Frederic William Henry Myers.

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and were present at many of the Planchette experiments of Mr. and Mrs. Newnham.
Mr. and Mrs. Newnham sat at different tables some distance apart, and in such a position
that it was quite impossible Mrs. Newnham could see what question was written down.
The subject of the questions was never mentioned even in a whisper. Mr. Newnham
wrote them down in pencil and sometimes passed them to me and my sister to see, but
not often. Mrs. Newnham immediately answered the questions. Though not always
correct, they (the answers) always referred to the questions. Mr. Newnham copied out
the pencil questions and answers verbatim each day into a diary."


has tended to show that the telepathic power itself is a variable thing ;
that it shows itself in flashes, for the most part spontaneously, and seldom
persists through a series of deliberate experiments. And if an automatist
possessing power of this uncertain kind has exercised it at irregular
moments and with no scientific aim ; and has kept, moreover, no steady
record of success and failure ; then it becomes difficult to say that even
some brilliant coincidences afford cogent proof of telepathic action. The
case which is next cited (in 851 A) presents these drawbacks; but
it presents also positive points of interest and corroborations of memory
quite sufficient, I think, to justify me in laying it before my readers as an
example of telepathy acting not just in the way in which we should like
it to act, but in the way in which it apparently does act ; and with that
strange intercurrence, moreover, which we so often find of something like
clairvoyance and premonition mingling with the reflection of thoughts
which pass through minds in rapport with the automatist's. But I quote
the case as one where telepathy from the living seems to play at least a
considerable part in supplying the contents of the messages.

852. I pass on to a case where an actual conversation goes on
between the distant agent and the automatist, informing the automatist
of matters which the agent supraliminally or subliminally wishes him to
know. Evidentially it is not strong, for it depends upon a single memory,
corroborated on one collateral point alone (although not invalidated upon
any point) ; and the writer was not personally known to any of us. The
date is also very remote. On the other hand, the reasons for the absence
of corroboration seem satisfactory ; and in my view at least the narrative
offers internal evidence of honesty and care, while the incident is such as
might stamp itself permanently on the mind.

(From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. ix. p. 48.)

Mrs. Kirby wrote to me from Santa Cruz, California, August i3th, 1886,
as follows :

In 1850 I left New York for San Francisco. Spiritualism, in the sense in
which that word is now used, had no existence. The facts and philosophy it
covers were unknown, except partially to the very few readers of Swedenborg's
cumbrous and involved theology.

Attention had been called to some rappings which had made themselves
heard in a house in Rochester, N. Y., and there had been some violent
demonstrations (breaking of windows, moving of furniture, and unlocking of
locked drawers and doors) in the house of an orthodox clergyman somewhere
in Connecticut.

In 1853 I was living on a ranche three miles from what is now the city
of Santa Cruz. (It was but a village then, though they called it a town.) My
family consisted of my husband, myself, and, in a certain sense, of a young
English sailor, a healthy, kind-hearted, and very decent, though very ignorant
fellow, whom my husband had employed to work on the ranche during the
previous year. His name was Thomas Travers, and he had just made his
mark (x) to a written agreement for another year's service. As it will be seen,


I had no servant, but Tom stood ready to help me in any way he could. For
instance, when, at intervals of weeks, visitors would make their appearance, he
would immediately kill and clean some chickens for me. (If you wanted
beef-steak in those days you could only have it by killing an ox. The nearest
neighbours sometimes combined and took a quarter each.)

On one occasion the two most intelligent men in town came out, a Dr.
McLean and the Rev. Dryden, and they presently asked me if I had a small
table I could let them have (while I was busy, and my husband a mile off at his
tannery), with which they could continue some strange experiments that had
lately been made among our mutual friends in town. Spirits tipped the table,
and they said sentences were spelled by the use of the alphabet. That A's and
B's had in this way heard of their long since departed children, &c., &c.

