Minot J. (Minot Judson) Savage.

Psychics : facts and theories online

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facts and theories,



Aicthorof" The Irrepressible Conflict between Two World-Theo-
ries^'' " The Religion of Evolution,^'' " The Morals of Evo-
hition" " Christianity the Science of Manhood,'''
'' The Modern Sphinx,'' '' Bluffton," ''Social
Problems,'^ etc.

A beam in darkness : let it grow.'








Copyrighted, 1893



A// rights 7'e served.

Arena Press.



Doctor of Pliilosophy and Professor in Harvard University.

My Dear Professor, —

After having worked with you
on the problems that Psychical Research seeks to
solve, I am glad and proud to associate your name
with mine in this little volume. If all seekers 'were
as unprejudiced as you are, and the jury for the
decision of these questions were as fair-minded, we
might hope not only for speedy but for satisfactory

With affectionate respects,

Dec. 28, 1892.


This little volume is made up of certain papers
which have appeared in The Areyia^ and of one
which was published in The Forum for December,
1889. The latter is re-published here by consent.

Since the appearance of these articles a hundred
questions have been asked. I propose to take
occasion of this preface to answer some of them a
little more fully than is j)racticable by letter, and
also to save myself the labor of writing the same
things to so many different persons.

No end of people write and ask if these phenom-
ena may not be explained by this theory or that.
It may not be out of the way to say that one who
has been studying the matter for eighteen 3 ears,
has probably considered, with some care, all the
theories he could think of. He will be grateful,
however, for an}' thing, by way of suggestion, that
is not alread}^ long familiar.

A word, also, to those who send accounts of
experiences. However interesting they may be,
or, however conclusive to those immediately con-


cernecl, they are generally quite worthless as evi-
dence to others. This, for two reasons : First, in
most cases, no record is made at the time. So it is
always open to an objector to say that the memory
is unreliable. And, secondly, they are not accom-
panied by any corroborative testimony of others.
It cannot be too strongly, or too emphatically said
that those who have these experiences should take
pains to put their stories into evidential shape, so
that they may help in the solution of the great

There is a class of objectors who say, " If my
friends in the spirit world can come and com-
municate at all, why do the}^ not come directl}^ to
me ? Why must I go to a medium ? " For reply, I
will ask another question. If a man can com-
municate with me along a telegraph wire, \\\\y
can he not as Avell send the message along a board
fence ? I do not know. I only know that elec-
tricity will work along a wire, but will not along
a fence. Why can I not play the piano as well as
Blind Tom, since I may claim, without immodesty,
to be more than his intellectual equal ? I do not
know. Perhaps it will be as well to recognize
facts, and not deny them because we do not know
ivhy they are facts.

Then there are seekers who seem to me quite
as unreasonable as are some objectors. They will
go to a psychic and ask to be put in communica-


tion with a particular friend inside of five minutes.
Now, if my friends are alive in a spirit world, and
even if they are sometimes able to communicate,
is it quite reasonable for me to expect them to
be hanging about the door of any particular
" medium " I may take a notion to visit ? Per-
haps they niciy have something else to do in the
spirit world. I hope so, at any rate. If not, I
should not like myself to live there.

It ought also to be remembered that failures are
quite as satisfactory, sometimes, as successes. If
it is onl}^ a clever trick, then there need be no
failures. If the psychic is honest, occasional fail-
ures are to be expected. For all that an honest
psychic can do is to sit and passively await results.

One more caution needs to be pointed out.
Some person, just interested, starts out and appears
to think he is going to settle the matter in a week.
Unless prepared for a long, serious and oftentimes
disappointing study, people had better let it alone,
and leave it to those better fitted for the arduous
task. A person needs to be trained and experienced
as an observer; he needs to know ^sdiat is good
evidence, and what is not ; he needs to know the
possibilities and resources of trickery ; and then,
perhaps, his conclusions may be worth something.

