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AOD, having read the notes at the link you so kindly shared, I really don't see that Wiley or "Bill" have a valid point.

In fairness to stage magicians, they spend a life time working very hard to master tricks; to fool people. They typically belong to guilds where everyone is working hard toward the same goal. Deception is so very prominent in a magician's personal. professional and social life. And people are fooled - heck, amazed - by well practiced clever tricks. So it's easy to see why they are always 100% certain that all displays of mediumship are just so many deceptions.

It is evident that Mr. Wiley has a preformed opinion about “successful mediums” like D. D. Home’s who hold their séances in the evening hours and rely on “dulling the sitters clarity of observation to help facilitate any manipulations necessary.” But the red stop sign with the flashing lights came with Wiley’s astounding “revelation” of the “erotic homosexual overtones” in the relationship between Home and young Lord Adare. To retreat a moment from Wiley’s titillating rumination to the less sexy world of fact:

  1. Young Lord Adare wrote letters of his experiences to his father Lord Dunraven with D. D. Home.
  2. Lord Dunraven was moved by his son’s letters to also sit with D. D. Home and witness the phenomena for himself firsthand.
  3. Lord Dunraven privately published his son’s letters and his own accounts which, because of the personal nature of much of the séance material, was not widely circulated.
  4. 55 years later the former Lord Adare, having succeeded his father as Lord Dunraven publishes for the first time publicly Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr D. D. Home
  5. If we follow Wiley’s twisted logic then we must assume that Lord Dunraven knew his own son less well than Mr. Wiley or, that he was such a liberal minded catholic that he was proud to share the supposed homoerotic overtones of his son’s personal correspondence with his wider circle of friends and acquaintances. We also must assume that after 55 years the former Lord Adare still carried a torch for D. D. Home and remained bound to the hypnotic spell that supposedly possessed him in youth.

    Wiley wishes to spare us the disappointment of going to the source ourselves and forming our own opinions by telling us: “Given the intimate relations of the two men, attempting to consider any natural explanations for the events, other than hallucination or hypnotic suggestion, would be fruitless.” Given the overactive imagination of Mr. Wiley and his apparent contempt for the truth, to take him seriously would be fruitless.

    As for the experiment with the accordion in the cage, that isn’t described in Notes of Séances With D. D. Home, so I don’t what Wiley is referring to.

    It is evident from the notes that women likely were present during at least some of the experiments conducted by Crookes of Mr. Home that were reported in the Quarterly Journal of Science. This might have been a shocking revelation for Victorian society, being that women were considered then to be incompetent to vote, serve on juries, and attend university. That Crookes fails to mention the sex of the witnesses, is more of an inditement on the prejudices of the age than it is a reflection on his honesty and integrity.

Agreed David.

What scientist would want to say in his scientific report that his wife, daughter and next door neighbor were present during the time of the experiment, especially in Victorian times as you say. Perhaps Bill would want to know if the dog or cat was present in the room or if there was a canary in a cage in the corner. There seems to be no end to additional information wanted by the skeptics. I am surprised that he didn't want to know the exact number of lumens in the room during the experiment. Now that would have had some relevancy, but the presence of women in the room is of no consequence to the outcome of the experiment.(Unless of course you believe that women have some special powers to affect the environment just because they are women---or witches maybe!) Such information is entirely irrelevant to the whole point of the experiment. How would the outcome of the experiment be changed in any way if Crookes had reported that his wife and daughter were present?

Bill wrote (rather darkly, it has to be said)…

'Where were these sitters located during the accordion experiment? Who is Mrs Humphrey? Why did Crookes invite in his family members. There is no mention of these sitters movements in the original report, what were [sic] doing during the experiment? How far were they sitting from Home? We are totally left in the dark here'.

Speak for yourself, Bill. Mrs Humphrey was Crookes' Mother in Law. They were all probably at the séance because they were relatives of Crookes and, by virtue of that fact, he (presumably) wasn't that bothered about the possibility of any of them being accomplices of Home.

