The Spiritualist Bogus Baby
Other "spiritual" facts have come to my hand, some of them furnishing
additional details about persons to whom I have already alluded, and
others being important to illustrate some general tendencies of
And first, about the Davenport Brothers; they have met with another
"awful exposure," at the hands of a merciless Mr. Addison. This
gentleman is a London stockbroker, and his cool, sharp busi
seem to have stood him in good stead in taking some fun out of the fools
who follow the Davenports. Mr. Addison, it seems, went to work, and,
just to amuse his friends, executed all the Davenport tricks. Upon this
the spiritualist newspapers in England, which, like the Boston Herald of
Progress, claim to believe in the "Brothers," came out and said that
Addison was a very wonderful medium indeed. On this the cold-blooded
Addison at once printed a letter, in which he not only said he had done
all their tricks without spiritual aid, but he moreover explained
exactly how he caught the Davenports in their impositions. He and a
long-legged friend went to one of the "dark seances" of the Davenports,
during which musical instruments were to fly about over the heads of the
audience, bang their pates, thrum, twang, etc. Addison and his friend
took a front seat; as soon as the lights were put out they put out their
legs too; stretching as far as possible; and, to use the unfeeling
language of Mr. Addison, they "soon had the satisfaction of feeling some
one falling over them." They then caught hold of an arm, from which a
guitar was forthwith let drop on the floor. In order to be certain who
the guitar-carrier was, they waited until the next time the lights were
put out, took each a mouthful of dry flour, and blew it out right among
the "manifestations." When the lamps were lighted, lo and behold! there
was Fay, the agent and manager of the Davenports, with his back all
powdered with flour. Addison showed this to an acquaintance, who said,
"Yes, he saw the flour; but he could not understand what made Addison
and his friend laugh so excessively at it."
The spiritualist newspapers don't think Addison is so great a medium as
Great accounts have recently come eastward from Chicago, of a certain
Doctor Newton, who is said to be working miracles by the hundred in the
way of healing diseases. This man operates with exactly the weapons all
the miracle-workers, quacks, and impostors, ancient and modern use. All
of them have appealed to the imaginations of their patients, and no
person acquainted with mental philosophy is ignorant that many a sick
man has been cured either by medicine and imagination together, or by
imagination alone. Therefore, even if this Newton should really be the
cause of the recovery of some persons from their ailments, it would be
no more a miracle than if Dr. Mott should do it; nor would Newton be any
the less a quack and a humbug.
Newton has operated at the East already. He had a career at New Haven
and Hartford, and in other places, before he steered westward in the
wake of the "Star of Empire." What he does is simply to ask what is the
matter, and where it hurts. Then he sticks his thumb into the seat of
the difficulty, or he pokes or strokes or pats it, as the case may be.
Then he says, "There--you're cured! God bless you!--Take yourself off!"
Chicago must be a credulous place, for we are informed of immense crowds
besieging this man, and undergoing his manipulations. One of the Chicago
papers, having little faith and a good deal of fun--which in such cases
is much better--published some burlesque stories and certificates about
"Doctor" Newton, some of them humorous enough. There is a certificate
from a woman with fourteen children, all having the measles at once. She
says that no sooner had Doctor Newton received one lock of hair of one
of them, than the measles left them all, and she now has said measles
corked up in a bottle! Another case was that of a merchant who had lost
his strength, but went and was stroked by Newton, and the very next day
was able to lift a note in bank, which had before been altogether too
heavy for him. There was also an old lady, whose story I fear was
imitated from Hood's funny conceit of the deaf woman who bought an
ear-trumpet, which was so effective that
----"The very next day
She heard from her husband in Botany Bay!"
The Chicago old lady in like manner, after having had Doctor Newton's
thumbs "jobbed" into her ears, certifies that she heard next morning
from her son in California.
One would think that this ridicule would put the learned Dr. Newton to
flight; but it will not until he is through with the fools.
I have already given an account of some of the messages from the other
world in the "Banner of Light," in which some of the spirits explain
that they have turned into women since they died. This is by no means
the first remarkable trick that the spirits have performed upon the
human organization. Here is what they did at High Rock, in
Massachusetts, a number of years ago. It beats Joanna Southcott in funny
absurdity, if not in blasphemy.
