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"More generally, how many Skeptics have really engaged with the parapsychological evidence?"

Good question, Michael. If they have, they're obviously hoping we haven't. Otherwise, why bother to come up with explanations like "tiny harmonicas in the mouth" that account for only a tiny fraction of what went on in those rooms?

It’s as if they’re analyzing the work of an orchestra conductor by explaining how he ties his shoelaces.

If you want to explain away the full scope of Crookall’s observations of Home, you have no choice but to claim that Crookall was, as you say, either a liar or an idiot.

Nothing else works.

Michael, I've been researching stage magic recently because I'm trying to be fair and balanced when it comes to our friends in the skeptic community; many of whom rely on explanations that are stage magic based.

So magicians really do some amazing tricks that fool even intelligent observant people. You even had a good trick on your FB page where Harrison Ford was freaked out when the very card he selected from a deck was made to appear inside an orange in his kitchen. I mean, how did he do that, right?

If you go out on youtube you can see magicians levitating, levitating objects, reading minds, etc. It's no wonder that they instantly take a jaundiced view of mediums and the people that research them. They can perform any trick the medium can and they can baffle just about anyone with the trick. So for them it's not a question of "it is real?", it's a matter of "how did s/he do it?".

It doesn't help that many "mediums" have been caught using magicians' tricks.

Not that I agree with the skeptics in all cases. Just because something can be replicated by method B doesn't mean that it wasn't originally created by method A.

Also, what I have noticed with magicians is that they must be in control of the set and setting for their tricks to work. The skeptics like to overlook the strict controls that were placed on mediums who were found to be highly suggestive of real paranormal phenomena. I would like to see a magician searched and brought, with nothing in hand, to a previously unknown environment and produce the wide range of phenomena the Home did. Or a mentalist face the controls that Windbridge imposed and still perform an accurate reading.

But have a little sympathy for the devil.

Good points, no one!

I wonder, though, if the magician's art was advanced enough in Home's day for anyone to pull off those feats.

It seems as though he would have had to be a *seriously* dedicated conjurer to master all those effects. Like the greatest magician of the 19th century, to be precise.

And you'd think someone would have caught on to him before or after his death, considering the technology, practice, and know-how that would have been required.

Not that you're insisting he was a fraud, but just to offer a rebuttal.

Agreed No One.

Since I am among like-minded friends here let me say that these Crooke's notes disturb me greatly. Just how can these things be? An accordion that floats in the air and exquisitely play several different melodies on its own with no human being touching the instrument (Well, Homes was holding the top of it at times. ) Acknowledging that this was before the days of battery-operated digital musical instruments; I could say that the accordion might have been a wind-up variety but Crookes himself states that he bought the accordion new so I am to assume that this was not a wind-up toy or he would (should) have said so. Is there a magician's trick for self-playing floating accordions? Anyone??

These happenings took place in Crookes' own house with D.D. Home a guest in the house. If Home installed wires/strings/threads and pulleys in Crookes' living or dining room Crookes surely would have known it and if there were wires etc. and pulleys how did Home remove them after the seance was completed so that Crookes didn't see them.

How did a table move 9 feet across the room by itself and how did a 32 pound loo table rise up off of the ground without anyone touching it? According to Crookes' notes a rose and heliotrope were seen floating in the air from one place to another and a handkerchief was seen moving of its own accord across the floor and to top it all off, Home was observed floating up off of the floor in defiance of the law of gravity.

Home wore boots according to Crookes. Just how, according to some skeptics did Home get in and out of his boots to play the accordion with his feet/toes and then back into them again without anyone seeing him do that? (Boots are not always easy to get in and out of.) If Home was playing the accordion with his feet he has got to have been the most foot-dexterous person to have ever lived.

How can all of these things be? Were they all the tricks of a conjurer?

As I see it there are two explanations. Either Home was a unique individual with powers and spirit contacts second only to Jesus Christ or Crookes was outright lying (sorry---that is,--- ' he was in error') about what transpired at the seances with Homes. I don't think there are any other reasonable explanations. From this vantage point 140 years later I think that the truth will never be known but I must admit that I can't accept Crookes' notes as representing the truth of what occurred. My boggle threshold won't let me move beyond my disbelief. Somebody, please help me my disbelief! - AOD
P.S.
There is an incongruity in the notes related to the man's singing voice. In one place Crookes thinks that the voice is coming from the corner of the room but then at another place he explains that the voice was a discordant sound coming from the accordion. Surely he could have made a distinction between a sound in the corner of the room versus a sound coming from the accordion which was relatively close to him. - AOD

"If you go out on youtube you can see magicians levitating, levitating objects, reading minds, etc. It's no wonder that they instantly take a jaundiced view of mediums and the people that research them. They can perform any trick the medium can and they can baffle just about anyone with the trick. So for them it's not a question of "it is real?", it's a matter of "how did s/he do it?"."

But isn't it always the case that others see us not as we are but as they are? An habitual liar automatically assumes that everyone else is telling lies. A trickster sees everything as a trick.

The observations of Crookes are corroborated by many others over the 25 year career of Home. Because of the eminence of many of the attendees at his seances, there exists a substantial amount of unpublished material regarding his seances in various archives in Europe and America. I have spent some spare time tracking this material down and am impressed by the strength of the case that could be made here about this man.

