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

 
 
Are There Objective Apparitions? (S430: 1891)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: An essay printed in the January 1891 issue of Arena. A few years later this work was added as an appendix to a new edition of Miracles and Modern Spiritualism. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S430.htm


    [[p. 129]] Everyone who feels an interest in whatever knowledge can be obtained bearing upon the nature and destiny of man--and what intelligent person does not?--should be deeply grateful to those active members of the Society for Psychical Research in England and in America who have devoted themselves for many years to the collection of authentic cases of the various kinds of apparitions. These cases have been all personally investigated, so far as was possible; the evidence has been obtained either from the actual witnesses, or, where this was not possible, from those who received their personal testimony; corroborative evidence, in contemporary records of whatever kind, has been sought for, often at great cost of time and labor; and, finally, the whole body of facts thus accumulated has been systematically arranged, carefully discussed and published for the information of all who may be interested in the inquiry.1 If we add to this the evidence collected and recorded with equal care by the late Robert Dale Owen, by Dr. Eugene Crowell, and many other writers, we shall find ourselves in possession of a body of facts which ought to be sufficient to enable us to arrive at some definite conclusions as to the nature, origin, and purport of those puzzling phenomena usually known as ghosts or apparitions, these terms being held to include [[p. 130]] auditory and tactile as well as visual impressions--the appearances termed "doubles" or phantasms of the living, as well as those purporting to represent or to emanate from the dead.

    Before proceeding further I wish to point out the inestimable obligation we are under to the Psychical Research Society, for having presented the evidence in such a way that the facts to be interpreted are now generally accepted, as facts, by all who have taken any trouble to inquire into the amount and character of the testimony for them--the opinion of those who have not taken that trouble being altogether worthless. This change in educated public opinion appears to be due to a combination of causes. The careful preliminary investigation into the phenomena of telepathy has seemed to furnish a scientific basis for an interpretation of many phantasms, and has thus removed one of the chief difficulties in the way of accepting them as facts--the supposed impossibility of correlating them with any other phenomena. The number of men eminent in literature, art, or science who have joined the Society and have contributed to its "Proceedings," has given the objects of its inquiry a position and status they did not previously possess, while the earnestness, the thoroughness, the literary skill, and philosophic acumen with which the evidence has been presented to the world, has compelled assent to the proposition that the several classes of apparitions known as doubles, phantasms of the living or the dead, spectral lights, voices, musical sounds, and the varied physical effects which occur in haunted houses, are real and not very uncommon phenomena, well worthy of earnest study, and only doubtful as regards the interpretation to be put upon them.

    Some of the best workers in the Society, it is true, still urge that the evidence is very deficient, both in amount and in quality, and that much more must be obtained before it can be treated as really conclusive. This view, however, appears to me to be an altogether erroneous one. On looking through the evidence already published, I find that every one of the chief groups of phenomena already referred to is established by a considerable number of cases in which the testimony is first hand, the witnesses irreproachable, and in which the evidence of several independent witnesses agree in all important particulars. And, in addition to these unexceptionable cases, there are a whole host of others in which the [[p. 131]] evidence is not quite so complete individually, but which are so completely corroborative in their general character and which fall so little short of the very best kind of evidence that the cumulative weight of the whole is exceedingly great. I shall, therefore, waste no time in discussing the value of the evidence itself, but shall devote my attention entirely to a consideration of what the facts teach as to the real nature of the phenomena.

    This is the more necessary because, up to the present time, the only explanation of the various classes of apparitions suggested by the more prominent working members of the Society, is, that they are hallucinations due to the telepathic action of one mind upon another. These writers have, as they state that they felt bound to do, strained the theory of telepathy to its utmost limits in order to account for the more important of the phenomena which they have themselves set forth; and the chief difference of opinion now seems to be, whether all the facts can be explained as primarily due to telepathic impressions from a living agent--a view maintained by Mr. Podmore,--or whether the spirits of the dead are in some cases the agents, as Mr. Myers thinks may be the case. But in order to give this telepathic theory even a show of probability, it is necessary to exclude or to explain away a number of the most interesting and suggestive facts collected by the Society, and also to leave out of consideration whole classes of phenomena which are altogether at variance with the hypothesis adopted.2 It is to these latter cases that I now wish to call attention, because they lead us to quite different conclusions from the writers above referred to, both as to the nature of apparitions and as to the agents concerned in their production.

