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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/748

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

he has learned and you have not; and so with a thousand other and more humble facts of daily life. Spiritualism (to a large extent) comes under the same category; and the Seybert commission, and these other observers who have acquainted themselves with the possibilities of conjuring and the natural history of deception, who by their training and natural gifts have fitted themselves as competent judges of such alleged ultra-physical facts—these persons have the same right to our confidence and respect as a body of chemists or physicians on a question within their province. It is not fair to set up what you think you have seen as overthrowing their authority; even if you are an unprejudiced and accurate observer who has weighed the probability of your observations being vitiated by one or other of the many sources of error in such observation, it is only a small fact, though of course even that should be registered.

Whatever of seeming dogmatism there is in this view is removed by the experimental demonstration furnished by Messrs. Hodgson and Davey, that the kind and amount of mal-observation and faulty description which an average observer will introduce into the account of a performance such as the medium gives, is amply sufficient to account for the divergence between his report of the performance and what really occurred. The success of a large class of tricks depends upon diverting the observer's attention from the points of real importance, and in leading him to draw inferences perfectly valid under ordinary circumstances but entirely wrong in the particular case. It must be constantly remembered that the judging powers are at a great disadvantage in observing such performances, and that it is a kind of judgment in which they have no practice. In the intercourse of daily life a certain amount of good faith and confidence in the straightforwardness of the doings of others prevents us from exercising that close scrutiny and suspicion here necessary. We know that most of our neighbors have not the sharpness to deceive us, and do not live on the principle of the detective, who regards every one as dishonest until he has proved himself honest.

Mr. Davey (who, by the way, was at one time deceived almost into conversion by spiritualistic phenomena) is an expert amateur conjurer, and repeats the slate-writing performances of such as Englinton with at least equal skill. He arranged with Mr. Hodgson to give sittings to several ladies and gentlemen, on the condition that the latter send him detailed written accounts of what they had seen. He did not pose as a medium or accept a fee, but simply said that he had something to show which his sitters were to explain as best they could, and with due consideration of trickery as a possible mode of explanation. The "medium" has here a decided advantage over Mr. Davey, because he induces a mental