People who propose to visit Boston or XewYork
are constantly writing and asking me to give them
the address of some "reliable medium." I almost


always decline. For, first, I know ver}^ few
advertising mediums to whom any first-comer can be
sent. And, secondly, though I may have had some
satisfactory experience, it does not at all follow
that it can be repeated or duplicated, to order, in
the case of another. Most of my own experi-
ences have been in the presence of personal friends
to whom I should not be at liberty to send a

I am often asked if I am a Spiritualist. Some
Avho hate spiritualism occasionall}^ charge me with
being one ; while some Spirtualists express the
opinion that I am a sort of Xicodemus, ayIio fears
to avow his belief in daylight. I may as well
answer that question here. No, in the popular
acceptation of that word, I am not a Spiritualist.
As the term is commonly used, it covers much
which I do not believe, and much which is most
distasteful to me. Should I now adopt that name,
1 should be seriously misrepresenting my position.
Even though I sliould come at last to hold the
theory that communication for the spirit world
alone could explain ni}^ facts, even that would not
make me what is generally understood as a Spirit-

Spiritualists, for one thing, seem to think that
their ism is a new reliirion. This claim seems


to me to be hasty and absurd. The joroof that the
" dead " are alive and can communicate with the


living would only put certainty in the place of
hope as to the destiny of man. It would not touch
or change any one of the great essentials of my
religious creed or life. I certainly liope that con-
tinued existence may be demonstrated. But
" Spiritualism " is a good deal more than that, and
many other things besides that. So, as the term is
now used, I cannot wear it.

People often ask Avhy, if there is anything in
these so-called manifestations, the}" have waited all
these ages and have not appeared before. There
are stories of similar happenings as marking every
age of history; but, as reported, they have been
only occasional, and they have not attracted any
serious study. Let us note the stages of evolution
as having a possible bearing on this point. First,
muscle ruled the world. Then came cunning, the
lower form of brain power. Xext, the intellect
became recognized as king. After that, the moral
ideal showed itself mightier than muscle or brain.
To-day it is the strongest force on earth. No king-
dares go to war without claiming, at least, that his
cause is a righteous one. Now it is not meant that
either of these has ruled the world alone, for the}"
have overlapped each other, as have the advancing
forms of life. And as heralding the advent of each
new stage of progress, there have been tentative
and sporadic manifestations of the next higher,
while still the lower was dominant. Is it not then


ill line with all that has gone before, that the next
step should be a larger and higher manifestation of
the spiritual ? And, in this case, are not the ten-
tative and sporadic manifestations reported from
the past just Avhat might have been expected ?
'' First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn
in the ear." " That was not first which is spirit-
ual, but that which is natural ; and afterward that
which is spiritual."

With these suggestions, I offer the reader the
following facts and some discussion as to theories.
If the facts force us to the reasonable conclusion

" There is no death, what seems so is transition,"

why should any one shrink from having proved
that which all men hope ? I hesitate, as yet, to
say that there can he no other explanation ; but I
frankly admit that I can now see no other which
seems to me adequate to account for all the facts.
If any one can find another explanation, I am read}^
to accept it. For what any reasonable man wishes
is only the truth.

M. J. Savage.
Boston, Dee. m, '92,





I AM to tell some stories ; others are to
explain them — if they can. Not that I mean
to shirk any responsibility. I am ready with
my opinions as to what seems to me reasonable
in the way of theory, and what unreasonable,
only I do not propose to dogmatize ; and I am
ready to listen to the suggested explanations
of anybody else.

The one thing I k}ww about these stories is
that theij are true. T say this advisedly and
weighing my words. If in the case of any one
of them, I only tliinlv or believe it is true, I
shall say so ; but nearly all of them I know to
be true — know it in the same sense in which I


man should tell us that he knew of a country
where water did not freeze at 32 ^ Fahrenheit.
The scientifically impossible is one thing ; while
the improbable, the uncommon, or the super-
normal, is quite another thing. The super-
normal may be true. While, then, the prob-
abilities are against it, the proof may be such
as to render it credible. Indeed, it is conceiv-
able that the proof may become so strong as to
make incredulity absurd and unscientific. The
attitude of caution is rational ; but the attitude
of those who " know " a thing cannot be true,
merely because it is unusual, or because it does
not fit into the theory of things which they
happen to hold — this is irrational.

