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vol. 1, p. 20
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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< The Philadelphia “Fiasco,” or Who is Who? (continued from unknown page) >

fact is demonstrated, it will go far against Mrs. White, for on that precise evening, and at the same hour, she was exhibiting herself as the bogus Katie at the mock séance. Something still more worthy of consideration is found in the most positive assertion of a gentleman, a Mr. Westcott, who on that evening of the 5th, on his way home from the real séance, met in the car Mr. Owen, Dr. Child and his wife, all three returning from the mock séance. Now it so happened that this gentleman mentioned to them about having just seen the spirit Katie come out of the cabinet, adding “he thought she never looked better”; upon hearing which Mr. Robert Dale Owen stared at him in amazement, and all the three looked greatly perplexed.

And so I here but insist on the apparition of the spirit at the medium’s house on the evenings [of] the 2nd and 3rd of December, when I witnessed the phenomenon, together with Robert Dale Owen and other parties. It would be worse than useless to offer or accept the poor excuse that the confession of the woman White, her exposure of the fraud, the delivery to Mr. Leslie of all her dresses and presents received by her in the name of Katie King, the disclosure of the sad news by this devoted gentleman to Mr. Owen, and the preparation of the mock séance cabinet and other important matters, had all of them taken place on the 4th; the more so, as we are furnished with most positive proofs that Dr. Child at least, if not Mr. Owen knew all about Mr. Leslie’s success with Mrs. White several days beforehand. Knowing then of the fraud, how could Mr. Leslie allow it to be still carried on, as the fact of Katie’s apparition at the Holmeses’ on the 2nd and 3rd of December proves it to have been the case? Any gentleman, even with a very moderate degree of honour about him, would never allow the public to be fooled and defrauded any longer, unless he had the firm resolution of catching the bogus spirit on the spot and proving the imposition. But no such thing occurred; quite the contrary; for Dr. Child, who had constituted himself from the first not only chief superintendent of the séances, cabinet and materialization business, but also cashier and ticket-holder (paying the mediums at first ten dollars per séance, as he did, and subsequently fifteen dollars, and pocketing the rest of the proceeds), on that same evening of the 3rd took the admission money from every visitor as quietly as he ever did. I will add furthermore, that I, in “propria persona” handed him on that very night a five-dollar bill, and that he (Dr. Child) kept the whole of it, remarking that the balance could be made good to us by future séances !

Will Dr. Child presume to say that getting ready, as he then was, in company with Mr. Leslie, to produce the bogus Katie King on the 5th of December, he knew nothing, as yet, of the fraud on the 3rd?

Further; in the same biography (Chapter viii, Column the 1st), it is stated that, immediately upon Mrs. White’s return from Blissfield, Mich., she called on Dr. Child, and offered to expose the whole humbug she had been engaged in, but that he would not listen to her. Upon that occasion she was not veiled, as indeed there was no necessity for her to be, since by Dr. Child’s own admission she had been a patient of his, and under his medical treatment. In a letter from Holmes to Dr. Child, dated Blissfield, August 28th, 1874, the former writes:

“Mrs. White says you and the friends were very rude, ‘wanted to look into all our boxes and trunks, and break open locks. What were you looking for, or expecting to find ?’”

All these several circumstances show in the clearest possible manner that Dr. Child and Mrs. White were on terms much more intimate then than that of casual acquaintance, and it is the height of absurdity to assert that if Mrs. White and Katie King were identical, the fraud was not perfectly well known to the “Father Confessor” [see narrative of John and Katie King, p. 45]. But a sidelight is thrown upon this comedy from the pretended biography of John King and his daughter Katie, written at their dictation in his own office by Dr. Child himself. This book was given out to the world as an authentic revelation from these two spirits. It tells us that they stepped in and stepped out of his office, day after day, as any mortal being might, and after holding brief conversations, followed by long narratives, they fully endorsed the genuineness of their own apparitions in the Holmes’ cabinet. Moreover, the spirits appearing at the public séances, corroborated the statements which they made to their amanuensis in his office; the two dovetailing together, and making a consistent story. Now, if the Holmes’ Kings were Mrs. White, who were the spirits visiting the Doctor’s office? and if the spirits visiting him were genuine, who were those that appeared at the public séances? In which particular has the “Father Confessor” defrauded the public? In selling a book containing false biographies or exposing bogus spirits at the Holmeses? Which or both? Let the Doctor choose.

If his conscience is so tender as to force him into print with his certificate and affidavits, why does it not sink deep enough to reach his pocket, and compel him to refund to us the money obtained by him under false pretenses? According to his own confession, the Holmeses received from him, up to the time they left town, about $1,200, for four months of daily séances. That he admitted every night as many visitors as he could possibly find room for—sometimes as many as thirty-five—is a fact that will be corroborated by every person who has seen the phenomena more than once. Furthermore, some six or seven reliable witnesses have told us that the modest fee of $1 was only for the habitués; too curious or over-anxious visitors having to pay sometimes as much as $5, and in one instance $10. This last fact I give under all reserve, not having had to pay so much as that myself.

