington:-" Your circular is well timed, some action
should certainly be taken by Spiritualists to check this degenerating
tendency of dark séances with paid mediums. It seems as if there was
some malign influence that leads them astray in their course of deception,
and then comes the “facilus descensus” that brings such discredit on the
"If they had any sense or self-control at all, one would think that
genuine mediums, such as Miss Wood and Firman and others have been,
would have seen the inevitable ruin to their character and prospects,
which a. course of deception must bring sooner or later. I confess I am
puzzled how to account for it.
"I shall heartily support such a course as you propose to follow under
these circumstances, only wishing it could go farther and restrain public
mediumship altogether. I mean that if Spiritualists could combine to
patronise no medium, except those who earn their living in some other
way, that would be very desirable; but it is a difficult rule to lay down,
and would be sure to find exceptions. Whatever in the judgment of
yourself and adviser is decided to be done will have my hearty sympathy
and support."
J. BOWMAN, Glasgow:-" I heartily agree with your proposition, that
at all séances held for form-manifestations, it is desirable that the medium
should be in view of the sitters. My experience has proved to me that it
is most difficult for the Spirits to manifest without the cabinet, but I am
quite sanguine that form-manifestations could be got with the medium
in view if a number of honest Spiritualists were to form a circle, and
sit for the purpose of developing mediums for obtaining that end."
E. W. WALLIS :-"I am in receipt of your circular, and congratulate
you most heartily for your public spirit in thus endeavouring to grapple
with this question, and discover a remedy for a great evil. My recent
action and publicly expressed convictions on the subject under consideration
are so well known that I need hardly repeat them here and now.
But in spite of the ostracism of myself and others who join with me in
the desire for reform, by the Banner of Light and a few of its correspondents,
I am sure that both in America and in this country the Spiritualists
are rapidly awaking to a sense of the great danger and absolute need of
immediate reform in the methods of séance holding ; and any united
public action in this country will be welcomed most cordially there, and
strengthen the hands of the earnest workers who have so long fought the
battle for truth.
"I answer your question most emphatically ' No I ' It is not wise or
right or just to either spirits, mediums, the cause, or the public. I could
say a great deal, but forbear for the present, trusting, however, that the
matter will not rest here, but be carried to a successful issue.

This ended the magazine article for the month but debate would continue. We have a veritable who’s who of mediums, Spiritualists and Researchers in favour of abandoning dark, promiscuous séances. I will pick out some of the ongoing debate about this but feel that we are, once again, too readily accepting dark séances and we have already seen the poor results and the issues these create.

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Re: Light and Psychological Review lead ban on Dark Seances

Post by Admin on Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:48 am

On page 460 of the November Edition of Psychological Review the editor, John Farmer, posted this comment.
I have little to add to what I wrote last month on this subject.
The matter has been very fully considered by the Committee appointed
by the Central Association of Spiritualists, and I believe I am violating
no confidence in stating that a statement has been approved by
them, and is now being sent out for signature. It now only remains
for Spiritualists individually to discountenance by every means in
their power the holding of séances under the conditions which have
brought so much discredit upon Spiritualism. Let the light be
sufficient for observation, and insist upon the medium remaining in
full view of the sitters the whole time. This is easily arranged by
allowing him or her to sit or recline just outside the space curtained
off for use by the spirits.

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Re: Light and Psychological Review lead ban on Dark Seances

