"The History of Spiritualism"
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Volume I



MRS. ANN PULVER certifies:

I was acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Bell (who occupied the house in 1844). I used to call on them frequently. My warping bars were in their chamber, and I used to go there to do my work. One morning when I went there Mrs. Bell told me that she felt very bad; that she had not slept much, if any, the night before. When I asked her what the matter was, she said she didn't know but what it was the fidgets; but she thought she heard somebody walking about from one room to another, and that she had Mr. Bell get up and fasten down all the windows. She said she felt more safe after that. I asked her what she thought it was. She said it might be rats. I heard her speak about hearing noises after that, which she could not account for.

Miss Lucretia Pulver gave testimony:

I lived in this house all one winter, in the family of Mr. Bell. I worked for them part of the time, and part of the time I boarded and went to school. I lived there about three months. During the latter part of the time that I was there I heard this knocking frequently in the bedroom, under the foot of the bed. I heard it a number of nights, as I slept in the bedroom all the time that I staid there. One night I thought I heard a man walking in the buttery. This buttery is near the bedroom, with a stairway between. Miss Aurelia Losey staid with me on that night; she also heard the noise, and we were both much frightened, and got up and fastened down the windows and fastened the door. It sounded as if a person walked through the buttery, down cellar, and part way across the cellar-bottom, and there the noise would cease. There was no one else in the house at this time, except my little brother, who was asleep in the same room with us. This was about twelve o'clock, I should think. We did not go to bed until after eleven, and had not been asleep when we heard the noise. Mr. and Mrs. Bell had gone to Loch Berlin, to be gone until the next day.

Thus it is proved that strange sounds were heard in the house in 1844. Another family named Weekman lived there in 1846-7, and they had a similar experience.


I have heard about the mysterious noises that have been heard in the house now occupied by Mr. Fox. We used to live in the same house; we lived there about a year and a half and moved from there to the house we now occupy. About a year ago, while we were living there, we heard someone, as we supposed, rapping on the outside door. I had just got into bed, but my husband had not. He went and opened it, and said that there was no one there. He came back, and was about getting into bed when we heard the rapping on the door again. He then went to the door and opened it, and said that he could see no one, although he stepped out a little way. He then came back and got into bed. He was quite angry; he thought 'twas some of the neighbouring boys trying to disturb us, and said that "They might knock away, but they would not fool him," or something of that kind. The knocking was heard again, and after a while he got up and went to the door and went out. I told him not to go outdoors, for perhaps somebody wanted to get him out and hurt him. He came back, and said he could see nothing. We heard a good deal of noise during the night; we could hardly tell where it was: it sounded sometimes as if someone was walking in the cellar. But the house was old, and we thought it might be the rattling of loose boards, or something of that kind.

A few nights afterwards, one of our little girls, who slept in the bedroom where the noises are now heard, woke us all up by screaming very loud. My husband and I, and our hired girl, got up immediately to see what was the matter. She sat up in bed, crying and screaming, and it was some time before we could find out what the matter was. She said that something had been moving about, over her head and face-that it was cold, and she did not know what it was. She said that she felt it all over her, but she was most alarmed at feeling it on her face. She was very much frightened. This was between twelve and one o'clock at night. She got up and got into bed with us, and it was a long time before she could go to sleep. It was several days before we could get her to sleep in that room again. She was eight years old at that time.

Nothing else happened to me during the time that we lived there; but my husband told me that one night he heard someone call him by name, somewhere in the house-he did not know where-but could never find out where or what it was that night. I was not at home that night. I was sitting up with a sick person. We did not think the house was haunted at that time.

APRIL 11, 1848.


I am the husband of Hannah Weekman. We used to live in the house now occupied by Mr. Fox, in which they say strange noises are heard. We lived there about a year and a half. One evening, about bedtime, I heard the rapping. I supposed it was someone knocking at the door who wanted to come in. I did not bid him "Come in," as I usually do, but went to the door. I did not find anyone there, but went back, and just as I was getting into bed I heard the rapping again and opened the door quick, but could see no one there. I stepped out a step or two, but could see no one about there. I then went back and got into bed. I thought someone was making game of me. After a few minutes I heard the knocking again, and after waiting a few minutes and still hearing it, I got up and went to the door. This time I went clear out and looked around the house, but could find no one. I then stepped back and shut the door, and held on to the latch, thinking that if there was anyone there I would catch them at it. In a minute or two I heard the rapping again. My hand was on the door, and the knocking appeared to be on the door. I could feel it jar with the raps. I instantly opened the door and sprang out, but there was no one in sight. I then went round the house again, but could find no one, as before. My wife told me I had better not go out of doors, as it might be someone that wanted to hurt me. I did not know what to think of it, it seemed so strange and unaccountable.

