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vol. 1, p. 80
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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Oct. 22, 1875. The Spiritualist.

"Spirit Vale"

An English Barrister at The Eddy Brothers’ Homestead—Mrs. Huntoon As a Test Medium—Materialised Spirits

From a critical examination of many reports in American newspapers, of marvellous appearances of materialised spirits, through the mediumship of the Eddy brothers, we long since found out and published that the accounts were mostly of an exaggerated nature, made by enthusiastic persons not recognised by the public as good witnesses, and that the chief fact suppressed in such reports was the feeble amount of light at the seances—so feeble that the features of the “ recognised ” spirits could not be seen by anybody, except an old Mrs. Cleveland and a Mr. Pritchard, who were allowed to approach near enough to see the faces, and who gave the rest of the company their testimony as to the features. Of course this testimony may have been reliable, but at the same time the two witnesses may have belonged to a class of enthusiastic souls who sometimes attend seances, who would readily recognise pocket handkerchiefs as the veritable faces of their departed grandmothers, or who pass so freely under mesmeric influence as to see miraculous things beyond the range ofordinary eyesight. On rare occasions, when some witness known to Spiritualists attended the seances, such as Dr. Ditson, and Miss Lizzie Ooten, a tone of disappointment characterised their accounts, and they usually honestly recorded the fact of the small amount of light; still, as they only attended one or two seances, their reports were not worth much ; at least a dozen seances should be attended to get accurate ideas of the average nature of the manifestations through any medium. "Why do not American Spiritualists, who have such good mediums, engage good witnesses to observe the manifestations ? If gentlemen whose testimony carries weight on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Mr. Epes Sargent, Dr. Crowell, and Colonel Olcott, gave their valuable time and recorded most of the facts witnessed at seances, on what a very superior footing to the prosent American Spiritualism would stand.

Colonel Olcott is a solitary good witness, who persoveringly attended the seances of the Eddy brothers; he once briefly mentions in his book that the light was so bad that he did not see the features of any of the recognised spirits, and this is the vital point of the whole narrative, easily overlooked by casual readers, but detected by the Athenamm reviewer. Thus, so far as test conditions are concerned, the most remarkable circumstance is the vast multiplicity of dresses in which the spirits appear; but then the cabinet ordinarily used is not a test ono, and hard, sad experience is daily proving to Spiritualists in the case of mediums of the Holmes, Melville, Fay, and Yon Yleck stamp (or perhaps more truly of the spirits governing them), that it is not safe to publicly endorse any physical manifestations not produced under test conditions.

A few weeks ago a clever English barrister, who does not as yet wish his name to be published, called upon us before leaving England for the special purpose of spending the long vacation in the observation of'the manifestations through the Eddy Brothers, at Chittenden, Vermont, U.S., the result up to the presont time being that he is disappointed in what he has Seen of the materialisations through one of the brothers, yet very pleasod with the mediumship pf the sister, Mrs. Huntoon. Still, he has not as yet observed the materialisations through William Eddy so long and perseveringly as did Colonel Olcott, nor will he have much opportunity of seeing anything hereafter, for his published testimony about Mrs. Huntoon will make the brothers furiously jealous—a failing which too often accompanies powerful physical mediumship—so the observation of their manifestations by the English witness may be assumed to be at an end. Here is his account of what he has already seen, copied from the Rutland Daily Globe of Sept. 30th, and every line of it contains internal evidence of the reliability and honesty of the narrator :—

Berwick House, Rutland, Vt., Sept. 27th, 1875.

Editor of the Rutland Globe,—Having travelled about 4,000 miles for tho express purposo of witnessing, and, if possible, forming a eorrect judgment upon tho “ spirit materialisations ” at the Eddy homestead, made famous by Col. Oloott’s critical investigation, I uaturally felt some curiosity to learn the opinions prevalent about them in this city and neighbourhood. I have found many differences and some iudecision. Nor am I surprised, for though the Eddy brothers, supposing mediumship to exist, are probably the most powerful mediums in tho world, they aro not, at least at home, test mediums, I do uot in tlio least blarno them, after all they are said to havo gono through in this way, for uot submitting themselves, every day and in their own homes, to tho often cruel and unreasonable caprices of sceptical investigators. But I do thiuk that they might voluntarily give more satisfactiou in the way of tests than they choose to do; and therefore I oould not recommend others, whose object, like my own, is to verify a faot, and not merely to witness the most developed phase of a phenomenon still problematical, to seek conviction at the Eddys’. . But I certainly am astonished that the extraordinary powers, as a test medium, of their sister, Mrs. Mary Huntoon, should have escaped public attention. The names of William and Horatio Eddy are heard whereever Spiritualism is mentioned; whilothis sister, who would convince, if lie wore at all open to conviction, the most hard-hearted soeptio in a singlo sitting, remains in obscurity. I was a week at Chittenden before I even heard of her.

