The following is a stenographic report of a meeting of the Commission, to consider the reports offered by several members of seances with Dr. Henry Slade, who came to Philadelphia to meet the Commission. As he refused to sit with more than three of the Commission at a time, it was necessary to visit him in sections. Arrangements had been made to have all the members sit with him in turn, but it was soon decided that continuity of observation was valuable, and certain members were appointed to do the whole work.
January 21, 1885
January 22, 1885
January 23, 1885
January 24, 1885
January 26, 1885
January 27, 1885
Discussion & Conclusions
PHILADA., February 7th, 1885.
A formal session of the Seybert Committee was held to-day at 8 o'clock P.M., at the residence of Mr. Furness, No. 222 West Washington Square.
The session was devoted to consideration of the seances held with Dr. Henry Slade, from January 21st to January 28th inclusive.
The following is a compilation of written notes and verbal comments upon the seances by members of the Committee:
Mr. Coleman Sellers (referring to notes):
The Committee met on January 21st, 1885, at the Girard House, Philadelphia, in Room 24.
There were present: Messrs. Thompson, Sellers and Furness, of the Committee, and the Medium, Dr. Henry Slade.
The seance was conducted at a pine table prepared by the Medium, which was supplied with two falling leaves and stationed at a point remote from the centre of the room, and contiguous to a wall of the apartment. Upon the table were two ordinary writing slates and fragments of slate pencils.
The relative positions of the Medium and the Committee were as follows: the Medium was seated in the space between the table and the wall. Professor Thompson occupied a chair at the side of the table to the right, and Mr. Furness one at the side to the left of the Medium. Mr. Sellers was seated at the side directly opposite to the Medium.
After calling attention to the slates and the pencil pieces, the Medium remarked that, as his baggage had not come to hand, he was apprehensive that the sitting would not be a very good one. A brief, general conversation followed, and then, complying with a direction of the Medium, all present joined hands upon the table. Thereupon the Medium abruptly started back, and, remarking that he had received a very severe shock of some kind, inquired whether the gentlemen present had not experienced a like sensation. The responses were in the negative.
The Medium next proposed to give an exhibition of "Spiritism" through the agency of communications invisibly written upon the apparently blank surface of one of the slates. At this point Mr. Sellers asked that the table be examined, and, with the assent of the Medium, an examination was accordingly made by the Committee; the only noteworthy result of which was the discovery immediately
beneath the table-top of openings or slots into which the bars supporting the table leaves entered when turned to permit the lowering of the leaves.
(Mr. Sellers here continued, without reference to notes):
These slots and the use to which I ascertained they might be applied are worthy of special comment, as they played a very important part in all the expositions that were made of the Medium Slade's manifestations. The slot under the table into which the vibrating bar passed when the leaf was lowered was an inch and a-quarter in depth. At a later period of the meeting, when the opportunity was afforded, I took the slate in my hand, and, from the table side at which I was seated (the one directly opposite the Medium's position) passed it into the slot, allowing it to rest there diagonally. Upon removing my hand the slate remained suspended in its place, and in a position in which it could conveniently be written upon. I may add that this arrangement of the slate is said to be an essential feature of Slade's favorite method of writing. The Medium did not fail to notice my experiment of passing the slate into the slot, and, upon the occasion of my second attendance at the "manifestations" (which was at the third meeting of the Committee), having dispensed with the table I have described and prepared another, he somewhat ostentatiously called attention to the fact that the table then produced contained no slots such as those of which I have spoken. I have a memorandum of the size of the slots. The dimensions of the table last referred to are given in Mr. Fullerton's report.
(Mr. Sellers, referring again to his notes):
Taking a slate in his hand Slade held it beneath the table leaf to his right, when almost immediately there was a succession of faintly audible sounds such as would have been made by writing on the slate under the table. A knock indicated that the writing had ceased. The Medium then attempted to withdraw the slate, but in this encountered a seeming resistance, and only succeeded by a jerk, as if wrenching the slate from the grasp of a strong person who was below the table. Upon the slate, which was at once inspected, appeared in a fair, running handwriting, and as if written with a pencil held firmly in hand, the following:
Look well to the truth and learn wisdom, I am truly
(Continuing, without reference to notes):
This writing differed entirely, in general appearance, from the subsequent writings upon the slate, having apparently been made with the rounded point of a pencil held in an easy and natural position for writing. In other instances the writings had a strained and artificial appearance, and had evidently been made with a pencil point which had been flattened before being used.
Professor Thompson (to Mr. Sellers): Do you remember that at the session of which you now speak the Medium denied having any knowledge of James Clark, and afterwards said that he did know of him?
Mr. Sellers: I remember distinctly that he said he knew nothing of James Clark's affairs, and that, on another day, he presented a communication from a William Clark.
(Mr. Sellers here resumed his reading from notes, as follows):
The writing was obliterated from it and the slate again held under the table, when the question was asked, "Will you do more?" An interval of perhaps one or two minutes elapsed when the slate was exhibited, and upon it appeared the word "Yes." The word had been written with a broad-ended pencil, and neither in style nor character resembled the first writing.
Mr. Sellers, complying with the Medium's request to write a question on the back of the slate, wrote "Do you know the persons present?" The response which was made to this was "Yes, we do."
No additional manifestations by writings were made at the first meeting. During the sitting many raps were produced on the table through some invisible agency, and as these sounds, in some instances, were such as could be made by simple means and at the command of a person sitting at the table, a member of the Committee reproduced the sounds. It was the conviction of the members of the Committee present that the sounds thus produced were similar to the sounds said to have been made by Spirits. The Medium, however, professed his ability to distinguish between the two classes of sounds, and remarked that some of the sounds heard by him were such as would be made by a person touching the table and causing it to make the raps; that such sounds were not from the Spirits; that when the raps were genuine they caused a peculiar sensation, a sort of tremor, in his breast, and, therefore, he could tell when the raps were spurious.
(Mr. Sellers, aside): In other words, that none were genuine but those made by himself.
(Resuming, from notes): The Medium, in answer to inquiries, gave
a detailed description of the remarkable phenomena said to have been produced in the presence of Professor Zoellner -- which, he said, were as unexpected to himself (Slade) as they were to any one; that they were beyond his control, and evidently the work of Spirits under very favorable conditions.
Mr. Sellers here read the minutes of the meeting of January 22d, 1885, as prepared by Professor Fullerton.