At High Rock, in the year 1854 or thereabouts, certain spiritualist
people were building some mysterious machinery. While this was in
process of erection, a female medium, of considerable eminence in those
parts, was informed by certain spirits, with great solemnity and pomp,
that "she would become the Mary of a new dispensation;" that is, she was
going to be a mother. Well, this was all proper, no doubt, and the lady
herself--so say the spiritualist accounts--had for some time experienced
indications that she was pregnant. These indications continued, and
became increasingly obvious, and also, it was observed, a little queer
in some particulars.
After a while, one Spear--a "Reverend Mr. Spear"--who was mixed up, it
appears, with the machinery-part of the business, and who was a medium
himself, transmitted to the lady a request from the spirits that she
would visit said Spear at High Rock on a certain day. She did so, of
course; and while there was unexpectedly taken with the pains of
childbirth, which the spiritualist authorities say, were
"internal"--where should they be, pray?--and "of the spirit rather than
of the physical nature; but were, nevertheless, quite as uncontrollable
as those of the latter, and not less severe." The labor proceeded. It
lasted two hours. As it went on, lo and behold! one part and another
part of the machinery began to move! And when, at the end of the two
hours, the parturition was safely over, all the machinery was going!
The lady had given birth to a Motive Force. Does anybody suppose I am
manufacturing this story? Not a bit of it. It is all told at length in a
book published by a spiritualist; and probably a good many of my readers
will remember about it.
Well, the baby had to be nursed--fact! This superhumanly silly female
actually went through the motions of nursing the motive force for some
weeks. Though how the thing sucked--Excuse me, ladies; I would not
discuss such delicate subjects did not the interests of truth require
If I had been the physician, at any rate, I think I should have
recommended to hire a healthy female steam-engine for a wet nurse to
this young motive force; say a locomotive, for instance. I feel sure the
thing would have lived if it could have had a gauge-faucet or something
of that sort to draw on. But the medical folks in charge chose to permit
the mother to nurse the child, and she not being able to supply proper
nutriment, the poor little innocent faded--if that word be appropriate
for what couldn't be seen,--and finally "gin eout;" and the machinery,
after some abortive joggles and turns, stood hopelessly still.
This story is true--that is, it is true that the story was told, the
pretences were gone through, and the birth was actually believed by a
good many people. Some of them were prodigiously enthusiastic about it,
and called the invisible brat the New Motive Power, the Physical Savior,
Heaven's Last Best Gift to Man, the New Creation, the Great Spiritual
Revelation of the Age, the Philosopher's Stone, the Act of all Acts, and
so on, and so forth.
The great question of all was, Who was the daddy? I don't know of
anybody's asking this question, but its importance is extreme and
obvious. For if things like this are going to happen, the ladies will be
afraid to sleep alone in the house if so much as a sewing-machine or
apple-corer be about, and will not dare take solitary walks along any
stream where there is a water power.
A couple of miscellaneous anecdotes may not inappropriately be appended
to this story of monstrous delusion.
Once a "writing medium" was producing sentences in various foreign
languages. One of these was Arabic. An enthusiastic youth, a
half-believer, after inspecting the wondrous scroll, handed it to his
seat-mate, a professor (as it happened) in one of our oldest colleges,
and a man of real learning. The professor scrutinized the document. What
was the youth's delight to hear him at last observe gravely, "It is a
kind of Arabic, sure enough!"
"What kind?" asked the young man with intense interest.
"Gum-arabic," said the professor.
The spirit of the prophet Daniel came one night into the apartment of a
medium named Fowler, and right before his eyes, he said, wrote down some
marks on a piece of paper. These were shown to the Reverend George Bush,
Professor of Hebrew in the New-York University, who said that they were
"a few verses from the last chapter of Daniel" and were learnedly
written. Bush was a spiritualist as well as a professor of Hebrew, and
he ought to have known better than to indorse spirit-Hebrew; for shortly
there came others, who, to use a rustic phrase, "took the rag off the
Bush." These inconvenient personages were three or four persons of
learning: one a Jew, who proved that the document was an attempt to copy
the verses in question, by some one so ignorant of Hebrew as not to know
that it is written backward, that is, from right to left.
