Readers of the Spiritualistic literature of the present day cannot fail to have their attention frequently called to the remarkable power attributed to certain Mediums, not only of reading the contents of envelopes which are securely gummed and sealed, but of returning to the questions therein contained pertinent answers from friends in the other world. It is far from uncommon to hear of conversions to faith in Spiritualism wrought by these remarkable proofs of Spiritual power. At this hour, in many a loving home, responses to letters, thus sealed and answered through these Mediums, are treasured as tenderest, completest proofs that love survives the grave and still encircles the living and the dead.
Recognizing in this phase of Mediumship a department of Spiritualism capable of plain, matter-of-fact investigation, which could be conducted in writing and demanding no special powers of observation, the duty of investigation devolved mainly upon the Acting Chairman.
There are only four of these special Mediums whose advertisements I have seen in Spiritual papers. He who has probably the widest reputation is Dr. James V. Mansfield, Boston. A second is Mr. R. W. Flint, New York City. A third is Mrs. Dr. Eleanor Martin, Columbus, Ohio; and lastly, also of the same name, Mrs. Eliza A. Martin, of Oxford, Massachusetts.
Through the Mediumship of the first, I have seen it stated that upward of a hundred thousand securely sealed letters have been answered; and the names of men high in our business and financial world have been cited to me as of those who had received proofs of his power which could not be questioned, nor explained on any other ground than that of clairvoyance, or of Spirit communication. To him, therefore, I concluded to apply first.
The choice of a subject whereon to communicate with a denizen of the other world is not easy. To follow in the well-trodden path and ask after the welfare of departed friends would only end, I well knew, in turning on that stream of generalities, not glittering, but very dull, in which a large experience had taught me that disembodied Spirits chiefly delight when expatiating on the conditions of their changed existence. Furthermore, it was desirable that from the investigation should be eliminated all elements of thought-transference or of
mind-reading. I must select a subject on which my own mind was a blank, and where the responses would have to be definite and unambiguous, and withal quite within the scope of Spiritual knowledge.
At last, as fulfilling, in all honesty and sincerity, the requisite conditions, a skull in my possession was fixed on.
This skull is a relic, interesting from its dramatic associations. It has been used for fifty or sixty years as a 'property' at the Walnut Street Theatre, whenever 'Hamlet' has been performed, and as 'Yorick's skull' has been handled in that play, from Edmund Kean down to Henry Irving and Edwin Booth. It is preserved with care, and mounted on a piece of polished black marble. Surely here is a skull whose experiences are singular above all ordinary skulls, and in whose career its original owner might be not unreasonably expected to cherish some interest or to have followed its fortunes with some little attention. Untold possibilities for the vindication of Spiritualistic truth and power hang around it, should there be an unwavering agreement by all Spiritual authorities, as to the circumstances, when alive, of its original owner. Surely, I concluded, the translated inhabitants of the 'summer-land' cannot have doffed the homespun honesty of mortal life; all will either confess ignorance with regard to this skull, or display their truthfulness by a substantial harmony in their reports, and thereby furnish an indisputable, irrefragable proof of the truth of Spiritualism.
Sincere in this trust, I wrote on a small sheet of paper this question: "What was the name, age, sex, color or condition in life of the owner, when alive, of the skull here in my library? 28 February, 1885." This paper was put in an envelope, whereof the flap was then gummed to within a small distance of the point, under this point some sealing-wax was dropped, and enough was added above it to form a large, heavy, substantial impression. At the four corners additional seals, with different impressions, were placed. Thus gummed, and sealed with five seals, the envelope was enclosed to Dr. J. V. Mansfield, with a request that it be subjected to his Mediumistic power. In a few days the following was received:
'Boston, March 2d, 1885.
Dear Furness. -- Your package came duly to hand most respectfully say I have given the package two sittings and re'd from two different spirits (purported) answer one coroberating [sic] the other statement One from Robt Hair [sic] the other from Dr B. Rush for the two communicates my charge is 5.00 which if you will send me per
registered mail I will remit you per return mail Respfy J. V. Mansfield I judge from the corn. it relates to a skeleton.'
