Difficulties Encountered

BACK to Contents

It is a source of regret that, in our investigations, we have received no aid from unprofessional Mediums; and in dealing with professional Mediums we have been continually distracted by the conflicting estimates in which these Mediums


are held among the Spiritualists themselves. There are very, very few professional Mediums, as far as our experience goes, who are accepted by all Spiritualists as free from the reproach of fraud. Indeed one Medium with whom, by the advice of Mr. Hazard, we had a seance, and for whom Mr. Hazard vouched as one of the best of his class, we have seen denounced as a 'liar and a thief.' In the earnestness of our zeal we advertised in the local secular press, and in the leading Spiritualist Journals both East and West, for Independent Slate Writing Mediums, and to this widespread appeal there came but three replies, and of these, two were so remote that the promise of performance held out by the respondents did not, in our opinion, justify so large an outlay of money for traveling expenses as a journey across the Continent involved. This noteworthy reluctance on the part of Mediums to come before us cannot be due to any harsh or antagonistic treatment received at our hands by any Medium. All Mediums have been treated by us with uniform courtesy, and with every endeavor to acquiesce in the 'conditions' imposed or suggested by the Spirits. And yet a well-known Medium in New York, Mrs. Thayer, to whom the Acting Chairman was unknown, and with whom he was at the time having a seance, vehemently asserted that no member of the 'Seybert Commission' should ever have a seance with her, that the whole Commission, one and all, were 'old scoundrels and should never darken her doors,' etc., etc., and confessed that the foundation of her belief was the warning (sent to her by an eminent Medium whose seances the Commission had attended) that she should have nothing to do with 'the Seybert men, that they would do her no good.' Even in instances where Mediums have expressed their willingness to appear before us, we have been embarrassed by demands for compensation which we could not but deem extortionate and, practically, prohibitory;


as in the case of Mr. Keeler, the Spiritual Photographer, whose terms will be found in the Appendix, and in that of Dr. Henry Rogers whose terms were five hundred dollars if he should be successful before us, and the half of that sum if he failed.

Although the number of Mediums whose manifestations we have been able to examine has been thus restricted, we feel ourselves justified in giving as a result of our examination of Independent Slate Writing that, whether the agency be Spiritual or Material, its mode of manifestation almost wholly precludes any satisfactory investigation.

There are not wanting eminent expounders of the Spiritualistic Faith who assert that this is as it should be, and that if in the attempt to apply the laws of the material world to Spiritual manifestations we are baffled, the fault lies in us, and not in the Mediums. If this be so, we must accept our fate and enlarge the adage that 'poets are born, not made' and include Spiritualists.

Yet, as a rule, Mediums assert that they invite investigation. Our experience has been, as we have just said, that as soon as an investigation, worthy of the name, begins, all manifestations of Spiritualist power cease.

The bare statement of the conditions whereunder the Mediums maintain that the manifestations of Independent Slate Writing are alone possible, involves the extreme difficulty, we might almost say the impossibility, of any genuine or rational investigation. Even the very spirit of investigation, or of incredulity, seems to exercise a chilling effect and prevents a successful manifestation. Indeed Mr. Hazard once told us that the true spirit in which to approach the study of Spiritualism is 'an entire willingness to be deceived.' In Independent Slate Writing, in our experience, there is a period, of longer or shorter duration, when the slate is concealed.. During this period the investigator's eye must not watch it. When the slate is held


under the table, knees and feet and clothing exert no deleterious effect, but the gaze of a human eye is fatal to all Spiritual manifestation; although to one of our number, on three occasions, a pocket mirror, carefully adjusted, unknown to the Medium, gave back the reflection of fingers, which were clearly not Spiritual, opening the slates and writing the answer.

There is really no step in the bare process of producing this writing, as we have observed it, which might not be accomplished by trickery or by legerdemain. Of course, therefore, we were sincerely anxious to disprove in these experiments the presence of those discreditable elements, not only for the credit of human nature, but for the sake of the great scientific interest involved. We are perfectly ready to accept any fact of Spiritual power; and so far from flinching from an open avowal of our belief in this revelation of a novel force in Nature, we would welcome it. But no one, not a Spiritualist, we should suppose, can demand of us that we should accept profound mysteries with our eyes tight shut, and our hands fast closed, and with every avenue to our reasoning faculties insurmountably barred. Yet this is precisely what is demanded of us by Mediums in regard to Independent Slate Writing. We must sign a dispensation to forego the exercise of common sense, and accept as 'fact' what they choose so to term. Few assertions by departed Spirits are more hacknied [sic] than, 'This is a great truth,' and yet in an honest endeavor to prove that it is a 'great truth;' and not a great lie, the sincere and earnest seeker is at every turn baffled and thwarted.

BACK to Top