(The minutes are as follows):
The Committee met on Thursday, January 22d, 1885, at 12 M., in the Girard House, Philadelphia.
Present: Messrs. Thompson, Furness, Fullerton and the Medium, Henry Slade.
A table measuring five or four and a-half by three feet, was used by the Medium. It was an oval table with two leaves. The Medium sat at one side, with Mr. Furness at the end of the table to his left, Professor Thompson at the end to his right, and Mr. Fullerton opposite. A circle was first formed by joining hands upon the table.
A slate was passed to Mr. Fullerton by the Medium, with the request that it be held by him under the table leaf to his (Mr. Fullerton's) left. The slate was held by Mr. Fullerton as requested, but at no time during the sitting was any writing produced on the slate. Toward the close of the seance the slate was held for some time under the opposite table leaf by Messrs. Furness and Fullerton.
Dr. Slade, after cleaning a slate, held it under the table-leaf to his right, in the space between himself and Professor Thompson. The slate was not held close to the table, but in a slanting position, so that a space of perhaps four or five inches was left between the edge of the slate farthest removed from the table and the table itself. A piece of pencil, broken from a small pencil -- about 1-16th to 1-12th in. cross section, was laid on the slate.
A series of questions were here propounded, in each instance the inquiry being followed by a scratching sound, and the slate being then withdrawn from under the table and showing writing upon it. These writings were construed as responses.
The questions and answers were as follows: --
1. It was asked: Will the Spirits answer questions?
Ans. (as above). 'We will try.'
2. Is the gentleman opposite a Medium? (Mr. Fullerton.)
Ans. He has some power.
3. Are there more Spirits than one present? Ans. Yes, there is.
4. Another communication which appeared on the slate was 'we will do more soon.'
5. Ques. Do you move this pencil?
Ans. We do, of course.
6. Tell us if you will play the accordion, or try to to-day?
The accordion (a small one) was then held partly under the leaf of the table, where the slates had been. It played a little. The members of the Commission could not see it when in that position, or at least could not see the whole of it. Mr. Fullerton, by looking under Professor Thompson's arm, over the table, could occasionally catch a glimpse of it as Dr. Slade moved it to and fro, but saw only one corner.
Dr. Slade then marked a slate with a line, and laid one of the bits of pencil upon the line. A large slate pencil was then laid along the edge of the slate. The slate was placed below the edge of the table beside Dr. Slade (to his right, as usual) when the large pencil was thrown up into the air two and a-half or three feet above the table. When the slate was brought up into view again the small bit of pencil was still in its place. This would, of course, be nothing remarkable if the Medium's finger were upon the small bit of pencil at the time of the jerk.
Another slate was held by Dr. Slade on the same side of and below the table (as far as I could judge from his arm it was nearly as low as Dr. Slade's knee), and it was suddenly broken into many pieces, the frame being at once held up for inspection by Dr. Slade. It did not seem to have been broken against the table, as there was no shock felt in the table, nor did the sound indicate it. It might have been broken by a sudden blow upon the knee, as Dr. Slade's knees were in close proximity to the place where the slate was held.
[The following are Notes of points which Mr. Sellers asked me particularly to observe. -- G. S. F.]
NOTE 1. -- The bits of pencil placed upon the slates seemed to be used in writing, for pieces with sharp edges were broken and put on the slates and afterwards were found somewhat worn.
NOTE 2. -- They were apparently the same pieces, as the size was the same.
NOTE 3. -- The writing did not seem to have been done by drawing the slate over a pencil at the time that the scratching was heard, for the slate was partly in view, and though it moved somewhat, it did not then move enough to make, for example, a line the whole length of the slate, as was done in one instance.
NOTE 4. -- The pencil was found where the writing ended, and in the case of the line cited just above, the mark on the slate was just about as wide as the rubbed part of the pencil. The pencil was rubbed and the end had been flat.
NOTE 5. -- I did not notice any difference in the fineness of the earlier and later writings. The first communication began and ended with a strong broad line.
NOTE 6. -- The accordion was a small one, and I cannot say whether it might not have been played upon with one hand if grasped in the right way.
NOTE 7. -- In every case, what was done was done out of our sight, Dr. Slade declaring that the object in concealing the slates, etc., was to prevent our wills from having a negative effect upon the phenomena. My own position opposite the Medium was a very bad one for observing what was going on on his side of the table.
(Mr. Sellers here read, from notes taken by himself, the minutes of the third of the series of Slade seances, as follows):
The Committee met on January 23d, 1885, at the Girard House, Philadelphia, in Room 24.
There were present: Messrs. Thompson, Sellers and Furness, of the Committee, and the Medium, Dr. Henry Slade.
The Medium was seated in the space between the table and the wall. Professor Thompson occupied a chair at the side of the table to the right, and Mr. Furness one at the side to the left of the Medium. Mr. Sellers was seated at the side directly opposite to the Medium.
The table made use of on this occasion was much larger than the one used at the first meeting. Attention was called to the fact that there were no slots under the middle leaf of the table as there were in the other table.
Between the leaf and the centre of the table paper had been introduced for the purpose of stuffing the crack, a rather large one, and the explanation of the Medium was, 'This is to stop a sort of draft that comes up through the crack and breaks the connection.' The members of the Committee were inclined to think that the purpose was to prevent them from observing through the crack any manipulations of the slate or motions by the Medium under the table.
The first writing on the slate was, 'We will do all we can.'
By request of the Medium, a slate with a bit of pencil was then held by Mr. Sellers under the table leaf next to him on his left, when the question was put, 'Will you try to write on the slate held by the gentleman opposite.' The response, 'We will try,' was written on
the Medium's slate. After taking the slate in his hand and cleanly wiping it, the Medium passed it under the table leaf, when almost instantly sounds indicating writing, such as were audible at the first session, were repeated. Upon being exhibited the slate contained the following:
My friends, --
Paul's injunction was "add to your faith knowledge." this knowledge, has encouraged the desponding, and given comfort to the mourner, and gives hope to the Hopeless. I am truly
The appearance of this writing was much the same as that of the first day, when another long written communication was produced, but it bore no resemblance to the scrawls which were exhibited in answer to questions.