Well yes Julie, I have looked at the YouTube magician tricks but they seem pretty lame to me. They all require a lot of set-up, props and placement of the audience at certain angles and/or distances from the magician. Some of them also require an accomplice. I agree though that "An habitual liar automatically assumes that everyone else is telling lies. A trickster sees everything as a trick." - AOD

"It seems as though he would have had to be a *seriously* dedicated conjurer to master all those effects. Like the greatest magician of the 19th century, to be precise." - Bruce.

Agreed, Bruce. Were there magicians at that time able to produce the wide range of tricks that Home did - all at once nonetheless? I haven't found anything yet that says so.

Also, it doesn't excuse modern skeptics for misrepresenting what occurred in their explanations. It's too bad they do that because it precludes having an open an productive conversation with them.

"skeptics" obviously are not informed enough nor intelligent enough to explain everything away because they still seem to be in business - spiritual phenomena are not going away.

It is not a question of how do we explain the phenomena or try to engage a "skeptic" in order to convince them that such phenomena are real - it is entirely a matter of investigating the results of spiritualism to ascertain the nature of the "spirits" themselves. Almost every single time a proper investigation is done on this the inescapable conclusion is that these "spirits" are deceptive liars. This explains why a medium or psychic cannot perform in front of a skeptic satisfactorily and may resort to trickery - or if they are possessed by their spirit guide the spirit will use the body of the medium to engage in fraud as well (like with Colin Fry and the trumpet incident). It is all deception coming from evil spirits that hide themselves not only physically but psychologically too to the medium themselves.

Please do not compare any medium to Jesus Christ. This is wrong on so many levels. Jesus performed miraculous phenomena the like of which has never been repeated since by ANYBODY. Mediums make tamborines levitate in dark rooms, spirit voices appear, raps or knocks are heard, furniture levitates, automatic writing and trance possession speaking etc etc.

It is not surprising to me that many people involved with spiritualist philosophies and practices never seem to actually realise what is going on here and are stuck with these views until the day they die. That is how deceptive this whole business is.

"Almost every single time a proper investigation is done on this the inescapable conclusion is that these "spirits" are deceptive liars."

That is the conclusion of some Christians because they cannot accept that the reports of the mediums contradict the Bible, but sorry, for me the psychic research is more reliable than the Bible.

David R,
I think you generalize too much. How about some specifics? I suggest that you read the poetry of Patience Worth if you think that "this whole business is deceptive". Let me know if you think that Patience Worth was an 'evil spirit'.

Here is what Patience said about atheism.


THE FOLLY OF ATHEISM

Who doubts his God is but a lout;
Who piths his wisdom with egotry
Hath lost his mark. To doubt
Is but to cast thee as a stone
Unto the very heart of God.
Who doubts his God hath but announced
His own weak limitation;
Hath tied his hand and fettered of his foot.
To doubt thy God is but to stop
The everlasting flow of mercy,
To die of thirst and lose thee
In the chaos of thyself.

-AOD

I wonder if mass hallucination applies in some of these cases, that somehow none of this is really happening, but the observers believe it is happening.

On the other hand, there are lot of things invisible to the naked eye, from wireless connectivity to the molecule, etc. Maybe some people have a special ability.

Though I do wonder if spirits, if they exist, would want to spend their time performing parlor tricks.

"The observations of Crookes are corroborated by many others over the 25 year career of Home. Because of the eminence of many of the attendees at his seances, there exists a substantial amount of unpublished material regarding his seances in various archives in Europe and America." - Doug

And understandably so. If people posting here, on Michael's blog, feel the need to retain anonymity then imagine how some of the world's most eminent thinkers would feel about having their attendances at seances reported at that time.

(That is not to suggest that we good souls, posting here in Michael's blog, are not among the world's most eminent thinkers, you understand.) ;)

"Were there magicians at that time able to produce the wide range of tricks that Home did - all at once nonetheless? I haven't found anything yet that says so."

No. Peter Lamont, who wrote the most recent excellent biography on Home, has an extensive background in conjuring and states that "as described" these feats couldn't be done by contemporaries. Angelo Lewis ("Professor Hoffman"), one of the most prominent conjurors in the late 19th Century said something much to the same effect. However, both stressed that "as described" doesn't equate to "what really happened". Many magicians have performed tricks only to have them related by the audience as having been something much different...such that as described the feat would have been impossible.

But no..."as described" Home's feats could not be duplicated in any way by contemporaries except perhaps only on stage. Even then that would have been a stretch at that time.

No one wrote, "So magicians really do some amazing tricks that fool even intelligent observant people. You even had a good trick on your FB page where Harrison Ford was freaked out when the very card he selected from a deck was made to appear inside an orange in his kitchen. I mean, how did he do that, right?"

True. But actually there's a video online showing how that kind of trick is done. Like many magic tricks, it's fairly simple once it's explained. It would require prior access to Ford's kitchen on the part of the magician or an assistant (alternatively, the orange, prepared in advance, could have been surreptitiously added to the fruit bowl).

Some of the stuff reportedly done by Home, though, is much less open to explanation. Take the small table that moved around the room. Crookes was aware that it had moved in earlier sittings, so he pushed it into a far corner, checked to be sure no strings were attached to it, and kept everyone away from it. It still moved - and it moved a lot. It traversed much of the room, covering a distance of at least twelve feet in total. Moreover, while it first moved toward the seance table, it later moved away from the table and thumped up against a door.

