Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Evidence of Mr. A. R. Wallace, President of the
Biological Section of the British Association for
the Advancement of Science (S261: 1876)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A transcript of Wallace's testimony in the Henry Slade fraud trial printed in the 3 November 1876 issue of The Spiritualist (London). Do not confuse Wallace's responses with the questions set to him; sometimes these are not well distinguished by the punctuation. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S261.htm


    [[p. 161]] Alfred Russel Wallace was accordingly called, and examined by Mr. Munton: I am an author. I have written works on natural history. I have written a work entitled, The Miracles of Modern Spiritualism. I have been investigating this subject for eleven years. I have had many sittings with paid mediums, but probably ten times as many sittings in private families. These sittings satisfied me of the genuineness of the phenomena, and that they proceeded from some unknown force. I know the defendant Slade. I have had three séances with him. On the 9th of August I sat down with him in the back room. I took up the slate, examined it, and thoroughly cleaned it myself with a wet sponge. We then both rubbed it until it was dry. A small crumb of slate pencil was then placed upon it. It was then placed under the side of the table, and held close to the woodwork. A sound of writing was heard, and in a few seconds the slate was produced with writing upon it. The slate was close to the woodwork of the table, and Slade held it by the thumb. The message was certainly on the upper side of the slate; that which faced the lower surface of the table. Slade moved the slate deliberately from under the table. There was no shuffling on his part. I cannot say the purport of the message. Two or three messages of this kind were produced while Slade held the slate. I then wished to hold it myself. He cleaned it with his hand, and I held it close under the table, as he had done, both his hands being on the table upon my other hand. The result was that I heard writing, as before, and taking out the slate, I read writing upon it. The next experiment was on the slate when it lay on the table with a bit of pencil under it. Writing was again heard, and a message appeared. No other experiment was made on that occasion. I paid another visit to Dr. Slade on October the 7th, since the commencement of this inquiry. On that occasion, after several trials, when nothing occurred, he held the slate under the table again, when we heard a faint sound of writing, and on bringing the slate out we found upon it the words "Can't now." I examined the slate, and could distinctly see the dust of the slate pencil. I went to Slade again on Oct. 14, after the table had been impounded here, and found a common mahogany Pembroke table with two brackets. Dr. Slade pushed back the bracket between us, saying it was in the way. On that occasion I took a small book slate. Pieces of pencil were put between the slates, and Dr. Slade held it under the corner of the table. He was in a state of considerable agitation, passing the slate from the table frequently. I do not think there was more than one or two seconds during which I did not see the slate. Dr. Slade apologised for touching my body with the slate, but said he could not help it. The slate was not out of my sight more than a second or two, and it was impossible Slade could have written upon it. The message which came was in four distinct lines, with the "i" dotted where it occurred, and the "t" crossed. The message was, "Is this proof? I hope so."

    You have heard witnesses speak of convulsive movements on the part of Dr. Slade. In your experience have you found that to be exceedingly common? --So common as to be an almost universal characteristic of mediums.

    From beginning to end of your sitting was there anything indicative of imposture? --I could see nothing whatever indicative of imposture.

    Were there any raps or movements that attracted your attention? --I heard the raps and felt the touches which have been described, but the most remarkable thing was that the flat table, when my hands and those of Dr. Slade were clasped together, rose up, and almost instantaneously turned completely over on to the top of my head and slid down my back. (Laughter.)

    Was it possible that this could have been produced by Slade's feet or legs? --I think not. It appeared to me to be absolutely impossible.

    Cross-examined by Mr. Lewis: Did you understand from the defendant who wrote this message "Is this proof?"

    Witness: I did not on that occasion. On the previous occasion he had had a message signed "Allie," and he then told me that "Allie" was the spirit of his wife.

    On the occasion of the message, "Is this proof?" did Slade lead you to suppose it was spirit-writing? --On that occasion there was not a word spoken on the subject between us. The writing was there, and that was what I took particular notice of.

    What did you understand by this message? --I understood it to be "is it proof" of a power not his own.

    The slate had four divisions; a piece of pencil was placed between each? --Yes.

    But no writing appeared except just under the lid? --No. He did not press this slate up against the lower portion of the table.

    Did he explain to you that if he had pressed the slate up against the table, it would be impossible to write inside? --No, he did not.

    Did that fact occur to you? --It did not occur to me that one would be more proof than the other.

    Does it occur to you now that if he had pressed the slate against the under surface of the table that it would be impossible to write inside it? --Yes.

    Mr. Flowers: Even by a spirit, you know?

    Mr. Lewis: Oh, no. (Laughter.)

    But the impossibility would be somewhat removed if the slate was not pressed up against the under surface of the table? --Yes. Before the message appeared he moved about a great deal. I believe that he could not help that; it is an old experience of mine.

    Will you look at that slate (produced), which was handed in by Mr. Hutton, of the Spectator, and say whether you see any resemblance to the handwriting which you got? --(After inspection): Well, there is a general resemblance, I believe.

    Does it appear to you to be writing done under difficulty? --No. It appears to me to be plain, quick writing, done without any difficulty whatever.

    Before you went to make this inquiry did you insist upon seeing Slade's writing, to show you his style of handwriting? --No; certainly not.

    Why didn't you ask for it? --Because I did not consider that it had any bearing upon the subject.

    Why not? --Because the only evidence I would expect would be evidence that he could not have done it.

    Would you not think that if the writing on the slate was like his writing that it would be some evidence? --Not if I had direct ocular evidence to the contrary.

    Did Slade explain to you why the slate was put under the corner of the table? --That seems self-evident. If it were put under any other part it would have been further from me, and, of course, further from my observation.

    Was the bracket near the corner of the table? --Yes; of the double table.

    But I speak of the last time you went? --The bracket was shut up where the slate was held. When, on the previous occasion, I asked Slade why the slate was put under the table, he said he could not help it, that he had no power over the place at which it was held, and that the slate moved involuntarily. I believe that the motion of Slade's arm was to some extent involuntary.

    Did he explain why it was necessary to use the table? --No.

    Did you ask him? --No.

    Could it not have been done on the sideboard or mantelpiece? --I did not ask him. It would have been a foolish question.

    Did you ask him if the spirit could write on a locked slate? --No.

    Did it not strike you as singular that writing could not be produced on a locked slate? --I don't know that it could not have been produced. I don't believe that Slade could not produce it. The only fact is that he did not produce it on that occasion.

    [[p. 164]] You have said that you do not pay much attention to the writing? --I attach no importance whatever to the message.

    What do you mean by that? --I have seen many, and they possess a general similarity. I attach importance to the fact that there is writing, not to the subject matter of the writing. On the first occasion he told me the messages were written by spirits, and I understood they all were. I did not investigate Slade's history before I went there.

    Mr. Flowers: You took your own slate, you say; did you take the pencil also?

    Witness: I did not.

    Mr. Hutton's slate was handed to the witness, and he was asked by Mr. Flowers whether he could read the writing upon it, but he was unable to do so, although he saw in the characters a similarity to the writing on his own slate.

    Re-examined: You went there to investigate the phenomena of slate writing? --Yes.

    Re-examined by Mr. Munton: I have generally found that there is no reliance to be placed on identity in the matter of the messages. I have heard it said that some shade is one of the recognised conditions for slate writing. I may add that during the whole time that the slate was being held by Slade his feet and knees were fully visible to me outside the table, as he was sitting sideways.


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