Post by Admin on Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:15 am

p452 of the same edition carried the following

Our contemporary continues to publish a number of letters
on the Peterborough exposure. Regrettable as that was, it
has been of some service in clearing the mental vision of some
writers, if we may judge by their letters, and has elicited some
very interesting communications. It is impossible to give
anything like a coherent summary of the correspondence, but
some facts stand prominently out from a mass of verbiage.
The testimony to the reality of Miss Wood's mediumship is
very strong indeed, and may be commended to the study of
those who Jump at the conclusion that one result such as that
at the Peterborough séance invalidates all previous experiments.
Various correspondents give their testimony, and especially Mr.
William Paynter, who had written a very strong letter denouncing
the seizer of the form at Peterborough, shows that he can
appreciate the value of proper conditions of investigation. He
details the' result of some séances held with Miss Wood since
the exposure, in which such conditions as we have so often
recommended were observed, with most satisfactory results.
He also details the results of a séance held at Cardiff on June
15th ult. These are of sufficient value to warrant quotation:-
" On the night in question the medium sat in the cabinet but her
dress was held by the sitter next her, tightly enough to be aware of
any movement she might make. There was sufficient light outside
for the sitters to tell the time by their watches held a foot from their
eyes. A form about the same height as the medium, emerged from
the cabinet, covered profusely with white drapery. Mr. Windoe
asked the sitter whether he was certain the medium was still in the
cabinet, and upon receiving a reply in the affirmative, Mr. Windoe
advanced rapidly to the form and folded both his arms around it,
holding it tight, but without violence of any kind. The form at the
time was about three feet from the curtain, and was taken bold of
from behind. Almost at the same moment the sitter holding the
medium's dress, called out that it had slipped from his hands. This
was accompanied by no apparent movement of the curtains, yet the
light being turned up full a moment after, discovered Mr. Windoe
holding the medium, and not a trace of the white drapery was discovered.
I account for the disappearance of the drapery through its
being dematerialised, the conditions not having been violently broken
as at Peterborough. In the latter case the muslin may have been
brought by the agencies who produce these phenomena, and I can give
a case of such bringing. Before Mr. Spriggs went to Australia a sitting
was held in the broad daylight, at the house of Mr. Rees Lewis,
a veteran Spiritualist, at CardiH: Among the sitters were the editor
of the Spiritualist and myself. I selected a loo table in the centre of
the room, and made a dark cabinet under the table by arranging three
dark tablecloths, in such a manner as to exclude the light from under
the table only. The edges of the cloths were spread on the floor, the
sitters placing their feet on them to prevent any displacement. Shortly
after we took our places, a convulsive movement agitated Mr. Spriggs,
and upon looking under the table we found a number of boughs of
shrubs, with the leaves on them, and other similar articles brought
from some garden; quite a bundle of them, in fact.
" Before the sitting I examined Mr. Spriggs, and was convinced
that he had nothing about him other than the suit he wore. If this
is possible, it is certainly possible to bring muslin, which would
naturally remain if forcibly seized."
Further, Miss Wood has definitely proposed " to sit either
three times or such a number of times as a national representative
committee of Spiritualists may judge proper, and under
such conditions as may be decided upon unanimously by them,
free of charge, and will stand or fall by the result." It is stated
that the C.A.S. are entertaining this proposition, and we await
the result with anxious interest ; only expressing a hope that
difference of opinion as to what is a "national representative
committee" may not frustrate the experiment, and that the
committee, when appointed, may agree "unanimously" on their
methods of procedure. A great deal of private whim should
be put aside to attain a result so desirable as a full, clear, and
searching investigation into Miss Wood's mediumship under
good conditions of observation.--Once more, the conditions
of mediumship, and the utter folly of seizing the spirit form
are beginning to be better understood. Mr. A. R. Wallace's
letter is a very important contribution to the study of the
philosophy of materialisation. If we except that he ignores
altogether the presence of a large amount of proven fraud, his
general conclusions are, we believe, sound. The notes of M.A.,
Oxon., on the subject, read in connection with Mr. Wallace's
letter, show that there is a general agreement among careful
and experienced observers of these obscure phenomena.-The
editors of Light and of the Psychological Review have
received a large number of letters, extracts from many of which
we printed last month, and the committee of the C.A.S., which
is the practical outcome of their action, is at work sifting the
difficult subject, and formulating some recommendations to
Spiritualists. It is too much to hope than human ingenuity
can devise a manifesto acceptable to all, but nothing can be
more sure than that some action is imperatively called for. H
it were not forthcoming, disgrace must fall on the movement
at large. If it be not wise and farseeing, then it will not find
general acceptance. But, in any case, the attempt to purge
Spiritualism of complicity with fraud, and to disavow the
crazy enthusiasts who will defend any soi-disant medium, even
if caught in the very act of cheating, is one that should command
the sympathy and support of every honest Spiritualist.