During the last few months, a "boy medium," by the name of Henry B.
Allen, thirteen years of age, has been astonishing people in various
parts of the country by "Physical Manifestations in the Light." The
exhibitions of this precocious youngster have been "managed" by a Dr.
Randall, who also lectures upon Spiritualism, expounding its "beautiful
philosophy." For a number of weeks this couple held forth in Boston,
sometimes giving several seances during the day, not more than thirty
being allowed to attend at one time, each of whom were required to pay
an admission fee of one dollar.
"The Banner of Light" fully indorsed this Allen boy, and gave lengthy
accounts of his manifestations. The arrangements for his exhibition were
very simple. A dulcimer, guitar, bell, and small drum being placed on a
sofa or several chairs set against the wall, a clothes-horse was set in
front of them and covered with a blanket, which came to the floor. To
obtain "manifestations," a person was required to take off his coat and
sit with his back to the clothes-horse. The medium then took a seat
close to, and facing the investigator's left side, and grasped the left
arm of the latter on the under side, above the elbow, with his (the
medium's) right hand and near the wrist with the other hand. The
"manager" then covered with a coat, the arms and left shoulder of the
medium including the left arm of the investigator. The medium soon
commenced to wriggle and twist--the "manager" said he was always nervous
under "influence"--and worked the coat away from the position in which
it had been placed. Taking his right hand from the investigator's arm,
he readjusted the coat, and availed himself of that opportunity to get
the investigator's wrist between his (the medium's) left arm and knee.
That brought his left hand in such a position that with it he could
grasp the investigator's arm where he had previously grasped it with his
right hand. With the latter he could then reach around the edge of the
clothes-horse and make a noise on the instruments. With the drumsticks
he thumped on the dulcimer. Taking the guitar by the neck, he could
vibrate the strings and show the body of the instrument above the
clothes-horse, without any one seeing his hand! All persons present were
so seated that they could not see behind the clothes-horse, or have a
view of the medium's right shoulder. When asked why people were not
allowed to occupy such a position, that they could have a fair view of
the instruments when sounded, the "manager" replied that he did not
exactly know, but presumed it was because the magnetic emanations from
the eyes of the beholders would prevent the spirits being able to move
the instruments at all! What was claimed to be a spirit-hand was often
shown above the clothes-horse, where it flickered for an instant and was
withdrawn; but it was invariably a right hand with the wrist toward the
medium. When the person sitting with the medium was asked if the hands
of the latter had constantly hold of his arm, he replied in the
affirmative. Of course, he felt what he supposed to be both the medium's
hands; but as I before explained, the pressure on his wrist was from the
medium's left arm--the left hand of whom, by means of a very
accommodating crook in the elbow, was grasping the investigator's arm
where the medium's right hand was supposed to be.
From Boston the Allen boy went to Portland, Maine, where he succeeded
"astonishingly," till some gentleman applied the lampblack test to his
assumed mediumship, whereupon he "came to grief."
The following is copied from the "Portland Daily Press," of March 21.
"EXPOSED.--The 'wonderful' spiritual manifestations of the
'boy-medium,' Master Henry B. Allen, in charge of Doctor J. H.
Randall, of Boston, were brought to a sad end last evening by the
impertinent curiosity and wicked doings of some of the gentlemen
present at the seance at Congress Hall.
"As usual, one of the company present was selected to sit at the
side of the boy, and allowed his hand and arm to be held by both
hands of the boy while the manifestations were going on. The boy
seized hold of the gentleman's wrist with his left hand, and his
shoulder, or near it, with the right hand. The manifestations then
began, and among them was one trick of pulling the gentleman's
"Immediately after this trick was performed, the hand of the boy
was discovered to be very black--from lamp-black, of the best
quality, with which the gentleman had dressed his head on purpose
to detect whose was the 'spirit-hand' that pulled his hair. His
shirt-sleeve, upon which the boy immediately replaced his hand
after pulling his hair, was also black where the hand had been
placed. The gentleman stated the facts to the company present, and
the seance broke up. Dr. Randall refunded the fifty cents admission
fee to those present."