With this letter the sealed envelope was returned, apparently in exactly the same state in which it had been sent; the seals were intact, with the exception perhaps of a few trifling fractures, for which the transit to and from Boston, through the mail, would readily account. Upon closer inspection, however, and upon turning the envelope so as to catch the light, I thought that a slight glazing of gum was discernible around the central seal, and from beneath its edge a minute bubble of mucilage protruded. The fee demanded was at once forwarded, and by return of mail the following 'communicates' were received, written in pencil on long strips of common paper, and in two different hands:
Dear Furness. -- Yours of 28 Feby before me -- as to this matter under consideration I have looked it over and over again Called my old friend Geo Combe and we are of the mind it is the skull of a female -- Combe says he thinks it was that of a Colored woman -- the age -- about 40 to 44 the name of the one who inhabited it -- it would not be possible for any spirit but the one who the skull belonged to If it was colored -- Cornelia Winnie might know. Respfy ROBT HARE Mch 2 '85,'
In a larger, bolder hand on the second slip was the following:
'My dear Townsman -- pardon what may seem an intrusion -- but seeing your anxiety to get the Aage [sic] sex -- col and name of a skull in your office and seeing the conclusion that Dr. Hare and Proffr Combe have arrived at -- I will say that I have looked the same over and fully concur in their conclusion save in the color of the one who once annimated [sic] that skull. Fowler Spurzeheim [sic] and Gall agree in saying that Hare and Combe have nothing to base an opinion upon, as to the color-yet in sex they agree Yours with Respect
BENJA RUSH M.D.
Exact age could not be determined. Mch 2 '85'
These answers are certainly remarkable. The very words of the question inside the sealed envelope are here openly repeated, and although the six eminent, scientific ghosts. Hare, Combe, Fowler, Spurzheim, Gall, and Rush do not agree with each other on all points, yet a slight divergence, or contrariety, in opinion is at times observable to the grosser eyes of flesh among doctors upon earth; and then they were all
in accord over the sex of the skull, in which problem, having one chance out of only two, they could not go very far afield. Moreover, the very framing of the question as to sex might suggest female, and as to color, might suggest black.
But had not the envelope been opened?
It occurred to me to cut the edges of the sealed envelope carefully, whereby I could examine the flap, on the inside. It was done. The paper of the envelope under three of the seals was torn, and deception stood revealed. The seals had been cut out, and restored to their position with mucilage.
Although, in legal phrase, I might rest my case here, yet I was anxious so to seal an envelope that while its contents could not be extracted without the destruction of the envelope and a betrayal of any attempted fraud, yet that an answer to the question enclosed should be quite within the clairvoyant power, so called, of the Medium, if he really possessed any, and as to the existence whereof I was sincerely anxious to obtain some satisfactory proof. Animated with this desire, I proceeded as follows:
In the 'communicate' from the Spirit of Dr. Hare, reference is made to Cornelia Winnie's possible knowledge of the information which I was seeking in regard to the skull. Could this have been a lure to tempt me to knock again at the Spiritual door of which Dr. Mansfield is the porter?
At any rate I accepted the suggestion. On a sheet of note-paper I wrote:
'Can Cornelia Winnie, or any other Spirit (Dr. Hare refers me to the former), give me any particulars of the life or death of the colored woman who once animated this skull here m my Library. I am entirely ignorant myself on the subject.'
This was folded, placed in an envelope, gummed and sealed precisely as I had folded, gummed and sealed the previous letter. This I marked with ink on the outside 'No. 1.'
On another sheet of similar note-paper I repeated word for word, and line for line, and dot for dot, the very same question. This paper was also folded and put into an envelope, BUT two or three stitches of red silk were then passed through the flap of the envelope and the enclosed paper, sewing the two securely together; these stitches were made at the point of the flap, and again at each of the four corners. Over these stitches, and concealing them, seals of red sealing wax were affixed. Exteriorly the two envelopes were precisely alike. The stitched envelope was marked on the outside 'No. 2.' As the contents
of both were identical, a clairvoyant Spirit that could answer No. 1 could answer No. 2, but nothing less than superhuman power could extract the paper from No. 2 without so tearing the envelope as to betray an un-Spiritual origin. These two envelopes were enclosed to our Medium with the following note:
'Dear Doctor Mansfield. The answers to my sealed letter were so satisfactory and so very curious that I should like to follow up the interesting subject, if I am not taxing your powers too heavily. I therefore enclose two more sealed envelopes, marked No. 1 and No. 2. If it be possible, I should like to have you sit with No. 1 first. If the Spirits respond, pray send me word and let me know how much I am indebted to you.'
My object in asking the Medium to sit first with No. 1 was that, if he were fraudulent, finding the ease with which No. 1 could be opened, he would undertake the opening of No. 2 with such freedom and assurance that the envelope would be torn beyond the healing power of mucilage, and a confession of failure would have to follow.
In a few days the envelopes were returned with the following brief note:
'Dear Furness: Send you what came to your P K the 2d gave no response my terms are $3 for each trial -- warrant nothing.
J. V. M.'
The Spiritual communication enclosed reads as follows:
'I Bress de Lord for deh one mor to talk to de people of my ole home I been thar lots o tim since I com here -- but o Lord de Massy -- they no see Winne cos she be ded and she jus no ded at tall -- now -- as to dot Col gal -- Hed I could not say -- sure -- but I think it Dinah Melish -- she who lov de Lord too. I think it seem Dina top not. Will see Dina som time and then i ask her -- do you no Minister Du Cachet well he here -- and want the [there here follows in the original a rude drawing of a decanter and wine glass. In this scandalous allusion there is no trace, it will be observed, of phonetic spelling in the proper name] just de same. I Bress de Lor I don't want it.