A special minute is here made of observations by members of the Committee upon certain features of the Medium's operations, which tended to discredit the assumption of a supernatural agency in the production of the slate writings. In the above instance a slate which had been noted as standing against a leg of the table and behind the chair of the Medium, but conveniently within his reach, was dexterously substituted by the Medium for the slate taken from the table and the one upon which ostensibly writing was to appear. This was observed by one member. In another instance a member (Mr. Sellers) observed the same substitution, so far as the motion of the Medium's hand and arm was concerned. By certain private marks, adroitly applied, the same member noted the fact that the slate on which the writing was exhibited was not, as the Medium represented it to be, the same slate which had been taken from the table.
[The foregoing note by the Stenographer is somewhat incoherent, owing to his unfamiliarity with Slade's seances; yet we prefer to let it remain as it is. -- G. S. F.]
(Mr. Sellers adds, parenthetically): That is, I watched the Medium's operations specially with a view of informing myself whether the slate used in both instances was the same.
(Resuming, from notes): The Medium proposed that the Committee should retain the slate upon which the long message appeared. The slate was accordingly retained by the Committee.
Professor Thompson (addressing Mr. Sellers): Was not that slate the one that I held at the time referred to?
Mr. Sellers: It was. The slate was held by you at the same time that it was held by the Medium.
Professor Thompson: Then there is an additional fact to be noted in regard to it. That fact is this. When the sounds indicating the writing process had ceased, I endeavored to pull the slate away from under the table, but the Medium resisted my effort, and by powerful exertion jerked the slate out toward himself. The substitution of one slate for the other was probably made at this time, and the slate so substituted was then placed on the table.
Mr. Sellers: That is true, most assuredly. I saw the substitution, and Mr. Furness also saw it very plainly. From his position Mr. Furness saw the Medium take up the other slate.
NOTE. -- An explanation was here made by Mr. Furness to the effect that his knowledge of the substitution here spoken of was inferential, but that at another period of the seance he did distinctly see the Medium grasp an unused slate.
Mr. Sellers here resumed, from his notes:
The Medium then proposed to attempt the experiment of causing the chair upon which Professor Thompson sat, to rise from the floor, without external agency other than that of the hand of the Medium on the back of the chair. In answer to the question, 'Will you try to lift the chair?' the response was 'Yes.' Mr. Sellers, being requested to write a question on the back of the slate near him, wrote the following, 'What is the time?' After some little time, during which the Medium furtively glanced at the slate, the answer was given, 'A little after twelve.'
Upon being requested to open his left hand and hold it thus extended in a position beneath the top of the table to his left, Mr. Sellers complied with the request, when a slate, which had been held by the Medium under the opposite leaf, was passed across, and, after touching Mr. Sellers's hand, fell to the floor. After several repetitions, the slate was passed into Mr. Sellers's hand, but the experiment was accompanied by a motion of the Medium which was evidently such as would have been made if the Medium had passed the slate across by his foot. [At his seances Dr. Slade wears slippers, into and out of which he can readily slip his feet. -- G. S. F.]
In answer to the question, 'Are you ready to lift the gentleman?' the response, in writing, was given, 'Yes.' Clasping the back of the chair firmly with his right hand, and approaching it close enough to enable him to place his knee under the seat of the chair, the Medium, after very considerable effort, caused the chair to rise from the floor
an inch or two. The physical strain on the part of the Medium was evident.
Professor Thompson, having obtained the permission of the Medium, wrote the following upon the slate, ' Can a Spirit, still in the body, write with a slate pencil without touching the pencil?' After some delay, and frequent surreptitious glances at the slate by the Medium, the answer was, 'Yes, we can tell.' This trial not being satisfactory, the same question was repeated. The answer, which was longer delayed than the one preceding it, was, 'We can do so, if the conditions are favorable.'
Professor Thompson (interposing): Do you remember the Medium's remarks about the resistance of the Spirits?
Mr. Sellers: I do.
Professor Thompson: When he was pushing and pulling the slate, and meanwhile looking at it -- while moving it backward and forward -- the Medium remarked, ' There seems to be some kind of resistance; they don't seem to know what to make of it ' -- meaning that the Spirits were making some resistance to his moving the slate.
Mr. Sellers here resumed and completed the reading of his minutes, as follows:
The experiment attempted on the second day, of causing a slate pencil to jump from a slate without any disturbance of the slate, was here repeated. A line was drawn upon the slate, and upon this line a small bit of pencil was placed, the success of the experiment depending upon this small piece remaining immovable upon the line. After several trials this was accomplished. The experiment of playing an accordion beneath the table was next made, and in one instance the top of the instrument was thrown upon the table.
Mr. Sellers verbally made the following addition to his minutes:
The response to the question propounded by Professor Thompson was attended with more than ordinary delay. Upon hearing the response, viz.: 'We can do so if the conditions are favorable,' Professor Thompson remarked that this did not answer the question at all.
Professor Thompson: I made that statement in regard to both of the responses.
Mr. Sellers: The statement, then, was, that neither of the responses answered the question. Whereupon the Medium at once obliterated the question from the slate, and remarked, 'Well, that is the best they can do,' or something of that kind, or, 'They cannot understand that.' The fact was that the Medium did not understand the question himself, as it was purposely a somewhat involved question.
Professor Thompson: The fact appears to have been demonstrated that the Medium seemed to have no difficulty in catching the purport of questions of simple construction at a glance, and that a question of more than average length, which he could not perceive the sense of, or which was somewhat misleading in its terms, was not answered intelligently.
Professor Thompson here further explained that, when writing the question spoken of, he concealed his hand from the observation of the Medium. Mr. Sellers here imitated the motions of the body of the Medium and the position of his hands at the time -- the left resting on the table, and the right hand beneath the table, near the slate -- after which the writing was displayed.
Mr. Sellers next presented the minutes of the meeting of January 24th, as follows:
The Committee met on January 24th, 1885, at the Girard House, Philadelphia, in Room 24.
There were present: Dr. Leidy, Mr. H. H. Furness and Mr. Coleman Sellers, with the Medium, Dr. Henry Slade. Dr. Leidy occupied the position previously held by Professor Thompson, to the right of the Medium; Messrs. Sellers and Furness were seated as at the former sittings.
Slates were produced and held as at the previous seances. Upon one slate the following interrogatories and responses were recorded:
'Spirits, are you ready to work?' Answer: 'Soon.'
'Will you write for the gentlemen?' Answer: 'We are trying to do so.'
