Huddersfield Chronicle (12/Jan/1895) - Mysticism and a Huddersfield Seance

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.


(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")

The mysteries of the Orient are peculiarly marvellous. The Western mind fails to elucidate or understand the secret thoughts and actions of the East. They have signals by means of which vast areas of populated countries can be informed of passing events in an incredibly short time, in a manner not yet known to the European. These signals seem to throb from centre to circumference, apparently like thought-transference or suggestiveness, and knowledge is imparted almost simultaneously. What is more, these secret means of communication exist between peoples of diverse race and language, and are understood by all. This conversing without words is wonderful. Touch, masonic sounds, or silent eye-language prevails throughout the East to the confusion of the more civilised nations. Further, their intercourse is as rapid as it is secret. The Arabs in the neighbourhood of the Pyramids knew of Gordon’s death and the fall of Khartoum several days before the Government’s monopolised telegraph informed Cairo of the fact. The defeat of Baker Pasha at Tokar, and the detailed circumstances connected with it, were known by these Arabs some days before the intelligence reached the British authorities on the Bed Sea coast. Can this be explained by their knowledge of some not yet manifested law or subtle force of nature? As it is possible to send a current of electricity or telegraph without wires, and as some scientists are even asserting that we may yet send messages through the earth and water to the Antipodes, is it possible that similar knowledge has long been applied by the Orientals without their knowing its source or full meaning? Are the present-day psychic force, theosophic manifestations, and telephatic influences the result of the concentration of thought that one person or persons can bring to bear on another? As thousands frequently think and act alike, although far apart, does not such similarity of thought and action throw off suggestive influence, which, when in unison with nerve perceptiveness and superfine sensibility, only wants an understood means to fully and continuously be interpreted at a distance as well as near? The mind can think one distance as quickly as another, so by formulating a code of perceptions similar thought may truly harmonise and vice versa. There is, however, no reason why this mystic influence should be looked at or thought of with the awe begot of fear. Truth, inviolable truth, that can withstand searching attacks from every point, must strengthen the good and weaken the bad, aid the development of the right and expose the wrong, build up the weak, make stronger the strong, and curtail the force of the tyrannical or the flaccid by clearly focussing upon the material the pure light of fact and blending with the immaterial or spiritual until the mind’s fall capacity is reached and the soul’s destiny is undoubtedly manifested and fully revealed.

