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A. " Yes, pray. She and all of us are helped when you devote your talents
willingly to aid us."

Q. What do you mean ?

A. " In advocating and advancing our mission with care and judgment.
Then we are permeated with joy. May the Supreme bless you." [Book VIII.

pp. 78-83-]

" X Rector."

[I have inquired of my mother and find the particulars given are exactly
true. She wonders how I remember things that occurred when I was only
5 years old ! I have not ventured to say how I got the information, believing
that it would be unwise and useless. My father I can get nothing out of about
the trap-door. He either does not remember or will not say.]

[April qth, 1874. My father has remembered this incident. A trap-door
led on to the roof in the house he occupied at Donnington. The house was
double roofed, and a good view could be had from it. F. K. on a visit wanted
to go there, and got fixed half-way amid great laughter.

\ \ Elevation of double roof.]

[We have verified Mrs. Westoby's death in the Register of Deaths.
F. W. H. M.]

(2) President Garfield. This is a communication made, not by the
departed spirit itself, but by friends.


September zoth, 1881, ro A.M. This morning, on waking at 5.54 A.M., I
was aware of a spirit who desired to communicate. It turned out to be
Mentor, with him B. Franklin, [Epes] Sargent and others. They told me
in effect " The President is gone. We were with him to the last. He died
suddenly, and all our efforts to keep him were unavailing. We laboured hard,
for his life was of incalculable value to our country. He would have done
more to rescue it from shame than any one now left." I asked why it had
been deemed necessary to come to me with the news. It was replied that a
period of great activity in the spirit world was now being renewed, and that
my sympathies with him and with his work, and their own knowledge of me,
had inclined them to bring the news. The Daily News contained no tidings,
though the bulletins were bad. It seemed, on the contrary, that the news of the
previous night which they contained was a little more favourable. I walked
down to the station feeling convinced that the news would come, but up to
11.30 A.M. could not hear of it. About 12.37 I again went and found that a
rumour had reached Bedford. The evening papers Globe and Echo which
I purchased at 4.30 P.M. gave me the first mundane information of the event.
It is now stated that he died at 10.50 P.M. on the iQth (yesterday). That in
English time is 3.50 A.M. of this day (2oth) or two hours before I woke and got
the message.

I have since learned that the death was sudden, and the remarkable
fluctuations are not inconsistent with efforts such as described.

September 2ist. The latest reports fix 10.35, not 10.50 P.M. [or 3.35 A.M.
English time] as the exact time of death.



956 A. Reports and discussions on the case of Mrs. Piper have
been published in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vi. pp. 436-659 ; vol. viii.
pp. 1-167 ; vol. xiii. pp. 284-582 ; vol. xiv. pp. 6-78 ; vol. xv. pp. 16-52 ;
vol. xvi. pp. 1-649.

The following passages are quoted from the report by Professor
William James, Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vi. pp. 651-59 :

I made Mrs. Piper's acquaintance in the autumn of 1885. My wife's
mother, Mrs. Gibbens, had been told of her by a friend, during the previous
summer, and never having seen a medium before, had paid her a visit out of
curiosity. She returned with the statement that Mrs. P. had given her a long
string of names of members of the family, mostly Christian names, together
with facts about the persons mentioned and their relations to each other, the
knowledge of which on her part was incomprehensible without supernormal
powers. My sister-in-law went the next day, with still better results, as she
related them. Amongst other things, the medium had accurately described
the circumstances of the writer of a letter which she held against her forehead,
after Miss G. had given it to her. The letter was in Italian, and its writer was
known to but two persons in this country.

[I may add that on a later occasion my wife and I took another letter from
this same person to Mrs. P., who went on to speak of him in a way which
identified him unmistakably again. On a third occasion, two years later, my
sister-in-law and I being again with Mrs. P., she reverted in her trance to
these letters, and then gave us the writer's name, which she said she had not
been able to get on the former occasion.]