Thanks, Michael/Amos. I had a quick scan around and guessed that could be where Bill was quoting Wiley from. Still, you never know, I could be wrong and Bill actually does own the book. Frustratingly, however, the Google Books extract offers no access to Wiley's references/notes for that chapter.

I agree with your various points. Wiley's rather short analysis hardly amounts to a 'slam-dunk'.

I can't help but notice, actually, that Wiley himself appears to be getting a bit mixed up (or someone is, somewhere). On page 28 he claims that Crookes included the weight of his dining room table in his report (140 lbs) - and writes that this is one of several 'irrelevant' technical details given by Crookes, perhaps to suggest a '"scientific" thoroughness'. It is implied that Wiley is taking this information from Crookes' original QJS Report, which I do not have access to at the present. This is why Wiley's references are important (to me, anyway): because Crookes only gives this figure in relation to his own bodily weight in the version (ostensibly a reproduction of the QJS Report) included in the later 'Researches In The Phenomena Of Spiritualism'. Nowhere in there (that I can see after an, admittedly quick, re-scan) does Crookes give the weight of the table involved.

So, is Wiley taking his information from Crookes' 'Notes of Séances with D.D. Home'? Probably not, because Wiley gives the date of the first séance (or, at least - the one involving the plank of wood/spring balance experiment, and the accordion) at Crookes' house as being May 31, 1871 (p.27), and he even gives the times of 'the meetings' as being '..in the evening (9.15)' . Yet in 'Notes', Crookes gives the date as 'Wednesday, June 21st, 1871…from 8.40 to 10.30 p.m.', and subsequent séances are at differing times.

That's why the references are important. Who's misreporting here, Wiley? or Crookes? Or someone else? What is Wiley basing his confident assertions, such as spirit raps directing the proceedings, upon? I can hazard a couple of guesses - but one has to be sure!

If it's me that's missed something through writing in haste, however, then I'd be grateful if someone could shout up. My whip-lashed soul can then cry out for forgiveness, but it'll save me about £20 if the SPR Library doesn't have Wiley's book.

Anyway. This discussion has reminded me why I got so irritated with Crookes many years ago when I wrote an article about a lot of this stuff for The Noah's Ark Society 'Newsletter' (Volume 5, Issue 80, March 1997). Crookes gives the impression that he came to the subject of Spiritualism as a hard-headed sceptic, and writes more than a little contemptuously of Spiritualists. Yet, according to Conan Doyle ('The History of Spiritualism, Volume One (London: Psychic Press Ltd, 1989 - p.239), only about a year before his work with Home, Crookes wrote in his diary of '…reverting in thought to this time last year…sitting in communion with dear departed friends' and his hopes that '…the Father and Master' would '…allow us to continue to receive communications from my brother…' . Indeed, he'd already had sittings with Mrs Marshall and J.J. Morse in 1869.

So, if Conan Doyle, is correct, then Crookes was perhaps not as 'inclined towards a "psychic force" explanation' as he was making out in 1871.

That's the trouble I have with Crookes. He was, in some ways, rather duplicitous, albeit under rather difficult professional and social circumstances. So there is some substance to the accusations that critics have levelled at him over the years. The reason, on balance, that I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt about his work with Home is that Huggins, and Cox (as far as I'm aware) never retracted their witness statements - and a whole lot else. I'd also have to say that said critics have (cough) IMO, usually made a much bigger hash of attempting to discredit him than Crookes made of his experiments and documentation thereof; which, as I said earlier, were made very early on in the history of psychical research.

Well folks, my copy of 'Spooky Science: Debunking the Pseudoscience of the Afterlife' has arrived and I have glanced through it and read the 2 pages about Patience Worth which as you may know I have a particular interest. I also looked as several pages about D.D. Home as it is a current topic on this blog. I will read the rest of the 227 pages when I get home tonight.

First off I have to suspect that "Bill" might be the author John Grant as their presentation styles and thought processes seem so similar. I think that many or most of the contributors to this site would be able to write an encyclopedic response to the book.

Here's a short sample from the section titled "The Hovering Home" (Clever eh?).

