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

Clairvoyance and Poltergeists (S565: 1899)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor contending some remarks by Frank Podmore on "paranormal" phenomena. Printed in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (London) issue for April 1899. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S565.htm

     [[p. 56]] Sir,--To follow Mr. Podmore in his reply to a portion of my contentions is needless, as I am content to leave the question to the judgment of any earnest enquirer who will read the evidence at length in the works I have referred to. A great deal of his minute criticism tending to discredit the witnesses seems to me to be of exactly the same character as the well-known Historic Doubts concerning Napoleon Buonaparte of Archbishop Whateley, or the still cleverer jeux d'esprit on the first Chinese war, which I have not seen since I was a youth, and a reference to which I shall be glad if any of your readers can give me.

     I will make one or two brief observations only, on Mr. Podmore's "historic doubts." He says that Councillor Hahn's evidence is not "exceptionally good," because written 18 months after the events. But what [[p. 57]] events! Things going on for two months, almost daily and hourly, of the most marvellous and antecedently incredible character, witnessed by his friend and by many other persons none of whom could even suggest any explanation of them. His detailed account shows to my mind that he did keep full notes at the time, but even if he did not, the facts were such as were never to be forgotten. And his giving this account to Dr. Kerner for publication in after life, when he was a person of some official standing, is a guarantee of his earnestness that we should not overlook.

     I also protest against what seems to me an interpretation of part of Mrs. Wesley's evidence that is wholly unjustified by the facts. She narrates how, going down the stairs with her husband, two sounds were heard, "on my side" like a bag of money emptied, "and on his" as if a quantity of bottles were smashed. Mr. Podmore says this means that there was only one sound differently interpreted by the two people! And because in another account she says that these sounds were not simultaneous, that therefore she is not to be believed, and, generally, that nothing at all occurred but what could have been, and therefore in all probability was produced by one of the daughters, Hetty, who did not give her own account of what happened in addition to the accounts of the eight other members of the family!

     This is quite in the style of "historic doubts," and as such I leave it to your readers.

Alfred R. Wallace.

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