Even if Home had somehow managed to attach a string to the table unobserved, it is impossible to say how he could have moved it so dramatically, especially since he his hands and feet were seen and/or held at the time. Plus, he would have to remove the string after the seance was over - again, without being observed. And he would have to do this on multiple occasions.

Skeptics will suggest an accomplice took care of this trick. But the sitters were apparently all Crookes's colleagues or family members. There seems no reason to believe they would aid Home in a fraud that would make Crookes (and themselves) look foolish. It is far more likely that if Home had approached any of them with a request for assistance, he would have been refused and then exposed.

Besides, it is doubtful that any amateur could have pulled off these complicated illusions, even with Home's coaching. And Home generated the same types of phenomena wherever he went, even though none of the sitters from Crookes's home accompanied him. (It would, of course, be a different matter if he were always attended by the same person - a valet or something. But there was no such person.)

In Sergeant Cox's first sitting with Home a chair glided 10 feet from the other room over to him, then did a 180 degree turn so it's back was to him. There were raps on the chair so Cox put one finger on the top of the back of it to feel the raps...and it rose slowly into the air...Home being on the other side of the table well away from it. The chair lifted so high Cox had to rise up on tip toe to keep his finger on it...and it stayed up in the air attached to his finger for 2 minutes or so. Finally Cox pushed it off his finger and it landed on the table. This was in a fully lit room at the S.C. Hall house.

Unless these Victorian homes in which D.D. Home performed had bare wood floors, which is unlikely I think since area carpets were in style at that time in high-class homes, wouldn't it have been difficult to smoothly pull a table on a string around the room over the carpet or over a wood floor and then onto a center area rug? One would have to have had a very strong string! And, I think the table would have a tendency to jerk along or fall over.- AOD

Let's be honest, if we read the report fully and rationally, the inescapable conclusion is the one Home claimed and Crookes accepted. If James Randi could reproduce half the Home phenomena and fool a modern day Crookes, plus his numerous colleagues, I'll give him a million pounds myself! And of course Home is just one medium; reading David Fontana's account of the Scole group leaves me equally unable to conclude anything other than that which is claimed

AMOS, as interesting as mediumship phenomena are, I am hard pressed to consider them as being in any way connected to the meaning of life, or what is known as "God". Indeed, all mystics and enlightened teachers say that silly little psychic tricks, as in medium displays, are a big obstacle in realisation of God. I think you are concentrating on inessentials. Not only that, but I detect a sense of combativeness in your response. It seems so blatantly obvious to me that a person cannot claim to believe in God and be an atheist at the same time, in any form.

AOD, What strikes me is the skeptics frequent dismissal of paranormal claims because "replication in controlled laboratories". But that sword cuts both way - or it should.

Lets take one of these know it all magicians and have them replicate Homes or other mediums in a controlled setting. Can they really produce the effects they claim they can and which, according to their claims, explains away the paranormal.

I notice they talk the talk, but don't walk the walk.

"Can any of them offer a plausible (not ridiculously far-fetched) account of experiments such as these without insinuating that the experimenters were liars or halfwits?"

As revealed by magic historians and myself on your other blog post, Crookes was a liar himself. He deliberately suppressed the names of various séance sitters who were present during these sittings with Home. He decided to reveal the names of these sitters ten years later, but still gave no details to where they were sitting during the experiment and why they were there in the first place. There is no way around that Michael, at a minimum you must accept this fact. It undermines everything Crookes did with Home.

Home was also a liar. See the entry for "Levitation" in Gordon Stein's book "Encyclopedia of Hoaxes", there is a séance that Home in his book reported that the conditions were 'light', but Stein cross-examined this and found old notes from one of the séance sitters declaring that no lighting occurred during the séance.

As for all Home's 'phenomena' it is explained in magic books going back over a hundred years. It is not hard to make 'rap' noises on a solid wooden table with parts of the hand or legs. What difference is there between Home and a magician? All his feats have been replicated by natural methods of deception. The coal-juggling trick for example is an old trick Hindu Fakirs would use. I have seen it done myself.

As for Crookes I am afraid to say he was a halfwit, he claimed Anna Eva Fay was a 'genuine' psychic medium. He carried out an experiment with her which she confessed to having cheated on.

Here is what my friend Massimo Polidoro has sent me, from his book:

"[Fay] told how she had tricked Crookes at the electric test: she had simply gripped one handle of the battery beneath her knee joint, keeping the circuit unbroken but leaving one hand free. Annie Eva Fay's revelation to Houdini of the way she had gulled Crookes was confirmed years later when psychical researcher Colin Brookes-Smith found at the Science Museum in London one of the galvanometers used by Crookes. The machine was repaired and brought to working order. Brookes-Smith reports that "there was no difficulty at all in sliding one wrist and forearm along over one handle and grasping the other handle, thereby keeping the circuit closed through the forearm, and then releasing the other hand without producing any large movement of the galvanometer spot."

(Final Séance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle, 2001).

Anna Eva Fay is rarely mentioned in the parapsychology literature, neither are the Davenport brothers because they were magicians who later admitted to not being spiritualists. I find the Davenport brothers and Fay's phenomena to be much more spectacular than Home. Fay was tied up in nearly every of her séance, of course she knew how to escape from bandages or ropes. There is no evidence Home was ever tied up during a séance. If he was handcuffed to a wall none of his phenomena would occur :)

Bill wrote, "Crookes was a liar himself. He deliberately suppressed the names of various séance sitters who were present during these sittings with Home."