At this point the Medium substituted another slate for the one which he had held in his hand, and almost immediately thereafter, upon the new slate being placed under the table, the sound of writing began and was carried on with little interruption. The writing continued for a very long time, during which the Medium, removing his hand from the hands of the other gentlemen, said, 'You see that if I take my hand away from the circle and thus break the circle, the sound of the writing ceases; if I place my hand back again, the writing is repeated.' The sound of the writing, which had been temporarily suspended, recommenced when the hand of the Medium returned to its former position. The Medium further stated, by way of qualifying his statement on this point, 'If I do not jerk it away I can raise my hand a little.' He illustrated his meaning by slightly elevating his hand and withdrawing it from the other hands, at the same time calling attention to the fact that the sounds of the writing on the slate were continued.
This modification by the Medium of his original statement was regarded as intended to cover instances in which the circle had been surreptitiously broken by members of the Committee without any of the results which had been predicted. Several such breaks had been made by the writer (Mr. Sellers) unknown to any one but himself; and the Medium, finally becoming aware of this fact, observed that the circle might frequently be broken a little without any effect being apparent.
Professor Thompson: But did not the Medium make that statement at the very first seance?
Mr. Sellers: He stated that at the first seance.
(Resuming, from notes): The communication inscribed upon the slate when beneath the table was in the same handwriting as the other long communications, and was evidently written with a sharpened pencil under favorable conditions. It was as follows;
I have been made happy by the advent of my dear wife into this land of souls. The name of my dear wife is Ann Louisa Tiers, of Germantown. Now we shall part no more by death, as there is no death in this life.
My friends, never grieve because your friends meet the change called death, as death is but the blooming of the soul.
Mr. Sellers, in reply to an inquiry by Dr. Leidy concerning the identity of the alleged author of the communication, here explained that a newspaper advertisement of even date set forth that Ann Louisa Tiers, widow of John Tiers, died on the day preceding the day of the meeting. The advertisement had been noticed by Mr. Furness, and it appeared to furnish the foundation for what had been imposed upon the Committee.
The slate used at the meeting here referred to was one which Mr. Furness saw substituted, and which the writer (Mr. Sellers) is confident was substituted.
Dr. Leidy here stated that the communication now referred to, unlike all the other communications of the Medium, which were miserable little scrawls of a few words, was a lengthy one, which covered the entire slate. He felt convinced that the slate upon which it was contained was substituted for the other one which the Medium ostensibly continued to use.
Mr. Sellers (resuming the reading of his minutes): Dr. Leidy then wrote on the slate the following question, 'Dr. Le Conte -- are you engaged now in the study of Coleoptera?' The slate was then placed below the table, and, after the Medium had been observed to glance at it repeatedly, as in the case of former exhibitions of this kind, the slate was finally reproduced with this answer written upon it, 'Dr. L. C. is not present.'
Then the experiment was repeated of drawing a line, laying a bit of pencil on the line and then a pencil on the edge of the slate.
The pencil on the edge of the slate was tossed violently over the table, passed over and fell on the other side of the table, while the piece of pencil on the mark was not disturbed.
Dr. Leidy: It should be borne in mind that that throw was not from under the table, because when the pencil went over, the slate appeared on the outside of the table. I sat near the Medium and saw that slate brought out as the pencil went up.
Professor Thompson: The Medium claimed that sometimes the pencil appeared on the side of the table opposite to that at which he was sitting, but no such thing occurred in our presence. Would not it be advisable, when you say it was thrown up, to add that it was thrown from the side at which the Medium was sitting?
Mr. Sellers: In each and every case.
Dr. Leidy (to Mr. Sellers): When the Medium gave you and me a slate to hold, he said the Spirits would make a communication. We held the slate away from him and there was not at any time a communication.
(Mr. Sellers here resumed, from his notes): The same experiment of jerking the pencil over the table was repeated with another pencil. Then, at the suggestion of one of the gentlemen present, the Medium repeated the experiment made at a former session, in which a long line was drawn on the slate while the slate was apparently held without any motion. The Medium then took one of the slates in his hand and placed it below the table, when it was suddenly broken. As he produced it, he called attention to the fact that the slate seemed as if broken from the top downwards. As he brought it out, the Medium turned the slate over and knocked it on his knee, and in that way crushed it to pieces. He then turned it over. to show on which side the crushing took place. I saw that as plainly as I saw anything. He then used a pencil and drew a zig-zag line across the slate. The pencil was worn at one end. The same experiment, which was made when Professor Fullerton was present, was repeated, and it was noticed that
the pencil used in drawing the line was the identical one found on the slate.
Dr. Leidy: In that part of the exhibition which purported to show how, through Spiritual influence, a slate pencil might remain in contact with a slate, the Medium took care not to elevate the slate to an angle of forty-five degrees. He merely raised it to the elevation which I now indicate. If he had elevated it a little more the pencil would have fallen off.
Mr. Sellers (resuming): An accordion was then played under the manipulations of the Medium, after which that gentleman told the writer that he might look under the table and witness the performance of the instrument. The writer availed himself of this permission, but, upon his looking below the table, the musical sound ceased, and no such sounds were heard during the period in which these observations were continued. The Medium remarked, "That is unaccountable; there is no reason why you should not see it." Nevertheless, the accordion did not produce any sound while the writer was looking at it.
Professor Thompson: There is one point which was suggested at an earlier stage of the minutes, and which is, perhaps, worthy of being recorded. It is this. At the time at which the slate was passed to the hand of Mr. Sellers, under the table, the Medium compelled me to sit around in a position different from that which I had occupied, in order that, in his operations, he could move his arms and lower extremities as freely as he pleased.
Dr. Leidy: My own supposition is that, when he played the accordion freely, the Medium made use of a little wire attached to a hook or something of that kind, which he could hold by fastening it to his clothing.
Mr. Sellers: His method of manipulating the instrument was readily observable upon close attention. The accordion was a small one of the kind which is easily procurable in the market.