Pages 33-37

". . . he [Homes] was sent abroad to help him recuperate after a bout of tuberculosis" Now don't we all wish it were true that one could have a "bout' of tuberculosis especially in the 1800s.

Grant says that "Home was never publicly exposed as a cheat, although several of his sitters reported privately that they'd noticed apparent shenanigans. There's ample circumstantial evidence that he cheated,. . . " Evidence? ? ? Well here it is: "...his powers tended to ebb and flow according to the strictness of the scientific controls in place during a particular test" and ". . . the spirits stubbornly refused to cooperate whenever there might be a professional magician in attendance." (That's all the evidence you're going to get on that topic folks.)

Grant says, ". . . writer Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose novel A Strange Story (1862), which devotes an entire chapter to a debate between a medium and a skeptic, may owe more than a little to the author's experiences with Home." ( What the hell is this about? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? That's all you are going to get about it.)

Here's information about Home's levitation: "While the room was well lit when his séances began, by the time the self-levitation started the lights had been turned down low enough that all the sitters could make out were vague shapes and, passing in front of dimly lit windows, silhouettes. Home would obligingly mark the ceiling with a cross to 'prove' he had floated up there---a stratagem he wouldn't have needed to employ had he simply left the lights on. ( Yes and how and when did Home mark the ceiling with a cross?) All his feats were within the scope of a competent illusionist." Now how could John Grant know in 2015 just what the sitters could or could not see? And, isn't it nice to know that ALL of Home's "feats" were within the scope of a competent illusionist!)

And here is another sample of Monday morning quarterbacking regarding Home's floating in and out of a window. "The event seems to have been a masterpiece of misdirection by the medium. He told his three visitors what they were about to witness and then gave them enough visual clues (in a darkened room, of course) for them to be able to piece together a false narrative afterward. Each man saw only bits of the 'levitation'; it seems most likely that Home simply stepped out one window, crept along a ledge or a plank between the two window balconies, and then stepped back into the room." (How many times has that explanation been given?)

Regarding the Brownings: ". . . the medium's eye had been caught by the poet's wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Although she didn't respond to the much younger Home's advances----despite being mightily impressed by his mediumship---the situation created tension in the Browning household." (What "advances" did Home make toward Elizabeth?)

About Mr. Sludge: "The poem, which skewers Home for what Browning could see was outright chicanery, . . . " (Explain please.)

Tests of Home: "Home was tested at the University of St. Petersburg, and again the result was a damp squib."


Regarding the "spirit hand": "Skeptics suggested the 'hand' was in actuality one of the medium's feet, slipped out of his shoe and brought up onto the tabletop. (Home was a very athletic, limber man.) So the Russians set him to work at a glass-topped table and, sure enough, the 'spirit hand' declined to appear."

About the accordion: "After his death, found among his possessions were a collection of tiny harmonicas----small enough that they could be kept in the mouth, then manipulated to the lips. There, they'd be almost undetectable behind Home's big Victorian mustache!"

This all sounds like 'Bill' to me. I am looking forwarding to reading the rest of the book especially the part about Shirley Maclaine. -AOD :^)

"About the accordion: 'After his death, found among his possessions were a collection of tiny harmonicas----small enough that they could be kept in the mouth, then manipulated to the lips. There, they'd be almost undetectable behind Home's big Victorian mustache!'"

This is simply untrue. No harmonicas were found, which is why Randi renounced this theory. Nor did Hume have a particularly large mustache. Plus, the room was lit with gas, so he couldn't have concealed it anyway.

I doubt that Bill wrote the book, because Bill knew that the harmonica theory had been discarded. In fact, he pointed me to an online page where Randi admitted that the theory was untenable. (See earlier in this the comment thread.)

Thanks for the report, AOD. The book sounds worthless- a fact that does not surprise me at all!

Just wondering here but wouldn't it be difficult to speak with a collection of tiny harmonicas in one's mouth? - AOD

@AOD - Thanks for taking one for the team and reading “Spooky Science…”
@ Steve H - “(cough) IMO” - I laughed. Crookes hypothesis of a psychic force associated with Hume was not necessarily duplicitous. As Home’s presence was necessary for the phenomena to appear, clearly he provided something that facilitated their manifestation. Whether you call the secret sauce a “Psychic force”, OD, Teleplasm, Ectoplasm, etc.; the medium makes the manifestation possible.