I listened eagerly. I had left a large circle of friends at the East, and here
was not one of the old kind : Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, Garrison, Purvis. A
view of the entire bay of Monterey from my sitting-room window did not pre-
vent me from longing continually for a little of the old sympathy. One of my
most devoted friends had a few years since passed to the other shore ; my
young brother was there too. If I could establish communication with them,
what a relief, what a pleasure it would be to me !

My smallest table was in size 3^ ft. by i^ ft. My husband was willing to
test the matter, and as we were given to understand that three or four persons
together would be more likely to succeed than two (since magnetism or elec-
tricity was drawn from them by the invisibles to help in accomplishing their
object), Mr. K. went out to Tom's shanty and asked him to come and sit at the
table with us.

We had not held our hands one moment on the table before it tipped very
decidedly, and I forthwith proceeded to repeat the alphabet. The doing so,
however, struck me as worse than ridiculous ; it was very unpleasant, too, and
I observed that if spirits were present they could hear me say the letters in my
mind as well as if they were uttered from my tongue.

" All right. Go ahead ! " my husband replied, " we will sit and wait for

I did so, and the table tipped promptly to the letters, spelling out

" Mary Howells."

As / knew no such person, I asked if she was a friend of Mr. K.'s?
Answer: "No." Of Tom's ? Answer: "Yes." A relation of his ? Answer:
"Sister." Are you married ? I questioned. Answer: "No."

" Oh, don't let us waste any more time ! " I exclaimed. " It's all falsehood
and nonsense. Here is some one professing to be Tom's sister who says her
name is Mary Howells, and that she is unmarried. If this were true, of course
her name would be Travers."

Tom nodded aside to me and said in a low tone

" Yes, mum. That's her name. Mary Howells."

He looked extremely confused and astonished.

" Why, what do you mean ? " Mr. K. broke in ; " your name is Travers, how
can hers be Howells ? "

' No, sir," Tom replied, looking down, " my name is Howells."

But Mr. K. insisted that it could not be. Had he not made his mark after
the Travers only the other day ? Five minutes were taken up in the attempt to
convince Tom that he did not know his own name.


" You see, sir," he at length explained, " I ran away from a whale ship in
San Francisco, and sailors is so scarce there I was afraid they would hunt me
up and take me back, so I just took another name."

Hardly convinced now, Mr. K. advised him to drop the alias at once,
assuring him that no one would molest him. This he did, and the second year
following married, and he is now the father of twelve girls and three boys who
bear the strangely discovered name.

But to return. Finding that the communication had been so far correct, I
proposed that we should compose ourselves while I repeated the alphabet as
before, still hoping to receive the name of my dear friend. But Tom's sister
had not accomplished her purpose, and she proceeded to spell the following
words :

" I have a child a girl. She is seven years old and now
is in a house of ill fame in Cat Street. I want my brother
to bring her away from there."

This was a difficult and painful message to convey, and I told Tom that I
did not like to tell him what was spelt.

" She says that she has a little girl seven years old," I began.

Here he removed his hands quickly from the table, and counting on the
fingers of one hand by those of the other, looked up and observed :

" Yes, mum, that's so. She's seven now."

When I gave him the rest of the message he became much excited, and
begged me to assure his sister that he would send home 50 dols. the next month,
and have the child removed to a better place, and that as soon as the crops
were in he would go home and get the child.

I assured him she could hear all he was saying.

" But is it true that there is a street called Cat Street ? " I asked.

" Yes, mum ; and it is the worst in the city," he returned.

The following day he acknowledged to me that his sister was a woman of
the town.

I now asked my husband to procure me a smaller and lighter table so that
I might sit at it by myself, and in that way be more likely to attract my own
friends. This he did, but to my great annoyance, Mary Howells immediately
presented herself. This time, however, she came to say that her child was ill.
When she left the movements of the table were weak and uncertain.

The following evening, she came to say that the child was much worse,
and she thought it would die. A day or two later she reported it dead. I
asked if the child were now with her, and she replied by very decided move-
ments, that she was not.

After this, Mary Howells never put in an appearance, and every day I
prayed that some one I loved might speak a word to me. They did not. I
know now that they could not, for want of the honest sailor's electrical help,
which I rejected in my ignorance. Seafaring persons are apt to possess great
mediumistic power.