March 13, '85.
An examination of the envelope marked No. 1, by cutting it open at the edges, revealed the same story of fraud: three of the seals had been cut out, and replaced.
An examination of No. 2, in the same way, readily disclosed the reason why the Spirits had failed to answer, although the question assuredly presented no greater difficulties than in No. 1. An attempt had been made to start two of the seals, but meeting with unexpected resistance in the silk stitches, and finding that further effort would end in tearing the envelope in a very palpable and mundane fashion, the Spirits had grown disheartened and taciturn.
We shall meet this Medium again, but for the present we will leave him, after pausing for a minute over his business card, which, after stating his terms in prosaic dollars and cents, thus apostrophizes his clientele:
Happily my experience enables me to remove all doubt as to the locality of the Spirit's 'home,' and to state with positiveness its exact location. But like the German philologist's example of the remarkable incongruity in English between spelling and pronunciation, that what was written 'Boz' was pronounced 'Charles Dickens,' so I cheerfully add to this list of incongruities that what is written 'bright stars' is pronounced 'Boston,' and 'viewless air' is pronounced 'Dartmouth Street.'
I next turned my attention to Mr. R. W. Flint in New York. From him I received the following circular in answer to my inquiries:
I am controlled by one spirit, purporting to be my guide who is the scribe for the spirits, delivering (in his own hand-writing) what is dictated to him by the spirit of communicating.
I am in a normal (not trance) state, but unconscious of the composition.
My hand is moved to write from right to left (backwards), independent of my will.
By holding the written side up to the light, the answer can be read.
The spirit-letters should be SECURELY sealed, addressed to the spirit, giving his or her name in full, and signed by the writer's name in full; but no address on the envelope.
When left open they cannot be answered, my agency being efficient only when my mind is passive, and blank to both questions and answers.
Put your questions clearly, directly, briefly. The mixed and many kinds defeat the object of the investigator.
I have my photograph for sale, exhibiting my Spirit Guide's hand and arm, or form of control; taken while answering a sealed letter."
[The terms here follow, with honorable notification that the money is returned in all cases when the letters are not answered.]
It will be noted that this Medium's 'Spirit-guide' requires the names in full of both Spirit and writer; I was, therefore, forced to select a Spirit who knew not only me and my ways, but also the high value that is placed on that skull. Mindful that eminent Spiritual authority had pronounced this skull to be that of a colored woman, I decided, after deliberation, to address the Spirit of W--- H---, a colored servant, who had lived over forty years in one family a faithful, blameless life, and who, when he died, carried with him the respect and regards of the entire household, and whose widow and daughters still survive in honest, humble life, and to whose ears this apparent freedom with their husband's and father's name will never reach. Accordingly, the following note was addressed to the Spirit world:
"Dear W--- H---. Can you tell me anything about the owner, when alive, of the skull here in the Library? You remember how anxious I have always been to have my ignorance on this score enlightened. Have you any message to send to your wife, M--- F---? Are you happy now? Your old friend, Horace Howard Furness."
This letter was put in an envelope, which was gummed and sealed with five simple seals, without the impenetrable stitches of silk, and enclosed with the fee to Mr. Flint. It was received again in a few days with this note: -- 'Dear Sir -- I gave your sealed Spirit-letter three sittings and regret to state that I have been unable to get an answer. My Guide at each sitting wrote and said, the Spirit called upon is not present to dictate an answer.' The fee was also returned.
An examination of the envelope by cutting at the edges, as in the previous experiment, showed that the 'Spirit arm' of the Guide of Mr. Flint had not the nerve of Dr. Mansfield. I was at a loss to know why it stopped; it was going along in the removal of the seals very nicely; to be sure the paper was tearing perilously near where the rent could be detected from the outside, but with only a little more of Dr. Mansfield's pluck, and the Spirit of W--- H--- would have been present, and the fee pocketed. However, from whatever cause, whether fright or repentance, the 'flighty purpose was overtook,' and the Medium supposed that a little mucilage would 'clear him of the deed.'
Next I turned to Mrs. Eleanor Martin, in Columbus, Ohio. Without writing a fresh letter, I sent her the same letter to W--- H---,
which had been returned to me from Mr. Flint, and the envelope was sealed in the simple easy way with five seals, but no silk stitches.
To this came the following response:
'Columbus, Ohio, March 25th, '85.