(Resuming, from notes): The next meeting of the Committee, which was held on January 26th, at the Girard House, was an exceedingly important one, because its result was absolutely negative. There were present, with the Medium, Professor Thompson, Mr. Furness and Mr. Sellers. Two slates were lying on the table behind him. The Medium brought forward one of these, wiped it, laid a pencil on it, and placed it under the table, but without any result. He said, "We must make a circle -- that will have better effect." He laid the slate back upon the table. We then joined hands, and, after a time, thinking that there was magnetic influence enough at work, the Medium reached back and took the
second slate -- not the first one -- brought that forward and put it under the table. Mr. Sellers asked the Medium, "Dr. Slade, will you allow me to see that slate?" The reply was, "No, not now; the conditions are not favorable." The Medium seemed rather embarrassed, and apparently regretted his reply. He laid the second slate back upon the table, in its former position, but further back. We then again formed a circle, when he seemed to hesitate a moment as to the better course for him to pursue. He then reached back, grasped the first slate, and with a sponge washed off both of its sides, though there had been no writing upon either; and then he brought forward the second slate, with the top side upward, and washed that side, though there was no occasion for the washing, as there was no writing upon that side. Turning the slate over, he began washing the back of it without showing the face of the slate, and finally laid it down.
Mr. Furness here stated that he observed, at the time, that the face of the slate contained writing.
Professor Thompson here remarked that the Medium had evidently appreciated the fact that he had been caught.
Mr. Sellers: That fact was plainly apparent.
Mr. Fullerton here remarked that at the seance reported by him, soon after the members were seated, the Medium reached behind his (the Medium's) position to get one of the slates placed near him, and accidentally turned up one, the back of which was covered with writing, whereupon he coolly remarked, 'That is the wrong slate.' Mr. Fullerton added that he did not at the time think of connecting this accidental exposure with what the Medium was then doing, and suggested that possibly this exposure prevented Dr. Slade'e use of this method at the seance reported by him, as it would seem that none of the communications produced on that occasion were of the sort produced by substitution of slates.
Mr. Sellers: The methods of this Medium's operations appear to me to be perfectly transparent, and I wish to say emphatically that I am astonished beyond expression at the confidence of this man in his ability to deceive, and at the recklessness of the risks which he assumes in his deceptions, which are practiced in the most barefaced manner. The only reason of our having any so-called 'manifestations' under the circumstance was because of the fact that the Committee had agreed in advance to be entirely passive, and to acquiesce in every condition imposed. At the meeting here spoken of, I said to Dr. Slade, 'You see that we do not attempt to exercise any deleterious influence; what we want is the truth, the simple truth, and we try to exert no influence
which would tend to impair the success of your operations.' The reply of the Medium was, 'No, I know that you do not; but sometimes the Spirits will work and sometimes they will not work.' We had no writings in any part of that sitting -- everything failed.
Mr. Furness: We did not have even raps.
Mr. Sellers: We did not have even raps. There was no sound of any character; the day was absolutely fruitless of any result. Disgusted with this evident failure, the Medium decided to close the seance. He was asked, among other things, if he would write on double closed-up slates. He replied that he would not write upon them for the reason that the Spirits had forbidden him to do so; that they had said they would not write on sealed slates, because many tricks had been played on them, one of which was the writing in advance of foolish and obscene matter, which, when the slates were opened, was attributed to the Spirits. I said to him, 'Would there be any objection by the Spirits to the use of the slates if these are brought here, opened and exhibited before you prior to their being used?' He replied, 'I have been forbidden to write upon sealed slates; the Spirits tell me that if I disobey them they will not write for me any more.'
Professor Thompson: Yes, I heard that statement, that it was forbidden to bring them or to offer the sealed slates to the Spirits.
Mr. Sellers (resuming from notes): As I have stated, the result of the meeting of the 26th inst. was entirely negative. That on the 27th was the last sitting. There were then present: Dr. Pepper, Mr. Furness and Mr. Sellers -- Dr. Pepper occupying the seat originally occupied by Professor Thompson, to the right of the Medium. All the manifestations that were made on that day were so similar, as far as writings and questions were concerned, to those that preceded them that it is scarcely necessary to make notes of them. Two or three rather remarkable things occurred. For instance, almost at the beginning of the sitting. Dr. Slade exhibited both sides of two slates to show that neither side contained any writing, and then placed a piece of pencil on one slate, and, covering it with the other one, held the two together between the thumb and finger of his right hand, and placed them upon Dr. Pepper's shoulder near the back of that gentleman's head. The covering of slate answered the same purpose which a table would have answered, and prevented those present from observing the operation. He frequently repeated the words, 'The Spirits will write upon the slate.' He held the slate in this position for some time, but there was no writing upon it. He then placed both slates upon the table before him, side by side. Taking in his right
hand the slate which was towards his left hand, he placed a bit of pencil upon it, held it under the table, and said, ' Will the Spirits write upon this slate?' He then added, 'I feel a sort of drawing, a something which seems to pull the slate down underneath the table. That often occurs.'
I may here remark that, at the other sittings, the same expression was made use of at times, accompanied by the thrusting of the slate some distance under the table. The statement was that the slate seemed to be drawn some distance over to the person opposite the Medium.
A sound was heard, and upon the Medium bringing the slate out from under the table, a zig-zag line appeared upon the slate with the pencil at the end of the line. The Medium remarked, 'That is something.' Then laying the slate upon the slate to his right hand, with a sponge wiped off the top of it, but did not show what was on the underside of it. He then placed his thumb beneath the slates, and turned them in such a way that the left hand, or top slate, came to be the one furthest from him as it was held behind Dr. Pepper's head. When holding it in that position for a moment, a scratching sound was heard in answer to the question, 'Will the Spirits endeavor to write on the slate thus held?' A rap followed the sound of the writing. The slates were then taken down, and the top slate taken off. Upon what had previously been the top slate was written the words, 'Yes, we will try.'
Mr. Furness (interposing): That was one of the neatest things he did.
Mr. Sellers: My habits of observation have been trained in this kind of work, and I watched the slates intently during the process.
Subsequently certain raps were audible, when the Medium called the attention of Dr. Pepper to the fact that some of the raps were made upon the chair on which the Doctor was seated. It was very evident that the raps were, in fact, made on that chair; there was no doubt about that at all.
Throughout this entire sitting the Medium complained sadly of his physical disability. He said that he was afraid that he was going to lose the power of his right side, that he was becoming numb all over. The peculiar symptoms which he described will be reported upon in the observations of Dr. Pepper, by whom they were noted.
(Mr. Furness here stated that the notes of Dr. Pepper would be read later in the evening.)
Mr. Sellers (continuing): The Medium did very little more in the way of writing. He repeated some few of the experiments previously
made, such as the throwing off of the pencil. He declined to play upon the accordion, as the instrument had been broken.
