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

 
 
Archdeacon Colley and Mr. Maskelyne
(S637: 1907)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A feature in the Light (London) issue of 4 May 1907, concerning litigation connected to the accusation of fraud on the part of the medium Francis W. Monck. Set out below is the transcript of Wallace's testimony during the trial's proceedings. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S637.htm


     [[p. 208]] The venerable Alfred Russel Wallace, F.R.S., D.C.L., LL.D., was next called upon, and his evidence, which was very clearly given, was listened to with profound attention by a crowded court. In reply to Mr. Bankes, he stated that he began to investigate the phenomena of Spiritualism in 1862, and in 1877 or 1878 he first met Dr. Monck. At that time he had never heard of Archdeacon Colley, who was a complete stranger to him until recently. He had read Archdeacon Colley's pamphlet, containing his lecture delivered at Weymouth.

     In reply to Mr. Bankes, Dr. Wallace said that he first saw Dr. Monck at a house in Bloomsbury, where he witnessed a manifestation which was remarkably similar to that described by Colley, though not identical. It was early in the afternoon, on a bright day, and the room was not darkened in any way. Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood and the Rev. Stainton Moses were also present. When the figure appeared he was certainly not more than seven or eight feet from the medium.

     Mr. Bankes: Will you now, Dr. Wallace, describe in your own language what you saw?

     Dr. Wallace: Dr. Monck stood up, and appeared to go into a trance. I have no doubt he was in a trance. Then, after a short time, on the left side of his coat there appeared a very faint white patch, which increased in density and moved up and down and seemed to flicker, spread out a little and flickered still more, and at last grew up to the height of his shoulder and down to the ground, and then there was a separation from the part that seemed to come out of his coat and connect itself with his body. After a few minutes more the separation was quite distinct, and he then said to us 'Look!'and put his hand through the space. Then the white cloud or figure moved away till it was at least six feet from him, and it seemed as it moved to grow more distinct and to become the outline of a woman in flowing white draperies, allowing the face to be seen. Then he looked towards it and said 'Look!' and put up his hands and clapped them. The figure imitated the medium's movements and put out its two hands, and we all heard them. Then he stood still, and the figure moved slowly backwards and sideways and drew up to his side and began to diminish in brightness. Then the waving motion began again, and it went back into his body in precisely the same way as it had come out.

     Mr. Bankes: So far as you were concerned, you were certain it was a spiritualistic manifestation?

     Dr. Wallace: I was absolutely certain it could not have been produced by any possible trick, even had Mr. Maskelyne been there with all his apparatus. It was in quite a small room, from fourteen to sixteen feet square. There was a single room and a back bedroom, connected with folding doors, which were shut.

     With reference to Mr. Maskelyne's performance, Dr. Wallace expressed the opinion that he does not produce the slightest approximation to what Archdeacon Colley describes, to which description his own experience corresponded so strikingly.

     Mr. Bankes: In what particulars?

     Dr. Wallace: There was no reproduction whatever of the white patch, smoking or filmy or steaming appearance, or anything you like, that came out of the coat; there was none of the growing of the patch, not going away like a natural steam or smoke, but remaining a patch, and growing--not the slightest approximation to anything of the kind described by Archdeacon Colley. That is a most important difference. In Mr. Maskelyne's production the full form pokes an arm or a head out behind a black-coated figure which represents Dr. Monck, without any growing whatever. To me, it was perfectly ludicrous. Whereas the other, as Archdeacon Colley well says, was a most marvellous sight to see, and one never to be forgotten--to see a human form grow out, as it were, before your eyes. Then again, Archdeacon Colley and myself saw the thing in a well-lighted room at the distance of a few feet, with no background or red light rendering it easy to introduce figures behind a black screen, at the back of a person, without being seen. We were, the nearest of the audience, at least twenty feet from Mr. Maskelyne and his assistants, with a black screen behind them and a red light overhead; whereas in the case described by Archdeacon Colley we saw everything quite clearly by daylight, nearer than persons are to me in this court. It was absolutely impossible to introduce anything, and if they could have done so, they could not have made it grow and disappear. I should call Mr. Maskelyne's performance an absurd travesty of what I saw and of what Archdeacon Colley describes.

     Mr. Bankes: On the occasion when you were there, was there any attempt on Mr. Maskelyne's part to make the figure melt away?

     Dr. Wallace: Not the slightest. As soon as the figure came out the curtain dropped. She came to the front to the audience, and then walked away.

     [[p. 209]] Cross-examined by Mr. Gill, Dr. Wallace said that a medium is a person through whom occult phenomena happen.

     The Judge said he should like more particulars, and Dr. Wallace explained: 'We know there are certain things called ghosts which appear connected with certain places. But these other phenomena only occur in the presence of certain persons; when those persons are not present, the phenomena are not there at all, or with much less clear definition. I don't know the nature of mediums in the least.'

     Mr. Gill then asked a number of questions on slate writing and other forms of manifestation, apparently with the sole object of eliciting replies which could be used to cause laughter in the court, or to discredit the mediums referred to.


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