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Re: Light and Psychological Review lead ban on Dark Seances

Post by Admin on Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:17 am

Whilst from P 438 onwards in the November edition was Emma Hardinge Britten's piece.
As you are aware, I have been solicited to add to my former paper
in answer to your circular by citing other cases in which materialisations
of the human form, or parts of the human form, by spirits have
occurred without the equivocal conditions of darkness or the isolation
of the medium.
Before attempting to comply with this request, I must be understood
as making no allusion to individual cases of fraud, or passing
any opinion whatever on the recent alleged" exposure."
It seems to be the custom when a case of fraud is said to occur in
one circle, for multitudes of correspondents to come forward and
bear witness to the perfect integrity of the medium as proved in
other circles. Besides this curious mode of throwing the onus of the
"exposure " on the sitters rather than " the medium," I notice
elaborate theories put forth to prove that whenever a " form " is
caught it MUST NEEDS be the medium ; hence that no exposure ever
has been made, or can be made, of frauds. I have yet to learn
what theories can account for the dummies that are often observed
to be left behind in the cabinets, or the production of masses of
paraphernalia, which, wonderful to relate, never seem to melt back
into the medium's body, and which, if not composed of the same
imponderable "aura " as the dissolving form, must have involved a
considerable amount of time-some very mundane ingenuity, and
anything but Spiritualistic preparation. If the processes of " transfiguration,"
"absorption," "emanation," "transfer," etc., etc., etc.,
were all spontaneous and effected by spirits alone, the subject would
involve a philosophy quite as marvellous and worthy of Study as the
formation of a single atom of matter, or the motion of a single inanimate
body; but alas I though the too solid flesh of the materialised
ones do so readily melt back into the medium, the too solid drapery
in which they were attired will not so melt. Some of my Dutch,
German, and Russian correspondents assure me that the materialised
spirits who melted back into the medium's bodies whom they caught .
tricking, left behind them very substantial wigs, masks, phosphorus,
and other articles of personal adornment. Why they did not melt
away deponent sayeth not; but as some of the wicked "spirit
grabbers" in America tell the same story, and even show the fine
millinery and dressmaking manufactured out of the "much-abused
medium's emanations," let those who are unphilosophical enough to
wish for further light on such vexed subjects still ponder on the
question, Can we not have the materialisation of a human organism
by spirits without the pernicious and equivocal conditions of total
darkness and isolation ? I regret that I should be appealed to, to
furnish testimony on so important a point, as nearly all my experiences
have occurred in foreign countries and the most satisfactory
not being of the most recent date, renders the possibility of
verifying my statements a task of exceeding difficulty. I hope I
shall be pardoned therefore when I refer to the experiences of others
nearer home, from whom more direct evidence can, in some cases at
least, be procured.
I am informed by some of my Newcastle friends, whose evidence
is simply unquestionable, that spirit-forms have been seen to issue
from a cabinet previously searched and known to be empty, when
the medium (Miss Wood) was sitting outside the cabinet, in full view
of the whole circle, and in a room sufficiently light to see all that
transpired. What has been, can occur again. Verbum sap.
Some time in the summer of 1877 or 1878 I dined at the house of
Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, then residing on Camden Hill. After an
early dinner, our party-amongst whom were our honoured host and
hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Howitt, Mr. Durham, the sculptor; Mr. D.
D. Home, my own venerable mother, and about half-a-dozen other
visitors, whose names I forget-adjourned to the drawing-room to
hold a séance. It was a fine, bright summer evening. Our dinner
ended about seven o'clock, and from that till nine, when the séance
closed, the room was as light as noontide. During that time, besides
many other manifestations not kindred to the subject of
materialisation, the spirits manipulated two pairs of curtains, one of
pink silk, the other of lace, which shaded the one large bow window,
in front of which the company sat round a table, from which the
spirits themselves drew the cloth away.
With these curtains the spirits formed a beautiful tent, the apex of
