« PredošláPokračovať »
was no other place; and because they required to be tested and confirmed cannot understand how Houdin could before being accepted as even probahave performed the trick, they are not ble hypotheses, he rushes to the conentitled to say the hat was magical. clusion that the phenomena must
Bearing this in mind, we read with have been produced by spiritual great impartiality all the marvellous agency. Now, what evidence has he narratives of the most respectable for this hypothesis? Simply his witnesses, and our scepticism falls on inability to conceive what physical the things the witnesses did not see. agency was at work.
He has no Thus
knowledge of spirits, or their methods
of procedure, which could enable him “The Mayor of Cideville deposes to the fact that, being in the parsonage, therefore totally without evidence on
to recognise their presence. He is he saw the tongs leap from the fireplace the subject ; and if he rushes to the into the room.
did the same thing. The mayor said to one of conclusion that the table was moved the children, How, Gustave ! what is by spirits, it is solely because he canthat ?' The child replied, 'I did not not otherwise explain the movement. touch it.' The tongs and shovel were
He had much better leave it unexthen replaced, and a second time they plained. He does not attempt to leaped forward into the rooin. This explain a conjuror's tricks. time, as the mayor testified, he had his
Reduced to a mere question of ineyes fixed upon them, so as to detect the ference, in the absence of positive trick, in case any one pushed them; but knowledge, it is surely more pronothing was to be seen. M. Leroux, curate
bable that the tables were moved by of Saussay, deposes that, being at the parsonage, he witnessed things that were
human agency-conscious or uncon
? inexplicable to him. He saw a hammer scious-than by spiritual agency fly, impelled by an invisible force, from
We know that human ingenuity can the spot where it lay, and fall on the floor devise methods which will escape of the room without more noise than if the imperfect examination of an a hand had lightly placed it there. He audience; we know also that people also saw a piece of bread that was lying may unconsciously push the table on the table move of itself and fall below round; but we know nothing of the table. He was so placed that it was
spirits which could warrant us in impossible that any one could have attributing the phenomena to them. thrown these things without his seeing To warrant such a belief, very cogent him do it.”
evidence would be necessary; and This evidence is startling and con- we need scarcely say that the evivincing to minds untrained in habits dence hitherto afforded has been of investigation; but a closer inspec- such as could only satisfy an extion discloses that it amounts to no- tremely uncritical, incautious mind. thing more than a confession of ignor. The communications by means of ance on the part of the witnesses who raps have been numerous enough ; “ did not see” how the thing was but although much childish nondone.
sense, and much actual falsehood, Let the candid believer consider for have been communicated by these a few minutes what the evidence on means, no one of the many thousand which he founds his belief amounts “revelations” has carried with it to. Certain startling phenomena are the evidence of supra-mundane inwitnessed by him ; he sees a table telligence. The spirits of poets and rock up and down, or a chair rise in philosophers have communicated silly the air, when no one seemed to move poems and sentences; the spirits of them. He cannot understand how departed relatives have given vague these things were effected. When indications of their happiness; and called upon to explain them, he is the spirits of murdered pedlars have forced to confess complete ignorance. vaguely accused their murderers, but Instead, however, of keeping this fact never with sufficient accuracy to be of his complete ignorance steadily of the slightest service in detecting before his mind, and remembering the criminals. The spirit of Shakethat any guesses he may make as to speare declared to us that he was the means by which the phenomena the author of an article in the last were produced, are only guesses, and Quarterly; and Clytemnestra de
clared that she died in the Jewish Europe. He will avoid any such persuasion. But although these things, decisive test. He will prefer to and others equally trivial and fool- summon the spirits of murdered ish, have been communicated, there pedlars, the spirits of statesmen, has been an utter absence of supra- poets, philosophers, and children, mundane wisdom, or even of ordi- whose communications are not so nary sagacity, in decisive cases, such valuable, nor so easily confronted as the indication of a murderer. with fact. Like the clairvoyante Clairvoyants have likewise made reading the sealed letter, but never many “revelations," which have attempting to read the number of greatly startled credulous people; the bank-note, he will continue to be they have read sealed letters, and medium of communications wholly seen into diseased