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HISTORIC GHOSTS AND GHOST HUNTERS

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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #180 on: November 15, 2009, 05:46:15 am »

In this, of course, they signally failed, and the next few years of their lives were years of the greatest misery. This, at any rate, so far as Dee was concerned. Kelley, with pitiless insistence, drew his pay regularly, and when funds were not forthcoming, refused to act as crystal-gazer and spirit interpreter. On one of these occasions Dee tried to replace him by training his son, Arthur Dee, as a crystal-gazer; but, try as he might, the boy said he could see in the crystal nothing but meaningless clouds and specks. Had Dee not been thoroughly infatuated this might have disillu[Pg 210]sioned him, and convinced him that Kelley had simply been preying on his credulity. But the old man—he was now well advanced in years—saw in his son's failure only proof of Kelley's superior gifts, and by dint of great sacrifices contrived to find the money necessary to persuade him to return to his post. At last a day came when money could no longer be found, and then Kelley definitely determined to break the partnership. According to one account, he informed Dee that, for the sake of his immortal soul, he could no longer have dealings with the spirits; that they were spirits not of good but of evil, and Mephistopheles was their master; and that, did he continue to traffic with them, Mephistopheles would soon have him, body and soul. Another version—given by the astrologer, William Lilly, who is said to have been consulted by the friends of King Charles I. as to the best time for that unhappy monarch to attempt to escape from prison—says that one fine morning Kelley took French leave of Dee, running away with an alchemically inclined friar who had promised him a good income. Whatever the facts of his final rupture with his long-suffering master, it is cer[Pg 211]tain that, after a romantic career, in which he gained a German baronetcy, Kelley was clapped into prison on a charge of fraud, and broke his neck while trying to escape.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #181 on: November 15, 2009, 05:46:38 am »

Dr. Dee, in the meantime, a sadder if not a really wiser man, had found his way back to England, where he essayed the difficult task of retrieving his ruined fortunes. Elizabeth smiled on him as graciously as ever, and at Christmas time sent to him a royal gift of two hundred angels in gold. But he needed more than an occasional bounty; he needed the assurance of a steady income, and the chance to pursue again his scientific studies undisturbed by the phantoms of gnawing want. So, in a memorial, "written with tears of blood," as he himself put it, Dee begged the queen to appoint a commission to investigate his case and review the evidence he would produce to prove that his services to the nation warranted a reward. Promptly the commission was appointed, and as promptly began its labors. This led to what Isaac Disraeli, perhaps Dee's best biographer, has described as a "literary scene of singular novelty."
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #182 on: November 15, 2009, 05:46:56 am »

Let me depict it in Disraeli's little known words: "Dee, sitting in his library," says[Pg 212] Disraeli, "received the royal commissioners. Two tables were arranged; on one lay all the books he had published, with his unfinished manuscripts; the most extraordinary one was an elaborate narrative of the transactions of his whole life. This manuscript his secretary read, and, as it proceeded, from the other table Dee presented the commissioners with every testimonial. These vouchers consisted of royal letters from the Queen, and from princes, ambassadors, and the most illustrious persons of England and of Europe; passports which traced his routes, and journals which noted his arrivals and departures; grants and appointments and other remarkable evidences; and when these were wanting, he appealed to living witnesses.

"Among the employments which he had filled, he particularly alluded to a 'painful journey in the winter season, of more than fifteen hundred miles, to confer with learned physicians on the Continent, about her majesty's health.' He showed the offers of many princes to the English philosopher, to retire to their courts, and the princely establishment at Moscow proffered by the czar; but he had never faltered in his devotion to[Pg 213] his sovereign.... He complained that his house at Mortlake was too public for his studies, and incommodious for receiving the numerous foreign literati who resorted to him. Of all the promised preferments, he would have chosen the mastership of St. Cross for its seclusion. Here is a great man making great demands, but reposing with dignity on his claims; his wants were urgent, but the penury was not in his spirit. The commissioners, as they listened to his autobiography, must often have raised their eyes in wonder, on the venerable and dignified author before them."
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« Reply #183 on: November 15, 2009, 05:47:12 am »

Their report was terse, direct, and wholly favorable, inspiring the queen to declare that Dee should have the mastership of St. Cross, and that immediately. But days passed into months, and months into years, and Elizabeth's "immediately" still belonged to the future. For some reason she soon lost all interest in the returned Sage of Mortlake. Again and again he memorialized her, once with a letter vindicating himself from the accusation of practising sorcery. Her sole reply was to grant him finally the uncongenial post of warden of Manchester College, from[Pg 214] which he retired after some mortifying experiences with the minor officials. Nor did he fare better at the hands of Elizabeth's successor. Steadily he sank lower in the scale of society, until at last he was forced to sell his books, one by one, to buy bread. And still, for all his poverty, he pressed constantly forward in his adventurings into the invisible world. If his friends deserted him, he would at least have the companionship of "angels." As his hallucinations grew, his youthful buoyancy returned. He would leave England, would fare across to the Continent, and there seek out men of a mind like unto his own. Joyfully, he made ready for the journey; but, even while he packed and planned, the call came for another and a longer voyage. In the eighty-first year of his age, 1608, the aged dreamer became in very fact a dweller in the spirit world.
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Porscha Campbell
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« Reply #184 on: November 15, 2009, 05:47:35 am »