    The evidence which either distinctly suggests or affords direct proof of the objectivity of apparitions is of five different kinds: (1) Collective hallucinations, or the perception of the same phantasmal sights or sounds by two or more persons at once. (2) Phantasms seen to occupy different points in space, by different persons, corresponding to their apparent [[p. 132]] motion; or, the persistence of the phantasm in one spot, notwithstanding the observer changes his position. (3) The effects of phantasms upon domestic animals. (4) The physical effects apparently produced by phantasms, or connected with their appearance. (5) The fact that phantasms, whether visible or invisible to persons present, can be and have been photographed. Examples of each of these groups of cases will now be given and their bearing on the question at issue briefly discussed.

    (1) Collective Hallucination (so-called). Cases of this kind are very numerous and some of them perfectly attested. Let us first take that of the figure of a man seen repeatedly by Mrs. W___, her son, a boy of nine, and her step-daughter. It was seen distinctly at the most unexpected times, as when playing the piano, when playing at cricket in the garden, and by two at once when playing at battledore and shuttlecock. A voice was also distinctly heard by both the ladies. The description of the figure by the two ladies agreed completely, and the appearance occurred in a house reported to be haunted.3

    Such an appearance as this, occurring to two ladies not at all nervous and who have never before or since had any similar experiences, and also to a boy when at play, seems almost necessarily to imply some real object of vision; yet they both, as well as Surgeon-Major W___, are positive that the form could not have been that of any living person.

    An equally remarkable case is that of the young woman, draped in white, which, at intervals during ten years, was seen by Mr. John D. Harry, his three daughters, their servant, and partially by the husband of one of the daughters. Mr. Harry saw it on seven or eight occasions in his bedroom and library. On one occasion it lifted the mosquito curtains of his bed (this all occurred in a house in the South of Europe), and looked closely into his face. It appeared to all three of the young ladies and their maid at one time, but apparently in a more shadowy form. Here again, it seems impossible that so many persons could have a similar or identical vision without any corresponding reality.4

    Of another type is the female figure in white, which was seen on a summer afternoon, floating over a hedge, some ten [[p. 133]] feet above the ground, by two girls of thirteen and a boy. They watched it for a couple of minutes, passing over a field till they lost sight of it in a plantation. All were in good health, and had seen no apparition before or since. They were driving in a tax-cart at the time, and when the figure appeared, the horse stopped and shook with fright, so much so that they could not get it on. This last fact which will be referred to under another head, renders it almost certain that the figure seen was visually objective.5

    As a type of the auditory phenomena we may take the disturbances in the house of a clergyman which continued almost nightly for twenty years. The sounds were loud knockings or hammerings, often heard all over the house and by every inmate, and occurring usually from twelve to two in the morning. Sometimes a sound was heard like that produced by a cart heavily laden with iron bars passing close beneath the windows, yet on immediate search nothing was seen. Lady and gentlemen visitors heard these varied sounds as well as the residents in the house, and, notwithstanding long-continued search and watching, no natural cause for them was ever discovered. In such a case as this it is impossible to doubt that the sounds heard were real sounds.6

    Equally remarkable is the case where a whole family and a visitor, in an isolated country house, heard a loud and continuous noise at the front door, which seemed to shake in its frame, and to vibrate under some tremendous blows. The servants, who were asleep in the back part of the house sixty feet away, were awoke by the disturbance, and came running, half-dressed, to see what the terrific noise meant. Yet the house was enclosed within high railings and locked gates, and on an immediate search nothing could be found to account for the noise. The visitor, however, Mr. Garling, of Folkestone, who gives the account, had that afternoon seen a phantasm of a friend he had left four days previously with his family all in perfect health; and at the time of the knocking, this friend's wife and two servants had died of cholera, and he himself was dying, and had been all day repeatedly begging that his friend Garling should be sent for.7 Here we may well suppose that the (perhaps [[p. 134]] subjective) phantasm, having failed to bring the percipient to his dying friend, a violent objective sound was resorted to, which should compel attention by its being audible to a whole household.