What looks like proof of certain supernormal
happenings has been accumulating so rapidly
during the last few years, that public attention
has been turned in this direction as never
before. Psychic investigation is becoming
" respectable." It will be fortunate for it if it
does not become a fashionable fad for those
who want a new sensation. It is curious, and


would be ludicrous were it not sad, to watch
the progress of these things. " You ought to
be thankful to me," said John Weiss, one
morning, as I met him on Washington Street,
" for I have been killed to make room for you."
Yes, brave men were professionally and socially
killed, to make our religious liberty possible.
And now even the "Orthodox" get great credit
for being " liberal," and the blood-bought hb-
erty is the hobby of snobs. Always some
Winkelreid makes way for liberty at the price
of fatal thrusts of spears.

A world-famous man. Church of England
clergyman and scientist in one, said to me one
day, " I do not talk about my psychic experi-
ences and knowledge with everybody. I used
to think all who had anything to do with these
things were fools ; and I do not enjoy being
ccdled a fooiy But now the danger is that the
society fools will go to dabbling in the matter.
Said another man to me, a scholar known on
two continents, " Suppose you and I should
come to believe, it would only be a coujyle more


cranks !^^ But it begins to look as though
the "cranks" might get to be in the majority,
when a famous German philosopher can say
that " The man who any longer denies clair-
voyance does not show that he is prejudiced ;
he only shows that he is igiiorant.^^

So much by way of preface to my stories.
It seems to me that all these points, at least,
ought to be kept in mind by one who reads
them and seriously tries to think out what they
may mean. Now to the stories themselves.

I. Let me begin by telling about some rap-
pings. Do these ever occur except in cases
where they are purposely produced ? Are they
always a trick ? A vast amount of ingenuity
has been expended by those who have thought
they could explain these things as the work of
toe joints or other anatomical peculiarities.
It will be something to find out that genuine
raps do occur, whatever theory may be adopted
in explanation of them.

I know a regular physician living not a
thousand miles from Boston. His wife, I


should call a psychic, though she does not call
herself so. Neither she nor her husband has
ever had anything to do with spirituahsm, nor
are they believers. Where they formerly lived
they were continually troubled by strange and
unaccountable happenings ; but though they
moved to their present residence, the happen-
ings — ^with one important exception — have not
ceased. No attempt has been made to reduce
these happenings to order, or to find out
whether there is any discoverable intelligence
connected with them. The doctor vaguely
holds the opinion that they indicate some ab-
normal nervous condition on the part of his
wife. So far the whole matter has been treated
from that point of view. But what is it that
happens? Sometimes, for two hours on a
stretch, the doctor and his wife are kept wide
awake at night by loud rappings on the head-
board of their bed. In accordance with his
nervous theory, the doctor will hold his wife
with one arm, while the hand of the other arm
is pressed against the headboard, in the attempt


thus to put an end to the disturbance. Said
the doctor to me one day, " If anybody thinks
these rappings are not genuine, I should like
to have hiin go through some of my experi-

He and his wife will be sitting^ by the draw-
ing-room table of an evening. They will be
conscious of a stream of cold air passing by
them, — an accompaniment of psychic facts
well known to investigators, — and then the
" trouble " will begin. Sometimes it is only
raps. At other times they will hear a noise on
the floor of the room above, and will think
their boy has fallen out of bed; but on going
up to see, they find him quietly asleep. Some-
times there will be a loud crash in the corner
of the room over the furnace register, as though
a basket of crockery had been thrown down
and broken. They occupy the house alone,
and have no other way of explaining these
unpleasant facts than the one alluded to above.