At this meeting two pocket compasses, one brought by Mr. Furness and the other by Mr. Sellers, were placed at a point near the circle of the hands in order to observe whether any deflection from the magnetic course occurred. No such result was noted. No change whatsoever in the needles was observed other than that which was caused by a vibration due to shakings of the table. From time to time the Medium would call attention to one of the needles with the remark, 'There, one of those needles is moving now.' In point of fact, the needle at the time would show no motion other than that caused by the jarring of the table. The Medium went on to say that frequently, under like circumstances, when placed close together, he had seen two needles point around in opposite directions. This might have been true, in the present instance, if the Medium had placed a magnet attached to his foot at a point at which it would have been between the two needles. Its effect would have been just the one which he has described. No such result was noticeable during our observations.
A large part of the sitting was devoted to the discussion of the Zoellner experiments, the Medium narrating some of the phenomena that had been witnessed in the presence of Dr. Zoellner. He said, however, that Zoellner was a peculiarly impressible person, and one who had entire confidence in his (the Medium's) ability.
Before the conclusion of the seance, the writer (Mr. Sellers) asked the Medium if he was acquainted with the methods of operation of any conjurors. The Medium replied that he did not know many of them, but he always liked to have conjurors at his sittings, as they produced a very good influence upon him At this point the following colloquy ensued:
Mr. Sellers: Do you know a man named Kellar, who is exhibiting in this city?
Dr.Slade: I do not. I never knew him.
Mr. Sellers: You may, however, be able to explain to me a very remarkable slate-writing experiment which Kellar has performed. I will state the details of it. [Mr. Sellers here described at length Mr. Kellar's trick with the fastened slates, and in concluding, asked:] How did Mr. Kellar do that?
Dr. Slade: He is a Medium. He does that work precisely as I do it.
Mr. Sellers: But can he not do it by trickery?
Dr. Slade: No it is impossible. He is a Medium, and a powerful Medium.
(Mr. Sellers continued the reading of his transcript, as follows):
Then I described to the Medium an experiment by Kellar in lifting a table ostensibly merely by laying his hands upon it, and I detailed his explanation of how deceptions might occur, his custom of pulling up his sleeves and exhibiting his hands to the audience. I added, that he had done the same thing with a chair.
Dr. Slade: I do that thing, too. I will show you how I do it the next time. He does it as I do it. He is a Medium.
(Mr. Sellers here paused to make the following verbal explanation):
I pause here for the express purpose of having the fact noted that, being thoroughly familiar with the details of the methods of these experiments, I can positively assure the Committee that there is no Mediumistic power in Mr. Kellar, so far as his methods are concerned, that those methods are as easy of solution as are any other physical problems.
(Resuming, from notes):
The inquiry was then addressed to Dr. Slade, ' Do you know a man named Guernella who, with his wife, gave seances?' 'Yes,' he replied, 'I know him very well.' 'Well, how does he perform his wonderful exploits in rappings, etc.?' 'He is a Medium, a powerful Medium. I know him very well indeed. I can assure you that all that he does is done solely by means of his Mediumistic powers.'
I now state to the Committee that the Guernellas exhibited in Philadelphia some years ago as exposers of Spiritualism. They did not expose it, but they performed experiments which, prior to that time, were said to have been accomplished by the aid of Spirits. Guernella himself, at my house, in my presence, in broad daylight, performed all the feats and exhibited the phenomena that were produced at the dark and other seances, and he repeated them until I myself became as expert as he in performing them; for which I paid him a consideration. So much for the Mediumistic power.
(Resuming, from notes):
Before the close of this last seance, a letter was read to Dr. Slade by Mr. Furness, to which the Medium was requested to make reply at his convenience; the object was to preserve evidence of the fact that the Medium had stated that all the seances must be held under his conditions-that if the Committee deviated in the slightest degree from the conditions imposed by him (Dr. Slade) he would 'pack up his traps and clear out.' [The letter and reply will be found annexed to this Record.]
At the end of this seance, the sum agreed upon, three hundred dollars
dollars, was paid to the Medium in three one-hundred-dollar bills. He was asked to sign a receipt for that amount, but his nervousness was such as to make this a task of some difficulty. He made many attempts to grasp the pen presented to him, but his hand shrank from it. At last, by a violent effort, and conquering the emotions that overcame him, the Medium grasped the pen and wrote the receipt. The extreme trepidation of Dr. Slade was possibly due to the unexpected displacement of two covered slates which he had left standing on the floor, resting against the leg of the small table at his back, and which Mr. Furness had overturned with his foot, the result being that at least two of the members of the Committee were apprised, by the quantity of writing on one of the slates, that it was ready for immediate use.
Mr. Sellers (aside): I saw the writing on the slates. It had manifestly been prepared for use by the Medium, and up to the moment of its discovery had been carefully kept completely covered.
Mr. Furness here read to the Committee the following:
Before Dr. Slade came to Philadelphia to meet this Commission, I was told by a valued Correspondent, an eminent Spiritualist, that much of Dr. Slade's success in Spiritual manifestations would depend on the way in which he was treated, and that he should be met in a cordial, friendly spirit. As this was but natural, and as Dr. Slade's life has been passed among extraordinary scenes the world over, which makes him an entertaining companion, it gave me pleasure to extend to him what little courtesies lay in my power, asking him to dine with me during his visit, and to spend the evenings at my house, if the time hung heavy on his hands at his hotel. He dined with me several times, and I consequently saw more of him than did the other Commissioners. I told him more than once that, as a Commissioner, I should watch him with lynx eyes, and he always gave a laughing assent. I furthermore never concealed from him that he had, by no means, converted me to Spiritualism. [I last saw him in Boston, when, as I was passing along Shawmut Avenue, I caught sight of him at a window; he eagerly beckoned me to come in, and, as I settled myself in a chair, I said to him, 'Well, and how are the old Spirits coming on?' Whereupon he laughed and replied, 'Oh, pshaw! you never believed in them, did you?' -- April, 1887.]
I had several seances with him in afternoons after the seances with the Commission, when I was accompanied by my mother, my sister, and by several friends; of course, only by one or two others at a time.
