To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.
SINCE the publication of my article on "Physiology of Mind-Reading," in the February number of your Monthly, I have received the following, which, as presenting a new phase of the subject, is of much interest.
There are three general methods of mind-reading—by the touch, by the eye, and by the ear. My article was devoted only to the method and modifications of the method introduced by Brown—by the touch. Mind-reading by the eye—that is, watching the movements and changes of the features, or of the hand or fingers—is done every day by all of us, and is frequently utilized with great success by mediums. Mind-reading by the ear, as described in the first experiment noted in the following letter, is not so well known. The author of the letter, who does not wish to have his name used, is also an expert in the art of mind-reading by the eye or by the touch.
The general physiological principle is the same in all these methods of mind-reading—namely, the detecting by the operator, through some one of the senses, of the unconscious muscular or bodily movements of the subject, through mind acting on body.George M. Beard, M.D.
Dr. George M. Beard—
Dear Sir: I was much interested in your article on the "Physiology of Mind-Reading," as I have paid more or less attention to the subject, in an amateur way, for eight or ten years past, and I think that I can give you some new "developments."
While your theory is undoubtedly correct, you describe certain conditions as "essential" which I have found by frequent successful practice to be unnecessary. Thus you say that the connection between the subject or subjects must be such "as easily to allow the sense of muscular tension to be communicated." The operator or medium "must be in physical connection with the subject." Again, "where the connection of the operator with the subject is made by a wire, so arranged that mass-motion cannot be communicated, . . . the operator does just what he would do by pure chance and no more." In reply to this, I would say that I am in the habit of repeating Brown's tricks of finding hidden objects, designating persons and things thought of, etc., without any physical contact whatever, while I am blindfolded, precisely as Brown was in his public performances.
The only condition I require of the subject is, that he shall follow me at a distance of about three or four feet, as I grope my way apparently at random, keeping his mind fixed upon the object. I am able to tell, by close attention, when he follows me readily, and when reluctantly; in this way I cautiously map out the direction in which he tends to follow me most readily. When I approach the vicinity of the object thought of, he shows no inclination to move in any one direction. There is, of course, a certain element of uncertainty in the finding of a small object under these circumstances, but the proportion of failures is astonishingly small. I reached this result by a succession of experiments, first through a rigid rod, then through a wire, then a stretched string, then a string with a loop. I then worked without contact not blind-folded. I would walk backward, holding out my right forefinger, and directing the "subject" to hold his right forefinger, at a distance of six inches (this would convey to most people the impression of two terminal poles of a battery or electrical machine), and he would often have an imaginary pricking, as of sparks at the finger-tip. I would then proceed around the room, and when moving in the right direction the hiatus would be rapidly closed between the two fingers.
I can almost invariably distinguish an intentional or accidental indication from an involuntary one, and I do not find that keeping the "arm perfectly stiff" interferes very seriously. The indications are not confined to muscular contractions or relaxations of the arm, but it is a sympathetic movement of the whole body.
It is a curious fact that subjects who naturally work well will be very slightly influenced by the explanation of the apparent mystery. You may assure them that every correct movement you make is only a translation of their own, and they will declare positively that they are trying to move in the opposite direction, and, in fact, they often do hold back with their feet, while giving the most positive indications with their arms.
I have found that a large majority of well-educated people have an innate bias for mysteries, and prefer to refer these "phenomena" to animal magnetism, auras, psychic or odic force, or any incompre-