I give this case because of the undoubted oc-
currence of these thinofs in the house of one


who is not a believer nor even an investigator.
There is no expectancy or invitation of them,
or any superstitious attitude of mind towards
them. They are, in this case, plam, hold,
apparent facts, as real as is breakfast or supper,
or the existence of a brick in the sidewalk.

The "one important exception" referred
to above is this : In the house they formerly
occupied, the doctor's Avife sometimes saw the
figure of a woman. Others were said to have
seen it also. It was never visible to the doctor.
There is the story of a tragic death which con-
nects this woman with this particular house.
Those who believe in haunted houses would
thus be able to explain why this figure is never
seen in the house at present occupied by the
doctor's family.

Here then are raps not to be ex^ilained as
the conscious, purposed work of anj visible
person ; nor can they be explained as the result
of the shrinking of boards, as the work of rats
or mice, or in any ordinary way. Starting
with facts like these, many persons have sup-


posed themselves to get into communication
with invisible intelligences who had taken these
ways of attracting attention. Nothing of this
sort has been even attempted here. I simply
set forth the facts and the reality of the raps.

II. I will now tell a brief story of one of my
own experiences in this line.

Until within the past year or two there lived
in New York city a lady who, when a girl, had
been somcAvhat known as a " medium." But
for twenty or thirty years she led a quiet home-
life with her husband, a well-known business-
man. But intimates in the house told stories
of remarkable occurrences. For example, a
friend of this family has told me how, when at
breakfast, after having spent the night there,
raps would come on the table ; and by means
of them, how long and pleasant conversations
Avould be held with those who once had walked
the earth, but now were in the unseen. This
is his belief.

Having occasion to pass through New York,
this friend, above referred to, gave me a letter


of introduction, saying he knew I would be
welcomed if I called at the house of this lady.
I had never seen her, nor she me, but one
morning I presented myself with my letter. I
was shown into the back parlor. Carpenters
were at work on a conservatory opening out
of this room where the lady had received me.
They made more or less noise, but not enough
to interfere Tvdth our conversation. Soon I be-
gan to hear raps, apparently on the floor, and
then in different parts of the room. On this,
the lady remarked, simply, " Evidently there is
some one here who wishes to communicate with
you. Let us go into the front parlor, where it
will be quieter." This we did, the raps follow-
ing us, or rather beginning again as soon
as we were seated. At her suggestion I then
took pencil and paper (which I happened to
have in my bag), and sat at one side of a
marble-top table, while she sat at the other
side in a rocker and some distance away. Then
she said, "As one way of getting at the
matter, suppose you do this : You know what


friends you have in the spirit world. Write
now a Kst of names — any names you please,
real or fictitious, only among them someAvhere
include the names of some friends in the spirit
world who, you think, might like to communi-
cate with you, if such a thing were jDossible."
I then began. I held a paper so that she
could not possibly have seen what I wrote,
even though she had not been so far away. I
took special pains that no movement or facial
expression should betray me. Meantime she
sat quietly rocking and talking. As I wrote,
perhaps at the eighth or tenth name, I began
to write the name of a lady friend who had
not been long dead. I had hardly written the
first letter before there came three loud, dis-
tinct raps. Then my hostess said, '' This
friend of yours, of course, knows where she
died. Write now a list of ]3laces, including in
it the place of her death, and see if she will
recognize it." This I did, beginning with
Vienna, and so on with any that occurred to
me. Again, I had hardly begun to write the


real name, when once more came the three
raps. And so on, concerning other matters.
I speak of these only as specimens.

Now, I cannot say that in this particular
case the raps were not caused by the toe joints
of the lady. The thing that puzzles me, in
this theory, is as to how the toe joints happened
to know the name oi my friend, where she died,
etc., which facts the lady herself did not know,
and never had known.