It would be superfluous to rehearse here at length what Mr. Sellers has set before you much better than I can, the steps to the conclusion
to which we all arrived: that the long messages were written beforehand. The difference between them and the short answers to questions asked at the seance, in the character of the handwriting, is too manifest and too obtrusively patent to be disregarded. In the long message from 'William Clark' on the slate which we have preserved and had photographed, 'Paul's injunction' is carefully included within quotation marks. The short answers to questions were scarcely legible, and at times could be deciphered only by help of the Medium himself. (This illegible handwriting is not without its use; it engrosses the attention of the sitters.)
It follows, therefore, that, if prepared slates are to be used, they must be adroitly substituted for others, which the sitters know to be clean. The question is thus narrowed to one of pure legerdemain, and the Medium must necessarily have several slates at hand.
When two slates only are used, the prepared slate is usually lying on the table when the sitters take their seats. No attention is called to it, and some little time is taken in conversation, and in the spasmodic jerking caused by 'electric currents'; in a few minutes the slate pencil is placed on the slate; no offer is made of showing both sides, which would be quite needless, since the side which is exposed is perfectly clean, and it is on that side which the Spirits are expected to write; the slate is kept almost constantly and wholly in full view and but very slightly inserted beneath the table. After an interval of waiting, during which, by constantly looking at the slate as though impatient for the writing to begin, whereby his sitters become accustomed to the appearance and disappearance of the slate, the Medium reaches for a second slate, ostentatiously washes both sides, lays it on the table, removes the pencil from the first slate to the second, and places over it the first slate with its prepared message, face downward, and the trick is done. The two slates are held for a minute under the table, and are then held to the ear or on the shoulder of the sitter on the Medium's right hand -- never to any other sitter, since to do so would reveal the scratching of the Medium's finger-nail on the rim of the slate, whereby the writing of the pencil within the slates is counterfeited. I have distinctly, three or four times, watched the motion of the Medium's finger while thus scratching; as I sat facing the window the fingers which held the slate and made the fictitious writing were sharply outlined against the light. And here let me say that he who sits on the Medium's left hand, the side to which he turns almost his full back, has the best position for observation. He told me many times that he did not like to have three sitters, but much preferred only two; at the third side, when
unoccupied, wonderful manifestations occur, such as a chair's elevation, or being thrown down, or the appearance of the unsupported slate, etc. These manifestations are executed by the Medium's foot, and lest its motions under the table should be detected, the longitudinal cracks where the two table-leaves join, were carefully stuffed with paper, although, to be sure, he once explained to me the presence of this paper as necessary to keep ' the electricity from flowing through'.
Although Dr. Slade had agreed verbally in New York that the last seance of the series should be in the presence of all the Commission, he flatly refused, when in Philadelphia, to hold any in the presence of more than three at a time.
On one occasion, when the Medium was very sure of his sitters, he placed the prepared slate, face downwards, on the table, with his fingers resting on the upper surface, then in a few minutes the slate was lifted up and the writing displayed, as though just made by Spiritual agency. Generally, however, when the writing is thus exhibited, it is in answer to a spoken question, and the reply is written by the Medium in his lap and the slate turned over before it is placed on the table. Manifestly it cannot occur as an answer to a written question, unless the written question is exposed on the upper side of the slate.
How the scratching of the slate pencil is produced when the slate is lying on the table (I have been told that the sound is heard then) I cannot possibly explain, for the plain reason that I am too deaf to hear it, and I was, therefore, never on the watch for anything unusual. (Nor did I ever hear the sound of writing when the slate was held on the shoulder of my opposite neighbor, but I could see, and I knew what was going on, for the slate had once been placed on my own shoulder.)
When three slates are used, the third, and prepared, slate, is either on the little table behind him or on the floor resting against the supports of this little table. In either case he seizes the opportunity when his sitters are engrossed with an answer just given to a question, to substitute one of the slates which he has been using, and which he has just before ostentatiously washed on both sides, for the prepared slate. This I have distinctly seen him do twice, and once when I had arisen from my seat to read an answer on the slate, held by Mr. Sellers, I noticed when I resumed my seat that a certain slate which I had been watching was gone from where it had been resting against the leg of the little table, and we then immediately had the long message between closed slates. [This was the 'inferential' substitution referred to on page 59 of this Appendix.] The slate which we have preserved and had photographed I saw him take from the table at his back.
Next, as to his answers to questions. I became so familiar with his methods in this department that I could have told at almost any instant what he was doing.
After the question has been written the slate is handed to him face downward. A piece of pencil is then placed on the slate near the edge of the slate farthest from the Medium's hand as it holds the slate; of course, as the writing is to be done under cover of the table, and as the Medium's hand or wrist is supposed to be always visible, the pencil must be far under the table. The awkwardness, therefore, must be overcome of having to reach or grope after it before the slate can be turned over, which it must be in order to enable the Medium to read the question on the under side.
This difficulty is surmounted by constantly bringing out the slate and looking at it to see if any answer has appeared. By this manoeuvre a double end is attained; first, it creates an atmosphere of expectation, and the sitters grow accustomed to a good deal of motion in the arm that holds the slate; and secondly, by constantly moving the slate the fragment of pencil (which, be it noted, having been extracted from those slate pencils which are enclosed in wood, like lead pencils, is square in shape and remains stationary on the spot to which it is moved), this pencil, I repeat, is moved up to the side of the slate within reach of a thumb and finger; when this is done, it is dexterously seized by the Medium, who is in turn at that instant seized by violent 'electric shocks', under cover of which the slate is turned and generally placed between his knees. Only once I think did he rest it on his knee, and once I think he pressed it against the table; then he reads the question.
And here he shows his nerve. It is the critical instant of the sitting, it is the only instant when his eyes are not fastened on his sitters, and I confess that his coolness won my admiration. On one occasion, when the question was written in a back-hand with a very light stroke and close to the upper edge of the slate, he looked at it three several [sic] times before he could read it. Moreover, it was a question out of the common, relating to the species of a hawk and not to a Spirit, and required an intelligent and definite answer. The hastiness of his reading may be inferred by the frequency with which merely the initials of the Spirit friend are given in the answer. After reading the question, I noticed that Dr. Slade winks rapidly three or four times in a sort of mental abstraction, I suppose, while thinking out an answer, but he always breathes freer when this crisis is passed, and the violent convulsions are over, which attend his hurried writing and the returning of the slate. His eyes can now be fixed in turn on each of his sitters, and he can rest a minute or two. (On one occasion I
saw the slate as he held it between his index and second finger, his index-finger and thumb held the slate pencil.) Presently, the slate is held near to the edge of the table, and a tremulous motion is given to it as though the writing were then going on.