*** Please find enclosed your sealed letter, also the messages, and my terms. I learn from the messages, your letter was written upon the Spiritual topic. My terms being $1.00. But in your case I find the messages are at a greater length than many and according to request of the Spirit "Belle" I paint the little white rose as her nature. Most truly, Eleanor Martin.
First message, written by one of my Guides in Spirit for the following persons:
In earth life I was tall and fair
'With jet black eyes and golden hair
Eyes that sparkled with mirth and song
And whose hair in curls one yard long.
Ah but many sad years ago
My life was burdened with woe
But the seens [sic] through which I passed
Are now with gladness overcast.
I was born in your earth to await
The coming of a cruel fate
Yes, I a true and loving wife
But mine was a sad darkened life.
Oh a life which seemed to last
To me the future, as the past,
And as the lone hours drifted by
My only prayer, Oh could I die.
Cruel is the assassins hand
Yet so many are in your land
Day by day as a fearful flood
Hearts have flowed in tears of blood.
My own the pain, I could not tell
But I can say I know full well
My soul ne'er found sweet peace one day
And with earth I could no longer stay.
My form was sold to doctors three
So you have all that's left of me
I come to greet you in white mull
You that prizes my lonely skull.
I can cause you many bright hours
Strew your path in purest flowers
For your kindness tendered me
I will always guard and guide thee.
You may call me your Sister Belle
My other name I ne'er can tell
They tell me it is for the best
To let earth's troubles be at rest.
Tis I who have often raped [sic]
In your quiet room have taped [sic]
And have impressed on your mind
Many inquiries of me so kind.
By Blind Harry for a beautiful lady who gives the name Belle.
To my Dear friend Horace
Horace you wonder if all is well
Yes, I'm more happy than I can tell
For sorrow and trouble does not last
But like a sweet dream goes gliding past
In a smooth path of eternal day
Where dawns for each a perpetual May.
Dear M--- tell her, and family too
That I am ever to them most true
And I daily guide her tender feet
Where'er she goes upon the street
That she has my love forever more
I understand her more than before.
Oh! yes this bright and eternal space
Fills each true soul with love and grace
There is nothing like earth's crimes so vile
No frown wreathes the face but a sweet smile
And which glides along, to one and all
Greeting old, and young, gay, and small.
The bright spirit world is everywhere
And to each is appointed some care
To guide earth's children on their way
Amid the poor, as well as the gay
We dwell in fields of labor and love
Guiding thousands in true relms [sic] above.
Many things I would love to rehearse
Which would be written for me in verse
But so many are here to await
Their joyous messages to relate
Many friends with me are ever near
To guide our brother Horace dear.-
By Blind Harry.
For a gentleman who gives his name W--- H---.'
The sealed envelope scarcely needed to be opened at the back for interior inspection; its exterior bore ample and all-sufficing evidence that the seals had been broken, and the gum softened; the fingers which had again pressed down the gummed edge were not as unsullied as 'Sister Belles' white rose.
This communication from the Spirit world gave me pause. Here was food for reflection. It settled many points in dispute among the scientific Ghosts. First: they were all right on the question of sex; but Hare, Combe and Cornelia Winnie were wrong as to color. Sister Belle is not a negress, her hair is not black and in kinks, it is golden, and its curls are three feet in length, moreover, a white rose is her emblem. And what a sad domestic tragedy have I not here unearthed. In reading between the lines of these verses we learn that what darkened the life of this true and loving woman was a mercenary husband, and that this husband survived her, and in his unhallowed greed sold her body, and this, too, at so exorbitant a price, that it required the united purses of three doctors to induce him to close the bargain.
Secondly: by the message from W--- H---, that most sedate and respectful of all respectful colored servants, the moralist may learn anew the truth that Death is a leveller of all distinctions. Not even when the Emperor Charlemagne appeared at a Materializing Seance in a dress-coat and standing collar, and apologetically remarked that 'Kings leave their ermine, sir, at the door of the tomb,' not even then was this great truth driven so profoundly home as when W--- H--- greeted me by my Christian name, and hailed me 'brother.'
Need it be added that I gratefully remitted to Medium Number Three a double fee, and do yet consider myself many times her debtor? Her gratitude to me found expression in another outburst of song.
Had the identity of the original owner of the skull been my sole object, I might well have rested content. I had found the owner, and she had claimed her own. She was 'Sister Belle,' and confessed to
that rare combination of golden hair with black eyes, like Lady Penelope Rich, Sir Philip Sydney's first love. But my duty as a member of this Commission compelled me to complete my investigations, and make application to the fourth and last Medium for answering Sealed Letters.
As I have stated, this Medium is also a woman, and resides in Massachusetts. Her circular directs the sealed letters to be 'well sealed or stitched, so that they may not be opened until returned.'