I wouldn't call it a lie or deliberate suppression. He apparently didn't think the fact that some family members witnessed the events was important. Had he been trying to cover it up, he wouldn't have published the info at all.

"All his feats have been replicated by natural methods of deception."

How did Home make the small table move around the room? How did he get specific items to float above the table or gently deposit themselves on the sitters? How did he make the accordion play when he wasn't holding it (and it could be seen playing)?

"As for Crookes I am afraid to say he was a halfwit."

From Wikipedia (not a paranormal-friendly site):

"Crookes worked in chemistry and physics. His experiments were notable for the originality of their design. He executed them skillfully. His interests, ranging over pure and applied science, economic and practical problems, and psychiatric research, made him a well-known personality. He received many public and academic honors. ...

"In 1861, Crookes discovered a previously unknown element with a bright green emission line in its spectrum and named the element thallium... He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1863.

"He developed the Crookes tubes, investigating cathode rays. ... In his investigations of the conduction of electricity in low pressure gases, he discovered that as the pressure was lowered, the negative electrode (cathode) appeared to emit rays (so-called 'cathode rays'). As these examples indicate, he was a pioneer in the construction and use of vacuum tubes for the study of physical phenomena. He was, as a consequence, one of the first scientists to investigate what is now called a plasma and identified it as the fourth state of matter in 1879. He also devised one of the first instruments for the studying nuclear radioactivity, the spinthariscope.

"Crookes investigated the properties of cathode rays, showing that they travel in straight lines, cause fluorescence when they fall on some substances, and that their impact can produce great heat. ... Crookes's experimental work in this field was the foundation of discoveries which eventually changed the whole of chemistry and physics.

"He soon discovered the phenomenon which drives the movement in a Crookes radiometer, in which a set of vanes, each blackened on one side and polished on the other, rotate when exposed to radiant energy ....

"Crookes identified the first known sample of helium, in 1895. Crookes was knighted in 1897.

"In 1903, Crookes turned his attention to the newly discovered phenomenon of radioactivity, achieving the separation from uranium of its active transformation product, uranium-X (later established to be protactinium). Crookes observed the gradual decay of the separated transformation product, and the simultaneous reproduction of a fresh supply in the original uranium. At about the same time as this important discovery, he observed that when 'p-particles', ejected from radioactive substances, impinge upon zinc sulfide, each impact is accompanied by a minute scintillation, an observation which forms the basis of one of the most useful methods in the technique of radioactivity."

Not bad for a halfwit! Of course it is still possible that Crookes was gulled (and I believe he was, by Florence Cook and others). The Home sittings, however, strike me as better documented and far more convincing than his later work with materialization mediums.

Hey Bill, enlighten me a bit. Which magicians were able to duplicate Home's floating accordion trick, you know, the one where a variety of tunes were played without Home or anyone else touching the keyboard?---the one where the accordion floated in midair without anyone holding it up? How is this trick done? - AOD

Bill, The absence of information in a report does not necessarily make one a liar. The fact that Crookes did not mention in his report that his wife, daughter and mother-in-law were present at the time does not make Crooke a liar as you call him. I think you could get yourself in a lot of trouble by following this line of thinking. I don't think that Crookes deliberately suppressed that information I think that probably he just didn't believe it was relevant. - AOD

Oh come on Bill. Why is Gordon Stein in 1993 an authority on what D.D. Home did in 1874? You say that Stein "cross-examined this". Who did he "cross examine"? A document can't be cross-examined. You are talking nonsense here. Can you be more specific? (Did you read all of Crookes notes as I suggested? Did you?)

If Anna Fay admitted she cheated, how does that make Crookes a halfwit as you claim? It doesn't surprise me that Fay and the Davenport brothers are not mentioned in "the parapsychology literature" because they were 'fakes' for crying out loud! You find Fay and the Davenports more spectacular than Home but Bill---THEY WERE ADMITED FAKES!

How do you know if Home were "handcuffed to the wall" none of his phenomena would have occurred? How do you know this?- AOD

Forgive me David R., I think I have been casting pearls before swine. - AOD

Great post, Michael!

AOD wrote,

||As I see it there are two explanations. Either Home was a unique individual with powers and spirit contacts second only to Jesus Christ or Crookes was outright lying (sorry---that is,--- ' he was in error') about what transpired at the seances with Homes. I don't think there are any other reasonable explanations.||

Yes, I think those are the horns of the dilemma, but I would put it like this: Either materialism is disproved or everyone involved was lying to a very great extent. There's just no escape from that conclusion.

||From this vantage point 140 years later I think that the truth will never be known but I must admit that I can't accept Crookes' notes as representing the truth of what occurred. My boggle threshold won't let me move beyond my disbelief. Somebody, please help me my disbelief!||

I think the use of fuzzy logic is in order: I can't say whether any particular thing happened, but I also can't deny the aggregate of the reports. Just too many people have reported the same kinds of things.

I think we are dealing with issues of consensus consciousness. Michael has posted before about the spiritualism "mania" of the times. I think enough people believed to grease the grooves of such phenomena, while at the same time there was a maintenance of "plausible deniability."

To draw a parallel, I think UFO phenomena are similar today. You don't get the UFO landing on the White House lawn, but you do get a ton of reports, photos, videos, etc. There is enough evidence that an open-minded person can't deny it, yet there is not the slam-bang final *thing* that forces the mass media and world consciousness to recognize the phenomena.

