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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/750

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

as these are sufficient to make a marvel of a clever piece of conjuring; add to this the increased temptations for mal-observation afforded by the dim light and mysterious surroundings of the medium, as well as by the sympathetic attitude of the sitters, and the wide divergence between the miraculous narratives of spiritualists and the homely deceptions which they are intended to describe is no longer a mystery.

The conclusion thus experimentally arrived at by Messrs. Hodgson and Davey is corroborated by other investigators. After witnessing a séance that was simply a series of the simplest and most glaringly evident tricks, Mrs. Sidgwick was expected to have had all her doubts entirely removed, and was assured that what she had seen was better than the materializations at Paris. "Experiences like this make one feel how misleading the accounts of some completely honest witnesses may be; for the materializations in Paris were those which the Comte de Bullet had with Firman, where near relatives of the count were believed constantly to appear, and which are among the most wonderful recorded in spiritualistic literature. And, after all, it appears that these marvelous séances were no better than this miserable personation by Haxby."

The Seybert commission finds that "with every possible desire on the part of spiritualists to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, concerning marvelous phenomena, it is extremely difficult to do so. Be it distinctly understood that we do not for an instant impute willful perversion of the truth. All that we mean is that, for two reasons, it is likely that the marvels of spiritualism will be, by believers in them, incorrectly and insufficiently reported. The first reason is to be found in the mental condition of the observer; if he be excited or deeply moved, his account can not but be affected, and essential details will surely be distorted. For a second reason, note how hard it is to give a truthful account of any common, every-day occurrence. The difficulty is increased a hundred-fold when what we would tell partakes of the wonderful. Who can truthfully describe a juggler's trick? Who would hesitate to affirm that a watch, which never left the eye-sight for an instant, was broken by the juggler on an anvil; or that a handkerchief was burned before our eyes? We all know the juggler does not break the watch, and does not burn the handkerchief. We watched most closely the juggler's right hand, while the trick was done with his left. The one minute circumstance has been omitted that would have converted the trick into no-trick. It is likely to be the same in the accounts of the most wonderful phenomena of spiritualism."

If we desire a concrete instance of this omission of an impor-