lungs, and seen useless, or beyond verification, but distant events; but, although they will not help us to clear up this can read sealed letters, they have Road mystery, in spite of the advanbeen unable to read the number of a tages to himself and to society which bank-note enclosed in a sealed en- would accrue. velope, when to have read it would In the celebrated Hydesville case, bave gained them the note; although the spirit of a pedlar, supposed to they can see through clothes and have been murdered, did give inforflesh into the lungs, and read the mation as to himself, his family, and state of your lungs, they cannot, his murderer. All inquiry, however, one minute afterwards, see what failed to ascertain that such a peryou have in your waistcoat pocket son had ever existed. His five chil(this we have tried); and although dren, said to be in a particular disthey can describe what is going on trict, had never been heard of there, in India, they cannot describe what and the implied murderer (the spirit is going on next door. It is thus did not venture to accuse him) was also with the rapping Mediums : not even cross-examined. That the inthey are profuse in communications, formation turned out false, does not, but are unable to make any one however, in the least disturb thé simple communication which could spiritualists. Nay, Mr Dale Owen be accepted as decisive of the spirit- quotes the following :ual hypothesis. A spiritualist gravely proposed the nection, that, a few months afterwards
“It is proper also to state, in this conother day, in a morning newspaper, -to wit, in July or August, 1848-a that a Medium should be employed circumstance occurred at Rochester, to discover the murderer of Mr New York, somewhat analogous in chaKent's child, at Road; and there racter, and indicating the danger of inare several reasous why any Medium, dulging, without corroborating evidence, who is honest, should accept thé in suspicions aroused by alleged spiritproposition, and why earnest be- ual information. A young pedlar, with lievers should insist on his accept
a waggon and two horses, and known to
be ing it. In the first place, he ex
possessed of several hundred dollars, hibits his powers for money; and having put up at a tavern in that city, the reward offered for the discovery settled down to the belief that he was
suddenly disappeared. Public opinion of the murderer is large enough to murdered. An enthusiastic spiritualist pay for a hundred ordinary séances. had the surmise confirmed by the raps. The effect of his success, if he were Through the same medium the credusuccessful, would be to make his lous inquirer was informed that the fortune, and convert Europe to Spirit- body lay in the canal, several spots ualism : two results which could not being successively indicated where it be otherwise than gratifying to a
could be found. These were anxiously man who gains his living by spirit- dragged, but to no purpose. Finally, ualism, and who knows what is the
the dupe's wife was required to go into opinion of his integrity held by all the canal at a designated point, where
she would certainly discover the corpse; but believers. Yet it is not venture
in obeying which injunction she nearly some in us to pronounce that no
lost her life. Some months afterwards, Medium will seize this brilliant op- the alleged victim reappeared : he had portunity of clearing his character, departed secretly for Canada, to avoid making his fortune, and convincing the importunities of his creditors."
The facility with which the spirit- whole neighbourhood was a scene of ualists evade all the consequences of alarm; and not only the vulgar, but perfailures, is seen in the note which sons of education, respectable farmers, Mr Owen affixes to this narrative : - within a circle of twenty miles, expressed
their belief in the supernatural charac“If we concede the reality of the ter of these events.' spirit-rap, and if we assume to judge of “The excitement, Mackay goes on to ultra-mundane intentions, we may ima- state, spread, within a week, over the pargine that the purpose was, by so early ishes of Banchory-Ternan, Drumoak, Durand so marked a lesson, to warn men, ris, Kincardine O'Neil, and all the adjaeven from the commencement, against cent district of Mearns and Aberdeensbire. putting implicit faith in spiritual com- It was affirmed and believed that all munications."
horses and dogs that approached the When the “devils of Loudun” The mistress of the house and the ser
farm-house were immediately affected. were convicted of having communi- vant-girls said that whenever they went cated demonstrable falsehoods, it to bed they were pelted with pebbles was said to be in order “to confirm and other missiles. The fariner himself the incredulous in their doubts.” In travelled a distance of forty miles to an like manner the spirits of our day, old conjuror, named Willie Foreman, to although very anxious to have their induce liim, for a handsome fee, to recommunications listened to, are wont
move the enchantment from his property. to make false statements for fear we
The heritor, the minister, and all the should trust in them too implicitly!