Of his place in the history of mankind, it is not easy to write with any degree of finality. There can be no doubt that he was utterly swept off his feet by the domination of a fixed idea. And it is not possible to point to any specific contributions which he made to the advancement of learning, worldly or otherwise.[Pg 215] Still, it is equally certain that he was anything but a negative quantity in an age resplendent for its positive men. He played his part, however mistakenly, in the intellectual awakening that has shed such luster on the times of Elizabeth; and, if only for his overpowering curiosity, and his intense and unfailing ardor to get at the truth of all things, natural or supernatural, he merits respect as a forerunner of the scientific spirit which in his day was but feebly striving to loose itself from the bondage of bigotry and intolerance.
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« Reply #185 on: November 15, 2009, 05:47:58 am »

XI

Ghost Hunters of Yesterday and To-day

Psychical research, of which so much mention has been made in the preceding pages, may be roughly yet sufficiently described as an effort to determine by strictly scientific methods the nature and significance of apparitions, hauntings, spiritistic phenomena, and those other weird occurrences that would seem to confirm the idea that the spirits of the dead can and do communicate with the living. It is something comparatively new—and like all scientific endeavor is the outgrowth of many minds. But so far as its origin may be attributed to any one man, credit must chiefly be given to a Cambridge University professor named Henry Sidgwick.

At the time, Sidgwick was merely a lecturer in the university, a post given him as a reward for his brilliant career as an undergraduate. He was a born student and investigator, a[Pg 217] restless seeker after knowledge. Philosophy, sociology, ethics, economics, mathematics, the classics,—he made almost the whole wide field of thought his sphere of inquiry. And after awhile, as is so often the case, his learning became too profound for his peace of mind. He had been born and brought up in the faith of the English Church, and had unhesitatingly made the religious declaration required of all members of the university faculty. But little by little he felt himself drifting from the moorings of his youth, and doubting the truth of the ancient doctrines and traditions. Honestly skeptical, but still unwilling to lose his hold on religion, he turned feverishly to the study of oriental languages, of ancient philosophies, of history, of science, in the hope of finding evidence that would remove his doubts. But the more he read the greater grew his uncertainty, especially with respect to the vital question of the existence of a spiritual world and its relation to mankind.
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« Reply #186 on: November 15, 2009, 05:48:18 am »

While he was still laboring in this valley of indecision, Sidgwick was visited by a young man, Frederic W. H. Myers, who had studied under him a few years earlier and for whom[Pg 218] he had formed a warm friendship. Myers, it seemed, was tormented by the same scruples that were harassing him. It was his belief, he told Sidgwick, that if the teachings of the Bible were true—if there existed a spiritual world which in days of old had been manifest to mankind—then such a world should be manifest now. And one beautiful, starlit evening, when they were strolling together through the university grounds, he put to his old master the pointed question:

"Do you think that, although tradition, intuition, metaphysics, have failed to solve the riddle of the universe, there is still a chance of solving it by drawing from actual observable phenomena—ghosts, spirits, whatsoever it may be—valid knowledge as to a world unseen?"
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« Reply #187 on: November 15, 2009, 05:48:31 am »

Gazing gravely into the eager face of his companion, and weighing his words with the caution that was characteristic of him, Sidgwick replied that he had indeed entertained this thought; that, although not over hopeful of the result, he believed such an inquiry should be undertaken, notwithstanding the unpleasant notoriety it would entail on those embarking in it. Would he, then, make the quest,[Pg 219] and would he permit Myers to pursue it by his side? Long and earnestly the two friends talked together, and when their walk ended, that December night in 1869, psychical research had at last come definitely into being.

In the beginning, however, progress was painfully slow and uncertain. "Our methods," as Myers afterward explained, "were all to make. In those early days we were more devoid of precedents, of guidance, even of criticism that went beyond mere expressions of contempt, than is now readily conceived."
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« Reply #188 on: November 15, 2009, 05:48:55 am »

It was realized that no mere analysis of alleged experiences in the past would do; that what was needed was a rigid scrutiny of present-day manifestations of a seemingly supernormal character, and the collection of a mass of well authenticated evidence sufficient to justify inferences and conclusions. Earnestly and bravely the friends went to work, and before long had the satisfaction of finding an invaluable assistant in the person of Edmund Gurney, another Cambridge man and an enthusiast in all matters metaphysical.