The spiritualists of the city were somewhat staggered by this expose,
but soon rallied as one of their number announced a new discovery in
spiritual science. Here it is, as stated by himself:
"Whatever the electrical or 'spirit-hand' touches, will inevitably be
transferred to the hand of the medium in every instance, unless
something occurs to prevent the full operation of the law by which this
result is produced. The spirit-hand being composed in part of the
magnetic elements drawn from the medium, when it is dissolved again, and
the magnetic fluid returns whence it came, it must of necessity carry
with it whatever material substance it has touched, and leave it
deposited upon the surface or material hand of the medium. This is a
scientific question. How many innocent mediums have been wronged? and
the invisible have permitted it, until we should discover that it was
the natural result of a natural law."
What a great discovery! and how lucidly it is set forth! The author
(who, by the way, is editor of the "Portland Evening Courier") of this
new discovery, was not so modest but that he hastened to announce and
claim full credit for it in the columns of the "Banner of Light"--the
editor of which journal congratulates him on having done so much for the
cause of spiritualism! Those skeptics who were present when the
lamp-black was "transferred" from the gentleman's hair to the medium's
hand, rashly concluded that the boy was an impostor. It remained for Mr.
Hall--that is the philosopher's name--to make the "electro-magnetic
transfer" discovery. The Allen boy ought ever to hold him in grateful
remembrance for coming to his rescue at such a critical period, when the
spirits would not vouchsafe an explanation that would exculpate him from
the grievous charge of imposture. Mr. Hall deserves a leather medal now,
and a soapstone monument when he is dead.
A person, whose initials are the same as the gentleman's named above,
once lived in Aroostook, Maine, and was in the habit of attending
"spiritual circles," in which he was sometimes influenced as a
"personating medium," and to represent the symptoms of the disease which
caused the controlling spirit's translation to another sphere. It having
been reported in Aroostook that a certain well-known individual, living
further east, had died of cholera, a desire was expressed at the next
"circle" to have him "manifest" himself. The medium above referred to
got "under influence," and personated, with an exhibition of all the
symptoms of cholera, the gentleman who was reported to have died of that
disease. So faithful to the supposed facts was the representation, that
the medium had to be cared for as if he was himself a veritable
cholera-patient. Several days after, the man who was "personated"
appeared in Aroostook, alive and well, never having been attacked with
the cholera. The local papers gave a graphic account of the
"manifestation" soon after it occurred.
But to return to the Allen boy. After his exposure by means of the
lamp-black test, and Mr. Hall, of the "Portland Evening Courier," had
announced his new discovery in spiritual science, several of the
Portland spiritualists had a private "sitting" with the boy. While he
sat with his hands upon the arm of one of their number, they tied a rope
to his wrists, and around the person's arm, covering his hands in the
way I have before described. After some wriggling and twisting (the
usual amount of "nervousness,") the bell was heard to ring behind the
clothes-horse. The boy's right hand was then examined, and it was found
to be stained with some colored matter that had previously been put upon
the handle of the bell. As the boy's wrists were still tied, and the
rope remained upon the man's arm, the "transfer" theory was considered
to be established as a fact, and the previous exposure shown to be not
only no exposure at all, but a "stepping-stone to a grand truth in
spiritual science." Again and again did these persistent and infatuated
spiritualists try what they call the "transfer test," varying with each
experiment the coloring-material used, and every time the bell was rung
the medium's right hand was found out to be stained with what had been
put upon the bell-handle. By having a little slack-rope between his
wrist and the man's arm, it was not a difficult matter for the medium,
while his "nervousness" was being manifested, to get hold of the bell
and ring it, and to make sounds upon the strings of the dulcimer or
guitar, with a drumstick that the "manager" had placed at a convenient
distance from his (the boy's) hand.
The "Portland Daily Press," in noticing a lecture against Spiritualism,
recently delivered by Dr. Von Vleck, in that city, says:--"He (Dr. V.
V.) performed the principal feats of the Allen boy, with his hands tied
to the arm of the person with whom he was in communication."
Horace Greeley says that if a man will be a consummate jackass and fool,
he is not aware of anything in the Constitution to prevent it. I believe
Mr. Greeley is right; and I think no one can reasonably be expected to
exercise common sense unless he is known to possess it. It is quite
natural, therefore, that many of the spiritualists, lacking common
sense, should pretend to have something better.