Skip to main content
1919] PBESIDENTIAL ADDBifiSS
either tricks of the nature of conjuring tricks,, or else happenings of a kind very remote from ordinary experience.
A -discouraging feature was that attempts to improve the conditions usually led to nothing. As an example, I may mention that after writing, supposed to be spirit writing, had appeared, I arranged pencils and paper inside a large glass retort, of which the neck was then hermetically sealed. For safety this was placed in a wooden box, and stood under the table during several stances. The intention was to give opportunity for evidence that would be independent of close watching during the semi-darkness. It is perhaps unnecessary to say that though scribbling appeared on the box, there was nothing inside the retort. Possibly this was too much to expect. I may add that on recently inspecting the retorb I find that the opportunity has remained neglected for forty-five years.
During all this time I have been in doubt what interpretation to put upon these experiences. In my judgment the incidents were not good enough, or under good enough conditions, to establish occult influences; but yet I have always felt difficulty in accepting the only alternative explanation. Some circumstances, if of secondary importance, are also worthy of mention. Unlike some other mediums that I have known, Mrs Jencken never tried to divert one's attention, nor did she herself seem to be observant or watching for opportunities. I have often said that on the unfavourable hypothesis her acting was as wonderful as her conjuring. Seldom, or never, during the long hours we were together at meals or stances did she make an intelligent remark. Her interests seemed to be limited to the spirits and her baby.
Mr Jencken is another difficulty. He, an intelligent man, was a spiritualist, and, I have no reason to doubt, an honest one, before he married his wife. Could she have continued to deceive him ? It seems almost impossible. He bore eye-witness to the baby—at the age of three months I think it was—taking a pencil and writing a spirit message, of which we saw what purported to be a photograph. If, on the other hand, he had found her out, would he have permitted her to continue her deceptions ?
After the death of Home and Mrs Jencken, so-called physical manifestations of a well attested kind seem rather to have fallen into abeyance, except in the case of Eusapia Palladino. Although I'attended one or two of her stances at Cambridge and saw a few curious things, other members of the Society have had so much better opportunities that I pass them by. There is no doubt that she practised deception, but that is not the last word.
One of the difficulties which beset our inquiry is the provoking attitudie of many people who might render assistance. Some see nothing out of the way in the most marvellous occurrences, and accordingly take no pains over the details of evidence on which everything depends. Others attribute all these things to the devil, and refuse to have anything to say ta them. Is—(i.e. believers).