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Mr. S. J. Davey's Experiments (S436: 1891)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page 43 of the March 1891 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (London). To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S436.htm

To the Editor of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.

     Sir,--In the January number of the Journal the death of Mr. S. J. Davey is announced, with a complimentary reference to his "experiments," recorded in Vol. IV. of the Proceedings. I, and many other Spiritualists, thought at the time that to publish those experiments without any elucidation of them other than Mr. Davey's assertion, that they were all "tricks," was an unscientific and unfair proceeding, since it accepted as evidence in his case a mere personal statement which it has always refused to consider of the slightest value when made by Spiritualists.

     Now, however, that further secrecy is unnecessary, I trust that Mrs. Sidgwick, Mr. Hodgson, and any other persons to whom (as stated at p. 485 of Proceedings, Vol. IV.) Mr. Davey communicated "the details of his methods," will give a full account of them, in order that we who believe that there are genuine phenomena of which Mr. Davey purported to give "trick" imitations, may be able to judge how far this claim is supported by the actual facts of the case.

     If such experiments as those recorded at Sittings 11 and 12, and at the materialisation séance, are clearly and fully explained as mechanical or sleight-of-hand tricks, available under the conditions usually adopted by professed mediums, it will do more to weaken the evidence for Spiritualistic phenomena than anything that has yet been adduced by disbelievers. As one of the witnesses says: "I believe that a full explanation of his methods would 'fire a shot heard round the world' in almost every civilised community where the phenomena of so-called 'Spritualism' are perplexing, and often madden true and good people." (l.c., p. 435.) But to have this effect it will not do to explain some of the phenomena by trick, leaving the more mysterious unsolved. They are claimed to be all trick, and unless all can be so explained many of us will be confirmed in our belief that Mr. Davey was really a medium as well as a conjurer, and that in imputing all his performances to "trick" he was deceiving the Society and the public.


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