I don't think this situation will hold forever. When the dam finally breaks and the media and world consciousness at least has to admit that, while any given phenomenon may be doubted, materialism is no longer tenable, things could get very interesting indeed.

"Either materialism is disproved or everyone involved was lying to a very great extent. There's just no escape from that conclusion."

"When the dam finally breaks and the media and world consciousness at least has to admit that, while any given phenomenon may be doubted, materialism is no longer tenable, things could get very interesting indeed."

@Matt: I think that's the situation in a nutshell. We can all go on huffing and puffing about the credibility of individual examples of psychic phenomena but that's like denying the forest while examining the trees.

"denying the forest while examining the trees"

That phrase nicely sums up the hand-waving objections made by the materialist epitome that is Bill. It is focusing on one piece of the whole, that *could* be produced fraudulently, whilst ignoring all the rest that (in my view) couldn't. It is objecting to the tip of the iceberg whilst ignoring the rest. It's getting the murderer from one of Michael's books off on a technicality when the rest of the evidence would have condemned him.

And other analogies :-)

Evaluate the evidence in a cool, disciplined, critical but open-minded manner, and follow where it leads (even if leads to astounding conclusions). If you focus on a part instead of the whole, you aren't applying critical thinking. And I'm sorry to say, David R, that if you shackle yourself with religious dogma you can't apply critical thinking either. The irony (given that materialists believe us to be irrational) is that one needs to be 100% rational to get to this truth

"AMOS, as interesting as mediumship phenomena are, I am hard pressed to consider them as being in any way connected to the meaning of life, or what is known as "God"."

Although I am not AMOS, the main purpose of the psychic researchers about mediumship is whether the mediums in some situation come in contact with spirits of deceased humans, not topic about God or the meaning of life, and I already have cast reason to answer yes that question.

"Either materialism is disproved or everyone involved was lying to a very great extent."

There are many types of materialism, sure one of these is compatible with psychic phenomena. For me the important thing is not show that materialism is false but explain those psychic phenomena and afterlife.

"The fact that Crookes did not mention in his report that his wife, daughter and mother-in-law were present at the time does not make Crooke a liar as you call him. I think you could get yourself in a lot of trouble by following this line of thinking. I don't think that Crookes deliberately suppressed that information I think that probably he just didn't believe it was relevant."

Amos, as you know Crookes published his report in the Quarterly Journal of Science which he was the editor for. He was writing a scientific paper so he should have declared who was in the room present. This is crucial for scientific investigation. Can you imagine any other experiment in science where this is not the case? This behaviour is suspicious but more importantly part of what we call scientific misconduct.

Put it this way, imagine if it was the other way round and James Randi had conducted an experiment into psychics but not declared the names of those present but only revealed this information many years later; it would be the end of the world to paranormal proponents and they would go and on about it. Yet with Crookes it is brushed under the carpet.

Crookes in this experiment was attempting to demonstrate a 'psychic' force to the masses. How can you leave the names of some of the observers out of the report? He had time to edit this report but he chose not to. Yet to this very day we still have no idea what these sitters were doing during the entire experiment or why they were there.

Do you believe none of this is relevant Doyle? If you are attending a séance, surely you want to know who he in the room with you? What if Home and one of these secret sitters had something going on?

"Which magicians were able to duplicate Home's floating accordion trick, you know, the one where a variety of tunes were played without Home or anyone else touching the keyboard?---the one where the accordion floated in midair without anyone holding it up? How is this trick done?"

As pointed out in previous posts on the other blog entry. Nobody observed the keys to have been depressed during the experiment. The accordion was seen to have moved about but not the keys themselves, so there is no evidence the accordion was played. The music must have come from another source.

How that trick happened is up to us to speculate. But it has been replicated by music-boxes, secret accomplices etc, or a false-keyboard inserted. This is indeed discussed in old magicians books by John Maskelyne or Henry Evans. I understand Michael does not find these convincing but that is what magicians have told me personally. Surely we should trust magicians, because they are experts on this.

The accordion was seen 'floaing' by a small hook attached to dark thread or 'catgut' (a type of strong cord), which would be invisible from the limited gas light in the room, especially under a dark dining room table.

Michael I am not trying to undermine Crookes the scientist. He was a talented chemist and did a lot of valid research. The problem is that scientists are actually the worst kind of people for investigating the occult or alleged 'psychic' phenomena.

Daniel Loxton a famous skeptic recently directed me to a book by Ivor Tuckett that makes that point clear:

"The fact of the matter is that scientific men, who are accustomed to accurate laboratory conditions and instruments, which do not lie or give rise to error — at any rate consciously are no match for the subtle degrees of deception practiced by media like Home, Moses and Eusapia."

(The Evidence for the Supernatural, 1911)

Scientists like Crookes were great in the laboratory where they were using gas discharge tubes, vials or measuring devices that do not lie. Crookes was not used to deception or magic trickery. He was this easily taken in by Home. Just as Oliver Lodge was duped by Palladino and Arthur Conan Doyle by William Hope.

What I want to know is why do we seemingly always have to go back to the Golden Age of Spiritualism to find 'credible' examples of psychic phenomena, an age steeped in fraud and credulity, where is the DDH et al of the hi-tech age?

Because it is kind of hard to ignore the glaring historical fact that such phenomena became increasingly less common as we became ever better at scientifically investigating (and dare I say debunking) it. Coincidence?