Whatever his private beliefs, when speaking as a scientist Crookes was careful to go no further than where the facts led. We can assume that every “objective” observer is just as prejudiced and biased as ourselves. That however hard they may try to be fair, they will tend to see reality in the way they are attuned to perceive it. Crookes was clearly much more biased towards Spiritualism than his peers, simply by virtue of considering it a domain worthy of scientific examination. He may have come willingly to it, or been dragged kicking and screaming, but what matters is the work, not the motivation.

AOD said:

"wouldn't it be difficult to speak with a collection of tiny harmonicas in one's mouth?"

Not if you use sign language.

To an extent, David, yes, I’d agree with you.

As I said, I've been prepared to cut Crookes a certain amount of 'slack' in more recent years. He complained himself much later that he had to appear accepting of the Spiritualist interpretation of the phenomena (to Spiritualists) to get access to the mediums in the first place. I get that, although it doesn’t quite get him off the duplicity hook (in the strictest sense), in my view. But I would acknowledge that, whatever his private views may have been at the start (or before), he was perfectly entitled to those. As you imply, every scientist has his or her ‘beliefs’ about their subject of study, and those tend to swing around a great deal as matters evolve. As a researcher, especially with PM, you end up wobbling along the tight-rope of your own biases over the snake filled pit of everyone else’s…those of critics and believers alike.

Crookes was in a very difficult position right from the start.

So, why do I still have a problem with Crookes’ approach? Simply, I wasn’t only referring to his work with Home, although I should have been more explicit. You wrote: -

‘…when speaking as a scientist Crookes was careful to go no further than where the facts led’

I think the problem is that, post Home, it becomes quite difficult to tell whether Crookes is speaking as a scientist or as a potential author of romantic fiction. Consider his description of the final appearance of ‘Katie King’ (in relation to the famous photographs that he had described, but was refusing to publish at that point): -

‘But photography is as inadequate to depict the perfect beauty of Katie’s face, as words are powerless to describe her charms of manner.’ (letter to The Spiritualist, June 5, 1874 – included in 'Researches In The Phenomena of Spiritualism')

And that was after telling everyone (in a previous letter) how, after asking if he could embrace Katie (and being told that he could) he ‘…did – well, as any gentleman would do under the circumstances.’

Well Crookes was a scientist, so it wouldn’t be irrational to assume that he is speaking as one here. Was he being careful? I’d say ‘probably not’, under the circumstances, although that’s just my opinion. Was he ‘going no further than where the facts led’? Well, as he doesn’t include any independent corroboration of the ‘facts’, (unlike with Home), it’s a bit difficult to say, really. But I’d say that he probably was, unless you’re of the opinion that ‘maybe up the garden path’ was where he was intending to go in a scientific sense.

Crookes ended up complaining to Home that he was getting the reputation of being a ‘Don Juan’; and having to use his solicitor to silence the mother of the medium Rosina Showers after he had extracted a confession of fraud from her daughter in a private interview and Mrs Showers had ‘put the worst possible construction on it’ and was spreading rumours about him (see the source I cite at the end, it's in there somewhere, probably).

That’s just the tip of the proverbial, really. But none of Crookes’ later behaviour means that D.D. Home had a mouth organ hidden in his moustache; a musical box in his trousers; resin (that just happened not to leave any trace on the plank – or stick to anything else) on his fingertips, or anything else.

I’d recommend that anyone who wants a relatively sane and unbiased unpicking of the whole ensuing post-Home mess read ‘William Crookes and the Physical Phenomena of Mediumship’ by R.G. Medhurst and K.M. Goldney, (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, March 1964 pp.25 – 183) which did a pretty decent job of rescuing Crookes’ personal reputation in the wake of Trevor Hall’s The Spiritualists: The Story of Florence Cook and William Crookes.

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