He here relates the case of the little girl being frightened, as given above.

One night after this, about midnight, I was awake, and heard my name called. It sounded as if it was on the south side of the room.

I sat up in bed and listened, but did not hear it again. I did not get out of bed, but waited to see if it would be repeated. My wife was not at home that night. I told her of it afterwards, and she said she guessed I had been dreaming. My wife used to be frightened quite often by hearing strange noises in and about the house.

I have heard so much from men in whom I place confidence about these noises that are now heard, that, taken in connexion with what I heard, I cannot account for it, unless it is a supernatural appearance. I am willing to make affidavit to the above facts if necessary.

APRIL 11, 1848.


* Capron, "Modern Spiritualism," pp. 179-181.


Mrs. Fox and her three daughters left our city yesterday on their return to Rochester, after a stay here of some weeks, during which they have subjected the mysterious influence, by which they seem to be accompanied, to every reasonable test, and to the keen and critical scrutiny of hundreds who have chosen to visit them, or whom they have been invited to visit. The rooms which they occupied at the hotel have been repeatedly searched and scrutinized; they have been taken without an hour's notice into houses they had never before entered; they have been all unconsciously placed on a glass surface concealed under the carpet in order to interrupt electrical vibrations; they have been disrobed by a committee of ladies appointed without notice, and insisting that neither of them should leave the room until the investigation has been made, etc., etc., yet we believe no one, to this moment, pretends that he has detected either of them in producing or causing the "rappings," nor do we think any of their contemners has invented a plausible theory to account for the production of these sounds, nor the singular intelligence which (certainly at times) has seemed to be manifest through them.

Some ten or twelve days since they gave up their rooms at the hotel and devoted the remainder of their sojourn here to visiting several families, to which they had been invited by persons interested in the subject, and subjecting the singular influence to a closer, calmer examination than could be given to it at a hotel, and before casual companies of strangers, drawn together by vague curiosity more than rational interest, or predetermined and invincible hostility. Our own dwelling was among those they thus visited; not only submitting to, but courting, the fullest and keenest inquiry with regard to the alleged "manifestations" from the spirit-world, by which they were attended.

We devoted what time we could spare from our duties out of three days to this subject, and it would be the basest cowardice not to say that we are convinced beyond a doubt of their perfect integrity and good faith in the premises. Whatever may be the origin or cause of the "rappings," the ladies in whose presence they occur do not make them. We tested this thoroughly and to our entire satisfaction. Their conduct and bearing is as unlike that of deceivers as possible, and we think no one acquainted with them could believe them at all capable of engaging in so daring, impious, and shameful a juggle as this would be if they caused the sounds. And it is not possible that such a juggle should have been so long perpetrated in public. A juggler performs one feat quickly and hurries on to another; he does not devote weeks after weeks to the same thing over and over, deliberately, in full view of hundreds who sit beside or confronting him in broad daylight, not to enjoy but to detect his trick. A deceiver naturally avoids conversation on the subject of his knavery, but these ladies converse freely and fully with regard to the origin of these "rappings" in their dwellings years ago, the various sensations they caused, the neighbourhood excitement created, the progress of the developments--what they have seen, heard and experienced from first to last. If all were false, they could not fail to have involved themselves ere this in a labyrinth of blasting contradictions, as each separately gives accounts of the most astonishing developments at this or that time. Persons foolish enough so to commit themselves without reserve or caution could not have deferred a thorough self-exposure for a single week.