which was gathered into graceful knots above our heads, the sides
being drawn tightly all around the backs of our chairs, and held there
by at least twenty pairs of hands, large and small, fair and brown, all
of which were visible to the whole of the company for more than an
hour-about the time occupied in their work. These hands at
tin1es stroked our cheeks, patted our heads, and touched us so
forcibly that we were enabled to determine they were dense, firm,
substantial; some warm and some cold, but all busy, seemingly
human, solid to the touch, and moving with an intelligence, which,
if not human, was so very like it that few human beings could have
excelled their work. And all the time Mr. Home sat like the rest
of us, a quiet and amused spectator of the scene in the full light of
day, his whole form, even to his feet, which were not beneath the
table, in view of all present. ,
In the winter of the year 1875 or 1876 I called on Dr. Slade in
New York, accompanied by two ladies slightly known to him. We
called on a Saturday, the day when he held no séances, as our
only object was to invite him to a party, and we wished to find him
disengaged. He was not prepared for our coming, and we did not
intend to stay above five minutes. It was about five o'clock and
dark, so the gas lamps were lighted. After our matter of business
was discussed, Mr. Slade asked if we would not like a little sitting.
I thought not, as we were in a hurry; but he urged us to do so, as
he said, half-jestingly, to me, " Perhaps the spirits will have something
to say to me; I wish they would."
Thus our séance-as it will be seen-was a totally unprepared
one. The room into which we passed was dark. Mr. Slade lighted
it with two gas burners, and he produced a piece of black glazed
calico, with a hole cut in the middle of about a foot square, which
he proposed to hang up at one end of the room, to see, as he said,
if we could get any materialisation. The room was so unprepared
that we could find no string on which to hang our screen, and I improvised
one with some pieces of ribbon tied together. On this,
fastened to pieces of furniture, we hung the black muslin, with the
square hole directly behind the table. We then all four sat at the
table, the black muslin being behind Mr. Slade, he sitting next to me.
Whilst he and I were talking indifferently on other subjects, one
of my friends said, in an awe-struck whisper, " Look there ! " Following
the direction of her finger, I turned my head and perceived
behind me, but quite far away from Mr. Slade, a column of white
mist, shapeless, and with the particles moving like smoke, but very
white and luminous. Directly I turned my head this misty mass
moved swiftly behind my chair, and disappeared at the black screen.
The muslin was so thin that we could see the wall through it, and
see, also, something like circling smoke moving behind it. Before
I could have counted a hundred, there appeared at the square opening,
directly behind Mr. Slade's head, the face of my dear friend, Dr.
Alcinda Wilhelm-a lady with whom I had once been very intimate
-who had subsequently become Mr. Slade's wife, and who is now
one of his principal controlling spirits. This dear and well-known
face could not be mistaken. She wore her hair in the peculiar curls
that I so well remembered, though they were not then in fashion, and
on her head was a bridal wreath, about which she and I had had some
conversation before her marriage. My two friends recognised Alcinda
Wilhelm as clearly as I did ; but Mr. Slade, who seemed very nervous,
did not tum his head to look at her until she had gradually
melted into the indistinct white mist before described.
On several other occasions, when Mr. Slade was not sitting for
séances, hands, visible to myself and others, have come and pulled
our dresses ; but the instant Mr. Slade observed them, he became so
nervous that they vanished. In the presence of Mrs. E. J. French,
of New York, a medium mentioned by the late Benjamin Coleman
in his American Reminiscences as a most remarkable drawing and
physical medium, I have seen frequently shadowy forms of well-remembered
spirit-friends, plainly visible to all present. Mrs. French
never sat for manifestations except in well-lighted rooms. Mr. Chas.
Partridge, of New York, formerly the editor and proprietor of the
Spiritual Telegraph, can bear witness to having seen at circles where
I and many others have been sitting, hands, arms, and feet, which
were solid to the touch, exhibited in brightly lighted apartments. I
may here add, that dark circles for the first fifteen years of my experience
were so exceptional that I scarcely ever attended them, and
though the exhibition of hands and their touch was so common that
I did not deem it worthwhile to keep any record of such manifestations,
they always came in the light, and never in such a manner as
