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vol. 1, p. 19
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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< The London Katie King (continued from unknown page) >

flower. Instinctively she put her hand up to protect it, and caught the hand of Hipp. He had been sitting opposite to her, and was then standing up and leaning over the table. To screen himself he at once seized Miss Cook's hand, and called for a light, when, sure enough, he was seen holding her by the hand.


From what all the other sitters told me of his conduct all through the séance, I should not believe any representation of his prejudicial to the truthfulness of Miss Cook, even if I had not heard her own version of the affair, and although she was an interested party. I have the most entire faith, derived from long experience, in her sincerity and honesty. I enclose a letter cut from the Spiritualist of Jan. 16, 1874, written by a gentleman who was present. It does not differ materially from the account Miss Cook gave me, and which I have told you.” The letter referred to is that by Mr. Blyton, given above.

Here our readers have all the grounds for the story so eagerly copied into the American newspapers in the hope of damaging Spiritualsm. The affair took place before the wonderful materializations through Miss Cook were heard of, and has no bearing on those well-tested phenomena. It rests on the mere capricious assumption of one individual, and that assumption is contradicted by Mr. Blyton and other persons present at the séances. Mr. Crookes, whose opportunities of testing the good faith of Miss Cook have been ample, has seen no cause yet to doubt her truthfulness. On the contrary he bears witness to it in the fullest and most emphatic manner, and has re-confirmed it recently by many remarkable tests.

Of the thousand and one American newspapers that have published Mr. Hipp’s slanderous statement, impugning the integrity of Miss Cook as a medium, how many will have the candor to inform their readers that there is another side to the story? Who speaks first?

H.P.B. versus D.H.J. Child #

# Child was a confederate. He took money ...lmes’ séance. He is a ...[2].

The Philadelphia “Fiasco,” or Who is Who?

A few weeks ago, in a letter, extracts from which have appeared in the Spiritual Scientist of December 3rd, I alluded to the deplorable lack of accord between American Spiritualists, and the consequences of the same. At that time I had just fought out my useless battle with a foe who, though beneath my own personal notice, had insulted all the Spiritualists of this country, as a body, in a caricature of a so-called scientific exposé. In dealing with him I dealt but with one of the numerous “bravos” enlisted in the army of the bitter opponents of our belief, and my task was, comparatively speaking, an easy one, if we take it for granted that falsehood can hardly withstand truth, as the latter will ever speak for itself. Since that day the scales have turned; prompted now as then, by the same love of justice and fair play, I feel compelled to throw [down] my glove once more in our defence, seeing that so few of the adherents to our cause are bold enough to accept that duty, and so many of them show the white feather of pusillanimity.

I indicated in my letter that such a state of things, such a complete lack of harmony, and such cowardice, I may add, among our ranks, subjected the Spiritualists and the cause to constant attacks from a compact, aggressive public opinion, based upon ignorance and wicked prejudice, intolerant, remorseless and thoroughly dishonest in the employment of its methods. As a vast army, amply equipped, may be cut to pieces by an inferior force well trained and handled, so Spiritualism, numbering its hosts by millions, and able to vanquish every reactionary theology by a little directed effort, is constantly harassed, weakened, impeded by the convergent attacks of pulpit and press, and by the treachery and cowardice of its trusted leaders. It is one of these professed leaders that I propose to question today, as closely as my rights, not only as a widely known Spiritualist, but a resident of the United States, will allow me. When I see the numbers of believers in this country, the broad basis of their belief, the impregnability of their position, and the talent that is embraced within their ranks, I am disgusted at the spectacle that they manifest at this very moment, after the Katie King—how shall we say—fraud? By no means, since the last word of this sensational comedy is far from being spoken.

There is not a country on the face of our planet, with a jury attached to its courts of justice, but gives the benefit of the doubt to every criminal brought within the law, and a chance to be heard and tell his story.

Is such the case between the pretended “spirit-performer,” the alleged bogus Katie King, and the Holmes mediums? I answer most decidedly no, and mean to prove it, if no one else does.

I deny the right of any man or woman to wrench from our hands all possible means of finding out the truth. I deny the right of any editor of a daily newspaper to accuse and publish accusations, refusing at the same time to hear one word of justification from the defendants, and so, instead of helping people to clear up the matter, leaving them more than ever to grope their way in the dark.

