At my very first seance, as a member of this Commission, I was told by the Spirit of Elias Hicks, through Mrs. Patterson, that I was gifted by nature with great Mediumistic power. Another Medium, with whom I had a session shortly afterwards (I cannot remember his name, but he advertised himself as a great 'Australian Medium', professed himself quite unable to exert any power in the presence of a Medium so much more powerful than himself.
'Father Holland,' the control of Mrs. Williams, in New York, assured me that I merely needed development to have Spiritual manifestations at my own home; and Joseph Caffray was so emphatic in his assertions of my extraordinary Spiritual capabilities, that I began to think that it was my duty to quicken these dormant powers and not to let them 'fust* in me unused,' and if successful, when I had become fully 'developed,' I could offer myself to my fellow Commissioners as a corpus vile on which every experiment could be made, and at a great saving of expense.
Spiritualists constantly reproach investigators of Spiritualism with faint-heartedness and lack of patience; they allege that at the very first rebuff all investigating ardor cools, and that one failure is deemed sufficient to condemn a whole system.
If the case be really thus, the Spiritualists have a show of reason for this objection, and it behooves the Seybert Commission to give no ground for it.
After much deliberation I decided to put myself in the hands of Caffray for 'development.' I preferred this Medium, first, because he was the most emphatic of all in his assertion of my almost unrivaled Mediumistic powers, and in his confidence that indications of Spiritual growth would be manifest in three or four weeks, and at the end of six weeks or of two months I might celebrate my Spiritual majority by slatefuls of messages; and, secondly, Mr. Hazard assured me again and again that Caffray was the 'greatest Medium in the country;' and did not Mr. Hazard, by way of proof, show me a stoppered vial containing a card, on which, through Caffray's Mediumship, a message had been written while the closed vial was fast held in his closed band?
The first step was the purchase of two slates from Caffray, for which I gave him several dollars. They were common enough to look at, but ah! they had been for months in his Materializing Cabinet and had
absorbed Spiritual power to the point of saturation, and fairly exuded it. I brought them carefully from New York, and folded them in black muslin, and laid them away in a dark drawer.
Caffray told me that with a beginner the Spirits found it somewhat easier to write with French chalk than with slate pencil. So I bought a box of a dozen pieces, such as tailors use.
The instructions which I received from Caffray were to keep these slates carefully in the dark, and every evening at about the same hour to sit in total darkness, with my hands resting on them for about a half or three-quarters of an hour; to maintain a calm, equable, passive state of mind, even to think of any indifferent subject rather than to concentrate my thoughts too intently on the slate-writing. There could be no question of the result. A Medium of my unusual and excessive power would find, at the end of three weeks, faint zig-zag scratches within the closed slates, and these scratches would gradually assume shape, until at last messages would be legible, probably at the end of six weeks, or of three months at the very farthest.
In addition to this, I must wear, night and day, a piece of magnetized paper, about six inches square, afresh piece every night and morning; its magnetism was exhausted in about twelve hours. When I mentioned to Mr. Hazard the proposed use of this magnetized paper, he assured me that it was a capital idea -- that he had himself used it for a headache, and when he put it on the top of his head 'it turned all his hair backward.' I confess to dismay when I heard this; Caffray had told me that I must wear this paper on the top of my head under my hat! But did it not behoove the Acting Chairman of the Seybert Commission to yield himself a willing victim to the cause of Psychical Research? Was to be, or not to be, a Medium so evenly balanced that the turning of a hair, or of a whole head of hair was to repel me? Perish the thought! That paper should be worn on the top of my head, under my hat, and that hat should be worn all day long. I would eat my breakfast with that hat on, eat my dinner with that hat on, and sleep with that hat on, and that magnetized paper should remain on the top of my head, let it turn my hair to all the points of the compass, if it would!
When I received the slates from Caffray he had no paper that was sufficiently magnetized just then; he had some sheets that were about half done, and promised to send them to me as soon as the process was complete.
In the meantime I began with the slates, sitting with them in total darkness from about a quarter past eight to nine o'clock every evening, with my hands resting on them lightly.
In three or four days the paper arrived. I explained to my family that hereafter they must not infer, from the wearing of my hat indoors and at meals, either that my wits had slipped, or that I had become converted to Judaism, but that my conduct was to be viewed by the light of the pure flame of research. In my secret soul I resolved that I would go at once, that very morning, to New York and plead with Caffray for some slight easing of my ordeal. The 'Spectre of the Threshold' appeared to wear a silk hat, and I was afraid I never, never should pass him.
The magnetized paper I handled with awe. It was, in outward semblance, ordinary white blotting paper, and, from some faint indications of ink here and there, looked as though it might on occasion have served its original use; but had I not paid a dollar a sheet for it? It must be good.
As I started for the train I put a piece on the top of my head, gave a fond, farewell look at my hair, and planted my hat firmly on my brows. I reached the train, and while looking for a seat caught sight of my friend. Miss W--. Of course, I instantly bowed, and instantly there came fluttering down before her astonished and bewildered eyes a piece of blotting paper. I snatched it hastily, and in terror lest I had already broken the charm and forfeited all chance of Mediumship, retired to the rear of the car and furtively replaced the precious pad. Decidedly I must see Caffray at once.
Luckily, when I reached New York I found that eminent Medium at home, and, 'bonneted', rehearsed to him my dread anticipations. He could not repress a grim laugh, and to my inexpressible relief gave me permission to wear the paper suspended round my neck next the skin.
With those precious slates I sat every night, at the same hour, in darkness. I allowed nothing to interfere with this duty; no call of family, of friends, of society, was heeded. At the end of three weeks I searched every molecule of the slate for the indication of a zig-zag line, but the surface was unsullied, and its black monotony returned stare for stare.
Still hopeful and trustful I continued, day by day and week by week. The six weeks expired. Not a zig, nor a zag. Caffray was kept busy magnetizing paper. I renewed my stock and determined to push on to two months. I moved to the country and carried my slates thither, wrapped in double folds of black muslin. The days and weeks rolled on. Two months passed. The slates were as clean as when they came into my possession. I would go on to three months.
Does not a hen sit for three weeks? Where a hen gives a week, shall not I give a month? Is not a Medium worth more than a chicken?
'Courage!' cried Caffray, with each batch of paper. I went to the seashore and my slates went with me. Not a single evening did I break my rule.
And so it went on. The three months became four; became five; became six.
And there an end, with absolutely virgin slates.
I had used enough blotting paper, it seemed to me, to absorb a spot on the sun. I dare not calculate the number of hours I had spent in darkness.
Let Spiritualistic reproaches of investigators for lack of zeal and patience be heaped up hereafter till 'Ossa becomes a wart;' I care not; my withers are unwrung.
Punch gives a receipt for making 'Gooseberry Fool:' 'Carefully skin your gooseberries, extract the seeds and wash the pulp in three waters for six hours each. Having done this with the gooseberries, the Fool is perfect.'
HORACE HOWARD FURNESS.