After hearing that the child was dead I wrote a guarded letter to Tom's
parents, for him, asking how they all were, including the little girl. In due
time I received a reply, or, I should say, Tom did, though he could not read
writing. They said they were all well except Mary's little girl, who had died.
(They did not say exactly when, but as Tom had not been absent from England
much over a year, it must have been within that time, and we had every reason


to believe the mother's statement a true one.) The old people further said that
Mary had married a soldier.

I understood from this that the child's mother was not wholly depraved,
that she was concerned about the welfare of her little one, and looking about for
help in her destitute circumstances her thoughts had turned to her brother,
most likely persistently turned to him, and this resulted in her leaving her body
temporarily during sleep in search of him. We had assumed that she was, as
we say, " dead." She had not asserted the fact.

I submit this one experience and will write out another as soon as I can.
Very truly yours, GEORGIANA B. KIRBY.

A second letter from Mrs. Kirby, dated Santa Cruz, Cal., October
1 2th, 1886, gave further particulars as follows :

DEAR SIR, Yours of September Qth arrived in due season. My reply
has been delayed by my ineffectual efforts to ascertain the month when our two
friends, McLean and Dryden, visited us on the ranche, because it was within a
month after this that Mary Howells told me her child was ill, and later that she
was dead, and I thought it might not be so difficult to search the death record
of one month for the child under the head of " Howells." As it is the gentlemen
have proved to me that their visit occurred in 1852, and not in 1853 as I had
supposed, but they could not remember if it were the spring or fall of that year.
This, our ignorance of the date of the death and of the child's Christian name,
is [the most unsatisfactory part of my record. Neither were mentioned in the
grandfather's letter, and from Tom never mentioning the name I fancied he did
not know it. I saw him recently, but I could not venture to speak to him
of his sister's illegitimate child. He has twelve living daughters of his own,
and he would be justly offended if I should remind him of how we had
gained a knowledge of his sister's life. He told us that his father was still
alive and living where they always had lived, at Saltash, which he thought
by this time must be a part of Plymouth.

I should explain that neither Dr. McLean nor the Rev. Dryden were
personally cognisant of our doings, so that they could not act as witnesses in
the case.

You ask if I can point you to any contemporary record. Thirty-four years
ago no Spiritualistic paper was published in the United States, and such a
narration given as true in any ordinary journal would have laid us open to the
charge of lunacy. And had this been otherwise, we could not have proclaimed
the fact that the sister of the honest fellow who was working for us was a
disreputable woman.

As to fraud on Tom's part, he could hardly understand why we wanted
him to sit with his hands on the table. I repeated the letters in my mind.
How could he tip the table at the right instant so as to spell words which dis-
closed his sister's disgrace ? Then he was in no want of money. He had been
earning 60 dols. a month (and had spent it all, mostly at Spanish fandangos) ;
and the agreement with my husband, to which he had lately placed his x,
bound him to work for Mr. K. for one year for the sum of 60 dols. a month and
his board and lodging. You, sir, must have read something about the high
price of labour in California in those early years of its settlement.

The sittings were held after supper (or dinner, you would call it), between
seven and nine o'clock.


Cat Street was in Plymouth, England. If it has given place to another the
fact of its former existence could be verified. GEORGIANA B. KIRBY.

The actual existence of the " Cat Street " of the narrative is shown by
the following letter :

POST OFFICE, PLYMOUTH, January zyd, 1888.

SIR, In reply to yours of the 2ist instant, I beg to inform you that a few
years ago there was a street named Catte Street, but it is now called Stillman
Street. I am, sir, yours obediently,


The regretted death of Mrs. Kirby soon after the date of her last letter
put an end to this correspondence.

It will be observed that the communications from the woman at Ply-
mouth were received at an hour which, in England, fell in the middle of
the night.

With Mrs. Kirby's case we may compare an old, but carefully evi-
denced, record which I give in 852 A.