    2. Phantasms whose objectivity is indicated by definite space-relations.--We now pass to a group of phenomena which still more clearly point to the actual objectivity of phantasms, namely, their definite space-relations as witnessed either by one or many percipients. Of this kind is the case, given in outline only, of a weeping lady which appeared to five persons, and on many occasions, to two of them together. The interesting point is, however, that indicated in the following passage: "They went after it (the figure) together into the drawing-room; it then came out and went down a passage leading to the kitchen, but was the next minute seen by another Miss D___, to come up the outside steps from the kitchen. On this particular day Captain D___'s married daughter happened to be at an upstairs window, and independently saw the figure continue its course across the lawn and into the orchard."8 Here it is almost impossible to conceive that the several hallucinations of four persons should so exactly correspond and fit into each other. A something objective, even if unsubstantial, seems absolutely necessary to produce the observed effects.

    In the next case, a well-known English clergyman and author, of Boston, Mass.,--the late Rev. W. Mountford,--was visiting some friends in the Norfolk fens, when a carriage containing his host's brother and sister-in-law, who lived near, was seen coming along the straight road between the two houses. The horse and carriage was recognized as well as the occupants, and was seen by the three persons looking on to pass in front of the house. But no knock was heard, and on going to the door nothing was to be seen. Five minutes afterwards a young lady, the daughter of the persons in the carriage, arrived and informed her uncle and aunt that her father and mother, in their chaise, had passed her on the road and, greatly to her surprise, without speaking to her. Ten minutes afterwards the real persons arrived just as they had been seen a quarter of an hour previously, having come straight from their home. None of the four [[p. 135]] percipients had any doubt as to the reality of the phantom carriage and its occupants till the real carriage appeared.9 We are not now concerned with the cause or nature of this extraordinary "double" or phantasm of the living, with their horse and chaise; that will be discussed in another article. It is adduced here only in evidence of the objectivity of the appearance, showing that something capable of being perceived by ordinary vision did pass along the road near the house in which Mr. Mountford was staying when the event occurred.

    (3.) Effects of phantasms on animals.--We now come to a group of phenomena which, although frequently recorded in the publications of the Society for Psychical Research, have received no special attention as bearing on the theories put forth by members of the society, but have either been ignored or have been attempted to be explained away by arbitrary assumptions of the most improbable kind. It will, therefore, be necessary to refer to the evidence for these facts somewhat more fully than for those hitherto considered.

    I have already mentioned the case of the female figure in white, seen by three persons, floating over a hedge ten feet above the ground, when the horse they were driving "suddenly stopped and shook with fright." In the remarks upon this case in "Phantasms of the Living" no reference is made to this fact, yet it is surely the crucial one, since we can hardly suppose that a wholly subjective apparition, seen by human beings, would also be seen by a horse. During the tremendous knocking recorded by Mr. Garling, and already quoted, it is stated that there was a large dog in a kennel near the front entrance, especially to warn off intruders, and a little terrier inside that barked at everybody; yet, when the noise occurred that wakened the servants sixty feet away, "the dogs gave no tongue whatever; the terrier, contrary to its nature, slunk shivering under the sofa, and would not stop even at the door, and nothing could induce him to go into the darkness."

    In the remarkable account of a haunted house during an occupation of twelve months by a well-known English church dignitary, the very different behavior of dogs in the presence of real and of phantasmal disturbances is pointed out. When an attempt was made to rob the vicarage, the dogs gave [[p. 136]] prompt alarm and the clergyman was aroused by their fierce barking. During the mysterious noises, however, though these were much louder and more disturbing, they never barked at all, but were always found "cowering in a state of pitiable terror." They are said to have been more perturbed than any other members of the establishment, and "if not shut up below, would make their way to our bedroom door and lie there, crouching and whining, as long as we would allow them."10

    In the account of haunting in a house at Hammersmith near London which went on for five years, where steps and noises were heard and a phantom woman seen,--"the dog whined incessantly" during the disturbances; and,--"the dog was evidently still afraid of the room when the morning came. I called to him to go into it with me, and he crouched down with his tail between his legs, and seemed to fear entering it."11

    On the occasion of a "wailing cry" heard before a death in a rectory in Staffordshire, a house standing quite alone in open country, "we found a favorite bull-dog, a very courageous animal, trembling with terror, with his nose thrust into some billets of firewood, which were kept under the stairs." On another occasion, "an awful howling followed by shriek upon shriek," with a sound like that caused by a strong wind was heard, although everything out of doors was quite still, and it is stated, "We had three dogs sleeping in my sisters' and my bedrooms, and they were all cowering down with affright, their bristles standing straight up; one--a bulldog,--was under the bed, and refused to come out, and when removed was found to be trembling all over."12 The remark of Mrs. Sidgwick on these and other cases of warning sounds is that "if not real natural sounds, they must have been collective hallucinations." But it has not been shown that "real natural sounds" ever produce such effects upon dogs, and there is no suggestion that "collective hallucination" can be telepathetically transferred to these animals. In one case, however, it is suggested that the dog might have "been suddenly taken ill!"