The biography of “Katie King” has come out at last; a sworn certificate, if you please, equally endorsed (under oath?) by Dr. Child, who throughout the whole of this “burlesque” epilogue has ever appeared in it, like some inevitable Deus-ex-Machina. The whole of this made-up elegy (by whom? evidently not by Mrs. White) is redolent with the perfume of erring innocence, of Magdalene-like tales of woe and sorrow, and tardy repentance and the like, giving us the abnormal idea of a pickpocket in the act of robbing our soul of its most precious, thrilling sensations; the carefully-prepared explanations on some points that appear now and then as so many stumbling-blocks in the way of a seemingly fair exposé, do not preclude, nevertheless, through the whole of it, the possibility of doubt, for many awkward semblances of truth, partly taken from the confessions of that fallen angel, Mrs. White, and partly—most of them we should say—copied from the private notebook of her “amanuensis,” give you a fair idea of the veracity of this sworn certificate. For instance, according to her own statement and the evidence furnished by the “habitues” of the Holmeses, Mrs. White having never been present at any of the dark circles (her alleged acting as Katie King excluding all possibility, on her part, of such a public exhibition of flesh and bones), how comes she to know so well, in every particular, about the tricks of the mediums, the programme of their performances, etc.? Then, again, Mrs. White, who remembers so well—by rote we may say every word exchanged between Katie King and Mr. Owen, the spirit and Dr. Child, has evidently forgotten all that was ever said by her in her bogus personation to Dr. Fellger; she does not even remember a very important secret communicated by her to the latter gentleman! What an extraordinary combination of memory and absence of mind at the same time! May not a certain memorandum book, with its carefully noted contents, account for it, perhaps? The document is signed, under oath, with the name of a non-existing spirit, Katie King. ... Very clever!

All protestations of innocence or explanations sent in by Mr. or Mrs. Holmes, written or verbal, are peremptorily refused publication by the press. No respectable paper dares take upon itself the responsibility of such an unpopular cause.

The public feels triumphant; the clergy, forgetting, in the excitement of their victory, the Brooklyn scandal, rub their hands and chuckle; a certain exposer of materialized spirits and mind-reading, like some monstrous anti-spiritual mitrailleuse, shoots forth a volley of missiles, and sends a condoling letter to Mr. Owen; Spiritualists, crestfallen, ridiculed and defeated, feel crushed forever under the pretended exposure and that overwhelming, pseudonymous evidence. . . . The day of Waterloo has come for us, and sweeping [away] the last remnants of the defeated army, it remains for us to ring our own death-knell. . . . Spirits, beware! Henceforth, if you lack prudence, your materialized forms will have to stop at the cabinet doors, and in perfect tremor melt away from sight, singing in chorus Poe’s “ Never more!

One would really suppose that the whole belief of us Spiritualists hung at the girdles of the Holmeses, and that in case they should be unmasked as tricksters, we might as well vote our immortality an old woman’s delusion.

Is the scraping off of a barnacle the destruction of a ship? But, moreover, we are not sufficiently furnished with any plausible proofs at all.

Colonel Olcott is here, and has begun investigations. His first tests with Mrs. Holmes alone, for Mr. Holmes is lying sick at Vineland, have proved satisfactory enough in his eyes, to induce Mr. Owen to return to the spot of his first love, namely, the Holmes’ cabinet. He began by tying Mrs. Holmes up in a bag, the string drawn tightly round her neck, knotted and sealed in the presence of Mr. Owen, Col. Olcott and a third gentleman. After that the medium was placed in the empty cabinet, which was rolled away into the middle of the room, and it was made a perfect impossibility for her to use her hands. The door being closed, hands appeared in the aperture, then the outlines of a face came, which gradually formed into the classical head of John King, turban, beard and all. He kindly allowed the investigators to stroke his beard, touch his warm face, and patted their hands with his. After the séance was over, Mrs. Holmes, with many tears of gratitude, in the presence of the three gentlemen, assured Mr. Owen most solemnly that she had spoken many a time to Dr. Child about “Katie” leaving her presents in the house and dropping them about the place, and that she—Mrs. Holmes—wanted Mr. Owen to know it; but that the Doctor had given her most peremptory orders to the contrary, forbidding her to let the former know it, his precise words being; “Don’t do it; it’s useless; he must not know it !” I leave the question of Mrs. Holmes’ veracity as to this fact for Dr. Child to settle with her.

On the other hand, we have the woman, Eliza White, exposer and accuser of the Holmeses, who remains up to the present day a riddle and an Egyptian mystery to every man and woman of this city, except to the clever and equally invisible party—a sort of protecting deity—who took the team in hand, and drove the whole concern of “Katie’s” materialization to destruction, and at what he considered such a first-rate way. She is not to be met, or seen, or interviewed, or even spoken to by anyone, least of all by the ex-admirers of “Katie King” herself, so anxious to get a peep at the modest, blushing beauty who deemed herself worthy of personating the fair spirit. Maybe it’s rather dangerous to allow them the chance of comparing for themselves the features of both? But the most perplexing fact of this most perplexing imbroglio is that Mr. R. D. Owen, by his own confession to me, has never, not even on the day of the exposure, seen Mrs. White, or talked to her, or had otherwise the least chance to scan her features close enough for him to identify her. He caught a glimpse of her general outline but once, viz., at the mock séance of the 5th of December, referred to in her biography, when she appeared to half a dozen witnesses (invited to testify and identify the fraud) emerging “de novo” from the cabinet, with her face closely covered with a double veil (!), after which the sweet vision vanished and appeared no more! Mr. Owen adds that he is not prepared to swear to the identity of Mrs. White and Katie King.

