That was twenty-five years ago, and the two theories already alluded to were about the only ones adduced to account for the phenomena. Dr. Carpenter's theory of "unconscious cerebration" and "unconscious muscular action" did not cover the ground; there was altogether too much cerebration not to have a consciousness connected with it in some way. The theory did not cover the facts. Twenty-five years have failed to detect the long-talked-of trick of the skeptic; they have also failed to substantiate the claim of spiritualists, and Planchette-writing is almost as much a mystery as ever.

Fairly studied, then, what does Planchette really do? From a physical standpoint its performances are simply automatic writing or drawing. To deny the automatic character of the movements of Planchette at this day is simply absurd. That writing can be produced with it voluntarily, no one doubts, but that it generally is produced automatically, that is, without the choice or control of the writers, and without their knowledge of what is being written, it would be waste of time here to attempt to prove; the theory of fraud is untenable, and the real question at issue is the psychical one, namely, whence come the messages which it brings?

These messages may be divided into three general classes: (1) Those which are trivial or irrelevant. (2) Those which show intelligence and have some unmistakable relation to the subject of which they purport to give information, but all of which is known either to the writers or some person present. (3) Those which bring, or profess to bring, information unknown in any way, either to the writer or any person present.

The first of these divisions need not detain us, though it contains a very large share of all the messages received, as it simply illustrates the fact of automatism, which is equally well illustrated in the other classes of messages, which are of a more interesting character. The second class, namely, messages which show intelligence and have an unmistakable relation to the subject concerning which information is asked, and yet contain nothing beyond the knowledge of the writers or of persons present, is also very large.

The following is a sketch of my own first experience with Planchette. I may remark that subsequent trials brought out the fact that for myself alone Planchette will do nothing; it will not even move a hair's-breadth; but when, as is often the case, two persons are needed for success, I am often selected by Planchette to assist when it is consulted in the matter. On one occasion, I was calling at a friend's house, in the spring of 1868. Planchette was then much in vogue, and one stood on a side-table in the room. A young daughter of my friend - a school-girl fifteen or sixteen years of age - remarked that Planchette would move and sometimes even write for her, and she asked me to join her in a trial. I consented, and, to our surprise, the moment our fingers were placed lightly upon the instrument it moved off with great energy. Questions were then asked, and the answers were written with promptness and intelligence, greatly to the amusement of the company. Desiring to know who our mysterious correspondent might be, we politely said, "Planchette, will you kindly inform us who it is that writes these answers?" to which it replied, "Peter Stuyvesant."

"Old Governor Stuyvesant?" we asked.

"Yes," was the reply.

Now it so happened that a short time previous to our stance the old pear tree, known as the Stuyvesant pear tree, which had stood for more than two hundred years at the corner of Thirteenth Street and Third Avenue, having become decayed and tottering, was thrown down by a blow from a passing truck and had been ruthlessly chopped to pieces by workmen; and the event had been generally noticed and commented upon. Accordingly we replied,

"We are very glad to hear from you, Governor. How about the old pear tree?"

To this a reply was promptly written, but neither of us had the slightest idea what it might be. The young lady took up the paper and commenced to read, but was shocked and greatly confused to find, clearly written, in a hand quite foreign to us both, "It's a - shame!" the blanks here being filled by the most emphatic expletives, and without the slightest abbreviation.

Another excellent Planchette-writer was Miss V., a friend of the family, who was spending a few days at my house in March, 1889. She was a young German lady of unusual intelligence, vivacity, and good sound sense. She knew of spiritualism only by passing remarks which she might have heard, and had never either seen or heard of Planchette. She was herself a somnambulist, or, rather, a somniloquist, for she never walked in her sleep, but talked with the greatest ease, carrying on long conversations without the slightest memory afterwards of what had been said. She was also an excellent hypnotic subject, and the suggested effects of medicines were much more prompt and certain than the effect of the medicines themselves, when used in the ordinary way.

For experiment one evening I proposed that we should try Planchette. As soon as our fingers were placed upon the instrument, it moved off across the table with the greatest promptness, and at once it replied to questions with unusual appropriateness and intelligence. The astonishment of Miss V. was altogether too profound and too apparent to admit of any suspicion of collusion on her part, and she had seen that the board would not move for me alone, yet she could not be persuaded that when we wrote together there was not some trick, and that I did not move the board voluntarily to produce the writing.

At length a message came concerning one of her own relatives, of whom she was sure that I could have no knowledge whatever, and she was convinced that at all events that message could not have originated with me. Accordingly she became a most valuable and interested partner in the experiments, and the chief medium through whom Planchette gave its communications.