    In the remarkable account by General Barter, C. B., of [[p. 137]] a phantasmal pony and rider with two native grooms, seen in India, two dogs which immediately before were hunting about in the brushwood jungle which covered the hill, came and crouched by the general's side giving low, frightened whimpers; and when he pursued the phantasm the dogs returned home, though on all other occasions they were his most faithful companions.13

    These cases, given on the best authority by the Society for Psychical Research, can be supplemented by a reference to older writers. During the disturbances at Mr. Mompesson's house at Tedworth, recorded by the Rev. Joseph Glanvil from personal observation and inquiry in his work, "Sadducismus Triumphatus,"--"it was noted that when the noise was loudest, and came with the most sudden surprising violence, no dog about the house would move, though the knocking was oft so boisterous and rude, that it hath been heard to a considerable distance in the fields, and awakened the neighbors in the village, none of which live very near this."

    So, in the disturbances at Epworth Parsonage, an account of which was given by the eminent John Wesley, after describing strange noises as of iron and glass thrown down, he continues:--"Soon after, our large mastiff dog came and ran to shelter himself between them (Mr. and Mrs. Wesley). While the disturbances continued, he used to bark and leap, and snap on one side and the other, and that frequently before any person in the room heard any noise at all. But after two or three days he used to tremble, and creep away before the noise began. And by this the family knew it was at hand; nor did the observation ever fail."14

    During the disturbances at the Cemetery of Ahrensburg in the island of Oesel, where coffins were overturned in locked vaults, and the case was investigated by an official commission, the horses of country people visiting the cemetery were often so alarmed and excited that they became covered with sweat and foam. Sometimes they threw themselves on the ground where they struggled in apparent agony, and, notwithstanding the immediate resort to remedial [[p. 138]] measures, several died within a day or two. In this case, as in so many others, although the commission made a most rigid investigation and applied the strictest tests, no natural cause for the disturbances was ever discovered.15

    In Dr. Justinus Kerner's account of "The Seeress of Prevorst," it is stated of an apparition that appeared to her during an entire year, that as often as the spirit appeared, a black terrier that was kept in the house seemed to be sensible of its presence; for no sooner was the figure perceptible to the Seeress than the dog ran, as if for protection, to some one present, often howling loudly; and after his first sight of it he would never remain alone of nights. In this case no one saw the figure but the Seeress, showing that this circumstance is not proof of the subjectivity of an apparition.

    In the terrible case of haunting given to Mr. R. Dale Owen by Mrs. S. C. Hall, who was personally cognizant of the main facts, the haunted man had not been able to keep a dog for years. One which he brought home when Mrs. Hall became acquainted with him (he being the brother of her bosom friend) could not be induced to stay in his room day or night after the haunting began, and soon afterwards ran away and was lost.16

    In the wonderful case of haunting in Pennsylvania, given by Mr. Hodgson in The Arena, of September last (p. 419), when the apparition of the white lady appeared to the informant's brother, we find it stated: "The third night he saw the dog crouch and stare, and then act as if driven round the room. Brother saw nothing, but heard a sort of rustle, and the poor dog howled and tried to hide, and never again would that dog go to that room."

    Now this series of cases of the effect of phantasms on animals is certainly remarkable and worthy of deep consideration. The facts are such as, on the theories of telepathy and hallucination, ought not to happen, and they are especially trustworthy facts because they are almost invariably introduced into the narratives as if unexpected; while, that they were noticed and recorded shows that the observers were in no degree panic-struck with terror. They show us [[p. 139]] unmistakably that large numbers of phantasms, whether visual or auditory, and even when only perceptible to one of the persons present, are objective realities; while the terror displayed by the animals that perceive them, and their behavior, so unlike that in the presence of natural sights and sounds, no less clearly proves that, though objective, the phenomena are not normal and are not to be explained as in any way due to trick or to misinterpreted natural sounds. Yet these crucial facts, which a true theory must take account of, have hitherto been treated as unimportant, and, except for a few casual remarks by Mr. Myers and Mrs. Sidgwick, have been left out of consideration in all the serious attempts hitherto made to account for the phenomena of phantasms.

