In 1884 rumors reached me of remarkable Spiritual communication from a revered friend and relative, Dr. Hering. These communications had come through a slate-writing Medium by the name of Patterson, and were received by two gentlemen whose names I am not at liberty to mention, but whom I will call A. and B. Both were prominent men, and both had become thorough believers in Spiritualism after several sittings with Mrs. Patterson. A. claimed to have received personal benefit from medicines thus prescribed, and learned the circumstances of his son's death which had occurred in some mysterious manner far away from home. B. has since died, and communications under his signature have come through this same Medium.
The manifestations in this province of Spiritualism, Independent Slate Writing, would seem to be of a nature more tangible and direct than those of so-called Materializing or Trance Mediums, and, therefore, in this instance I determined to test to the utmost what had been reported to me concerning communications from one who stood so near in life.
Although I received a number of messages at my first visit, written in pencil, in many different handwritings, which the Medium alleged were written by Spirit-control of her hand, I received but one or two in the slate. The slate was a small double slate, joined together with hinges, about 10 inches by 12 inches in dimension. Inside of the slates, written on a slip of paper, carefully folded, I placed the question "Can I obtain a communication from Dr. Hering which will be characteristic of himself?" A small piece of slate pencil chipped from an ordinary pencil, perhaps an eighth of an inch long, was placed within the slates, together with the written question. The slates were then tightly screwed together at the open end, by myself, with the blade of an old knife which was at hand to serve the purpose of a screwdriver. It was then placed by the Medium in her lap, under the table, one hand, the left, resting upon the slate, the other hand remaining on top of the table, writing, with a lead pencil, messages in different handwritings, on paper.
These messages came in characters bold as John Hancock's, and in chirography as small and neat as the writing of Charlotte Bronte, whose manuscript the compositor is said to have deciphered with the aid of a magnifying glass; and between these extremes were a dozen or more styles as varied and marked as one could wish. The purport of these messages, which were written rather quickly, and without perceptible
thought or hesitation, changing from one handwriting to another without the least apparent difficulty, was in some instances the veriest twaddle, while others contained tolerably good sense, even in language rather above the Medium, unless appearances were misleading, for she looked the embodiment of ignorant simplicity, and spoke far from grammatically.
The table at which we sat was a very ordinary little sewing-table, without any drawer or compartment, and before sitting down I examined it top and bottom, a privilege freely accorded. We had sat about ten minutes when the Medium brought up the slate with the little piece of pencil, which I had scratched with a knife for identification, lying on top of the slate. The screw was in its place, seemingly as I had put it. I was requested to remove the screw, which I did, and found written across the inside surface of one of the slates the words "I will try to accede to your wish," signed with the initials of my departed friend, to whose handwriting it was not dissimilar. I was much puzzled by this answer, I confess, and immediately placed within the slates another question, this time addressed to the name of another deceased friend. Again I screwed up the slates with my own hand, and kept my eyes riveted on the hands of the Medium as well as my position would permit, without getting up and bending over the table. I did not have long to wait before an answer came as before, again signed with the initials of the person addressed. How the writing came in the slate I could not surmise.
The following are specimens of the communications which were written by the Medium's controlled, possibly self-controlled, free, right hand, at my first visit: --
(In a fine, light, legible hand.)
Cannot say wether we can control the slate or no. will do our utmost to do so there are times when we cannot get the proper influences nor find the right conditions.
(In a close, heavy hand.)
we have quite as much power over you as over any other medium, mediumistic forces are not confined to a few, but exist to some extent in all. be patient we will do what we can.
(In a sprawling back hand, the same as a subsequent one, signed Thomas Lister.)
The friend you have asked for is here and will do what he can to comply with your wish it is not necessary that you should sit with
any medium to convince yourself of this truth, you have enough of this power to get almost any sort of manifestations you should ask for they will develope without any effort on your part but you can materially assist them
(In a neat and precise feminine hand.)
There stands by thy chair a venerable man who had passed through many years of work in his profession on the earth plane he is one that doth influence and impress thee to do many things when in the body was a phisician of the homeopathic school he sayeth that he doth feel the same interest in the progruss of the medical fraternity as when in the body. appeareth to be one of strict integrity and ranked high as a thinker thou hast many years to stay in the form and through thee a work will be completed that none other can do
(In a small, rather indistinct feminine hand.)
I dont think the doctors knew what my trouble was. I know if doctor Hering or Raue had treated my case I would still be in my body but its no difference as far as I am concerned I have found this life far the best leaving my mother was hard, but now I know how to get back to her I am content
(In a plain masculine hand.)
if you prepare a slate the doctor will give you a message on it in his own handwrite and one characteristic of him
E S W
(In a small, rather illegible hand.)
My friend Tiedemann made a mistake in the medicine he prepared for me he never for a moment thought it would prove anything but a help but it had the effect of sending me to the higher life
(In a large, generous, open hand.)