Bill wrote, "Michael I am not trying to undermine Crookes the scientist."

But you did call him "a halfwit" ...

"As pointed out in previous posts on the other blog entry. Nobody observed the keys to have been depressed during the experiment. The accordion was seen to have moved about but not the keys themselves, so there is no evidence the accordion was played. The music must have come from another source."

Here are some excerpts from, the above post. I'll put the most relevant parts between asterisks. All are quotes from Crookes:

////

I took particular notice that, when the instrument was playing, Mr. Home held it lightly at the end opposite the keys, that Mr. Home’s feet had boots on and were both quiet and at some distance from the instrument, and that, although *the keyed end was rising and falling vigorously and the keys moving as the music required,* no hand, strings, wires, or anything else could be seen touching that end.

Mr. Home brought the accordion over the top of the table and held it opposite to Dr. Bird. *We then all saw it contracting and expanding vigorously, and heard it emitting sounds,* Mr. Home part of this time supporting the instrument on his little finger tip by means of a string I had tied around the handle.

Mr. Home got up and stood behind in full view of all, holding the accordion out at arm's length. *We all saw it expanding and contracting and heard it playing a melody.* Mr. Home then let go of the accordion, which went behind his back and there continued to play; his feet being visible and also his hands, which were in front of him.

We then saw the accordion expand and contract and heard a tune played. Mrs. William Crookes and Mr. Home saw a light on the lower part of the accordion, where the keys were, and *we then heard and saw the keys clicked and depressed one after the other fairly and deliberately,* as if to show us that the power doing it, although invisible (or nearly so) to us, had full control over the instrument.

[The accordion was given to Crookes himself.] In this position, no one touching the accordion but myself, and every one noticing what was taking place, the instrument played notes but no tune.

//////

Bill, if you had read my post more carefully, you would have known that the keys were observed being depressed and the accordion was observed expanding and contracting.

Bill wrote, "The accordion was seen 'floating' by a small hook attached to dark thread or 'catgut' (a type of strong cord)."

More from Crookes:

////

Mr. Home then let go of the accordion, which *went behind his back and there continued to play; his feet being visible and also his hands, which were in front of him.*

The accordion, which had been left by Mr. Home under the table, now began to play and move about without anyone touching it. It dropped onto my foot, then *dragged itself away, playing all the time, and went to Mrs. I. It got on to her knees.*

///

Hard to explain with catgut and hooks.

Markus wrote, "What I want to know is why do we seemingly always have to go back to the Golden Age of Spiritualism to find 'credible' examples of psychic phenomena."

In terms of physical mediumship, there have been some recent cases - for instance, the well-known cases of "Philip, the imaginary ghost" and the Scole experiments. If you're talking about mental mediumship, there has been good work done by Robertson and Roy, the Windbridge institute, Gary Schwartz, etc. If you mean ESP, the autoganzfeld experiments are the gold standard, and they were pretty recent.

I will say that mental mediumship has not regained the heights reached by mediums like Piper, Osbourne, and Garrett. I think this is because full trance mediumship is rarely attempted anymore.

I have often wondered what would happen if one of today's light-trance mediums were deeply hypnotized. Would this reproduce the full trance state and allow for a better reading? As far as I know, this experiment has not been tried.

Unbelievable Bill that you would say, "Surely we should trust magicians, because they are experts on this."

Am I to understand you to mean that I should trust people whose job it is to deceive, mislead, lie and trick?

Again I ask you Bill, "Have you read Crooks notes?" and can you "Name a magician who has duplicated the floating, self-playing accordion 'trick'.

If you would read Crookes' notes you would know exactly who was present during the séances, where they were seated and what they did or didn't do. You would know that there was ample opportunity for everyone present to determine whether or not there was a "hook and catgut" attached to the accordion. And tell me, what was the other end of the catgut attached to that allowed the accordion to 'float', even when Homes was nowhere near it ?You are going off of the deep end when you say, "This behaviour is suspicious but more importantly part of what we call scientific misconduct." Who are you talking about when you say "WE' call this scientific misconduct? Don't you mean YOU think this is misconduct based only on your opinion and no evidence?

Considering the academic view of women during the 1800s, no I don't think it was important to state that Crookes' wife, daughter and mother-in-law were present! Their presence or absence neither adds no detracts from the significance or validity of Crookes' findings. -AOD

Actually Bill, when I conducted my experiments for my scientific thesis, which took place over many months, there were various and sundry people present in the room(s) with me during those times and at other times during my collection of data. I saw no need to list them all in my final report. - AOD

Michael,

In the original report there is no mention that the keys were seen to have moved. What you are quoting from is "Notes of Séances with D.D. Home" published many years later. I find these notes to be unreliable.

If you compare the original QJS report from 1871 by Crookes to his Notes published many years later in 1889, there are many differences.

Like I said in the 1871 report the keys were not seen to have moved by Crookes. But he changes this in his notes for 1889?

Huggins himself remained agnostic on the accordion experiment, he never claimed to observe the accordion keys move.

More importantly these notes were published 18 years after the experiment happened. Crookes was an elderly man (also short-sighted), are we expected to believe he memorized all these events from the séances 18 years previously? More likely he was confused, exaggerated details or flat out lied.

Remember this was Crookes the man who was duped by Anna Eva Fay a stage magician, materialization frauds such as Florence Cook and Rosina Showers and even bogus spirit photographers like William Hope. We have Crookes on record for claiming these fraudulent mediums were genuine. Is it rational to still assume he was a reliable observer in the Home séances?