    (4.) Physical effects produced by phantasms or occurring in connection with them.--There can be no more convincing proof of the objective reality of a phantasm than the production of real motion or displacement of material objects. There is abundant evidence of such effects; but, owing to the method hitherto adopted by the chief members of the Psychical Research Society, of breaking up the phenomena into groups, and discussing each group separately as if it stood alone and had no relation with the rest of the phenomena, they have as yet received no attention. The curious circumstance that visual phantoms are often seen to open doors in order to enter a room, which doors are afterwards found to be locked and bolted, is supposed to throw doubt upon other cases in which doors really open; but every one who pays close attention to these questions must be convinced that phantasms are of many kinds, ranging from mere images on the brain of a single person up to forms which are not only visible to all present, but are sometimes tangible also, and capable of acting with considerable effect on ordinary matter. Let us consider a few of these cases, taking first those recorded in the publications of the Society for Psychical Research.

    The phantasm described by Dr. and Mrs. Gwynne was seen by them both to put its hand toward or over the night-light on the mantelpiece, which was at once extinguished. On being relighted it burned for the rest of the night. Of course it is possible to explain this as due to a sudden gust of wind down the chimney, but why the only gust during the night occurred at the moment the phantom was seen by two [[p. 140]] persons to place its hand toward or over the light is not explained.17

    In the house at Hammersmith where a figure was seen and noises heard during five years, Mrs. R___ who describes them says, that on one occasion the curtains of her bed were pulled back, and, she continues,--"frequently I had doors opened for me before entering a room, as if a hand had hastily turned the handle and thrown it open."18

    In another case of a haunted house, Mr. K. Z., said to be a man of reputation, stated that "doors opened and shut in the house without apparent cause," and "bells were rung in the middle of the night, causing all the household to turn out and search for burglars."19 Again, in a house where apparitions were seen by four persons, three persons sitting together in a room were attracted by the door creaking, "and we watched it slowly open to about one third, and it remained so." No such opening has been seen at any other time.20

    Dr. Eugene Crowell relates that in a house in Brooklyn a relation of his own several times had his hat struck from his head while descending the stairs or passing through the hall, and under circumstances which rendered the agency of any living person impossible.21 In the case already referred to, given by Mr. Hodgson in the September Arena, doors frequently opened and shut, and pictures, clocks, and other articles were thrown down with a great crash in a room where there was no one at the time, while another picture fell in front of the lady as she was entering the room.

    But all these cases are insignificant as compared with the evidence afforded by the bell-ringing at Great Bealings, Suffolk, and at other places, an account of which was published in 1841 by Major Moor, a Fellow of the Royal Society, in whose house they occurred. The ringing, in a violent, clattering manner, went on almost daily for nearly two months, during which time every effort was made to discover any natural cause for the phenomenon, but in vain. Major Moor states:--"The bells rang scores of times when no one was in the passage, or backbuilding, or house, or grounds unseen. Neither I, nor the servants, nor any one, [[p. 141]] could or can work the wonderment that I and more than half a score of others saw." And he declares finally:--"I am thoroughly convinced that the ringing is by no human agency."

    The publication of his statement in the Ipswich Journal brought him accounts of no less than fourteen similar disturbances in various parts of England, every one of them equally unexplained. One of these was in Greenwich Hospital, and the account of this was given to Major Moor, by Lieutenant Rivers, R. N., a comrade of Nelson. The bells in Lieutenant Rivers' apartments in the hospital rang for four days. The clerk of the works, his assistant, a bell-hanger, and several scientific men tried to discover the cause, but all in vain. They made every one leave the house; they watched the bells, the cranks, and the wires, but, just as in Major Moor's case, without becoming any the wiser. In another case, in a house near Chesterfield, long and repeated bell-ringings continued for eighteen months. Bell-hangers and other persons watched and experimented in vain. The wires were cut, but still the bells rang. Neither the owner, Mr. Ashwell, nor his friend, Mr. Felkins of Nottingham, afterwards mayor of that town, nor any other person was ever able to discover, or even to conjecture any adequate cause for the phenomena. In many of these cases the ringing occurred in the daytime, and was repeated so often that ample opportunity was given for discovering the agency, if a human one. And the thing itself is so comparatively simple that there is no opportunity for a trick to be played without almost immediate discovery. Yet in none of these cases, nor so far as I am aware in any other at all similar to them, has any trick been discovered. They must, therefore, be classed as a form of haunting, comparable with the knockings and other disturbances so often connected with phantasmal appearances, and thus affording very strong evidence of the powers of phantasms to act upon matter.22