To this Medium, Mrs. Eliza A. Martin, Oxford, Mass., was sent the same letter to W--- H--- that had been sent to her predecessor, of the same name, in Columbus, and it was put in an envelope, merely gummed and sealed, without the silk stitches.
Within a few days I received the following note, enclosing my sealed envelope: 'A message awaits your order from W--- H---. Please state if you recognize Mrs. M. F. H. -- Several friends came and that name was mentioned. * * * There are some words in an unknown tongue.'
The minute that I looked at the returned envelope, I felt like standing uncovered, as in the presence of genius, a genius before which Mediums One, Two and Three paled. Nothing could excel the unsullied virginity of the seals, or of the gummed spaces between them. I felt that I must proceed with the utmost caution. With a very sharp penknife I then began to cut the edge of the envelope at one end. Scarcely had the knife been drawn very slowly more than the half of an inch before it became manifest that the edge of the envelope presented more resistance than the simple fold of paper would make. I stopped and examined the severed edges. Very delicate but very distinct traces were visible of a thin mucilage, perhaps of rice-water or of diluted gum-tragacanth. How exquisite and how light are the touches of ethereal, Spiritual fingers! After all the trouble with my seals, when, emulating Dr. Watt's Busy Bee, 'so neat I spread my wax,' it was beginning to dawn upon me that clairvoyant eyes, quite as much as our own, require Heaven's broad sunshine on black ink and white paper.
The transmission of the fee brought in a few days the following :
'Dictated by the Spirit of W--- H---.
To H. H. Furness. I found things very different here from what I expected. I think that is almost the universal experience. The half has not been told, nor can it ever be, for no language known to humanity can convey any definite knowledge of the mysteries of the Spiritual Life.
I remain the same toward you and all my earthly friends. Am with you frequently. Was present in your Library with you one day recently. I send my love to M--- F--- and to all others who knew me in earth-life.
A friend whom we both know and respect will pass over to this side before long.
Will come to you again.'
I cannot but think that all will agree in estimating this communication, with its adroit generalization, and in its general tone as superior to any thus far received. On another sheet of paper was written:
'There is a Spirit Friend present, who gives the name of Marie St. Clair. Earth-life had not much pleasure for her, and a course of dissapation [sic] and sin resulted in an untimely death. Born of French parentage, and inheriting some of the peculiar characteristics of that people might perhaps furnish some excuse. This Spirit says furthermore, you have something which once belonged to her in your possession.
"Behold this ruin, 'tis a skull
Once of etherial spirit full --"
"Par quel ordre du Ciel, que je ne puis compendre
Vous dis-je plus que je ne dois?"
Here is evidently 'a spirit of no common rate,' of whom we might well desire further acquaintance, albeit at the cost of losing golden-haired, black-eyed Sister Belle. But why should we talk of 'loss' if, as Banquo says, 'there's husbandry in Heaven,' why should we not in the 'Summer-land' find one and the same skull, with frugal economy, given to two owners?
Desirous of submitting the mother-wit of this Medium to the test of stitched envelopes, I wrote the following: -- 'Is Marie St. Clair pleased in having her skull carefully treasured here in my Library? Does it gratify her, as a Spirit, that it is mounted on black marble? Does she ever hover over it?'
This was placed in an envelope, gummed, and sealed with five seals in the ordinary, easy-going way, and marked No. 1.
The very same questions were repeated on another piece of paper and put in an envelope, which was stitched securely with silk, the stitches passing through both the envelope and the paper, and carefully concealed under the sealing wax. This was marked No. 2, and in the note accompanying these two envelopes, the Medium was requested to
sit with No. 1 first. The Test was the same as that to which Dr. Mansfield had been subjected, and to which he had succumbed.
The mail soon returned both envelopes, with this note: -- 'The reply comes to us in the affirmative to both envelopes. There is quite a communication for you from same Spirit Friend.'
A close examination of the edges of the envelopes soon revealed the edge at which they had been opened and closed again. That edge has been preserved intact for future verification, if required, and the envelopes were opened by cutting the other edges. The seals had not been removed; as, in fact, there was no need of removing them. The paper containing the questions had not been extracted from No. 2; it still remained firmly stitched to the front of the envelope. Yet the Medium had evidently read it. Her words are ' the reply comes in the affirmative to both envelopes,' which is a good, fair answer. I was puzzled, it must be confessed. Suddenly it occurred to me to try how far one could look into the contents of the paper, supposing the end of the envelope to be open. I tried it, and lo! enough can be easily read to make out that No. 2 is a repetition of No. 1. The needle had missed taking up all the folds of the paper!