In that case a warning was received by table- tilting of the approaching
death of a man who (although the experimenter did not know it) was
lying in a state of opium-stupor. The circumstances of his last illness had
previously been predicted by a crystal-vision. It is, of course, conceivable
that, if indeed it was the sick man's own spirit which gave the message
through the table, his own spirit also may have inspired the crystal-vision.
Compare with this case the incident described by Mr. Underwood
(865 A) where Mrs. Underwood's left hand wrote in "mirror- writing"
the name of a person two hundred miles off, who was, as was subsequently
learnt, " in an unconscious state at the time, and very near death, which
occurred two or three days afterwards." There have been some scattered
indications, throughout our evidence of automatisms, of a possible pre-
monitory knowledge, or guardian care, possessed and exercised by a man's
own deeper self, without external spiritual intervention.

I add in 852 B the case of Signer Bonatti, where, again, some of the
communications through automatic writing are given as coming from
living persons, though the usual communicator frankly styles itself
" Secondo," as being no more than the automatist's secondary personality.

853. I pass on to a small group of cases which form a curious
transition from these communications infer vivos to communications
which I shall class as coming from the dead. These are cases where the
message professes to come from a deceased person, but shows internal
evidence of having come, telepathically, from the mind of some one
present. I shall begin with a case such as is often cited as proof
(insufficient proof, I think) that a deceased person is communicating.

Our informant, Mr. Lewis, a man of business in Cincinnati, states that
an automatist to whom his (Mr. Lewis's) family were absolutely unknown
wrote a message, with true name, purporting to come from an infant sister


long deceased. Mr. Lewis, naturally enough, accepts this message, as
similar messages have often been accepted, as an indication of his sister's
actual presence.

The account is quoted from Proceedings S.P.R., vol. ix. p. 64.

From Mr. S. LEWIS, 347 Baymiller Avenue, Cincinnati.

April yh, 1888.

On January 28th last I called at the house of some friends ; and on this
occasion there was some planchette writing. The friends I called on, I believe,
are professed Spiritualists. Some four or five of us (I also did) sat around a
table in a full and well-lighted room (lighted the entire evening). The operator
of the planchette was a lady; her husband was at the table, also three other
friends, including myself. Different communications (so called) were received
by different ones at the table, from different friends (as the Spiritualists say),
who have passed into the spirit world. I can't give all communications to-day,
but one I wish to state. But first let me say that many years since in my
father's family the first little one that came to live a short time with them
was a little girl, named Angeline; she lived only about two years and died;
next to this little girl was a brother, named Charles (in after life a clergyman
in the Episcopal Church) ; and next to Charles was another little sister also
named Angeline, and next to her was another sister named B. Ann; then next
to B. Ann appeared, well, your humble servant, myself, to behold many of the
beauties of this beautiful world. So that you see that between the two brief
years of my first little sister, Angeline (ist), and my own coming on this globe
there was born one brother and two sisters ; therefore, my first little sister,
Angeline (ist), I never saw; and only heard my mother (in her lifetime) speak
of Angeline (ist), and I have also seen her name in the records, &c., in the
Bible at my old home.

The operator of the planchette, on the evening of which I am speaking,
knew nothing of my father's family (excepting, of course, myself). I never
had mentioned one word to the operator (of planchette), or any one else in
that little company, anything whatever about my brothers and sisters or even
about my father's family in any way or manner ; and besides, we all lived and
grew up in the north part of the State, not far distant from Lake Erie, while
the operator has (I think) lived in the south part of this State not far distant
from the Ohio River : and there never has been any acquaintance nor any com-
munication between any member of my father's family (or any one else even) to
give any history or information of any kind to the operator, and I certainly
never gave the operator any information whatever until after the occurrence
and the writing on the planchette, which wrote this evening, January 28th last,
the following, viz. : " Mr. Lewis, I am his sister, I am glad you came here
to-night; come again (signed) Angeline."

Now I want to ask, how could originate in the mind of operator any
ideas or thoughts about this little sister Angeline (ist) and myself? I had not
for years past even thought of her until the name was written on the evening
spoken of.