permitted the smallest loophole for the charge of deception .or fraud.
At the circles of Mr. and Mrs. Maynard, of Buffalo, two well-known
and highly-respected citizens, in the presence of a Canadian medium
- a lady whose name I forget-! sat in three circles with the family
of Mr. Maynard, some friends, and my mother, and on each occasion,
in full gas light, a hand, with a ring on the little finger, came
visibly to all present on the table, and drew pictures in coloured
crayons in an incredibly short time-never more than from xoo to
to 200 seconds by our counting. These pictures the hand pushed
to the party who was to own them--one of them is now in my possession.
At the house of Mr. Bullens, of Chicopee, Massachusetts,
the materialised form of " Black Hawk," an Indian spirit, stood in
the garden on a bright summer's day, about the year 1862, in the
paved pathway, and became visible to myself, my mother, Miss Jenny
Lord (the medium), and both Mr. and Mrs. Bullens. He remained
for about the time we might count thirty, then slowly melted out;
he was some twenty paces from us, and when we went to the spot
where he had disappeared, we found a rough likeness of his well-known
face chipped in the paving-stones where he seemed to have stood.
The last time I was at Chicopee-some years ago-that stone remained
with the well-defined profile of the spirit.
Those friends who happen to possess a copy of my work, entitled,
" Modern American Spiritualism," may tum to page 449, and they
will there read a well-attested account of spirits appearing bodily in
the light, in a series of manifestations occurring at San Francisco,
California, about thirty years ago. The spirits were visible to a circle
of from six to ten persons. They came performing extraordinary
feats of strength and marvel, and the witnesses were amongst the
most respectable and respected inhabitants of the city. Amongst the
spiritual visitants was a Mr. King, a man who in earth-life had been very
popular, the editor of a paper, and a highly respected magistrate. His
impartiality in convicting "the roughs" of the time occasioned his assassination,
and the cruel circumstances attending the foul deed impelled
the best citizens of California to band themselves together in
the celebrated "Vigilance Committee." The Mr. King whose murder
thus became an historical feature in the archives of California, was a
well-known and highly-esteemed friend of all the parties who beheld
him-a dense, seemingly human, living, moving being, in the scene
described in my " History of American Spiritualism." This spirit,
and the others therein mentioned, appeared to all the witnesses alike.
Some of these are still living. One of the most prominent and best
Known, Almarin B. Paul, Esq., still resides at San Francisco, where
his word with every respectable citizen of the place is " as good as
his bond.''
In the Rev. J. M. Peebles's sketches of foreign travels, entitled
"Around the World," is an account of New Zealand Spiritualism,
and the direct materialisations witnessed in the light, in circles with
the Maoris. About three years ago, I was invited to accompany an
American friend and his wife to one of these circles. It was held in
a "whare,'' or native carved house. It was in the evening, but the
summer sunlight beamed in near the entrance, where, in civilised
countries, a door should have been. Besides this, there was a fire
burning in the centre of the building, on the customary hearthstone,
and the ruddy glare of the embers lit up every portion of the walls,
and the dusky faces, fourteen in number, seated on the earth around
the fire-place. We three, the "Pakehas" (white people), sat on a
turf-bench placed for us near the open entrance, enabling us to command
the entire scene. The object of the gathering was to invoke
the spirit of "Te-Uri," a celebrated chief, with whom the people
wished to advise on a difficult political crisis. About half-an-hour
after we had assembled, and, after I had, to beguile the tedium of
silent waiting, counted the fourteen Maoris again and again, and
noted every item of their features and costume, a strange rushing
sound, as of water boiling and steaming, filled the air. The room
became clouded as with a thick steam, and when it cleared away
through the hole in the roof, a pale woman, pressing an infant in
her arms, was seen sitting close by the fire, on a stone raised above
the group of Maoris, who all sat on the ground. I saw, her, and all
present saw her. They spoke with her, though in a language I
could not understand-none moved, and some buried their faces as
if in mortal terror, in their garments. I heard her answer, in a high
pitched voice, words addressed to her, and several times she raised
a thin white arm and hand, and pointed upwards. In, I should think,