"Because it is kind of hard to ignore the glaring historical fact that such phenomena became increasingly less common as we became ever better at scientifically investigating (and dare I say debunking) it." - Markus Hesse

Markus, who says we are "better" at debunking anything? I think that's an assumption, but I'm wondering what you base it on.

And there's a flip side to your assumption. In the high age, it should be easier to fake paranormal phenomena.

high tech age that is ;-)

I don't know Michael. I think that George Anderson, Chris Stillar, Lisa Williams and yes, even John Edward have had some pretty good hits in their careers as mental mediums. They don't go into an obvious trance but the quality of the information they transmit from 'spirits' I think has for the most part been very impressive. Even though they do not enter into a dramatic trance state, use 'controls' or resort to spirit-embodied arms and hands and automatic writing as Leonora Piper did, some of them do seem to get distracted during the times they are receiving information. On one level the lack of a melodramatic trance state makes communication with the spirits seem more natural, in my opinion and less of a 'paranormal' or 'supernatural' phenomenon. Yes, it would be interesting to see if the above mediums entered a trance state if their reading would be better, but certain examples especially of Chris Stillar and George Anderson seem pretty good as they are to me. - AOD

Bill wrote, "Crookes was an elderly man (also short-sighted), are we expected to believe he memorized all these events from the séances 18 years previously? More likely he was confused, exaggerated details or flat out lied."

This is the second time Bill has said Crookes was elderly. I'm surprised at the repetition, since I corrected him the first time. Crookes was 39 when his 1871 report was published. He was 57 when the more complete notes were published in 1889.

Clearly he was not elderly. He lived to be almost 84. But was he confused and of unsound mind? Let's look again at Wikipedia:

"Crookes identified the first known sample of helium, in 1895. Crookes was knighted in 1897. In 1903, Crookes turned his attention to the newly discovered phenomenon of radioactivity, achieving the separation from uranium of its active transformation product, uranium-X (later established to be protactinium). Crookes observed the gradual decay of the separated transformation product, and the simultaneous reproduction of a fresh supply in the original uranium. At about the same time as this important discovery, he observed that when 'p-particles', ejected from radioactive substances, impinge upon zinc sulfide, each impact is accompanied by a minute scintillation, an observation which forms the basis of one of the most useful methods in the technique of radioactivity."

This was years after the 1889 publication of Crookes' notes on Home. Apparently he was still mentally alert enough to make important discoveries when he was 65 and 71. It seems unlikely he was in mental decline at age 57.

If he was not elderly and not suffering from dementia, what about his memory? Bill asks, "Are we expected to believe he memorized all these events ...?" No, we're not. I'm afraid this is yet another example of Bill not reading the original documentation. On the second page of his article Crookes writes:

"In most cases the notes were written – primarily for my own information, – while the phenomena were actually going forward, but on some few occasions they were copied or expanded immediately after the séance from briefer notes taken at the time. They are here reprinted verbatim …"

So it's not a question of trying to remember things that happened many years earlier. He had kept the notes. As he says in the opening two paragraphs, he had originally hoped (circa 1874) to incorporate these notes into a book on his psychical research, but his work in chemistry and physics took up all his time and he never got to it.

All that's left is lying, which is why Bill is so eager to call Crookes a liar for not mentioning the family members who sat in on some of the seances.

Do you really think Bill is absorbing any of your points, Michael? Or even that he is capable of doing so?

Where there's a will there's a way. And sometimes that way is perverse. I'm only astonished that you have accommodated this person as long as you have. There are many more out there like him. Are you willing to give time and patience to them all? Can you really suffer such fools gladly?

And if the answer is yes, then I nominate you for sainthood because I don't possess anything like that level of patience and, indeed, I don't even wish to.

Amos I am looking at his notes now on pages 112-113. For one of the accordion séances we have:

Friday, June 23rd, 1871. Sitting at 20, Mornington-road. From 8:30-11pm.

Present: Mr. D. D. Home (medium), Mrs. Wr Crookes, Mr. Wr. Crookes, Miss Bird,
Serjt. Cox, Mrs. Humphrey, Dr. Bird, Miss A. Crookes, Mr Wm. Crookes, Mrs Wm. Crookes.

(also see page 119 for a group of different séance sitters with the accordion).

Regarding the accordion. Crookes writes that "Miss Bird and Dr. Bird got under the table and saw the movement". The
gas was now put out and the spirit lamp lighted."

Well this is not good, who were these people? Limited lighting (the gas light removed entirely) and the séance held very late at night during moments of fatigue.

But this is strange. In his original report from 1871, Crookes writes:

"The Investigators present on the test occasion were an eminent physicist,
high in the ranks of the Royal Society, whom I will call Dr A. B. a well known
Sergeant-at-Law, who I will call Sergeant C. D.; my brother; and my chemical
assistant."

There is no mention that his chemical assistant was actually Charles Henry Gimingham, a 17 year old kid.

Dr. A. B was later revealed as William Huggins (Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism, 1874). But there is no mention of Huggins in Home's notes that is linked to on Dean Radin's website.

Crookes is discussing a number of different séances where Home performed his accordion feat. The accordion feat was not a one-off thing.

Home had been practicing it for over a decade. I understand that but I cannot find Huggins (Dr. A. B) in the above notes present in any of the séances that Michael links to. Unless I have missed this?