The operator is not, never has been a paid medium. S. LEWIS.

854. Now let us consider a similar message, which might have
produced a similar belief in another informant's mind. But here it so


happened that he tested the alleged fact of death ; and found that the
supposed spirit was still alive at the time of the message. The correspon-
dent, Mr. G. E. Long, is known to Dr. Hodgson.
(From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. ix. p. 65.)

JERSEY CITY, N. ]., October 22nd, 1888.

... I think I wrote you once that about two years ago I had received what
was said to be a most convincing test of spirit-return, convincing to all except
myself. A young lady, a Spiritualist and medium, though not a professional,
nor one that ever received one cent in pay, by means of a lettered board and
toy chair, she holding one leg of the chair and I another, while a third leg of
the chair served as a pointer, gave the following by means of the chair :

First the chair spelt out my name and showed a disposition to get in my
lap ; then it spelled out " GARY," and when I asked for the name of the
" spirit " it spelt out " George (my name), you ought to know me as I am Jim."
But I didn't, and said so. Then, without my looking at the board, it spelt out
" Long Island, Jim Rowe," and " Don't you remember I used to carry you
when you were a little fellow," or words to that effect. I had to acknowledge
the truth of it and also to say that as he was an ignorant man he possibly
intended " GARY " for carry. I must own I was puzzled for the moment. To
make sure of his power I asked that he count the pickets in the fence outside
of the house and I would go out and confirm his statement. Somehow he
couldn't agree to this, and even the medium objected. As a last resort I asked
how long he had been in the spirit land and the answer came, between thirteen
and fourteen years.

Now to the sequel. First it occurred to me a day or two after, that while
all the incidents given were correct, the name should have been given as ROE
instead of ROWE. Second, I was upon Long Island this summer, and the
matter coming to my mind I inquired how long Jim Roe had been dead, and
was informed he died last winter ; so when I received this test so convincing
to the believers the man -was not dead. Yours truly,


On October 26th, 1888, Mr. Long adds :

I do not think that the medium was fraudulent. Her family consists of
Mr. S. and three daughters, she being the youngest. I have found all to be
hypnotic subjects, with the exception of the eldest daughter. They are all
believers in Spiritualism, the youngest having been the medium. They do not
sit now, as it is claimed that the sittings, while rich in spiritualistic satisfaction,
were productive of a state of poor health in the medium.

As I myself have obtained information supposed to have been impossible
for me to have reached, I cannot say for certainty that she had not obtained
information about Jim, but I don't believe she had. As the name Rowe was
being spelled I sat with my eyes turned from the board and had in mind the
name Scudder, and mentally followed the taps of the chair to S C U D when
the medium said, " The name Rowe is given," &c. This would seem to leave
out any involuntary muscular action. Why Rowe should have been given
instead of Roe is still another phase. I wonder whether, if any question of the
Roe family had arisen, I would have had in mind the name of Rowe? If so,
then she produced that which I had long while before been conscious of, but
was at the time unconscious of, and had it coupled with an error in spell-


ing that I might have been guilty of had I myself been called upon at that
moment to spell it. Had she been fraudulent the probability is she would
have spelt it correctly.

It seems to me that the basis of Spiritualism rests mainly upon this phe-
nomenon which men and women in a supernormal condition produce, without
understanding it, and credit it to spiritual agencies.

[A general corroboration of Mr. Long's memory of the incident is added
from a lady present at the time, who does not now recall the details.]

855. The next case was sent to Professor Barrett by a convinced
Spiritualist, as a proof of the reality of intercourse with the departed.
The names were stated, but as I am citing the narrative in a sense
differing from that which its writer meant it to bear, I will not now give
them, and will only say that all three persons concerned are of very good

(From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. ii. p. 236.)

One evening, a few years ago, I had with me two young friends,

Mademoiselle de P., now Lady S., and Mademoiselle de P n, her cousin,

who is Grande Gouvernante to the daughters of the Crown Prince of Germany,
both complete unbelievers in Spiritualism. To amuse them, however, as I

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 22 of 89)