The communication from Marie St. Clair, which accompanied these envelopes, runs thus: -- 'To H. H. Furness. Your kindly nature has often drawn the Spirit of Marie to your side. I consider myself indebted to you for certain acts which you will understand. Not that the poor inanimate thing which you have so kindly treated, is of itself of much account, but your kindness has often drawn me to your side in moments when you little dreamed I were near. Had I met in material existence one like yourself my past might have been far different. In this beautiful life, the sources and courses of all earthly misfortunes and sins appear to us like a figure seen in a dream. The lowest plane of Spiritual life is as much superior to earthly existence as sunlight is superior to starlight. From Marie St. Clair. Please inform Mrs. Martin why you so carefully preserved the skull, and where you obtained it, and all you know about it, and oblige yours truly, E. A. Martin. There is an acrostic upon your name waiting for you here from Marie.'
If the fair and frail Marie appears somewhat cautious in direct allusions to her skull, and to her 'earth-life,' it is certainly to her credit that she seems to have retained no taint of mercenary greed. She made no demand or reference to a fee, and a second letter had to be sent to her Medium to learn the amount of my debt. This is her reply: -- 'Your kind favour came duly to me, and as your message
to your Spirit Friend was delivered previously, that is, as soon as it was written, I had no further effort to make than to convey the following to you:
'Amants, heureux amants, voulez-vous voyager! Que ce soit aux rives prochaines.
Patience, je n'en ai pas quand je suis si pres et si loin de vous.
Ah! tout ce qu'il y a dans le coeur de crainte, de douleur, de desespoir, j'ai tout devine; tout souffert, je puis tout exprimer mamtenant surtout la joie. Adieu! Marie St. Clair.'
Here end my investigations into the power of Spirits to answer sealed questions.
In every instance the envelopes had been opened and reclosed; it is therefore scarcely necessary to add that every instance has borne the stamp of Fraud.
There is yet one other dark chapter, perhaps the darkest of all, which my duty compelled me to read.
I began with Dr. Mansfield, in Boston; let me end with him there.
In addition to the answering of sealed letters sent to him by mail, this Medium exercises his Mediumistic powers on questions propounded to him, or rather to the Spirits through him, at his own home.
His method of work, as described by several highly intelligent observers, is somewhat as follows:-- There are two tables in the room of seance, at one of which sits the Medium, at the other the visitor. The visitor at his table writes his question in pencil at the top of a long slip of paper, and, after folding over several times the portion of the slip on which his question is written, gums it down with mucilage and hands it to the Medium, who thereupon places on the folded and gummed portion his left hand, and in a few minutes with his right hand writes down answers to the concealed questions; these answers are marvels of pertinency, and prove beyond a cavil the Clairvoyant or Spiritual powers of the Medium. So remarkable are the results of this phase of Mediumship, that through them and through the high standing and intelligence of those who believe in him, this particular Medium is a tower of Spiritualistic strength. Examine my informants as narrowly as possible, there appeared to be no possibility of fraud. The impression had gradually deepened in my mind that here is an instance of genuine Spiritual power. But the fraudulent character of his dealings with the sealed letters made me fear that falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.
On the 14th of May, 1885, I called on Dr. Mansfield at his house, No. 28 Dartmouth Street, and was ushered into the second story front room -- a bedroom. There were, I think, three front windows looking on the street; at the farthest was the Medium's table, so placed sideways to the window, and close to it, that the full light fell on the Medium's left hand, as he sat at it, and faced the middle of the room. In front of the Medium, as he sat at the table with his back to the wall, were the usual writing materials, lead pencils and mucilage bottle, and beyond them, on the edge of the table farthest from the Medium, and between him and the rest of the room, was a row of books, octavos, etc., extending the whole length of the table and terminating in a tin box, like a deed box, with pamphlets on it. When the Medium sits at his table, this row of books is between him and his visitor. The table for the visitor is a small one, near one of the other windows and six or seven feet from the Medium. On this table were a number of strips of paper and a pencil.
The Medium, who did not ask my name, bade me take a seat at the small table and write my question on one of the strips of paper, and then to fold down the paper two or three times.
I sat down and wrote, "Has Marie St. Clair met Sister Belle in the other world?" I then folded that portion of the strip of paper down three times, and told the Medium that it was ready for the mucilage; he came over from his table at once with a brush of mucilage, and spread it abundantly under the last fold. Then, taking the strip between his thumb and forefinger, he walked with it back to his table, keeping it in my sight all the time. As soon as he took his seat and laid the strip on his table before him, I rose and approached his table, so as to keep my paper still in sight; the row of books entirely intercepted my view of it. The Medium instantly motioned to me to return to my seat, and, I think, told me to do so.