But to revert to the beginning. I remember playing the esprit fort on that
occasion before my feminine relatives, and seeking to explain by simple con-
siderations the marvellous character of the facts which they brought back.
This did not, however, prevent me from going myself a few days later, in
company with my wife, to get a direct personal impression. The names of
none of us up to this meeting had been announced to Mrs. P., and Mrs. J. and
I were, of course, careful to make no reference to our relatives who had
preceded. The medium, however, when entranced, repeated most of the names
of " spirits " whom she had announced on the two former occasions and added
others. The names came with difficulty, and were only gradually made perfect
My wife's father's name of Gibbens was announced first as Niblin, then as
Giblin. A child Herman (whom we had lost the previous year) had his name
spelt out as Herrin. I think that in no case were both Christian and surnames
given on this visit. But the facts predicated of the persons named made it in
many instances impossible not to recognise the particular individuals who were
talked about. We took particular pains on this occasion to give the Phinuit
control no help over his difficulties and to ask no leading questions. In the
light of subsequent experience I believe this not to be the best policy. For it
often happens, if you give this trance-personage a name or some small fact for
the lack of which he is brought to a standstill, that he will then start off with
a copious flow of additional talk, containing in itself an abundance of " tests."

My impression after this first visit was, that Mrs. P. was either possessed c
supernormal powers, or knew the members of my wife's family by sight and had
by some lucky coincidence become acquainted with such a multitude of
domestic circumstances as to produce the startling impression which she did.


My later knowledge of her sittings and personal acquaintance with her has led
me absolutely to reject the latter explanation, and to believe that she has
supernormal powers.

I visited her a dozen times that winter, sometimes alone, sometimes with
my wife, once in company with the Rev. M. J. Savage. I sent a large num-
ber of persons to her, wishing to get the result of as manyy?rj/ sittings as
possible. I made appointments myself for most of these people, whose names
were in no instance announced to the medium. In the spring of 1886 I
published a brief " Report of the Committee on Mediumistic Phenomena " in
the Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, of which the
following is an extract :

" I have myself witnessed a dozen of her trances, and have testimony at first
hand from twenty-five sitters, all but one of whom were virtually introduced to
Mrs. P. by myself. Of five of the sittings we have verbatim stenographic
reports. Twelve of the sitters, who in most cases sat singly, got nothing from
the medium but unknown names or trivial talk. Four of these were members
of the Society, and of their sittings verbatim reports were taken. Fifteen of
the sitters were surprised at the communications they received, names and facts
being mentioned at the first interview which it seemed improbable should have
been known to the medium in a normal way. The probability that she pos-
sessed no clue to the sitter's identity was, I believe, in each and all of these
fifteen cases, sufficient. But of only one of them is there a stenographic
report ; so that, unfortunately for the medium, the evidence in her favour is,
although more abundant, less exact in quality than some of that which will be
counted against her. Of these fifteen sitters, five, all ladies, were blood relatives,
and two (I myself being one) were men connected by marriage with the family
to which they belonged. Two other connections of this family are included in
the twelve who got nothing. The medium showed a most startling intimacy
with this family's affairs, talking of many matters known to no one outside, and
which gossip could not possibly have conveyed to her ears. The details would
prove nothing to the reader, unless printed in extenso, with full notes by the
sitters. It reverts, after all, to personal conviction. My own conviction is not
evidence, but it seems fitting to record it. I am persuaded of the medium's
honesty, and of the genuineness of her trance ; and although at first disposed
to think that the 'hits' she made were either lucky coincidences, or the result
of knowledge on her part of who the sitter was and of his or her family affairs,
I now believe her to be in possession of a power as yet unexplained."