Of course, a variety of opinions of so strange a matter would naturally be formed by the various persons who have visited them, and we presume that those who have merely run into their room for an hour or so, and listened, among a huddle of strangers, to a medley of questions-not all admitting of very profitable answers-put to certain invisible intelligences, and answered by "rappings," or singular noises on the floor, table, etc., as the alphabet was called over, or otherwise, would naturally go away, perhaps puzzled, probably disgusted, rarely convinced. It is hardly possible that a matter, ostensibly so grave, could be presented under circumstances less favourable to conviction. But of those who have enjoyed proper opportunities for a full investigation, we believe that fully three-fourths are convinced, as we are, that these singular sounds and seeming manifestations are not produced by Mrs. Fox and her daughters, nor by any human being connected with them.

How they are caused, and whence they proceed, are questions which open a much wider field of inquiry, with whose way-marks we do not profess to be familiar. He must be well acquainted with the arcana of the universe, who shall presume dogmatically to decide that these manifestations are natural or supernatural. The ladies say that they are informed that this is but the beginning of a new era, or economy, in which spirits clothed in the flesh are to be more closely palpably connected with those who have put on immortality; that manifestations have already appeared in many other families and destined to be diffused and rendered clearer, until all who will may communicate freely with their friends who have "shuffled off this mortal coil." Of all this we know nothing, and shall guess nothing. But if we were simply to print (which we shall not) the questions asked and answers we received, during a two-hours' uninterrupted conference with the "rappers," we should at once be accused of having done so expressly to sustain the theory which regards these manifestations as the utterances of departed spirits. H. G.



There was a remarkable alternation of vivacity and deliberation about the movements of Mr. Masollam. His voice seemed pitched in two different keys, the effect of which was, when he changed them, to make one seem a distant echo of the other-a species of ventriloquistic phenomenon which was calculated to impart a sudden and not altogether pleasant shock to the nerves of the listeners. When he talked with what I may term his "near" voice, he was generally rapid and vivacious; when he exchanged it for his "far off" one, he was solemn and impressive. His hair, which had once been raven black, was now streaked with grey, but it was still thick and fell in a massive wave over his ears, and nearly to his shoulders, giving him something of a leonine aspect. His brow was overhanging and bushy, and his eyes were like revolving lights in two dark caverns, so fitfully did they seem to emit flashes and then lose all expression. Like his voice, they too had a near and a far-off expression, which could be adjusted to the required focus like a telescope, growing smaller and smaller as though in an effort to project the sight beyond the limits of natural vision. At such times they would be so entirely devoid of all appreciation of outward objects as to produce almost the impression of blindness, when suddenly the focus would change, the pupils expand, and rays flash from them like lightning from a thundercloud, giving an unexpected and extraordinary brilliancy to a face which seemed promptly to respond to the summons. The general cast of countenance, the upper part of which, were it not for the depth of the eye-sockets, would have been strikingly handsome, was decidedly Semitic; and in repose the general effect was almost statuesque in its calm fixedness. The mouth was partially concealed by a heavy moustache and long iron-grey beard; but the transition from repose to animation revealed an extraordinary flexibility in those muscles which had a moment before appeared so rigid, and the whole character of the countenance was altered as suddenly as the expression of the eye. It would perhaps be prying too much into the secrets of Nature, or, at all events, into the secrets of Mr. Masollam's nature, to inquire whether this lightening and darkening of the countenance was voluntary or not. In a lesser degree it is a common phenomenon with us all: the effect of one class of emotions is, vulgarly speaking, to make a man look black, and of another to make him look bright. The peculiarity of Mr. Masollam was that he could look so much blacker and brighter than most people, and made the change of expression with such extraordinary rapidity and intensity that it seemed a sort of facial legerdemain, and suggested the suspicion that it might be an acquired faculty. There was, moreover, another change which he apparently had the power of working on his countenance, which affects other people involuntarily, and which generally, especially in the case of the fair sex, does so very much against their will. Mr. Masollam had the faculty of looking very much older one hour than he did the next. "There were moments when a careful study of his wrinkles and of his dull, faded-looking eyes would lead you to put him down at eighty if he was a day; and there were others when his flashing glance, expanding nostril, broad, smooth brow and mobile mouth would make a rejuvenating combination that would for a moment convince you that you had been at least five-and-twenty years out in your first estimate. These rapid contrasts were calculated to arrest the attention of the most casual observer, and to produce a sensation which was not altogether pleasant when first one made his acquaintance. It was not exactly mistrust-for both manners were perfectly frank and natural-so much as perplexity. He seemed to be two opposite characters rolled into one, and to be presenting undesigningly a curious moral and physiological problem for solution, which had a disagreeable sort of attractiveness about it, for you almost immediately felt it to be insoluble, and yet it would not let you rest. He might be the best or the worst of men."