elders of the kirk, instituted an investiThe credulity which spiritualists sation, which, however, does not appear
to have had any result. display in the absence of evidence,
“* After a fortvight's continuance of is not more surprising than their cre- the noises, says Mackay, 'the whole dulity in presence of adverse evi- trick was discovered. The two servantdence. Here is a specimen. Dr lasses were strictly examined, and then Owen quotes the following :
committed to prison. It appeared that
they were alone at the bottom of the “On the 5th of December 1838, the inmates of the farun-house of Baldarroch, alarm and credulity of their master and
whole affair, and that the extraordinary in the district of Banchory, Aberdeen- mistress in the first instance, and of the shire, were alarmed by observing a great neighbours and country people afternumber of sticks, pebble-stones, and
wards, made their task comparatively clods of earth flying about their
easy. A little common dexterity was yard and premises. They endeavoured, all they had used; and, being themselves but in vain, to discover who was the
unsuspected, they swelled the alarm by delinquent, and, the shower of stones
the wonderful stories they invented. It continuing for five days in succession,
was they who loosened the bricks in the they came at last to the conclusion that chimneys, and placed the dishes in such the devil and his imps were alone the
a manner on the shelves that they fell cause of it. The rumour soon spread
on the slightest motion.” all over that part of the country, and hundreds of persons came from far and Instead of treating this story as near to witness the antics of the devils
one of the many exposed tricks, Mr of Baldarrocb. After the fifth day, the showers of clods and stones ceased on
Owen insists that it was no trick. the outside of the premises, and the
“The proof that the girls were the scene shifted to the interior. Spoons, authors of the mischief,” he says, knives, plates, mustard-pots, rolling-pins,
appears to have rested on the fact and flat-irons appeared suddenly endued that no sooner were they secured in with the power of self-motiov, and were the county jail than the noises whirled from room to room, and rattled ceased.” To any but a spiritualist down the chimneys, in a manner nobody we should say the proof would apcould account for. The lid of a mus
pear to be quite other. Magistrates tard-pot was put into a cupboard by a servant-girl, in the presence of scores of committing suspected persons to.
in England are not in the habit of people, and in a few minutes afterwards county jails, without other proof came bouncing down the chimney, to than what will take place after comthe consternation of everybody. There was also a tremendous knocking at the mitment; and unless cross-examinadoors and on the roof, and pieces of tion had elicited confession from the stick and pebble-stones rattled against girls, they would never have been the windows and broke them. The imprisoned. But even their confis
sion would not disturb Mr Owen's completed a new residence, about seventy belief; the idea of these two girls or eighty yards from that in which be having performed such a trick unde- was then living, intending to move into tected, is to him far more incredible it in a few days. The new house was in than that spirits should have been at plain sight of the old, no tree or shrub work.
intervening ; but they were separated,
about half way, by a small, somewhat “For five days a shower of sticks, abrupt ravine. A garden stretched from stones, and clods of earth are seen flying the old house to the hither edge this about the yard, and are thrown against ravine, and the further extremity of this the windows. Hundreds of persons come garden was about forty yards from the to witness the phenomenon, and none of newly erected building. Both buildings them can account for it. Is it credible, fronted west, towards a public road, the is it conceirable, that two girls, employed south side of the old dwelling being all day in menial duties under the eye directly opposite to the north side of the of their mistress, should, by 'a little Attached to the rear of the new common dexterity,'have continued such dwelling was a spacious kitchen, of a practical joke for five hours-to say which a door opened to the north. nothing of five days--without being in- “The family, at that time, consisted evitably detected? Then various utensils of father, mother, uncle, and nine chil. in the house not only move, as if self- dren. One of the elder daughters, then impelled, about the room, but are whirled between fifteen and sixteen years old, from one room to another, or dropped was named Rhoda; and another, the down the chimney, in presence of crowds youngest but one, Lucy, was between of witnesses. There is a tremendous
three and four years of age. knocking at the doors and on the roof, One afternoon in that month of Ocand the windows are broken by sticks tober, after a heavy rain, the weather and pebble - stones that rattle against had cleared up; and between four and them. This farce is kept up for ten five o'clock the sun shone out. About days more, making the whole neighbour- five o'clock Mrs C-stepped out into hood a scene of aların, ba filing the in- a yard on the south side of the dwelling genuity of heritor, minister, and elders; they were occupying, whence, in the and we are asked to believe that it was evening sun, the new house, including all a mere prank of two servant-girls, the kitchen already referred to, was diseffected by loosening a few bricks in the tinctly visible. Suddenly she called a chimney, and placing the crockery so daughter, A-, saying to her, “What that it fell on slight motion ! A notable can Rhoda possibly be doing there, with specimen, surely, of the credulousness of the child in her arms? She ought to incredulity!"