I obeyed, and as I did so could not repress a profound sigh. Why had no one ever told me of that row of books? The Medium did not sit in statue-like repose, but moved his body much, and his arms frequently; his hands I could not see, hidden as they were, behind the row of books. After a minute or two the Medium looked up and said, ' I don't know whether I can get any communication from this Spirit,' a remark which a long experience with Slate-Writing Mediums has taught me to regard as a highly favorable omen, and as an indication that they have read the question and are now about to begin the little game, in which I always take much interest, of experiencing great difficulty in obtaining the 'rapport,' as they term it. Dr. Mansfield frowned, shook his head and
assumed an air of great doubt and perplexity. I was certain that there would be now an ostentatious display of the strip of paper, and sure enough, in a minute more the Medium, strip in hand, came over to my table, and shook his head ominously. He placed his left hand on the portion of the strip containing my question, and began tapping on it with his forefinger. 'Pray, tell me,' I said, 'is that motion of your forefinger voluntary or involuntary?' It's my telegraph to 'em,' he replied, 'getting 'em to come.' 'I don't want to weary you,' I rejoined, 'but if that tapping will bring them, do keep it up! I cannot tell you how anxious I am to hear from this Spirit.'
He paused, and then made some marks, like cabalistic signs, which are still to be seen on the paper. Then the tapping was resumed. Then more cabalistic signs were made. At last he said, 'Put your left foot against mine, and your left knee against mine, and hook your forefinger into mine, and pull hard.' I did so. 'Stop' he cried, 'is it Maria?' 'Yes' I replied, 'that's it, she is called 'Marie.' It's Marie!' I have to go by the sound,' he rejoined. We then pulled forefingers again. 'Stop,' he cried, 'is there a 'Saint' about it?' 'Yes,' I answered, 'St. is the first part of the next name! I have so longed to have her come to me.' Dr. Mansfield arose, gathered up the strip and returned to his table, I could go now unopposed and stand by him while he wrote the following: 'I am with you my dear Bro but too xcited to speak for a moment have patience brother and I will do the best I can do to control. Your sister
Marie St. Clair.'
The change in kinship, and its novelty, staggered me somewhat; clearly they manage things differently in the ' Summer-land.' However, I mastered my emotion. 'And now,' I said, 'for the great question' and was going hastily to my table to write it. 'Stop,' said the Medium, 'you're too excited to ask that question now. Put some other questions first. Then when you are calmer put the important question.' (A clever stroke! He did not know enough of me or of Marie to answer anything definitely -- a few intermediate questions might furnish him with many a clue.) 'But, my dear sir,' I cried, 'what can I ask about? I have but one thought in my mind; that engulfs all others. If I don't ask that, I shall have to ask Marie if she minds this pouring rain or some twaddle about the weather.' 'Well, well, you'd better ask it then, and get it off your mind, and we'll see how far Marie can answer it.' (Here let me recall that stanza in Sister Belle's communication wherein she says:
"My form was sold to doctors three
And you have all that's left of me," etc.)
I sat down at my table and wrote: 'Is it really true that Sister Belle's body was sold to three doctors?' I folded it down, carried it to the Medium's table, watched him gum it, and still remained standing at his table, but he immediately and peremptorily waved me to my seat. Again were his hands and my strip of paper, with its freshly gummed fold, completely hidden from sight, behind the row of books. Again the Medium's arms moved. He turned to the window and hastily pulled down the shade. This puzzled me. There was no sunshine to be excluded, it was raining fast outside, the day was unusually dark, and he needed all the light he could get. I turned and looked out of my window, and there in the house just across the narrow street, at a window on a level with ours, and commanding a full view of the Medium's table, sat a woman sewing, with another, I think, standing by her. 'Bravo!' I thought, 'are not the four Cardinal virtues, Temperance, Justice, Prudence and Fortitude?' and then resumed my watch inside.
Dr. Mansfield finished writing, and then held up the slip as though for a final revision before handing it to me. A toothpick which he had in his mouth worked energetically from side to side, and he gravely shook his head as in perplexity. 'I don't like this,' he ejaculated at last, 'I don't want to give it to you. There'11 be trouble here. It's very serious. Better let me tear it up.' ' Let me see it,' I cried, 'I promise you I'll be calm,' and I took the strip from his fingers and read:
'Dear Brother -- I fear such was the case - but -- I could not say who -- I have consulted Dr. Hare -- and the far famed Benja Rush, and they agree that the body is not in the earth -- I fear darling Belle's body -- is in process of being -- wired. Marie St. Clair.'
The last word was not, I thought, quite legible, so I appealed to the Medium, and when he solemnly said 'wired,' the utterance with which I greeted it he probably thought was a groan, and, indeed, from the borderland of laughter, I did try to push it over into the land of tears, as hard as I could.