Now let an impartial investigator of this Philadelphia imbroglio take a pencil and cast up the profit left after paying the mediums in this nightly spirit speculation lasting many months. The result would be to show that the business of a spirit “Father Confessor” is, on the whole, a very lucrative one.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the spiritual belief, methinks we are all of us between the horns of a very wonderful dilemma. If you happen to find your position comfortable, I do not, and so will try to extricate myself.

Let it be perfectly understood, though, that I do not intend in the least to undertake at present the defense of the Holmeses. They may be the greatest frauds for what I know or care. My only purpose is to know for a certainty to whom I am indebted for my share of ridicule—small as it may be, luckily for me. If we Spiritualists are to be laughed at, and scoffed, and ridiculed, and sneered at, we ought to know at least the reason why. Either there was a fraud or there was none. If the fraud is a sad reality, and Dr. Child by some mysterious combination of his personal cruel fate has fallen the first victim to it, after having proved himself so anxious for the sake of his honour and character to stop at once the further progress of such a deceit on a public that had hitherto looked on him alone as the party responsible for the perfect integrity and genuineness of a phenomenon so fully endorsed by him, in all particulars, why does not the Doctor come out the first and help us to the clue of all this mystery? Well aware of the fact that the swindled and defrauded parties can at any day assert their rights to the restitution of moneys laid out by them solely on the ground of their entire faith in him they had trusted, why does he not sue the Holmeses, and so prove his own innocence? He cannot but admit, that in the eyes of some initiated parties, his case looks far more ugly as it now stands, than the accusation under which the Holmeses vainly struggle. Or, if there was no fraud, or if it is not fully proved, as it cannot well be on the shallow testimony of a nameless woman, signing documents with pseudonyms, why then all this comedy on the part of the principal partner in the “Katie materialization” business? Was not Dr. Child the institutor, the promulgator, and we may say the creator of what proves to have been but a bogus phenomenon, after all? Was not he the advertising agent of this incarnated humbug—the Barnum of this spiritual show? And now, that he has helped to fool not only Spiritualists but the world at large, whether as a confederate himself or one of the weak-minded fools—no matter, as long as it is demonstrated that it was he that helped us to this scrape—he imagines that by helping to accuse the mediums, and expose the fraud, by fortifying with his endorsement all manner of bogus affidavits and illegal certificates from non-existing parties, he hopes to find himself henceforth perfectly clear of responsibility to the persons he has dragged after him into this infamous swamp!

We must demand a legal investigation. We have the right to insist upon it, for we Spiritualists have bought this right at a dear price: with the lifelong reputation of Mr. Owen as an able and reliable writer and trustworthy witness of the phenomena, who may henceforth become a doubted and ever-ridiculed visionary by skeptical wiseacres. We have bought this right with the prospect that all of us, whom Dr. Child has unwillingly or otherwise (time will prove it) fooled into belief in his Katie King, will become for a time the butts for endless raillery, satires and jokes from the press and ignorant masses. We regret to feel obliged to contradict on this point such an authority in all matters as The Daily Graphic, but if orthodox laymen rather decline to see this fraud thoroughly investigated in a court of justice, for fear of the Holmeses becoming entitled to the crown of martyrs, we have no such fear as that, and repeat with Mr. Hudson Tuttle that “better perish the cause with the impostors, than live such a life of eternal ostracism, with no chance for justice or redress.”

Why in the name of all that is wonderful, should Dr. Child have all the laurels of this unfought battle, in which the attacked army seems forever doomed to be defeated without so much as a struggle? Why should he have all the material benefit of this materialized humbug, and R. D. Owen, an honest Spiritualist, whose name is universally respected, have all the kicks and thumps of the skeptical press? Is this fair and just? How long shall we Spiritualists be turned over like so many scapegoats to the unbelievers, by cheating mediums and speculating prophets? Like some modern shepherd Paris, Mr. Owen fell a victim to the snares of this pernicious, newly materialized Helen; and on him falls heaviest the present reaction that threatens to produce a new Trojan war. But the Homer of the Philadelphia Iliad—the one who has appeared in the past as the elegiac poet and biographer of that same Helen, and who appears in the present kindling up the spark of doubt against the Holmeses, till, if not speedily quenched, it might become a roaring ocean of flames—he that plays at this present hour the unparalleled part of a chief justice presiding at his own trial and deciding in his own case—Dr. Child, we say, turning back on the spirit-daughter of his own creation, and backing the mortal, illegitimate offspring furnished by somebody, is left unmolested! Only fancy, while R. D. Owen is fairly crushed under the ridicule of the exposure, Dr. Child, who has endorsed false spirits, now turns state’s evidence and endorses as fervently spirit-certificates, swearing to the same in a Court of Justice!

