It must be premised that the medium was in the habit of causing his sitters to write six short letters to as many different spirits. These epistles are written on separate pieces of paper about three inches square, and are addressed to the spirits by name and signed by the writer, precisely as an ordinary letter would be addressed and signed. Each letter is then rolled into a wad as small as possible, and retained in the hand of the sitter until he is requested to deposit them in a pile on the table. When this is done, the medium reaches his hand across the table and touches the wads with the tips of his fingers, the sitter meanwhile watching the proceeding closely, to prevent the possibility of fraud. After the medium has touched each bit of paper the sitter resumes possession of them and retains them for future reference. It may be here remarked that a sitter has the privilege of bringing his own slates with him, and retaining possession of them until the writing is finished. They need not leave his custody for an instant.
He may place the bit of pencil between them himself, and then securely lock or tie them together, and hold them as tightly as he chooses on the top of the table, in the broad light of day, while the writing is going on.
The plan suggested to the general on this occasion, and which he carried out to the letter, was as follows: -
1. To write three letters to as many spirits of his dead acquaintances, each one couched in general terms, - such as, uDear B., can you communicate with me to-day? If so, tell me your condition in the spirit-land." This could be answered by very general remarks, and would require no specific answer involving any knowledge of the sitter's affairs or anything else.
2. To write two similar letters to two persons known to the sitter, but unknown to the medium, to be still living in the flesh.
3. To write one letter to a deceased person, asking a specific question, the correct answer to which neither the sitter nor the medium could possibly know.
4. To place the medium at his ease, by leading him to believe that he had to deal with a sympathetic believer in the doctrine of spiritism, who had perfect faith in the medium's powers.
5. To prescribe no test conditions whatever, but let the medium have his own way in everything.
6. Under no circumstances to let the medium know the name or antecedents of the sitter.
These suggestions were carried out to the letter. The general was unknown to the medium, and was introduced by the writer under a fictitious name. The medium occupied a suite of rooms consisting of a large double parlor separated by folding-doors. The front parlor was used as a reception-room, and the back parlor as a seance-room. The latter was lighted by one large window, in front of which stood an old-fashioned square dining-table. The medium seated himself on one side of this table, and the sitter occupied a chair on the opposite side. Several slates were lying on the table, two of which the medium washed clean and then gave them into the custody of the sitter, who carefully examined them, and kept them in his possession until the seance was over, resting his arms upon them while he wrote the prescribed letters. He was particularly cautious about writing the letters, carefully guarding them so that it was impossible for the medium to see the writing with his natural eyes, and never lifted his elbows from the two slates in his custody. When the letters were all finished and rolled into wads, they were placed upon the table directly between the medium and the sitter, the latter never allowing his eyes to wander from them for an instant.
The medium then touched each wad with his finger-tips, when they were again taken possession of by the sitter.
It should be stated that the seance, thus far, was not witnessed by myself; but the circumstances were afterwards detailed by the general, whose perfect trustworthiness is beyond question. At this juncture - that is, while the wads were still lying on the table - a most remarkable incident happened. The medium suddenly arose, opened the folding-doors, and invited me in to take part in the se'ance. After resuming his seat, he remarked to me: "There is a spirit here who refuses to communicate until you are allowed to be present. He says his name is G------- (mentioning a common Christian name). Have you any deceased friend by that name?" I answered, No, not remembering, for the moment, any one bearing that name. The medium then handed me a pencil, and said: "Touch one of those wads with the pencil; then open it, and you will find that it is a letter addressed to G-------".
I touched one of the six wads, at random of course, and upon opening it found, to my surprise, that it was a letter addressed by the sitter to his deceased brother G-------. The brother was also a very dear friend of mine; but his exalted position in life precluded me from ever addressing him by his Christian name, and I had not been consciously thinking of him during the seance. Then the medium again addressed me, as follows: -
"Fold the letter again, place it with the others, and mix them all together. Then take the pencil and touch another wad; and the one you touch you will find to be a letter addressed to M------".
This was done, and the wad touched proved to be a letter addressed to the party named by the medium. A third time this feat was performed with the same result. To say that we were surprised is but feebly to express our emotions. The first success might be attributable to coincidence, supposing the medium to be in possession of the name. The chances were one to six, and it is within easy range of coincidence that I should have hit upon the right letter. In the second trial the chances were also one to six, per se; but the chances that I should succeed twice in succession were largely against me; and the fact that I succeeded three times in succession in pointing out the right letter removes the matter far outside the domain of coincidence. When we take into account the telepathic power displayed by the medium, and that other power, whatever it may have been, which transformed me for the moment into an automaton, the "incident will be seen to possess an extraordinary interest and importance. I should here remark that that was the first and only experience of my own in the domain of subjective automatism, and that I did not experience any sensation which could lead me to suppose that I was not in a perfectly normal condition, mentally and physically.
The most remarkable part of the performance, however, is yet to be related. The sitter meantime did not lose his presence of mind, but carefully guarded the pair of slates in his custody, never lifting his arms from them as they lay upon the table before him. Nor did he for an instant lose sight of the wads of paper which he placed upon the table. The medium touched them with his finger-tips alone, as before related; and after I had pointed out the three letters, they were taken into the custody of the sitter. This done, the medium said to the sitter: "Open the slates, and you will find a communication from G------." This was done, and the promised communication was found, addressed to the sitter by name and signed by G------, the name of the sitter's brother. In fact, it was a pertinent answer to the letter written by the sitter to his brother, addressed as the sitter had signed his name, and signed as the sitter's brother had been addressed.
The medium then became considerably agitated, and moved with convulsive rapidity. He seized two other slates, washed them, submitted them for inspection, and placed them upon the centre of the table before us, with a bit of black pencil between them. He then invited us to place our hands upon the slate with him. This we did, whereupon the writing began. We could distinctly hear the pencil move with a gentle, but rapid, scratching sound. In a few minutes three raps were heard, apparently made by the pencil between the slates. This was said to be the signal announcing the completion of the message. The slates were then separated, and several messages were found inside.