... As for the explanation of her trance-phenomena, I have none to
offer. The primA facie theory, which is that of spirit-control, is hard to
reconcile with the extreme triviality of most of the communications. What
real spirit, at last able to revisit his wife on this earth, but would find some-
thing better to say than that she had changed the place of his photograph ?
And yet that is the sort of remark to which the spirits introduced by the
mysterious Phinuit are apt to confine themselves. I must admit, however,
that Phinuit has other moods. He has several times, when my wife and myself
were sitting together with him, suddenly started off on long lectures to us
about our inward defects and outward shortcomings, which were very earnest,
as well as subtile morally and psychologically, and impressive in a high
degree. These discourses, though given in Phinuit's own person, were very
different in style from his more usual talk, and probably superior to anything


that the medium could produce in the same line in her natural state.
Phinuit himself, however, bears every appearance of being a fictitious being.
His French, so far as he has been able to display it to me, has been limited
to a few phrases of salutation, which may easily have had their rise in the
medium's "unconscious" memory; he has never been able to understand
my French ; and the crumbs of information which he gives about his earthly
career are, as you know, so few, vague, and unlikely sounding, as to suggest
the romancing of one whose stock of materials for invention is excessively
reduced. He is, however, as he actually shows himself, a definite human
individual, with immense tact and patience, and great desire to please and
be regarded as infallible. With respect to the rough and slangy style which
he so often affects, it should be said that the Spiritualistic tradition here in
America is all in favour of the " spirit-control " being a grotesque and some-
what saucy personage. The Zeitgeist has always much to do with shaping
trance-phenomena, so that a "control" of that temperament is what one
would naturally expect. Mr. Hodgson will already haye informed you of
the similarity between Phinuit's name and that of the "control" of the
medium at whose house Mrs. Piper was first entranced. The most remark-
able thing about the Phinuit personality seems to me the extraordinary
tenacity and minuteness of his memory. The medium has been visited
by many hundreds of sitters, half of them, perhaps, being strangers who
have come but once. To each Phinuit gives an hourful of disconnected
fragments of talk about persons living, dead, or imaginary, and events past,
future, or unreal. What normal waking memory could keep this chaotic mass
of stuff together ? Yet Phinuit does so ; for the chances seem to be, that if a
sitter should go back after years of interval, the medium, when once entranced,
would recall the minutest incidents of the earlier interview, and begin by
recapitulating much of what had then been said. So far as I can discover,
Mrs. Piper's waking memory is not remarkable, and the whole constitution of
her trance-memory is something which I am at a loss to understand. But I
will say nothing more of Phinuit, because, aided by our friends in France, you
are already systematically seeking to establish or disprove him as a former
native of this world.

Phinuit is generally the medium of communication between other spirits
and the sitter. But two other soi-disant spirits have, in my presence, assumed
direct " control " of Mrs. Piper. One purported to be the late Mr. E. The
other was an aunt of mine who died last year in New York. I have already
sent you the only account I can give of my earliest experiences with the
" E. control." The first messages came through Phinuit, about a year ago,
when, after two years of non-intercourse with Mrs. Piper, she lunched one day
at our house and gave my wife and myself a sitting afterwards. It was bad
enough ; and I confess that the human being in me was so much stronger
than the man of science that I was too disgusted with Phinuit's tiresome
twaddle even to note it down. When later the phenomenon developed into
pretended direct speech from E. himself I regretted this, for a complete record
would have been useful. I can now merely say that neither then, nor at any
other time, was there to my mind the slightest inner verisimilitude in the per-
sonation. But the failure to produce a more plausible E. speaks directly in
favour of the non-participation of the medium's conscious mind i the perform-
ance. She could so easily have coached herself to be more effective. . . .


The aunt who purported to " take control " directly was a much better
personation, having a good deal of the cheery strenuousness of speech of the
original. She spoke, by the way, on this occasion, of the condition of health
of two members of the family in New York, of which we knew nothing at the
time, and which was afterwards corroborated by letter. We have repeatedly
heard from Mrs. Piper in trance things of which we were not at the moment
aware. If the supernormal element in the phenomenon be thought-transfer-
ence it is certainly not that of the sitter's conscious thought. It is rather the
reservoir of his potential knowledge which is tapped ; and not always that, but
the knowledge of some distant living person, as in the incident last quoted.
It has sometimes even seemed to me that too much intentness on the sitter's
part to have Phinuit say a certain thing acts as a hindrance. . . .