This is all very confusing I am afraid. This is what happens when Crookes decided to suppress the names of those who were present during his experiment.

"No, we're not. I'm afraid this is yet another example of Bill not reading the original documentation."

Michael I have read the original documentation. The original documentation are the reports by Crookes published in 1871 in the Quarterly Journal of Science (QJS). Anything else is unreliable. Personal notes written after the experiments are useless in this case. The paper published by Crookes is more reliable as it was published at the time in a scientific journal (although Crookes was its editor).

The "Notes of Séances with D.D. Home" seems to be a discussion of many different séances held in 1871. I am interested in the accordion experiment that was cited in the QJS that featured Huggins. But as we see there is contradictory information from these notes. And Dr A. B. (William Huggins) is not mentioned in those notes. Instead we get a group of séances with different sitters with different conditions.

"but on some few occasions they were copied or expanded immediately after the séance from briefer notes taken at the time. They are here reprinted verbatim"

The notes are unreliable because they were carried out after the séance. And why only choose to publish these notes in 1889, after Home had died? Why not at the time?

He waits 18 years to publish these notes? This is not suspicious? Also see William Hodson Brock's biography of Crookes. All of Crookes' personal notes and letters on spiritualism were destroyed or went missing just before his death. Again suspicious. The whole case is a lot more complicated than you would like it to be.

Bill,

Very lame stuff, but pretty standard for skeptics. Skeptics, including yourself in this instance, employ a strategically ignorant approach to the data: don't read the data in first place, forget what doesn't suit you, ignore as needed to make your case. Based on your (plural) self-image as careful, rational, scientific, you should be ashamed.

And you should also be ashamed of your reasoning, which is also dishonest and habitually fallacious. The biggest and worst technique I see is what I call "the fallacy of the glancing blow." Find something, *anything* you regard as less than perfect, harp on that, and imply or state directly that it contaminates and invalidates the whole. In this case, the fact that certain persons were present but not listed. Right, there are all these gross psychokinetic phenomena taking place, but maybe Crookes's daughter was acting as a stage magician and helping pull the wool over people's eyes! It's a cartload, quite frankly.

You wrote,

||Daniel Loxton a famous skeptic recently directed me to a book by Ivor Tuckett that makes that point clear:

"The fact of the matter is that scientific men, who are accustomed to accurate laboratory conditions and instruments, which do not lie or give rise to error — at any rate consciously are no match for the subtle degrees of deception practiced by media like Home, Moses and Eusapia."||

I don't anything know about Moses, but with Home and Palladino, if they were deceiving people it wasn't by "subtle" means. IF they were deceiving people, it was by the unsubtle means imaginable, in essence extremely elaborate stage magic in controlled environments with people watching their every move up close and often grabbing onto their arms and legs.

Skeptics like you operate under your own self-serving logic, and it is *tsumaranai* to use an apt Japanese term to engage with you.

Juan wrote,

||There are many types of materialism, sure one of these is compatible with psychic phenomena.||

But the consensus materialism is one that denies the existence of the phenomena. Let's get the phenomena recognized, at least.

||For me the important thing is not show that materialism is false but explain those psychic phenomena and afterlife.||

I humbly disagree. I think what is holding back human progress right now in *many* related areas is the false belief system of materialism, which has a large number of people convinced that a large number of things aren't possible. They are therefore not observing, dismissing what they do observe, and not participating in the conversation. Once the consensus consciousness changes to admit that all of these things are possible, then I think the snowball of observation is really going to roll, which in turn will will feed the philosophic discussion that you desire (which I agree is also of great importance). In any case, we can pursue both goals (defeating materialism and exploring causes and meanings) at the same time.

Markus wrote,

||What I want to know is why do we seemingly always have to go back to the Golden Age of Spiritualism to find 'credible' examples of psychic phenomena, an age steeped in fraud and credulity, where is the DDH et al of the hi-tech age?||

I don't think it's all that big a mystery. It was a massive fad, and a lot of people were trying to be mediums. That greatly raised the number of people who *could* be great mediums, and a select few came forth and showed great ability. It's not as though there were hundreds on Home's or Palladino's level. Just a handful, really.

Also what Michael said. In many ways, trance mediumship is not really a very good idea. Mental mediumship is what is done these days, and I would say there are quite a few very good ones.

||Because it is kind of hard to ignore the glaring historical fact that such phenomena became increasingly less common as we became ever better at scientifically investigating (and dare I say debunking) it. Coincidence?||

I would put it the other way around: The phenomena have not become easier to debunk but rather easier to *prove* via photos and video. It is almost as if they have disappeared because they were on the verge of messing with consensus consciousness in a very big way.

Trance mediums still exist. Once example is David Thompson, about whom Michael and other paranormal bloggers have written to no small extent:

http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2008/08/rethinking-david-thompson.html

If skeptics think we cannot police our own at all, well, Thompson is a good example that we are not so credulous as they suppose. Thompson has been raked over the coals--and deservedly so, in my opinion. There are many things to talk about with respect to him and his seances (and not all are negative--some things, even if they are tricks, are massively difficult to explain), but at the end of the day, while he has recorded many of his seances, he has refused to allow infrared cameras (he holds them in total darkness), saying that they would disrupt the spiritual connection or some other poppycock. An IR camera is completely passive and puts out no more "bad energy" than an audio recorder.

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