My third question immediately followed: "Can you give me any information as to where even a portion of the body is?" Again I was waved to my seat, again my strip of paper and the hands were concealed, again the arms were nervously moved. This answer I awaited with not a little anxiety. Surely, surely, Marie St. Clair and Sister Belle would remember that their joint skull was in my library. They had told me so, only a few weeks before, and as that skull was known to be fifty or sixty years old, and their united memory of it had
lasted throughout those long years, surely that memory would not desert them now. And Dr. 'Benja' Rush, who had recently greeted me as 'townsman,' he was present and surely he would come to the rescue of Spiritualism, and gladly seize the chance to settle the question which he had once discussed with Combe, and Gall, and Spurzheim by bringing forward the frail Marie and the golden-haired, black-eyed Belle as tenants in common (and uncommon) of the same skull.
Moreover, I thought, are there not to be found in Anatomical Museums skeletons of infants with one body and two heads? Why may not this have been an instance of one head and two bodies? To be sure, one of the bodies lived in Ohio and the other in Massachusetts, but then when we have once started on a journey through the marvels of Spiritualism, as portrayed by these four Mediums, what does such a trifle as this amount to? I had, I reflected, in all seriousness, taken no single step in the investigation of these Mediums that was not fully authorized by the explicit statements received from the Mediums themselves. I had accepted as truth what they told me was truth. If Spiritualism is hereby wounded, it is wounded in the house of its own disciples.
At last my answer came: 'I am not allowed to divulge what I think -- much less what I know -- it would be productive of more harm than good -- let them have it -- it is but earth at best -- they have not got our precious Belle -- she is safe in the Haven of Eternal repose -- I would not make any noise about it -- but let it pass -- as a discovery of it would give you pain rather than otherwise -- Belle says let it pass -- the triune that have it bought it without knowing whose it was, and such care as little as they know.
Marie St. Clair.'
I felt that it was time that a conclusion should be put to this farce, so humiliating in the thought that honest, unsuspicious, gentle men and gentle women are daily deceived by it. Nevertheless, I wished to bring the 'wheel full circle' to this Medium's Spiritual communications of aforetime. I recalled that Cornelia Winnie's spirit had said that she thought the skull was Dina Melish's 'top not.' My fourth, and last, question therefore ran: 'Do you think that by any chance Dina Melish would know?' To which the answer came: "Well Brother, as to that She may know more than She may be willing to divulge -- you see, Brother, it places Dinah in a very unpleasant position, i. e., should it be noised abroad that she was in the secret. I do not by any means censure Dinah for what she may know, if know she does. You could xamine Dinah on that point -- carefully, not allowing
her to suspect your object in so doing. You might and might not elicit some light on the matter.
Marie St. Clair.'
14 May '85.
After I had handed this last question to Dr. Mansfield a slight incident enabled me, to my own satisfaction, to note the exact instant when he read my question (he would say, 'clairvoyantly') behind his row of books. He once lifted his eyes to mine, and met them full for an instant in a piercing look. I do not think he suspected that I was his former correspondent (I would have told him willingly who I was if he had ever asked me), but the name 'Dina Melish ' seemed to come back to his memory, as one that he had heard but could not localize. Of course I knew that he had just read my question.
I told him that these were all the questions I desired to ask him. He exhorted me to be calm, and told me a cheerful story of a young girl's having been recently buried alive, of which, I infer, the moral was, that she would have found it more comfortable all round to have been sold to the doctors. I paid him his fee and left.
In conclusion, let me add that we have by no means exhausted the lessons which Spiritualism, in the hands of some of its votaries, can teach us. To our purblind vision the joint ownership of one skull by two different persons presents a physiological problem more or less difficult of solution. But all difficulty vanishes as soon as 'the river is crossed.' I derived no little comfort and much light from a Materializing Seance which I attended shortly afterwards in Boston, where both Marie St. Clair and Sister Belle appeared together, at the same time, and greeted me with affectionate warmth. To my inexpressible relief they were each well provided with skulls. They were more mature and matronly, I confess, than my ardent fancy had painted them, and Sister Belle's 'golden curls one yard long' were changed to very straight black hair; the golden hue which Sister Belle had herself ascribed to them must have been due to the light in which she saw them, 'the light that never was on sea or land.'
I was pleased to find that Marie's English was excellent, without a trace of foreign accent. But this, and the matronly appearance, I learned subsequently were presumably due to the age, shape and nativity of the Medium through whom she materialized. For when Marie afterwards appeared to me, as she did many times at another Medium's seances, her appearance was quite youthful, with clustering brown curls low down on her forehead, which when I once attempted to stroke
I found to be full of sharp pins; and to my expressions of gratitude that she should so kindly appear to me, she lisped in broken English: 'I am viz you olvays.' The present of an amber necklace, with the name 'Marie' engraved on the silver clasp, obtained for me from her the written expression of her pleasure that I had carefully preserved what I assured her was 'the last thing on her neck before she passed over.' Need I say that this document, in Marie's own handwriting, invests the skull with even added interest?
HORACE HOWARD FURNESS.