    (5.) Phantasms can be photographed, and are, therefore, objective realties.--It is common to sneer at what are called "spirit photographs" because imitations of some of them can [[p. 142]] be so easily produced; but a little consideration will show that this very facility of imitation renders it equally easy to guard against imposture, since the modes by which the imitation is effected are so well known. At all events it will be admitted that an experienced photographer who supplies the plates and sees the whole of the operations performed, or even performs them himself, cannot be so deceived. This test has been applied over and over again, and there is no possible escape from the conclusion that phantasms, whether visible or invisible to those present, can be and have been photographed. A brief statement of the evidence in support of this assertion will now be given.

    The first person through whom spirit photographs were obtained, was a New York photographer named Mumler, who, in 1869, was arrested and tried for obtaining money by trickery and imposture, but who, after a long trial, was acquitted because no proof of imposture or attempt at imposture was given. But, on the other hand, evidence of extraordinary tests having been applied was given. A professional photographer, Mr. W. H. Slee, of Poughkeepsie, watched the whole process of taking the pictures, and though there was nothing unusual in Mumler's procedure, shadowy forms appeared on the plates. Mumler afterwards visited this witness' gallery, bringing with him no materials whatever, yet the same results were produced. Mr. J. Gurney, a New York photographer of twenty-eight years' experience, gave evidence that, after close examination, no trickery whatever could be detected in Mumler's process. Yet a third photographer, Mr. W. W. Silver, of Brooklyn, gave evidence to the same effect. He frequently went through the whole process himself, using his own camera and materials, yet when Mumler was present, and simply placed his hand on the camera during the exposure, additional forms besides that of the sitter appeared upon the plates. Here we have the sworn testimony in a court of law of three experts, who had every possible means of detecting imposture if imposture there were; yet they all declared that there was and could be no imposture.23

    [[p. 143]] It would be easy to give a score or more of cases in which persons of reputation have stated in print that they have obtained recognizable photographs of deceased friends when they themselves were quite unknown to the photographer and even when no photograph or picture of the deceased person existed. In all such cases, however, the objection is made that the figures are more or less shadowy and that the supposed likeness may be imaginary. I, therefore, prefer to give only the evidence of experts as to the appearance on photographic plates of other figures besides those of the visible sitters. Perhaps the most remarkable series of experiments ever made on this subject are those carried on during three years by the late Mr. John Beattie, of Clifton, a retired photographer of twenty years' experience, and Doctor Thomson, M. D. (Edin.), a retired physician, who had practised photography as an amateur for twenty-five years. These two gentlemen performed all the photographic work themselves, sitting with a medium who was not a photographer. They took hundreds of pictures, in series of three taken consecutively at intervals of a few seconds; and the results are the more remarkable and the less open to any possible suspicion, because there is not in the whole series what is commonly termed a spirit photograph, that is, the shadowy likeness of any deceased person, but all are more or less rudimental, exhibiting various patches of light undergoing definite changes of form, sometimes culminating in undefined human forms, or medallion-like heads, or star-like luminosities. In no case was there any known cause for the production of these figures. I possess a set of these remarkable photographs, thirty-two in number, given me by Mr. Beattie, and I was personally acquainted with Doctor Thomson, who confirmed Mr. Beattie's statements as to the conditions and circumstances under which they were taken. Here we have a thorough scientific investigation undertaken by two well-trained experts, with no possibility of their being imposed upon; and they demonstrate the fact that phantasmal figures and luminosities quite invisible to ordinary observers, can yet reflect or emit actinic rays so as to impress their forms and changes of form upon an ordinary photographic plate. An additional proof of this extraordinary phenomenon is, that frequently, and in the later experiments always, the medium spontaneously described what he saw, and the picture taken [[p. 144]] at that moment always exhibited the same kind of figure. In one of the pictures the medium is shown among the sitters gazing intently and pointing with his hand. While doing so he exclaimed: "What a bright light up there! Can you not see it?" And the picture shows the bright light in the place to which his gaze and pointing hand are directed.24

