it may well be doubted whether in the whole world there is another person thus mutilated and at the same time possessing all the general physical characteristics of the individual described in the letter.
More striking still is the fact that this individual did not reside in the place where the letter was sent (which is not a large place), and was there by chance only the day that the letter reached there.
Those who believe that the mathematical doctrine of chances can solve the complex problems of coincidences will find in this case material for consideration. I may here quote a single sentence from the second of my series of papers on "Experiments with Living Human Beings," in the April number of the "Monthly": "In these and all studies of a like character it is to be recognized that coincidences of the most extraordinary character and astonishing nature are liable to occur at any instant, and that they are as likely to occur on the first trial as on the last of a long series."
A second point of great psychological interest in this case is the attempt made by the person to whom the letter was addressed to overlook certain discrepancies between the imaginary and real individual, and to twist and pervert and reason upon the facts of the case, so as to bring them into harmony with what he was expecting to see. While the man corresponded to the description in size, in the color of his whiskers, and especially in the loss of his finger, he did not correspond in the fact that he wore spectacles and had no side-whiskers. The detective reasoned that he wore spectacles to hide the defect in the eye, which defect he did not see; and he assumed, on thought, that the side-whiskers had been recently shaved or cut. Nothing is said of his stooping, or of his being lame in the left leg, or of the color of his hair, or of its length.
The bearings of this whole history on the delusions of clairvoyance mind-reading, animal magnetism, and spiritism are apparent. A successful coincidence of this kind would have made fortune and favor for any clairvoyant, or medium, or mind-reader.
Truly yours,George M. Beard.
New York, July, 1879.
|THE CLASSICAL CONTROVERSY.|
ITS PRESENT ASPECT.
IN the present state of the controversy on classical studies, the publication of George Combe's contributions to Education is highly opportune. Combe took the lead in the attack on these studies fifty years ago, and Mr. Jolly, the editor of the volume, gives a connected view of the struggle that followed. The results were, on the whole,