May I be allowed to inquire as to the necessity of such a profound mystery, after the promise of a public exposure of all the fraud? It seems to me that the said exposure would have been far more satisfactory if conducted otherwise. Why not give the fairest chance to R. D. Owen, the party who has suffered the most on account of this disgusting swindle—if swindle there is—to compare Mrs. White with his Katie? May I suggest again that it is perhaps because the spirit’s features are but too well impressed on his memory, poor, noble, confiding gentleman! Gauze dresses and moonshine, coronets and stars can possibly be counterfeited, in a half-darkened room, while features, answering line for line to the “spirit Katie’s” face, are not so easily made up; the latter require very clever preparations A lie may be easy enough for a smooth tongue, but no pug nose can lie itself into a classical one.

A very honorable gentleman of my acquaintance, a fervent admirer of the “spirit Katie’s” beauty, who has seen and addressed her at two feet distance about fifty times, tells me that on a certain evening, when Dr. Child begged the spirit to let him see her tongue (did the honourable doctor want to compare it with Mrs. White’s tongue—the lady having been his patient?), she did so, and upon her opening her mouth, the gentleman in question assures me that he plainly saw, what in his admiring phraseology he terms “the most beautiful set of teeth—two rows of pearls.” He remarked most particularly those teeth. Now there are some wicked, slandering gossips, who happen to have cultivated most intimately Mrs. White’s acquaintance in the happy days of her innocence, before her fall and subsequent exposé, and they tell us very bluntly (we beg the penitent angel’s pardon, we repeat but a hearsay), that this lady can hardly number among her other natural charms, the rare beauty of pearly teeth, or a perfect, most beautifully formed hand and arm. Why not show her teeth at once to the said admirer, and so shame the slanders? Why shun “Katie’s” best friends? If we were so anxious as she seems to be to prove “who is who,” we would surely submit with pleasure to the operation of showing our teeth, yea, even in a court of justice. The above fact, trifling as it may seem at first sight, would be considered as a very important one by any intelligent juryman in a question of personal identification.

Mr. Owen’s statement to us is corroborated by “Katie King” herself in her biography, a sworn document, remember, in the following words: “She consented to have an interview with some gentlemen who had seen her personating the spirit, on condition that she would be allowed to keep a veil over her face all the time she was conversing with them.” – (Philadelphia Inquirer, January 11th, 4th col. K. K. Biography.)

Now pray why should these “too credulous, weak-minded gentlemen,” as the immortal Dr. Beard would say, be subjected again to such an extra strain on their blind faith? We should say that that was just the proper time to come out and prove to them what was the nature of the mental aberration they were labouring under for so many months. Well, if they do swallow this new veiled proof they are welcome to it. Vulgus vult decipi—decipiatur! But I expect something more substantial before submitting in guilty silence to be laughed at. As it is, the case stands thus:

According to the same biography (same column) the mock séance was prepared and carried out—to everyone’s heart’s content—through the endeavours of the amateur detective, who by the way, if any one wants to know, is a Mr. W. O. Leslie, a contractor or agent for the Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York Railroad, residing in this city. If the Press, and several of the most celebrated victims of the fraud, are under bond of secrecy with him, I am not, and mean to say what I know. And so the said séance took place on the 5th of December last, which fact appearing in a sworn evidence, implies that Mr. Leslie had wrested from Mrs. White the confession of her guilt at least several days previous to that date, though the precise day of the “amateur’s” triumph is very cleverly withheld in the sworn certificate. Now comes a new conundrum.

On the evening of the 2nd and 3rd of December, at two séances held at the Holmeses’, I, myself, in the presence of Robert Dale Owen and Dr. Child (chief manager of those performances, from whom I got on the same morning an admission card), together with twenty more witnesses, saw the spirit of Katie step out of the cabinet twice, in full form and beauty; and I can swear in any court of justice that she did not bear the least resemblance to Mrs. White’s portrait.

As I am unwilling to base my argument upon any other testimony than my own, I will not dwell upon the alleged apparition of Katie King at the Holmeses’ on the 5th of December, to Mr. Roberts and fifteen others, among whom was Mr. W. H. Clarke, a reporter for The Daily Graphic, for I happened to be out of town, though, if this <... continues on page 1-20 >

Editor's notes

  1. The rest of the article is not present in HPB Scrapbook and copied from Banner of Light, January 20, 1875. P. 4.
  2. The last word may be rascal. — B. Zirkoff
  3. The Philadelphia “Fiasco,” or Who is Who? by Blavatsky, H. P., Banner of Light, The, Boston, Saturday, January 30, 1875, vol. XXXVI, pp. 2-3. Also in HPB CW, vol. I, pp. 56-72
    Published in "A Modern Panarion", p.15[-27] .... – Archivist