    Very important, as confirming these results, are the experiments of the late Mr. Thomas Slater, the optician (of Euston Road, London), who obtained second figures on his plates when only his own family were present, and in one case when he was perfectly alone; of Mr. R. Williams, M. A., of Haywards Heath; of Mr. Traill Taylor, the editor of the British Journal of Photography; and of many other professional or amateur photographers, who all agree that, with everything under their own control, phantasmal figures, besides those of the sitter, appeared on the plates without any apparent or conceivable mechanical or chemical cause.

    In the cases hitherto given the phantasms or figures photographed have been invisible to all present except the mediums, and sometimes even to them; but we have also examples of the photographing of a visible form, or apparition, occurring in the presence of a medium. A very successful photograph of a spirit form which appeared under strict test conditions, with Miss Cook as the medium, was taken by Mr. Harrison, then editor of the Spiritualist newspaper. An engraving from this photograph appears as a frontispiece to Epes Sargent's "Proof Palpable of Immortality," with an account of the conditions under which it was taken signed by the five persons present. Later on, Mr. Crookes obtained numerous photographs (more than forty in all) in his own laboratory, with the same medium; and had every opportunity of ascertaining that the phantom, which appeared and disappeared under conditions which rendered doubt impossible, was no human being, and was very different in all physical characteristics from the medium.25

    [[p. 145]] This long series of photographic experiments and tests, of which the briefest abstract only has been given, has been hitherto not even alluded to by the investigators of the Society for Psychical Research. But they cannot much longer continue to ignore it, because they have entered on the task of collecting the whole of the evidence for psychical phenomena, and of fairly estimating the weight of each of the groups under which that evidence falls. Now I submit that this photographic evidence is superior in quality to any that they have hitherto collected, for two reasons. In the first place, it is experimental evidence, and experiment is rarely possible in the higher psychical phenomena; in the second place it is the evidence of experts, in an operation the whole details of which are perfectly familiar to them. And, I further submit, this evidence can no longer be ignored because it is evidence that goes to the very root of the whole inquiry and affords the most complete and crucial test in the problem of subjectivity or objectivity of apparitions. What is the use of elaborate arguments to show that all the phenomena are to be explained by the various effects of telepathy and that there is no evidence of the existence of objective apparitions occupying definite positions in space, when the camera and the sensitive plate have again and again proved that such objective phantasms do exist? Such arguments, founded on a small portion only of the facts, remind one of that literary jeux d'esprit, "Historic doubts as to the existence of Napoleon Bonaparte"; and, to those who are acquainted with the whole range of the phenomena to be explained, are about equally convincing.

    I have now very briefly summarized and discussed the various classes of evidence which demonstrate the objectivity of many apparitions. The several groups of facts, while strong in themselves, gain greatly in strength by the support they give to each other. On the theory of objective reality all are harmonious and consistent. On the theory of hallucination, some require elaborate and unsupported theories for their explanation, while the great bulk are totally inexplicable, and have, therefore, to be ignored, or set aside, or explained away. Collective hallucinations (so-called) are admitted to be frequent. That phantasms often behave like objective realities in relation to material objects and to different persons is also admitted. This is as it should be if they [[p. 146]] are objective, but is hardly explicable on the subjective or telepathic theory. The behavior of animals in the presence of phantasms, the evidence for which is as good as that for their appearance to men and women, is what we might expect if they are abnormal realities, but involve enormous difficulties on any other theory. The physical effects produced by phantasms (visible or invisible) afford a crucial test of objectivity, and are far too numerous and too well attested to be ignored or explained away. And, finally, comes the test of objectivity afforded by the photographic camera in the hands of experts and physicists of the first rank, rendering any escape from this conclusion simply impossible.

