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by mere general conversation even when ot a friendly and intimate character, such as in normal cases would be considered amply and overwhelmingly sufficient for the identification of friends speaking, let us say, through a telephone or a typewriter. We required definite and a crucial proof-a proof difficult even to imagine as well as difficult to supply.
“The ostensible communicators realise the need of such proof just as fully as we do, and have done their best to satisfy the rational demand (i.e. by the crosscorrespondences and classical messages). Some of us think they have succeeded.” (p. 336.)
Similar statements were made, carefully phrased and weightily uttered, in Sir Oliver's Presidential Address before the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1913, and also elsewhere; but without further references I trust it is sufficiently clear that Sir Oliver's opinions were established, by long-continued experiment and study, before the occurrence of the catastrophe to which we owe the book in question.
The other volume to which I have referred is Sir William Barrett's, “On the Threshold of the Unseen.” Sir William has a very special and long record in psychic things, for he brought telepathy to the notice of the British Association in 1876, and is the only surviving founder of the S.P.R. In this very instructive and readable volume he describes many of his own experiences with sensitives—all non-professionals—and he has been particularly fortunate in obtaining raps
raps and other physical phenomena under excellent conditions. Also he has had very good identity-evidence through
Published in the small volume "Continuity" (Dent).
the ouija-writing of friends; in one case a characteristic message from Sir Hugh Lane, who went down with the Lusitania, though none of those present at the sitting knew that he was on the vessel at all.
Sir William is convinced of the survival of man, and that intelligences possibly of many grades exist around us in the unseen:
Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth,
Milton was a poet; but Sir William Barrett and other psychical researchers would agree that his insight was not only poetic, but also literally true and completely in accord with the latest findings of science.
HE line between the "physical phenomena” of
spiritualism and the psychical phenomena is rather arbitrary, for the two are a good deal mixed up. Strictly, the physical phenomena are those in which matter is demonstrably moved or at least influenced in some supernormal way, as when an untouched table rises into the air or raps come in its substance, a jar being perhaps felt, though no general movement; or when matter is produced apparently out of nothingthough probably abstracted from the sitters or medium or both—as in alleged materialisations. But some phenomena are just on the edge, as, for instance, poltergeist happenings, in which matter is not visibly moved; in most such happenings, however, it is.
The best-known case is, perhaps, the haunting of John Wesley's paternal home, the Epworth parsonage in Lincolnshire. For two months, December, 1716, and January, 1717, the most extraordinary noises were heard in various parts of the house, and no cause was ever discovered. Knocks, creaks, and crashes as of broken crockery were heard by many of the family, and we have accounts written out by four eye-witnesses (or ear-witnesses) very soon after the occurrences. Nothing seems to have been actually broken, and not much was observed in the way of objects moving without visible cause; Mr. Wesley's trencher "danced upon the table” without any one touching it, but that was about all, except the apparent lifting of door-latches. It may be possible to explain some of the happenings as trickery worked by some revengeful rustic, for the Wesleys were not popular, and Mr. Wesley had preached against the superstitious recourse to local "cunning men,” presumably supposed clairvoyants. But the dancing trencher and some of the other phenomena are not easily explainable on this hypothesis. For instance, Mr. Wesley was three times pushed by something invisible, so we have at least to add hallucination to the supposed trickery. Mr. Podmore's suggestion of trickery by Hetty Wesley, mainly on the ground that the raps sometimes seemed to follow her about, may be dismissed as unlikely, for some of the phenomena happened when she was nowhere near. It may be that she was the unconscious medium, for it is observed that raps occur supernormally in the presence of certain people, though the process is not yet understood.
*German poltern, to be noisy or throw things about. A poltergeist is a noisy spirit, but not necessarily a visible one.
Intelligence is usually shown, and a code may elicit messages; but in the Wesley case nothing definite was obtained, apparently no code being tried. The Wesleys called the ghost "Old Jeffery,” and treated him as a joke as far as possible, though he caused them so much broken sleep that he was less of a joke than a nuisance. The family were often kept up nearly all night, Mr. and Mrs. Wesley frequently perambulating in search of some cause, and this in the small hours of December and January mornings, and in a house not fitted with modern appliances for heating, would be a far from amusing occupation."
1 "The Epworth Phenomena," collated by Dudley Wright. (London: Rider, 1917.)
But in the best poltergeist cases there is visible movement of matter. For instance, in an outbreak at Worksop in 1883, basins and other objects sailed about, often in an undulating way which is reminiscent of the behaviour of things in the presence of D. D. Home and other mediums; crockery to the value of £9 was smashed; and no cause was discovered. Mr. Podmore, of the S.P.R., cross-examined six of the eleven eyewitnesses separately, all intelligent and apparently honest people, and the accounts agreed in all essentials. He also examined the house, in daylight, and "could discern no holes in the walls or ceilings, nor any trace of the extensive or elaborate machinery which would have been required to produce the movements by ordinary mechanical means." 2
Another curious outbreak occurred a few years later at Swanland, near Hull, in a carpenter's shop. Pieces of wood sailed about, or hopped along, two feet or so at a stride, sometimes hitting one or other of the three men working there. Each thought at first that one of
*These haunts are ubiquitous. Mrs. Poole describes similar experiences in their house in Cairo ("An Englishwoman in Egypt"). CF: "A Disturbed House and its Relief,” by Ada M. Sharpe (London: Simpkin, Marshall, 1914). In this case the disturbances continued for three years, and seemed to be due to the spirit of a man who had fallen and been killed in the house while suffering from delirium tremens. Cure followed a priest's exorcism. The account is rather impresoceedings." S.P.R, vol. xii, P. 48.