I gave an account of all this to a friend who was then alive, a man of ologies and ometers both, who was not at all disposed to think it anything but a clever imposture. "But," said he, "what you tell me is very singular: I shall go myself to Mrs. Hayden; I shall go alone and not give my name. I don't think I shall hear anything from anybody, but if I do I shall find out the trick. Depend upon it,

I shall find it out." He went accordingly, and came to me to report progress. He told me that he had gone a step beyond me, for he had insisted on taking his alphabet behind a large folding screen and asking his questions by the alphabet and a pencil, as well as receiving the answers. No persons except himself and Mrs. Hayden were in the room. The "spirit" who came to him was one whose unfortunate death was fully detailed in the usual way. My friend told me that he was "awestruck," and had nearly forgotten all his precautions.

The things which I have narrated were the beginning of a long series of experiences, many as remarkable as what I have given; many of a minor character, separately worth little, but jointly of weight when considered in connexion with the more decisive proofs of reality. Many of a confirmatory tendency as mere facts, but of a character not sustentive of the gravity and dignity of the spiritual world. The celebrated apparition of Giles Scroggins is a serious personage compared to some which have fallen in my way, and a logical one, too. If these things be spirits, they show that pretenders, coxcombs and liars are to be found on the other side of the grave as well as on this; and what for no? as Meg Dods said.

The whole question may receive such persevering attention as shall worm out the real truth; or it may die away, obtaining only casual notice, until a new outburst of phenomena recalls its history of this clay. But this subsidence does not seem to begin. It is now twelve or thirteen years since the matter began to be everywhere talked about, during which time there have been many announcements of the total extinction of the "spirit-mania." But in several cases, as in Tom Moore's fable, the extinguishers have caught fire. Were it the absurdity it is often said to be, it would do much good by calling attention to the "manifestations" of another absurdity, the philosophy of possibilities and impossibilities, the philosophy of the fourth court. Extremes meet, but the "meeting" is often for the purpose of mutual exposure, like that of silly gentlemen in the day of pop-and-paragraph duels. This on the supposition that Spiritualism is all either imposture or delusion; it cannot be more certainly one or the other than is the philosophy opposed to it. I have no acquaintance either with P or Q. But I feel sure that the decided conviction of all who can see both sides of the shield must be, that it is more likely that P has seen a ghost than that Q knows he cannot have seen one. I know that Q says he knows it.

In this connexion the following from the Publishers' Circular on the appearance of Mrs. De Morgan's book shows a contemporary estimate of Professor De Morgan's critical faculty:

Mere LITTERATEURS and writers of fiction may be pardoned for a little tendency to the visionary and unreal, but the fact that the well-known author of the standard works on Formal Logic, the Differential Calculus, and the Theory of Probabilities, should figure with his lady in the characters of believers in spirit-rapping and table-turning, will probably take most people by surprise. There is perhaps no contributor to our reviews who is more at home in demolishing a fallacy, or in good-humouredly disposing of an ignorant pretender in science than Mr. De Morgan. His clear, logical, witty and whimsical style is readily traced by literary readers in many a striking article in our critical journals. He is probably the last man whom the sceptical in such mysteries would expect to find on the side of Mr. Home and Mrs. Newton Crosland. Yet we must record the fact that Mr. De Morgan declares himself " perfectly convinced that he has both seen and heard, in a manner which should make unbelief impossible, things called spiritual which cannot be taken by a rational being to be capable of explanation by imposture, coincidence, or mistake."

Let us add to the foregoing Mrs. De Morgan's testimony:

It is now ten years since I began attentively to observe the phenomena of "Spiritualism." My first experience occurred in the presence of Mrs. Hayden from New York. I never heard a word which could shake my strong conviction of Mrs. Hayden's honesty; indeed, the result of our first interview, when my name was quite unknown to her, was sufficient to prove that I was not on that occasion the victim of her imposture, or my own credulity.