    I have confined this discussion strictly to the one question of objectivity, a term that does not necessarily imply materiality. We do not know whether the luminiferous ether is material, or whether electricity is material, but both are certainly objective. Some have used the term "non-molecular matter" for the hypothetical substance of which visible phantoms are composed,--a substance that seems to have the property under certain conditions of aggregating to itself molecular matter, so that tangible or force-exerting phantasms are produced. But this is all theoretical, and we do not yet possess sufficient knowledge to enable us to theorize on what may be termed the anatomy and physiology of phantoms. There is, however, a broader question to be discussed, one on which I think we have materials for arriving at some interesting and useful conclusions. I refer to the general nature and origin of various classes of phantasmal appearances, from the "doubles" of living persons to those apparitions which bring us news of our departed friends or are in some cases, able to warn us of future events, which more or less deeply affect us. This inquiry will form the subject of another paper.


Notes Appearing in the Original Work

1. In "Phantasms of the Living," 2 v. 8vo, and the "Proceedings" of the Society from 1862 to 1890. [[on p. 129]]

2. "Phantasms of the Dead from another Point of View" by F. Podmore, and "A Defence of Phantasms of the Dead" by F. W. H. Myers, in Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Part XVI., 1890. In these papers the extreme telepathic theory is set forth by Mr. Podmore with admirable boldness and with full illustrations; and is forcibly combated by Mr. Myers, whose views as here expressed are, however, only a very little in advance of those of his fellow-worker. [[on p. 131]]

3. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Pt. VIII. (May 1885), pp. 102-106. [[on p. 132]]

4. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Pt. VIII. (May 1885), pp. 111-113. [[on p. 132]]

5. "Phantasms of the Living," Vol. II., p. 197. [[on p. 133]]

6. R. D. Owens' "Debatable Land," pp. 251-255. [[on p. 133]]

7. "Phantasms of the Living." Vol. II, pp. 149-151. [[on p. 133]]

8. Proc. Soc. Ps. Res., Part VIII. (May, 1885), pp. 117, 146. [[on p. 134]]

9. "Phantasms of the Living," Vol. II., pp. 97-99. [[on p. 135]]

10. Proc. Soc. Ps. Res. Part VI. p. 151. [[on p. 136]]

11. Proc. Soc. Ps. Res. Part VIII. p. 116. [[on p. 136]]

12. Proc. Soc. Ps. Res. Part XIII. pp. 307-308. [[on p. 136]]

13. Proc. Soc. Ps. Res. Part XIV. pp. 469, 470. [[on p. 137]]

14. The account of these disturbances is given in Dr. Adam Clarke's "Memoirs of the Wesley Family;" in Southey's "Life of Wesley;" and in many other works. [[on p. 137]]

15. R. D. Owen's "Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World," pp. 186-192. [[on p. 138]]

16. "Footfalls from the Boundary of Another World," pp. 326-329. [[on p. 138]]

17. "Phantasms of the Living," Vol. II., p. 202. [[on p. 140]]

18. Proc. Soc. Ps. Res. Part VIII., p. 115. [[on p. 140]]

19. Proc. Soc. Ps. Res. I., p. 107. [[on p. 140]]

20. Proc. Soc. Ps. Res. XIV. p. 443. [[on p. 140]]

21. "Primitive Christianity and Modern Spiritualism," Vol. I., p. 191. [[on p. 140]]

22. An account of all these fourteen cases of bell-ringing and of other disturbances with names and dates is given, in a small volume, now rare, entitled "Bealings Bells." A brief summary of them is given in R. Dale Owen's "Debatable Land" and in William Howitt's "History of the Supernatural," Vol. II, p. 446. [[on p. 141]]

23. A report of the trial appeared in the New York Times of April 22, 1869, and in many other papers. An abstract of the evidence is given by Dr. Crowell in his "Primitive Christianity and Modern Spiritualism," Vol. I., pp. 478-482. [[on p. 142]]

24. A brief account of these experiments from notes furnished by Mr. Beattie and confirmed by Doctor Thomson, is given in the present writer's "Miracles and Modern Spiritualism," p. 193. Mr. Beattie published his own account in the Spiritual Magazine, September, 1872, January, 1873, and in the British Journal of Photography of the same period. [[on p. 144]]

25. An account of these experiments, and of those which preceded them, is given in a small volume entitled, "Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism," by William Crookes, F. R. S., London, 1874; and they are summarized in Epes Sargents' "Proof Palpable of Immortality," pp. 100-110. [[on p. 144]]


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