Yea if thee dost fix a slate so as to satisfy thyself thy friend will write on it and give thee a description of his birth into everlasting life
(in a very indistinct feminine hand.)
cannot say wether we can procure the presence of any one just now that can write music were it possible to have any one conversant with it they could not only write one but many notes for you
(In a small, cramped hand of almost microscopic fineness supposed to
be Charlotte Bronte, and occupying but very little more space than on
this printed page.)
The future holds much for you of success, the later portion of this and the whole of the next will be filled with prosperity you have a band of the more advanced spirits about you and were you to follow your first impressions you would never fail in your judgment
(In a clear scholarly hand.)
a man of few words when in the body I still have the same peculiarities will with your permission become one of your guiding band
(In a bold masculine hand).
Sit for ten or fifteen minuets two evenings in the week and thus help perfect the powerful gifts you have. through them you can do much good both for others and yourself
(In the same hand as a preceding communication signed T L.)
Be patient; the party that wrote on the slate before is trying to do it over we sometimes-have a difficulty in doing this.
(In a slow, labored, uncouth hand.)
I know one thing and that is that they didn't make any headway in killing me when they hung me nor even when they scooped my brains out afterward -- damn the doctors -- damn the preachers -- I hate them all they lied to me preachers priests and all they told me it was all right but I have found out its all wrong. I haven't seen Mrs Reed nor do I want to I never was sorry that I killed her, it don't make a saint out of a man to send him out the way I had to go -- its only killing -- they were as bad as I was -- I cant see -- its dark
(In an ordinary feminine hand.)
Put a piece of paper on a stand place a pencil on it and I will try to make the scale for you at home there is a power that is growing on you that will enable me to do this in a few times of trying I could write my own hand this is my first time of coming here so that makes it harder for me to get control
(This doggerel came in answer to a question whether the Spirit could
write poetry,and is in a hand not dissimilar to the preceding
communication, although the signatures differ.)
When the clear bright sun was shining
Then they took my cherished form
And they bore it to the church yard
To consign it to the worm
Well no matter that was only
The clay dress your loved one wore
God had robed her for an angel
She had need of this no more
Though the tears fell fast and faster
Yet you would not call me back
Nay be glad her feet no longer
Tread life's rough and thorny track
Yes be glad the father took her
Took her whilst her heart was pure
Oh be glad he did not leave her
All life's trials to endure
(In a sprawling hand.)
Your friend has lost the Control I cannot say wether it will be possible to regain it now or no I find it hard work to get any hold at all
(Each letter distinct, as a child would print the alphabet.)
Chief there cant come any answer the magnetic current is broken for want of power we go now but will come in your own wigwam
At the following seances I received slate writings repeatedly. Some times the slate would scarcely be in the Medium's hands before a message appeared, each time with the little pencil on top. I was told that I was an excellent Medium, that, if I cultivated the faculty, would soon myself be able to obtain these slate writings. I was also asked to prepare a slate secured in any way I wished, and had the promise that a message would be written within it. I acceded to the request and took a slate of my own, tied it up in every direction with twine, and
put my private seal upon it in several places where I bad knotted the string. This slate the Spirits could not overcome. I never received the promised message. I never even had the slate returned to me. After remaining in the Medium's possession for several months, she having changed her residence in the meantime, she told me the slate had disappeared and somehow must have gotten lost in moving. At any rate the slate had been spirited away somehow. I will here mention that at about the third or fourth sitting I asked permission to watch the slate while it was under the table, which was freely granted, but on this occasion, and whenever I did so, there were no results.
On one occasion we took the trouble to bring Mrs. Patterson to a room in the house of our departed friend. She was here among a small circle of intimate friends and members of the family, some inclined to belief and others skeptics. She failed utterly to obtain as much as even a scratch inside of the slates, although communications on paper came thick and fast. I may mention that on this occasion several persons sat with the slate continually in full view.
I had almost decided to drop Mrs. Patterson and her slate writing, although reluctant to do so, because I had no certain and positive evidence of fraud with which to confront my friend, who was getting impatient at my slowness in accepting all I had seen, when I resolved to push my investigations to a point of certainty, one way or another, and hit upon the little scheme of going prepared, at my next visit to Mrs. Patterson, with a mirror in my pocket which I could hold under the table at an angle that would reflect whatever occurred on the other side of the table, in the Medium's lap, the accustomed position of the mysterious slate. The sitting was held in broad daylight, and the table was so placed that the Medium was seated with her back to a window, affording sufficient light for the experiment.