I was once present at a seance in Huddersfield which consisted of two others, a gentleman and a lady, he, a psycographic medium on my left, and she, a trance-medium, on my right. He was a tall, dark, well-dressed medium, with sharp, searching eyes that looked at and through you, and which had the peculiarity of always being looking at you, and you also felt they were examining you whether you were looking at them or away. To me they, were more interesting than inviting. I knew no movement in the room escaped them. She was a plump, light-complexioned, fairly agreeably-featured, motherly woman, on that side of 40 which a lady never admits until she reaches 65 or more. Her eyes had a dreamy aspect, but you instinctively knew they were always on the look out. Her voice was not the most harmonious, still there was an agreeableness about her conversation that suited me. As I expected, both questioned me about general matters, and in reply to my observations usually asked me another. They induced me to talk freely before the seance commenced, and as I had resalved to place myself absolutely in their hands I perceived they were satisfied that they had got a proper subject. He was suavity and humility combined; she blended gentleness with the sweetest admonitions and lady-like advice. He made no pretence of being other than an ordinary man. Of a somewhat retiring demeanour, eyes rather sunken, black stubbly hair, closely cut, the peculiar twitchings of his mouth, and features generally, showed that he had considerable will-power and decision of character. My companions were very jovial, and I encouraged their merry mood by showing that I could appreciate a joke at my own or others’ expense. Then, after a few grave preliminaries, we seated ourselves before a square deal table, firmly made, procured for the occasion. A large crack down its centre had been filled with putty, in order, he said, to prevent the spirit current from oozing through. I upset the table and thoroughly examined it, but found it nothing but a four-legged piece of kitchen furniture. I was then told to sit in front of the broad side, while he was on my left with his back to the window and she on mv right, at each end of the table. It was broad daylight. I noticed that he wore slippers which could be readily put on or off without the aid of his hands. Hands were then joined, he securing my left, while she made a prisoner of my right, so that I could not see beneath the table. He then said he could not always get replies to his questions, because spirits were sometimes not present, and at times did not pass by for hours. On this occasion, however, knockings or gentle tappings were soon heard under the centre of the table, and we were told that spirits were willing to answer questions. The lady now engaged my attention, and when I looked round somewhat quickly towards the gentleman he hastily withdrew his breast from the table, and then withdrew his feet in order to show me that he did not produce the knockings by touching the table. The rappings then intimated that a spirit was prepared to answer questions by writing on a slate. Two slates were at once produced, which I carefully sponged, on one of which he placed a small Faber pencil. Hands were again joined, the gentleman holding the slates under the table in his right hand. After a few spasmodic twitches on his part, and a remark from the lady that she perceived a strong current of cold air beneath the table, which I failed to perceive, I heard scratchings as if writing on a slate were taking place. This continued fully a minute; his right hand moving more or less all the time. When the slates were placed on the table one had on it, in a bold, clear hand, the following words:— “True merit, like a river, the deeper it is the less nois it makes. I am a very true friend to humanity. Dr. Davis.” If this was written by a spirit it was wonderful, if written by the gentleman it was astonishing, but as the lady was, during the writing, anxious to attract my attention, I distinctly saw out of the corner of my eye the gentleman go through such motions as one would have done if he had exchanged one of the slates. When I read the message and pointed out the error in spelling, his face was a study of confusion, and his hand involuntarily approached the slate, as if he would have made the correction. The spirit was still anxious to tell us more, but this time, notwithstanding the lady’s blandishments, I let the gentleman see that I was watching him. The spirit’s “Yes” now to the question “Will you do more for us?” was a long, sprawling, all but illegible word, of which even Dr. Davis must have been ashamed. I then took the slate and wrote asking the spirit, “What constitutes success in life?” So far as I knew neither he nor she saw what I had written. The answer was, “There will be success in life.” If my thoughts were not read, or the movements of my hand deciphered, I considered this vague reply very fair. I then asked, “Why is Spiritualism laughed at so much by men of the world?” To get a satisfactory answer I was requested not to think of the question. I did not obey this. The reply was, after considerable scratching, and written in a sprawling, but legible hand, “Men of the world will soon realise Spiritualism.” I considered this very good, though I have seen cleverer tricks done without the assumed aid of spirits. I pointed to the different styles of writing, which he explained were done by different spirits. It was now her turn, and she forthwith went into a trance-like state, not of the Bleeping order, for she acted like one suddenly deranged. He quickly gave her a slate and pencil, and then with paralytic shakings, dreadful contortions of features, and continuous girding in some unknown tongue, she wrote from right to left, with her left hand, the following “Me see a lady, she pass on with consumption. She so glad to see you search for truth. She says her name is Hannah. She has grey eyes and brown hair. So God bless you in the search for truth.” This was not signed, but the trance-medium, on coming round, explained chat “Hannah” was a Fiji Islander, whose language was being interpreted by an Englishman. Ever since she became a medium the lady said she had had to speak Fijian, when under spirit influence. I inwardly smiled at this, but what impressed me as singular was the suddenness she left off her trance grimaces, opened her eyes as usual, and was her ordinary self again. She told me she had travelled far, and was now paid as a lecturer, and though once a doubter on the subject of Spiritualism she was now fully convinced of its truth. She also said that when in a trance state a thin film came over her eyes, and then nothing was visible to her but the forms of the spirit-world. Blood would at times rush from her mouth, without ill-effects, and on one occasion indicated the manner in which a brother of one of those present at a seance died, at the very hour when she was under the “influence.” She fully believed that spirits could foretell the future, but her advice was “Don’t swallow Spiritualism without first thoroughly examining it.” His turn came next. He took a small slate, and after hands had again been joined, he put it under the corner of the table. After a moment or two the slate was smashed into a dozen pieces, little more than the frame remaining in his hand. I brought part of the slate and one of the pencils away with me. Another slate was procured and the “powers” seemed to repel it, but ultimately something scratched “He is not” in reply to a question as to whether I was a medium. The slate was then passed beneath the table and put up on the opposite side of me, but it refused to come up on my side. It was quickly withdrawn to the gentleman’s hand. A chair then seemed to rise without being touched and was let fall with a thud. He was now careful to show me his feet, and a light dawned upon me when I saw there was plenty of room in his stockings for his toes, which seemed very supple. I have seen marvels performed by an armless man with his toes in the open, on the stage, which far surpassed anything done beneath this particular table. A piece of pencil was then placed between two slates, but the spirit intimated that the pencil was too long, so it was shortened, after which the spirit seemed to scratch, in reply as to whether the lady present would make a medium, “She can.” The lady then with apparent astonishment said that that was her first experience of spirit slate-writing. I was then asked, to place my right hand beneath the table in front of the lady’s knees, and asked if I did not feel a current of cold air. My reply was that my hand did feel cooler than when the lady held it in her plump, warm hand. After waiting a moment a slate touched my hand, which I seized and firmly held, and though he pleaded hard for the spirit to take it from me I refused to let it go. It did not even take it when I relaxed my grip. Throughout the seance I gave the spirits the fullest opportunity of distinguishing themselves by assuming a not too inquisitive demeanour. I considered it, on the whole, a fairly clever performance, but I have seen slate-writing done better by a non-spiritualist, not beneath but above the table. The seance over, as I left the building I caught the eyes of the lady and gentleman, and as I returned the gaze I felt sure they knew they had not made a convert of me. A well-known gentleman, who was a noted spirit-rapper catcher in Dr. Monk’s[1] day, together with a young editor of this town, afterwards went on a similar errand, but, of course, they were too cunning to get any manifestations. The former wanted to sit beneath the table while the latter perched on the top, and no serious, self-respecting spirit could be induced to do any knocking while they were in that grotesque attitude, indeed if a dead wag’s disembodiment had happened to pass that way and had seen them he must have laughed himself to a second death. The result was that the twain had to come away as empty as they went.


  1. Francis Ward Monck, better known as the “Reverend Doctor Monck”, was a spiritualist medium who had toured the country performing séances in the 1870s. He was exposed by H.B. Lodge during a séance held in Huddersfield in October 1876 and fled, leaving behind highly incriminating props and documents. Monck was subsequently arrested and charged under the Vagrancy Act of 1824 for obtaining money under false pretences, namely the £4 he had charged for conducting the séance. Found guilty by the Huddersfield Magistrates, despite a strong defence counsel, he was sentenced to 90 days’ hard labour. Further details of Monck’s life can be found online.