If ever I may hope to get a chance of having my advice accepted by some one anxious to clear up all this sickening story, I would insist that the whole matter be forced into a real Court of Justice and unriddled before a jury. If Dr. Child is, after all, an honest man whose trusting nature was imposed upon, he must be the first to offer us all the chances that lay in his power of getting at the bottom of all these endless “whys” and “hows.” “ If he does not, in such a case, we will try for ourselves to solve the following mysteries:

1st, Judge Allen, of Vineland, now in Philadelphia, testifies to the fact that when the cabinet, made up under the direct supervision and instructions of Dr. Child, was brought home to the Holmeses, the doctor worked at it himself unaided, one whole day, and with his own tools, Judge Allen being at the time at the medium’s, whom he was visiting. If there was a trapdoor or “two cut boards” connected with it, who did the work? Who can doubt that such a clever machinery, filed in a way and so as to baffle frequent and close examinations on the part of the sceptics, requires an experienced mechanic, of more than ordinary ability? Further, unless well paid, he could hardly be bound to secrecy Who paid him? Is it Holmes out of his ten-dollar nightly fee? We ought to ascertain it.

2d, If it is true — as two persons are ready to swear — that the party, calling herself Eliza White, alias “Frank,” alias Katie King, and so forth, is no widow at all, having a well-materialized husband, who is living, and who keeps a drinking saloon in a Connecticut town; for in such case the fair widow has perjured herself and Dr. Child has endorsed the perjury. We regret that he should endorse the statements of the former as rashly as he accepted the fact of her materialization.

3d, Affidavits and witnesses (five in all) are ready to prove that on a certain night, when Mrs. White was visibly in her living body, refreshing her penitent stomach in company with impenitent associates in a lager beer saloon, having no claims to patrician “patronage,” Katie King, in her spirit-form, was as visibly seen at the door of her cabinet.

4th, On one occasion, when Dr. Child ( in consequence of some prophetic vision, maybe) invited Mrs. White to his own house, where he locked her up with the inmates, who entertained her the whole of the evening, for the sole purpose of convincing (he always seems anxious to convince somebody of something) some doubting skeptics of the reality of the spirit-form, the latter appeared in the séance-room and talked with R. D. Owen in the presence of all the company. The Spiritualists were jubilant that night, and the Doctor the most triumphant of them all. Many are the witnesses ready to testify to the fact, but Dr. Child, when questioned, seems to have entirely forgotten this important occurrence.

5th, Who is the party whom she claims to have engaged to personate General Rawlins? Let him come out and swear to it, so that we will all see his great resemblance to the defunct warrior.

6th, Let her name the friends from whom she borrowed the costumes to personate “Sauntee” and “Richard.” They must prove it under oath. Let them produce the dresses. Can she tell us where she got the shining robes of the second and third spheres?

7th, Only some portions of Holmes’ letters to “Frank” are published in the biography: some of them for the purpose of proving their co-partnership in the fraud at Blissfield. Can she name the house and parties with whom she lodged and boarded at Blissfield, Michigan?

When all of the above questions are answered and demonstrated to our satisfaction, then, and only then, shall we believe that the Holmeses are the only guilty parties to a fraud, which, for its consummate rascality and brazenness, is unprecedented in the annals of Spiritualism.

I have read some of Mr. Holmes’ letters, whether original or forged, no matter; and blessed as I am with good memory, I well remember certain sentences that have been, very <... continues on page 1-21 >


Important note

SB, v. 1, p. 20, inlay, front

Yes. I am sorry to say that I had to identify myself during, that shameful exposure of the mediums Holmes with the Spiritualists. I had to save the situation, for I was sent from Paris on purpose to America to prove the phenomena and their reality and—show the fallacy of the Spiritualistic theories of “Spirits.” But how could I do it best? I did not want people at large to know that I could produce the same thing at will. I had received orders to the contrary, and yet, I had to keep alive the reality, the genuineness and possibility of such phenomena in the hearts of those who from Materialists had turned Spiritualists and now, owing to the exposure of several mediums fell back again, returned to their skepticism. This is why, selecting a few of the faithful, I went to the Holmeses and helped by M∴ and his power, brought out the face of John King and Katie King in the astral light, produced the phenomena of materialization and—allowed the Spiritualists at large to believe it was done thro’ the mediumship of Mrs. Holmes. She was terribly frightened herself, for she knew that this once the apparition was real. Did I do wrong? The world is not prepared yet to understand the philosophy of Occult Sciences–

turn over

SB, v. 1, p. 20, inlay, back
turn this leaf

let them assure themselves first of all that there are beings in an invisible world, whether “Spirits” of the dead or Elementals; and that there are hidden powers in man, which are capable of making a God of him on earth.

When I am dead and gone people will, perhaps, appreciate my disinterested motives. I have pledged my word to help people on to Truth while living and—will keep my word. Let them abuse and revile me. Let some call me a medium and a Spiritualist, and others an impostor. The day will come when posterity will learn to know me better.

Oh poor, foolish, credulous, wicked world!

M∴ brings orders to form a Society — a secret Society like the Rosicrucian Lodge. He promises to help.


Editor's notes

  1. Important note by Blavatsky, H. P.. Inserted small page with handwrinig on both sides