On one occasion, when I knew he was about to use the prepared slate (Professor Thompson will remember what I am about to relate), I suggested that we should use a perfectly fresh pencil, so that we could be sure that that very pencil had done the writing. I was very curious to know how he would evade the test. The slate was held close to the under side of the table (the new pencil debarred him from using the double slate); when the writing was finished the slate was slapped violently against the table, and was drawn from underneath it -- apparently with very great difficulty, and almost perpendicularly -- and the little pencil, of course, slipped off, and in the excitement of reading the message from the 'Summer-land,' who would think of looking for the pencil? It was so clever I wanted to applaud him on the spot.
The other tricks, such as tossing the pencil from the slate and playing the accordion, can be perfectly explained and repeated by Mr. Sellers. Dr. Slade's fingers are unusually long and strong, and the accordion, which has but four bellows-folds, can be readily manipulated with one hand.
At our last seance I noticed what were evidently two prepared slates resting against the support of the table behind him, where his prepared slates usually stood. I inferred that he would like to have some extraordinary slate writing on this occasion, and, therefore, kept a sharp watch on these slates. Unfortunately it was too sharp, for one second the Medium saw me looking at them. It was enough. That detected look prevented the revelation of those elaborate Spirit messages. But when the seance was over and he was signing the receipt for his money, I passed round behind his chair and pushed these slates with my foot so as to make them fall over, whereupon the writing on one of them was distinctly revealed.
I think Dr. Pepper and Mr. Sellers will recall how the Medium instantly pushed his chair back until it was fairly over the slates and then snatched them up, and in the most hurried manner washed them both while turning his back to us.
Two compasses, which we placed on the table during our seance, remained unaffected by the Medium's presence.
During one sitting, when the Spirits conveyed the slates from the Medium's hand under the table to the hand of the opposite sitter, the
latter failed twice to grasp the slate in time, and it fell to the floor with a crash. Each time it behooved me to pick up the slate (both the other sitters were women), but the second time I stooped with the greatest alacrity and looked not at the slate but at the Medium's foot, which I saw just entering his slipper, into which it most hastily settled.
I think Dr. Slade's personal appearance noteworthy, and shall endeavor to obtain a photograph of him for preservation in our Records. He is probably six feet in height, with a figure of unusual symmetry, his hands are large but shapely, the nail of the second finger of his right hand is rather longer than the others, and appeared in the centre to be slightly split and worn. His face would, I think, attract notice anywhere for its uncommon beauty. He has a small, curling, dark moustache, and short, crisp, iron-grey hair, of a texture exceeding in fineness any that I have ever seen on a man's head. His eyes are dark, and the circles around them very dark, but their expression is painful. I could not divest myself of the feeling that it was that of a hunted animal or of a haunted man. The color on his cheeks is very bright, but it is said to be artificial. He complained bitterly of ill-health and of water around his heart, which he said at times he could hear and feel "swashing about."
A noteworthy man in every aspect.
Mr. Furness then read to the Committee the following:
Memorandum by Dr. Wm. Pepper of an interview with Dr. Slade on the morning of the 27th January, with Mr. Furness and Mr. Sellers.
1811 Spruce Street, Philadelphia.
He complained immediately and very frequently of his right side, saying it felt weak and numb, and he was sure he was going to be paralyzed. Careful observation showed that the right side was fully developed, the color of the right hand normal and the same as that of the left, and that the right arm, foot and leg were unusually supple and moveable. During the sitting I saw him deliberately kick my chair three (3) times with the side of his right foot, while attracting my attention to the scraping noises of the slate he was holding to my left ear; and again, when soft raps were heard and felt under the table, just beneath one of my hands, and at about the distance from him to which his leg would reach, I saw distinct movements of rotation of his thigh, as though he were producing these sounds by the ball of the toe striking under the table at that point.
February 6th, 1885.
Mr. Sellers offered the following resolution, which was adopted unanimously:
Resolved, That the reports of the Slade seances held in Philadelphia, as described by Messrs. Fullerton, Furness, Pepper and Sellers, are in accordance with the observations of each of the members of the Commission who were present.
After a short Business Meeting the Commission adjourned.
The following correspondence explains itself:
PHILADELPHIA, January 26th, 1885.
DEAR DR. SLADE:--I think you need no assurance that the Seybert Investigating Committee have been anxious to deal with you in the fairest spirit of impartial, unbiased, scientific investigation, and I think you will bear witness to their uniformly considerate courtesy throughout our intercourse.
You know how very deaf I am, and do not therefore need to be reminded that one should trust scarcely more to what a deaf man hears than to what a blind man sees.
Wherefore, I want you, for my sake, and that the Committee may feel sure of their ground, to confirm in writing what you have more than once said to me, namely, that the Committee must conform to the conditions which the Spirits impose; that you cannot consent to submit to any tests, and that rather than do so you will return at once to New York; that we must accept the manifestations as given by the Spirits; and that, since these manifestations are the result of a gradual growth, it is impossible, in the space of six seances, to repeat or to verify Professor Zoellner's experiments; and, lastly, that, if on your return to New York, the Spirits so authorize it, you will be willing, if desired, to make arrangements for another series of seances with us of a higher order of manifestations.
I remain respectfully,
HORACE HOWARD FURNESS,
Acting Chairman Seybert Commission.
No. 11 E. 13th Street, N. Y., February 4th, 1885.
DEAR MR. FURNESS:--I take this opportunity to express to you, and through you to the other members of the Seybert Commission, my hearty approval of the course pursued by them in their investigation of phenomena occurring in my presence. Fully realizing that I am only the instrument or channel through which these manifestations are produced, it would be presumption on my part to undertake to lay down a line to be followed by the unseen intelligences, whose servant I am. Hence, I did say their conditions must be acceded to or I would return to New York. That they did so, is evident to my mind from the results obtained, which I regard as a necessary preliminary to a continuation, when other experiments may be introduced with better prospects of success. It may be well not to insist on following the exact course pursued by Professor Zoellner, but leave it open to original or impromptu suggestions that may be adopted without previous consideration, which, if successful, would be of equal value as evidence of its genuineness, at the same time give greater breadth to the experiments. In conclusion, allow me to say that in the event of the Committee desiring to continue these experiments through another series of sittings with me, it will give me pleasure to enter into arrangements for that purpose.
Very truly yours,