know better, this damp weather.' A After the specimens we have given mother pointed, saw, plainly and unmis
looking in the direction in which her of Mr Dale Owen's credulity, and takably, seated in a rocking-chair, just utter inability to discriminate evi- within the kitchen-door of the new residence, no surprise will be felt at his . dence, Rhoda, with Lucy in her arms. having made a collection of stories What a strange thing !' she exclaimed ; relating to dreams, haunted houses, 'it is but a few minutes since I left and apparitions, as proofs of spiritual them up-stairs.' And, with that, going communications. The stories ut apr
in search of them, she found both in one paritions are curious, and might make of the upper rooms, and brought them
down. Mr C- and other members a convert of every one who is weak enough to conclude that whatever is
of the family soon joined them. Their
amazement, that of Rhoda especially, not understood must needs be super- may be imagined. The figures seated natural. These stories often wear
at the hall-door, and the two children a most deceptive air of precision. now actually in their midst, were absoNames and dates are given with lutely identical in appearance, even to scrupulous exactness; and the stories each minute particular of dress. themselves are certainly such as baffle “Five minutes more elapsed, in breathexplanation. Here is one :
less expectation, and there still sat the
figures; that of Rhoda appearing to rock “In the month of October 1833, Mr with the motion of the chair on which C-, a gentleman, several members of it seemed seated. All the family conwhose family have since become well gregated, and every member of itand favourably kuown in the literary therefore twelve persons in all-saw the world, was residing in a country house, figures, noticed the rocking motion; in Hamilton County, Ohio. He had just and became convinced, past all possible doubt, that it was the appearance of gigantic appearance which, from the Rhoda and Lucy.
summit of the Brocken (one of the Hartz “Then the father, Mr C—, resolved Mountains), for long years excited the to cross over and endeavour to obtain wondering credulity of the inhabitants some solution of the mystery ; but, hav- and the astonishment of the passing ing lost sight of the figures in descending traveller.. A Mr Haue devoted some the ravine, when be ascended the oppo- time to this subject. One day, while he site bank they were gone.
was contemplating the giant, a violent “ Meanwhile the daughter A— had puff of wind was on the point of carrying walked down to the lower end of the off his hat. Suddenly clapping his hand garden, so as to get a closer view; and upon it, the giant did the same. Mr the rest remained gazing from the spot Haue bowed to him, and the salute was whence they had first witnessed this un- returned. He then called the proprietor accountable phenomenon.
of the neigh houring inn and imparted to “Soon after Mr C-had left the him his discovery. The experiments house, they all saw the appearance of were renewed with the same effect. It Rhoda rise from the chair, with the became evident that the appearance was child in its arms; then lie down across but an optical effect produced by a the threshold of the kitchen-door; and strongly illuminated body placed amid after it had remained in that recumbent light clouds, reflected from a considerposition for a minute or two, still em- able distance, and magnified till it apbracing the child, the figures were seen peared five or six hundred feet in height. gradually to sink down, out of sight. “ In Westmoreland and other moun.
“ When Mr C reached the en. tainous countries the peasants often trance, there was not a trace nor appear imagine that they see in the clouds ance of a human being. The rocking troops of cavalry and armies on the chair, which had been conveyed across to march-when, in point of fact, it is but the kitchen some time before, still stood the reflection of horses pasturing on a there, just inside the door, but it was hill side, and peaceful travellers or laempty. He searched the house care- bourers passing over the landscape." fully, from garret to cellar; but nothing whatever was to be seen. He inspected
The desire to explain the narratives
we hear and the marvels we witness, the clay, soft from the rain, at the rear exit of the kitchen, and all around the often leads to rash statements and house, but not a footstep could he dis. suppositions, the effect of which is
There was not a tree or bush only to confirm the credulity of the anywhere near, behind which any one credulous. It is better to abstain could secrete himself, the dwelling being from explanation. When you hear erected on a bare hill-side.
of tables rising in the air, no one “The father returned from his fruitless touching them, content yourself with search, to learn, with a shudder, what regarding these things as you regard the family meanwhile had wituessed.
Fall The circumstance, as may be supposed; back upon the simple confession that
Houdin's conjuring tricks. made upon them a profound impression; stamping itself in indelible characters you don't know how the things are on the minds of all."
done, and don't care to know. You
have ample evidence that the thing Singular enough. Yet Mr Owen is a trick. You have ample eviseems to forget that inasmuch as the dence that some Mediums are imtwo children seen in the vision were postors; what evidence have you themselves alive and present in the that all are not? house, the vision could not have been
A delusion so gross, a doctrine so abone of spirits appearing-unless we surd, and a practice so base and debas. are to suppose that spirits can be in ing, only deserves serious notice betwo places at one and the same time. cause of the light it concentrates upon And without pretending to explain that want of a right appreciation of this vision, especially on the nar- evidence which is common among rative before us, we are justified mankind. In this respect it may have in assuming that it was in some way been of service. “Il ne suffit pas de analogous to that of the Brocken dire que l'esprit est faible,” said Malespirit :
branche; "il faut lui faire sentir ses " In the Philosophical Magazine (vol. faiblesses.” It is not enough to say i. p. 232) will be found a record of the that human testimony is fallible"; observations which finally explained to we must point out the origin of its the scientific world the nature of the weakness-its tendency to err.