Certain theories, as explanations of certain
facts, are already regarded as demonstrated by
those familiar with the results of psychic inves-
tigation. Among these are hypnotism, clair-
voyance, telepathy, and the agency of the sub-
conscious self as active about matters with
which the conscious self is not familiar. Can
the simplest, genuine rap be explained as com-
ing" under either of these? No one has the
slightest idea how, and as yet there is nothing
in this direction that, even by courtesy, can be
called a theory ; but it may be possible that
these raps are produced by psychic power. If



SO, as in Case 1., the psychic herself does not
know even that she does it, much less hoio.
Ave they the work of the sub-conscious self ?
No sub-conscious self has ever claimed to do it.
And if so, from what source does this sub-
conscious self, as in Case II., obtain a knowl-
edge of facts the psychic never knew ? To ex-
plain these cases in accordance with any yet
accepted theories, mind-reading must also be
introduced. This New York lady must have
been able, not only to produce the raps, con-
sciously or unconsciously, but also to read my
mind and tell me things she never knew before.
But these things, if they do no more, reveal
such an extension of mental power as to lead
us into a world vastly unlike that which is rec-
ognized by ordinary scientific theories ; and it
may be well for us to be on our guard lest we
invent theories more decidedly supernormal
than the facts we seek to explain.

IV. My next story goes far beyond any of
these, and, — well, I will ask the reader to decide
as to whether there is any help in hypnotism


or clairvoyance or mind-reading, or any of the
selves of the psychic^ conscious, or sub-con-

Early on Friday morning, Jan. 18, 1884, the
steamer " City of Columbus," en route from
Boston to Savannah, was wrecked on the rocks
off Gay Head, the southwestern point of
Martha's Vineyard. Among the passengers
was an elderly widow, the sister-in-law of one
of my friends, and the mother of another.

This lady, Mrs. K., and her sister, Mrs. B.,
had both been interested in psychic investiga-
tion, and had held sittings with a psychic whom
I will call Mrs. E. Mrs. B. was in poor health,
and was visited regularly for treatment on
every Monday by the psychic, Mrs. E. On
occasion of these professional visits, Mrs. B.
and her sister, Mrs. K., would frequently have
a sitting. This Mrs. E., the psychic, had been
known to all the parties concerned for many
years, and was held in the highest respect.
She lived in a town fifteen or twenty miles
from Boston. This, then, was the situation of


affairs when the wreck of the steamer took

The papers of Friday evening, January 18,
of course contained accounts of the disaster.
On Saturday, January 19, Dr. K., my friend,
the son of Mrs. K., hastened down to the beach
in search of the body of his mother. No trace
whatever was discovered. He became satisfied
that she was among the lost, but was not able
to find the body. Saturday night he returned
to the city. Sunday passed by. On Monday
morning, the 21st, Mrs. E. came from her coun-
try home to give the customary treatment to
her patient, Mrs. B. Dr. K. called on his aunt
while Mrs. E. was there, and they decided to
have a sitting, to see if there would come to
them anything that even purported to be news
from the missing mother and sister. Imme-
diately Mrs. K. claimed to be present ; and
along with many other matters, she told them
three separate and distinct things which, if
true, it was utterly impossible for either of
them to have known.


1. She told them that, after the steamer had
sailed, she had been able to exchange her in-
side stateroom for an outside one. All that
any of them knew, was that she had been
obliged to take an inside room, and that she
did not want it.

2. She told them that she played whist with
some friends in the steamer saloon during the
evening -, and she further told them the names
of the ones Avho had made up the table.

3. Then came the startling and utterly un-
expected statement, — '^ I do not want you to
think of me as having been drowned. I Avas
not drowned. When the alarm came, I was in
my berth. Being frightened, I jumped up,
and rushed out of the stateroom. In the pas-
sage-way, I was suddenly struck a blow on my
head, and instantly it was over. So do not
think of me as having gone through the

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Online LibraryMinot J. (Minot Judson) SavagePsychics : facts and theories → online text (page 1 of 8)