After describing the visit to Mrs. Hayden, to whom none of the names of those present was mentioned, she says:

We sat for at least a quarter of an hour and were beginning to apprehend a failure, when a very small throbbing or patting sound was heard, apparently in the centre of the table. Great was our pleasure when Mrs. Hayden, who had before seemed rather anxious, said, "They are coming." Who were coming? Neither she nor we could tell. As the sounds gathered strength, which they seemed to do with our necessary conviction of their genuineness, whatever might be their origin, Mrs. Hayden said, "There is a spirit who wishes to speak with someone here, but as I do not know the names of the gentlemen and ladies, I must point to each in turn, and, when I come to the right one, beg that the spirit will rap." This was agreed to by our invisible companion, who rapped in assent. Mrs. Hayden then pointed to each of the party in turn. To my surprise, and even annoyance (for I did not wish this, and many of my friends did), no sounds were heard until she indicated myself, the last in the circle. I was seated at her right hand; she had gone round from the left. I was then directed to point to the letters of a large type alphabet, and I may add that, having no wish to obtain the name of any dear friend or relation, I certainly did not rest, as it has been surmised is often done, on any letter. However, to my astonishment, the not common name of a dear relation who had left this world seventeen years before, and whose surname was that of my father's, not my husband's, family was spelt. Then this sentence, "I am happy, and with F. and G." (names at length). I then received a promise of future communication with all three spirits; the two last had left the world twenty and twelve years before. Other persons present then received communications by rapping; of these some were as singularly truthful and satisfactory as that to myself, while others were false and even mischievous.

Mrs. De Morgan observes that after the seances with Mrs. Hayden she and her friends experimented in private, "and it was found that a number of persons, both in and out of my own family, possessed the faculty of mediumship in a greater or less degree."



As Mr. Houdini has seemed to question whether the Davenports themselves ever asserted that they were Spiritualists, it may clear the matter up finally to quote the following from a letter written by them in 1868 to the Banner of Light, the leading Spiritualist journal in the United States. Dealing with the report that they were not Spiritualists, they wrote:

It is singular that any individual, sceptic or Spiritualist, could believe such statements after fourteen years of the most bitter persecution and violent opposition, culminating in the riots of Liverpool, Huddersfield, and Leeds, where our lives were placed in imminent peril by the fury of brutal mobs, our property destroyed, and where we suffered a loss of seventy-five thousand dollars, and all because we would not renounce Spiritualism, and declare ourselves jugglers, when threatened by the mob, and urged to do so. In conclusion, we have only to say that we denounce all such statements as base falsehoods.

Volume II



DESCRIBING an experience of levitation, Stainton Moses writes:

As I was seated in the corner of 'he inner room my chair was drawn back into the corner and then raised off the floor about a foot, as I judged, and then al owed to drop to the floor whilst I was carried up in the corner. I described my apparent movement to Dr. and Mrs. S., and took from my pocket a lead pencil with which, when I became stationary, I made a mark on the wall opposite to my chest. This mark is as near as may be six feet from the floor. I do not think my posture was changed, and I was lowered very gently until I found myself in my chair again. My sensation was that of being lighter than the air. No pressure on any part of the body; no un consciousness or entrancement. From the position of the mark on the wall it is clear that my head must have been close to the ceiling. My voice, Dr. S. told me afterwards, sounded oddly away up in the corner, as if my head were turned from the table, as it was according to my observation and the mark I made. The ascent, of which I was perfectly conscious, was very gradual and steady, not unlike that of being in a lift, but without any perceptible sensation of motion other than that of feeling lighter than the atmosphere. My position, as I have said, was unchanged. I was simply levitated and lowered to my old place.

