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Spiritualism and Conjurors (S271: 1877)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page 78 of The Spiritualist (London) of 17 August 1877. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S271.htm

    A short time since there was a note in The Spiritualist to the effect that Dr. Lynn was exhibiting "burlesques of spiritual phenomena at the Aquarium." From Dr. Lynn's antecedents it seemed probable that this should be so, but probabilities are not facts. From what a friend informed me I had my doubts, and I therefore visited the Aquarium a few days back, and, with four other gentlemen, went on the stage to take part in the séance. Your readers must be told that Dr. Lynn is not the performer, but a gentleman who is introduced as "a medium--a real medium;" and I must say I believe him to be one. We first sat at a table--a very common and undoubtedly genuine table, which I turned over and examined, and after about four minutes' sitting this table rose up full two feet from the floor, and floated horizontally round the stage twice, resisting my efforts to stop it. All our hands were on the table; it moved about rapidly but somewhat irregularly; and no wires or machinery had anything to do with it. To me the motion was exactly such as I have experienced, with a genuine medium, but more powerful. Then followed the cabinet séance, the "cabinet" being a baize curtain supported by four poles on a carpet-covered platform, raised about a foot above the stage, and having no connection with it. We examined it thoroughly, and it was absolutely above suspicion. The medium was tied, hands and feet, in the usual way in a chair, by two gentlemen, and almost all the phenomena which characterised the Davenports' performance were here reproduced, but with even greater rapidity. At the very same instant that the curtain was drawn, hands appeared over the top, and the moment they descended the curtain was drawn back, and we found the medium with feet and hands tied exactly as before. This was repeated in various ways half a dozen times. Then, for an instant, three figures appeared in the cabinet robed in white from head to foot, and the next instant they disappeared, the medium being found tied as before, with no possibility of concealing the white robes, to say nothing of the figures which were there. The medium's coat was also removed and afterwards put on again, his hands remaining tied, and one of the spectators who entered the cabinet had his coat-sleeves turned inside out, and the coat put on him again without his being able to give any account of how it was done.

    Now, it seems to me that a very bad effect will be produced by telling the public that this is all imposture; for they will naturally say, "We see no difference between this performance and those which you tell us are real: if this is imposture, then all your alleged spiritual manifestations are imposture also." I trust that you, Mr. Editor, or some of your readers, who have had more experience of mediums than I have had, will visit the Aquarium theatre and tell us your impressions after going on the stage; and if you think it is all juggling, point out exactly where the difference lies between it and mediumistic phenomena. I must also add, that when I was there Dr. Lynn said nothing against Spiritualists or Spiritualism. Of course, he made his usual fun, and referred to the risk of prosecution if he said it was all done by spirits--a remark which his audience took as an excellent joke, but which might have another meaning.

    There have been many cases in which genuine clairvoyance has been brought before the public as conjuring; and now that the exhibition of anything claimed to be spiritual manifestations is punished by the strong arm of the law, it is to be expected that some physical mediums will engage themselves to professors of legerdemain in order to secure peace and safety. If the phenomena I have described are produced by conjuring, it is clear that Dr. Lynn, who is a master of the art, could do it himself and thereby add to his reputation; but he does not, and, as I venture to think, cannot do so, and until some one up to the tricks of conjurors really shows "how it is done," I shall continue to hold the opinion that we have here a case of genuine mediumship.

    London, August 10th, 1877.

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