956 B. The next passage I quote from the Introduction by myself
Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vi. pp. 436-442, to the records of sittings given
by Mrs. Piper in England, 1889-90 :

Mrs. Piper's case has been more or less continuously observed by Professor
James and others almost from the date of the first sudden inception of the
trance, some five years ago. Mr. Hodgson has been in the habit of bringing
acquaintances of his own to Mrs. Piper, without giving their names ; and many
of these have heard from the trance-utterance facts about their dead relations,
&c., which they feel sure that Mrs. Piper could not have known. Mr. Hodgson
also had Mr. and Mrs. Piper watched or " shadowed " by private detectives for
some weeks, with the view of discovering whether Mr. Piper (who is employed
in a large store in Boston, U.S.A.) went about inquiring into the affairs of
possible " sitters," or whether Mrs. Piper received letters from friends or
agents conveying information. This inquiry was pushed pretty closely, but
absolutely nothing was discovered which could throw suspicion on Mrs. Piper,
who is now aware of the procedure, but has the good sense to recognise
the legitimacy I may say the scientific necessity of this kind of probation.

It was thus shown that Mrs. Piper made no discoverable attempt to acquire
knowledge even about persons whose coming she had reason to expect. Still
less could she have been aware of the private concerns of persons brought
anonymously to her house at Mr. Hodgson's choice. And a yet further obstacle
to such clandestine knowledge was introduced by her removal to England at
our request in November 1889. Professor Lodge met her on the Liverpool
landing-stage, November igth, and conducted her to a hotel, where I joined
her on November 2oth, and escorted her and her children to Cambridge. She
stayed first in my house ; and I am convinced that she brought with her a very-
slender knowledge of English affairs or English people. The servant who
attended on her and on her two young children was chosen by myself, and was
a young woman from.a country village whom I had full reason to believe to be
both trustworthy and also quite ignorant of my own or my friends' affairs.
For the most part I had myself not determined upon the persons whom I
would invite to sit with her. I chose these sitters in great measure by chance;
several of them were not resident in Cambridge ; and (except in one or two
cases where anonymity would have been hard to preserve) I brought them
to her under false names, sometimes introducing them only when the trance
had already begun.

In one sitting, for instance, which will be cited below, I learnt by accident


that a certain lady, here styled Mrs. A., was in Cambridge; a private lady, not
a member of the Society for Psychical Research, who had never before visited
my house, and whose name had certainly never been mentioned before Mrs.
Piper. I introduced this lady as Mrs. Smith ; and I think that when the
reader is estimating the correct facts which were told to her, he may at any
rate dismiss from his mind the notion that Mrs. Piper had been able either to
divine that these facts would be wanted, or to get at them even if she had
known that her success depended on their production on that day.

Mrs. Piper while in England was twice in Cambridge, twice in London, and
twice in Liverpool, at dates arranged by ourselves ; her sitters (almost always
introduced under false names) belonged to several quite different social groups,
and were frequently unacquainted with each other. Her correspondence was
addressed to my care, and I believe that almost every letter which she received
was shown to one or other of us. When in London she stayed in lodgings
which we selected; when at Liverpool, in Professor Lodge's house; and when
at Cambridge, in Professor Sidgwick's or my own. No one of her hosts, or of
her hosts' wives, detected any suspicious act or word.

We took great pains to avoid giving information in talk ; and a more com-
plete security is to be found in the fact that we were ourselves ignorant of many
of the facts given as to our friends' relations, &c. In the case of Mrs.Verrall,
for instance [cited in the Report, p. 584], no one in Cambridge except Mrs.
Verrall herself could have supplied the bulk of the information given; and
some of the facts given (as will be seen) Mrs. Verrall herself did not know.
As regards my own affairs, I have not thought it worth while to cite in extenso
such statements as might possibly have been got up beforehand ; since Mrs.
Piper of course knew that I should be one of her sitters. Such facts as that
I once had an aunt, " Cordelia Marshall, more commonly called Corrie,"
might have been learnt, though I do not think that they were learnt, from
printed or other sources. But I do not think that any larger proportion of
such accessible facts was given to me than to an average sitter, previously
unknown; nor were there any of those subtler points which could so easily
have been made by dint of scrutiny of my books or papers. On the other
hand, in my case, as in the case of several other sitters, there were messages
purporting to come from a friend who had been dead many years, and men-
tioning circumstances which I believe that it would have been quite impossible
for Mrs. Piper to have discovered.

