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Full text of "Scientific Papers - Vi"

1919]                                     PRESIDENTIAL ADDEESS                                         645
Times, which was on the table behind me, but without looking at it. ' Yes/ was the reply of the planchette. ' Well/ I said, ' if you can see that, write the word which is now covered by my finger, and I will believe you.' The planchette commenced to move. Slowly and with great difficulty, the word 'however' was written. I turned round, and saw the word 'however' was covered by the tip of my finger."
"I had purposely avoided looking at the newspaper when I tried this experiment, and it was impossible for the lady, had she tried, to have seen any of the printed words, for she was sitting at one table, and the paper was on another table behind, my body intervening."
The two mediums whose names are mentioned in the article, and with whom most of the observations were made, are Home and Miss Fox, afterwards Mrs Jencken. A highly desirable characteristic of Home's mediumship was the unusual opportunity allowed to the sense of sight. Home always objected to darkness at his seances. "Indeed," says Sir William Crookes, "except on two occasions... every thing that I have witnessed with him has taken place in the light."
I found (and indeed still find) it difficult to accept what one may call the "knave and fool theory" of these occurrences; but failing that, it would seein to follow that one must admit the possibility of much that contrasts strongly with ordinary experience, and I was naturally anxious to obtain first hand information on which I could form an independent judgment. Home was no longer available, but I was able to obtain the co-operation of Mrs Jencken, who stayed in my country house as guest during two or three visits extending altogether, I suppose, over fourteen days or so. She was accompanied by a nurse and baby, and for a small part of the time by Mr Jencken, who seemed curiously slow to understand that we had to regard him as well as his wife with suspicion, when I explained that we could not attach importance to seances when both were present. It may be well to add that they received nothing beyond the usual courtesy and entertainment due to guests.
The results were upon the whole disappointing, and certainly far short of those described by Sir W. Crookes. Nevertheless, there was a good deal not easy to explain away. Very little of importance occurred in a good light. It is true that at any hour of the day Mrs Jencken was able to get raps upon a door by merely placing her fingers upon it. The listener, hearing them for the first time, felt sure there was someone on the other side, but it was not so. The closest scrutiny revealed no movement of her fingers, but there seemed nothing to exclude the possibility of bone-cracking with the door acting as sounding-board. However, on one or two occasions loud thumps were heard, such as one would hardly like to make with one's knee. WithI, putting my finger on a copy of the