I purposely avoided removing my overcoat on this day, because I wished to hide my movements as much as possible, and sat down at my side of the table with considerable misgiving as to the result of taking liberties with the Spirits. The Medium this time had on her table a new slate, a larger one, one which she said had belonged to the celebrated Slade who had himself received messages on it. She said her old slate was broken, which was probably true; when I had last seen it it was in a battered condition. She asked if it would make any difference to me if she used the new slate. The only apparent difference between the slates was that this one was larger and did not close with a screw, therefore, thought I, more easily manipulated; consequently I did not withhold my consent. I wrote upon a slip of paper my question, "Will Dr. H. advise
me what to do for Juliet (an old colored patient)?" I folded over the slip of paper five times, put it in the slate with a small stub of pencil, and down the slates went into the lap of the Medium where I could see them, lying plainly reflected in my little mirror which I had slipped out of my pocket and laid across my knees at the proper angle of reflection.
Mrs. Patterson first wrote a letter-sheet full of alleged Spirit communications, and handed them to me across the table for perusal. I took the sheet with one hand and while ostensibly scanning the written page, with the other hand I carefully adjusted my little mirror, on which my downcast and watchful eyes were fixed, when lo! in the mirror I beheld a hand, closely resembling that of the Medium, stealthily insert its fingers between the leaves of the slate, take out the little slip, unfold and again fold it, grasp the little pencil, which had rolled to the front while the slate was tilted that way, and with rapid but noiseless motion (had there been the least noise from the pencil, it would have been drowned by the fit of coughing, which, at that instant, seized the Medium) write across the slate from left to right, a few lines; then the leaves of the slate were closed, the little pencil laid on the top, and, over all, two hands were folded as if in benediction. The woman opposite me, to whom the hands belonged (unless they were Spirit hands) sat with uplifted eyes, a calm expression of innocence upon her face. After holding the slates so for a moment or two, and after calling to the Spirit friends "to come and please write in the slate," she produced them, saying, " It has come!"
Of course, I did all I could to master my indignation, which, at that moment, was extreme, and quietly opening the slates, I read the message pretending to have come from high authority, "The channels are obstructed, give Arsenic, Bryonia and Pulsatilla in succeeding doses, an hour apart!" The last words were somewhat illegible, and Mrs. Patterson suggested another trial; she thought the Spirits would write it plainer. Again the slates went down; again I saw the hand at work as before. This second time the hurriedly written message was not much plainer than the first. Mrs. Patterson, who was better versed in deciphering Spirit dispatches than I, offered to read it for me, but remembering that "all good things are three," I requested a third trial. After this last experiment, in which again, for the third time, in my little mirror, I saw the stealthy fingers write on the slate, I told the Medium I was satisfied, smothered my indignant anger, and left the house as quickly as I could. For the larger part of a year I had investigated in good faith this department of Spiritualism, which, in this Medium's case, had turned out a downright fraud.
Not long after my last interview with Mrs. Patterson it was my good fortune to meet with an unprofessional Medium, a young gentleman of reputed honor and veracity, to whom I was introduced by a friend who had known him from childhood, and vouched for his honesty. This young man's Mediumistic abilities had begun to develop with the planchette, and had reached the stage in which a drum and sundry musical instruments were played behind a curtain where he sat entranced, with his hands tightly bound together by a handkerchief or cord. These seances were continued with regularity on certain nights in the week, and were confined strictly to the family circle and to a few privileged friends. There was, therefore, no temptation to deceive for gain. I came into the circle as an observer, not as believer, but was impressed by the phenomena witnessed at the first seance in which the Medium was under Indian control. There were strange sounds, guttural tones and whoops which really might have emanated from a wild son of the forest. A drum, an accordion, a zither, a mouth-organ were all played upon. The drumsticks kept time to music, rapped on the wall, appeared above the edge of the curtain several times, brightly illuminated, as if dipped in electric light or some phosphorescent substance. As I have said, I was impressed, and might have ended in complete conversion, by manifestations from so trustworthy a source, and vouched for in such perfect sincerity, had it not, in an unlucky moment, occurred to me to apply a little harmless test.
The test consisted simply in putting a dab of printer's ink on one of the drumsticks at the very last moment before the seance began. The result could not prove physically injurious to the Medium, who had challenged investigation, nor to any one in the circle. The result was startling. Being accorded the privilege of tying the Medium's hands, I proceeded to do so with a stout cord, using a certain knot which I believe has never been known to slip or come undone. This accomplished, and while some one else fastened the Medium securely to his chair, with his back to the instruments on the table, the ink, concealed in a pocket-handkerchief, was applied. In this position we left the Medium, the lights were lowered and the music began. Soon were heard the deep breathings preceding the trance, then the 'Indian' began to manifest, at first somewhat sullenly, as if not pleased with the conditions, some of the instruments sounded, and at last the drumsticks began their tattoo. At the close of the seance, when the curtains were drawn and the lights turned up, the Medium was found in his chair with his hands still tied, but great was the astonishment
of everyone present at the marvelous condition of the Medium's hands. How in the world printer's ink could have gotten smeared over them while under control of 'Deerfoot, the Indian,' no one, not even the Medium, could fathom.
I believe there is an explanation for these or similar phenomena, but I must leave it to the ingenious and adroit expounders of Spiritualist philosophy.
CALVIN B. KNERR.