I am also acquainted with some of the facts given to other sitters, and
suppressed as too intimate, or as involving secrets not the property of the sitter
alone. I may say that, so far as my own personal conviction goes, the utterance
of one or two of these facts is even more conclusive of supernormal knowledge
than the correct statement of dozens of names of relations, &c., which the sitter
had no personal motive for concealing.

On the whole, I believe that all observers, both in America and in England,
who have seen enough of Mrs. Piper in both states to be able to form a judg-
ment, will agree in affirming (i) that many of the facts given could not have
been learnt even by a skilled detective; (2) that to learn others of them,
although possible, would have needed an expenditure of money as well as of
time which it seems impossible to suppose that Mrs. Piper could have met ;
and (3) that her conduct has never given any ground whatever for supposing
her capable of fraud or trickery. Few persons have been so long and so


carefully observed; and she has left on all observers the impression of
thorough uprightness, candour, and honesty.

On the question of fraud, see also the statements of Professor Lodge,
Proceedings S.P.R., vol. vi. pp. 443-7 ; of Dr. Walter Leaf, pp. 558-9 of
the same Proceedings ; pp. 1-9 of the report by Dr. Hodgson in Pro-
ceedings S.P.R., vol. viii. ; pp. 6-1 1 of the report by Professor Newbold
in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xiv. ; and pp. 5-9 of the report by Professor
Hyslop in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. xvi.

957 A. From the report by Professor Lodge, Proceedings S.P.R.,
vol. vi. pp. 448-53-

The personality active and speaking in the trance is apparently so distinct
from the personality of Mrs. Piper that it is permissible and convenient to call
it by another name. It does not differ from her as Hyde did from Jekyll, by
being a personification of the vicious portion of the same individual. There is
no special contrast, any more than there is any special similarity. It strikes
one as a different personality altogether, and the name by which it introduces
itself when asked, viz., " Dr. Phinuit," is as convenient as any other, and can be
used wholly irrespective of hypothesis.

I would not in using this name be understood as thereby committing myself
to any hypothesis regarding the nature of this apparently distinct and individual
mind. At the same time the name is useful as expressing compactly what is
naturally prominent to the feeling of any sitter, that he is not talking to Mrs.
Piper at all. The manner, mode of thought, tone, trains of idea, are all
different. You are speaking no longer to a lady, but to a man, an old man, a
medical man. All this cannot but be vividly felt even by one who considered
the impersonation a consummate piece of acting.

Whether such a man as Dr. Phinuit ever existed I do not know, nor from
the evidential point of view do I greatly care. It will be interesting to have
the fact ascertained if possible ; but I cannot see that it will much affect the
question of genuineness. For that he did not ever exist is a thing practically
impossible to prove. While, if he did exist, it can be easily supposed that Mrs.
Piper took care enough that her impersonation should have so much rational

It can be objected, why, if he was a French doctor, has he so entirely for-
gotten his French ? For though he speaks in a Frenchified manner, I am told
that he cannot sustain a conversation in that language. I am unable to meet
this objection by anything beyond the obvious suggestion that Mrs. Piper's
brain is the medium utilised, and that she is likewise ignorant. But one would
think that it would be a sufficiently patent objection to deter an impersonator
from assuming a role of purely unnecessary difficulty, and one which it was
impossible satisfactorily to maintain.

Admitting, however, that " Dr. Phinuit " is probably a mere name for Mrs.
Piper's secondary consciousness, one cannot help being struck by the singular
correctness of his medical diagnoses. In fact, the medical statements, coincid-
ing as they do with truth just as well as those of a regular physician, but given
without any 'ordinary examination and sometimes without even seeing the
patient, must be held as part of the evidence establishing a strong primd facie
case for the existence of some abnormal means of acquiring information. Not

957 A] TO CHAPTER IX 605

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 80 of 89)