As an English lawyer, with, I am afraid, the worst possible opiniou of human nature, to whom tlic fallibility of human testimony is ono of the first principles of judgment, sceptical by disposition, and with some experience in this investigation, I have, in this matter, trusted to nothing that I have boon told, to no observations and to uo precautions but my owu. I havo attended six oirolos at Mrs. TIuntoon’s, with tho result that the quostion of spirit materialisation is settled with me for ever. On tho ground floor aro only threo rooms—the ldtclien, dairy or larder, and tho bedroom, thirteen feet by seven, which serves as tho oabinet. Above are only the roof and rafters, without partition, of an unfinished room. Below the larder is the cellar, uot at all under the bedroom. I did uot, of course, accept the statement that there was nothing under the latter but the ground, but examined every board of the floor. These boards are continuous pieces, runuing under the partition from the kiteheu tlio lougth of both rooms. Eaoli is firmly and closely sot to its neighbour. Two of tho walls of the bedroom aro outor walls, aud I sorutinisod the boards outside, and tho plaster within, which was without scam or rent, as also tho plaster of the partitions from the larder and kitchen, and of the cciliug. The bedroom has only one window. Tbo lower part of this was uailed inside; outside 1 had nailed mosquito netting, tho tacks being driven up to tlm heads in spots selected by myself, aud uuder my own eye. I went out with a lantern and oxamined this netting throe times, (1) just beforo tho sitting eommonced, (2) immediately after tlio manifestations had fairly commenced, (3) at tho close. On the bed wore lying Mrs. Huntoon’s two younger children. I took the eldor to bo under three years old, but she tells me ho is three years and four months. We took tho bedding to pieoes, blanket by blanket, mattress by mattress. On ouly one night of the six was the eldest child, fivo years old, left in tho bedroom. The bedroom has ouly ono door, that into the kiteheu, whore wo sat. Across tho door tho сш-tain was hung.

So far, of course, I had only provided against access to the room by an accomplice. But now comes tho crucial test—the ability to stand which distinguishes Mrs. Huntoon’s mediumship from that of ever}'- other, with the exception, I am told, of Mrs. Stewart, of Terre Haute, Inch During the first part of tho seance Mrs. Huntoon sits outside the curtaiu, in the kitohon with us, no part of her person being in the bedroom. The light, though not good enough to diseern the features of the apparitions, is sufficicut to mako perfeetly observable tlie smallest movemeut of tho medium. I could seo the time by my small watch by it. Wo sat feet from tho curtain. I was quite satisfied with theso precautions. A gentleman with me, however, was not, at least for the purpose of reporting, though ho agreed with mo that they were perfectly sufficient for our о mi satisfaction. Aceordingly we tied Mrs. Huutoou’s bauds seourely to the back of her chair, and her foet to the legs of the ehair. Now, under these conditions, faces began immediately to appear, sometimes *

Open upper leaflet for continuation[2]

two at a time, through the curtain; a fiddle in tho bedroom was played, and while Mrs. Huutoon sang “ John Brown,” a voice from behind the curtain, strouger than hers, accompanied her.' On other occasions, after-all the foregoiug precautions, with the exception that the medium was uot tied (though it must be distinctly understood, visible to all of us), the full length form of' a young mau emerged from tho side of the curtain furthest from Mrs. ILuntoon, and stood before us for several seconds. The same spirit has come several times, under conditions, however, not so rigorous. By and by, the power becoming exhausted under these trying tests, a voice from the bedroom calls Mrs. Huntoon behind the curtain. And then the manifestations becomo much stronger; but, as the tost is at an end, to recount them is not within tho scope of my present object.

One warning I wish to give visitors to Mrs. Huntoon and every other medium. Do not mix up the question of spirit materialisation with that of spirit 'identity. Fates aud figures purporting to he thoso of spirit friends will come to you. Your dear relatives will manifest tho utmost eagerness and impatience to be recognised, but when you come to put the simplest test question, they will, unless you have been fool enough to blab out particulars about them beforehand, cither fail to answer, or answer wrongly. That is my experience ; I do not say it is invariably the case. Unless proper precautions are taken to exclude such an explanation,people, of course, go away with the uotion that it is all fraud and personation by the medium. Much of it I am nearly sure is fraud and personation, not by the medium, but by spirits, possibly not even human spirits. But I am verging on deep and difficult speculations. To return to Mrs. Huntoon. Sho has offered to come to any room in Rutland I may select for the purpose, aud there to hold a seance under any test I may impose. I am satisfied already, and have declined tho offer. Investigators will, she assures.me, and I quite believe her, experience from her a cheerful compliance with any tests not absolutely cruel, not, of course, inconsistent with the invariable conditions of spirit materialisation. You have two things only to guard against—confederacy and personation by the medium—with Mrs. Huutoou, hut with very few other mediums, it is the easiest thing iu tho world to take perfect precautions against cither.

Excuse, sir, this long letter—I have no interest in its publication. I write it at the request of Mrs. Iluutoon, made after I had avowed myself completely satisfied and convinced, a request whieh I thought I could not in justice refuse.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

An English Barrister.

Postscript.—I have said tho Eddys are not test mediums, but I should qualify this statement as to Horatio, whoso light circles ought to give satisfaction to any close observer. I referred to Williams’s materialisation circles.

“An English Barrister” is our friend C.C. Massey. J.R.E.

Editor's notes

  1. "Spirit Vale" by unknown author, Spiritualist, The
  2. The rest of the article is not found in HPB SB, so it is added from the original source.
  3. image by unknown author