some four minutes from the time I first saw her, the rushing sound
came again, the place became again filled as if with steam, and when
it cleared off, the woman and her infant were gone.
I can testify on oath, and so could the Americans, Mr. and Mrs.
Bland, who accompanied me, that no living creature of mortal mould
entered in or out through the only entrance to the "whare," at which
we sat, and the smoke-opening in the roof was a round hole, not a
foot in diameter. The one Maori who spoke English, at whose invitation
we came, told us the chief they invoked could not appear
within the" whare," but was outside, "up aloft," where the "wahine"
{woman) pointed; that she was the spirit of his wife, who had fallen
with her infant into a boiling spring and perished years ago-that she
had brought his, the chiefs, message, and given them the advice they
I have often been assured these visitations or-to use the civilised
term-'' materialisations," were common in New Zealand. In the
book I am now preparing for the press, the history of Modern Spiritualism
all over the world, in the American section, I give the history
of the manifestations occurring in Sullivan, Maine, U.S., from
the year 18oo to 18o6, during which time the spirit of Mrs. Nellie
Butler came palpably into various houses, streets, gardens, and rooms
-preached, sang, talked, and, on one occasion, walked in a procession
of forty people from one place to another. I visited Sullivan
myself, and I have procured from some of its oldest inhabitants,
some printed copies, and some verbal affidavits, of over sixty respectable
persons, who saw, talked with, and heard, Mrs. Nellie Butler's
Through some of our best mediums, as well as by spirit influence,
through my own lips we have often been exhorted not to sit in the
dark, and the assurance has been given that a steadfast circle, amongst
the members of which medium power existed, sitting together under
good conditions for given periods of time, in subdued light, would
and could obtain all that ever has or could be given, without cabinets,
machinery, or any other equivocal or doubtful means. Very
wide, rapid, and continuous journeyings over the world have left me
no opportunity of testing this promise, but judging from the excellent
manifestations I have seen in past times, and the marked deterioration
of the power during the last ten years, since darkness has been
the universal custom of physical mediumistic circles; when fantastic
theories and untenable philosophies have almost blotted out the plain,
obvious facts revealed by immortal spirits, and vituperation, recrimination,
personal abuse, and personal invective, fill our journals, until
the lookers on may well say, "See how these Spiritualists hate one
another ! '' •Since, I say, these pitiable abuses on our once glorious
cause have superseded the kindness, unity of feeling, and general
goodwill towards each other, which once marked our re-unions-1
have almost forgotten this promise, at any rate, I have ceased to
look for its fulfilment in this generation, unless, indeed, we begin de
novo, and determine that we will put aside our dissensions, and all
the vain theories in which they originate, and commence to investigate
a fresh, resolved to have first in our own lives, and then in Spiritualism,
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

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Re: Light and Psychological Review lead ban on Dark Seances

Post by Admin on Sat Jun 18, 2016 3:32 am

Given the latest events it is worth reminding people just how long ago the opposition to Dark Seances was first stated and how many leading mediums and Spiritualists joined in to cause a ban on them. Indeed if we go back to the Annual Convention of the then National Spiritualist Association of the USA we will see them adopt a similar ban over the work of the Davenports, the Fays & the Eddy Brothers. Reported by the New York Times on the 13th September 1867. Now the Davenports had been exposed multiple times and no longer mentioned Spirit in their act. Anna Eva Fay's husband had been a medium who the Banner of Light had exposed numerous times hence her move to the UK, subsequently she moved to be pure Vaudeville and gave up the Spirit claim. Despite Col Olcott's vigorous defence there are clear indications that the Eddy brothers also cheated. There was also a female Fay in the USA who, whilst lauded by Florence Marryat was also found cheating. I will attempt to get a clearer image of teh New York Times.

We should also remember the issues that came up in the 1960's surrounding Camp Chesterfield.

Its interesting that both Maggie and Kate Fox were also anti Dark Seances.


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Re: Light and Psychological Review lead ban on Dark Seances

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