Of the passage of matter through matter we have this instance related:

On August 28 (1872) seven objects from different rooms were brought into the seance-room; on the 30th, four, and amongst them a little bell from the adjoining dining-room. We always left gas brightly burning in that room and in the hall outside, so that if the doors were opened even for a moment a blaze of light would have been let into the dark room in which we sat. As this never happened, we have full assurance from what Dr. Carpenter considers the best authority, Common Sense, that the doors remained closed. In the dining-room there was a little bell. We heard it commence to ring, and could trace it by its sound as it approached the door which separated us from it. What was our astonishment when we found that in spite of the closed door the sound drew nearer to its! It was evidently within the room in which we sat, for the bell was carried round the room, ringing loudly the whole time. After completing the circuit of the room, it was brought down, passed under the table, coming up close to my elbow. It rang under my very nose, and went round about my head, then passed round the circle, ringing close to the faces of all. It was finally placed upon the table. I do not wish to theorize, but this seems to the to dispose of arguments which would put forward the theory of our being psychologized, or of the object coming down the chimney, as an explanation of this difficult subject.

Dr. Speer thus describes the appearance of a spirit light and a materialized hand on August 10, 1873:

A large globe of light rose from the side of the table opposite to me, and sailed up to the level of our faces, and then vanished. It was followed by several more, all of which rose up from the side opposite to me, and sometimes to the right and sometimes to the left of the medium. At request the next light was placed slowly in the centre of the table. It was apparently as large as a shaddock, and was surrounded with drapery. At this time the medium was entranced, and the controlling spirit informed me that he would endeavour to place the light in the medium's hand. Failing in this, he said he would knock on the table in front of me. Almost immediately a light came and stood on the table close to me. "You see; now listen-I will knock." Very slowly the light rose up and struck three distinct blows on the table. "Now I will show you my hand." A large, very bright light then came up, and inside of it appeared the materialized hand of the spirit. He moved the fingers about close to my face. The appearance was as distinct as can be conceived.

An example of strong physical force is thus recorded by Stainton Moses:

We had ventured on one occasion, contrary to direction, to add to our circle a strange member. Some trivial phenomena occurred, but the usual controlling spirit did not appear. When next we sat, he came, and probably none of us will easily forget the sledge-hammer blows with which he smote the table. The noise was distinctly audible in the room below and gave one the idea that the table would be broken to pieces. In vain we withdrew from the table, hoping to diminish the power. The heavy blows increased in intensity, and the whole room shook with their force. The direst penalties were threatened if we again interfered with the development by bringing in new sitters. We have not ventured to do so again; and I do not think we shall easily be persuaded to risk another similar objurgation.



MR. WALES writes to the author:

I cannot think there was anything in my antecedent reading to account for this coincidence. I had certainly read nothing you had published on the subject, I had purposely avoided "Raymond" and books like it, in order not to vitiate my own results, and the "Proceedings" of the S.P.R. which I had read at that time, do not touch, as you know, upon after-death conditions. At any rate I obtained, at various times, statements (as my contemporary notes show) to the effect that, in this persisting state of existence, they have bodies which, though imperceptible by our senses, are as solid to them as ours to us, that these bodies are based on the general characteristics of our present bodies but beautified; that they have no age, no pain, no rich and poor; that they wear clothes and take nourishment; that they do not sleep (though they spoke of passing occasionally into a semiconscious state which they called "lying asleep"-a condition, it just occurs to me) which seems to correspond roughly with the "hypnoidal" state); that, after a period which is usually shorter than the average lifetime here, they pass to some further state of existence; that people of similar thoughts, tastes, and feelings gravitate together; that married couples do not necessarily reunite, but that the love of man and woman continues and is freed of elements which with us often militate against its perfect realization; that immediately after death people pass into a semi-conscious rest-state lasting various periods, that they are unable to experience bodily pain, but are susceptible at times to some mental anxiety; that a painful death is "absolutely unknown," that religious beliefs make no difference whatever in the after-state, and that their life altogether is intensely happy, and no one having ever realized it could wish to return here. I got no reference to "work" by that word, but much to the various interests that were said to occupy them. That is probably only another way of saying the same thing. "Work" with us has come usually to mean "work to live," and that, I was emphatically informed, was not the case with them-that all the requirements of life were somehow mysteriously "provided." Neither did I get any reference to a definite "temporary penal state," but I gathered that people begin there at the point of intellectual and moral development where they leave off here; and since their state of happiness was based mainly upon sympathy, those who came over in a low moral condition failed at first for various lengths of time to have the capacity to appreciate and enjoy it.

End of Vol. II


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