At first, to be sure, Gurney entered into psychical research in a half-hearted, quizzical way, expecting to be amused rather than[Pg 220] instructed. And he derived little encouragement from the investigations carried on by Sidgwick, Myers, and himself in the field of spiritistic mediumship. Fraud seemed always to be at the bottom of the phenomena produced in the séance room. But his interest was suddenly and permanently awakened by the discovery, following several years spent in patiently collecting evidence, of facts pointing to the possibility of thought being communicated from mind to mind by some agency other than the recognized organs of sense. At once he made it his special business to accumulate data bearing on this point, his labors ultimately leading him into an exhaustive examination of hypnotism, as he found that the hypnotic trance seemed peculiarly favorable to "thought transference," or "telepathy."
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« Reply #189 on: November 15, 2009, 05:49:30 am »

Meantime, the example of this little Cambridge group had been followed by other investigators; and in 1876, before no less dignified and conservative a body than the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the proposal was made that a special committee be appointed for the systematic examination of spiritistic and kindred phenomena.[Pg 221] The idea was broached by Dr. W. F. Barrett, professor of physics at the Royal College of Science, Dublin, and was warmly seconded by Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace and Sir William Crookes, two distinguished scientists who had already made adventures in psychical research and were destined to wide renown as ghost hunters.
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« Reply #190 on: November 15, 2009, 05:49:38 am »

For some reason nothing was done at the time; but five years later Professor Barrett renewed his suggestion, asking Myers and Gurney if they would join him in the formation of such a society. That, they replied, they would gladly do, provided Sidgwick could be induced to accept its presidency. Having long before realized that the field was too extensive for thorough exploration by any individual, however gifted, Sidgwick willingly gave his consent. And accordingly, in January, 1882, the now celebrated Society for Psychical Research was formally organized, its first council including, besides Sidgwick, Myers, Gurney, and Barrett, such men as Arthur J. Balfour, afterward Prime Minister of Great Britain; the brilliant Richard Hutton; Prof. Balfour Stewart; and Frank Podmore, than whom no more merciless exe[Pg 222]cutioner of bogus ghosts is wielding the ax to-day.
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« Reply #191 on: November 15, 2009, 05:49:51 am »

Unfortunately, the first council also numbered several avowed spiritists, notably the medium Stainton Moses; and the society's birthplace was in the rooms of the British National Association of Spiritualists. These two facts created a wide-spread suspicion that the society was actually nothing more than an adjunct to the spiritistic movement. Nor was confidence wholly restored by the hasty withdrawal of the spiritistic representatives as soon as they learned that strictly scientific methods of inquiry were to prevail; or by the accession, as honorary members, of national figures like W. E. Gladstone, John Ruskin, Lord Tennyson, A. R. Wallace, Sir William Crookes, and G. F. Watts.

To the scientific as well as the popular consciousness, the society was little better than an assemblage of cranks, with strangely fantastic notions, and only too likely to lose its mental balance and help ignorant and superstitious people to lose theirs. Conscious, however, of the really serious and important nature of their enterprise, and cheered by Gladstone's comforting assurance that no in[Pg 223]vestigation of greater moment to mankind could be made,[R] the members of the society applied themselves zealously to the business that had brought them together.
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« Reply #192 on: November 15, 2009, 05:50:07 am »

Sensibly enough, they adopted the principle of specialization and division of labor. While one group carried on experiments designed to prove or disprove the telepathic hypothesis, another engaged in a systematic examination of the alleged facts of clairvoyance. A third, in its turn, under the skilful guidance of Gurney, investigated the phenomena of the hypnotic trance, with results unexpectedly beneficial to medical science. A special committee was also appointed to collect and sift evidence as to the reality of apparitions and hauntings, making whenever possible personal examinations of the seers of the visions and the places of their occurrence. Finally, there were various subcommittees of inquiry into the physical phenomena of spiritism,—the knockings, table turnings, production of spirit forms, and similar marvels of the Dunglas Home type of "medium."[Pg 224] From the outset, these subcommittees demonstrated the value of psychical research, as a protection to the interests of society, by exposing, one after another, the fraudulent character of the pretended intermediaries between the seen and the unseen world.
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« Reply #193 on: November 15, 2009, 05:50:16 am »

In this region of inquiry no one was more successful than a recruit from distant Australia, by name Richard Hodgson. Hodgson, unlike Sidgwick and Myers and many others of his associates, had not engaged in psychical research from the hope that the truths of the Bible might thereby be demonstrated. His motive was that of the detective eager to unravel mysteries. From his boyhood he had had a singular fondness for solving tricks and puzzles of all sorts; and when, in 1878, he came to England to complete his education at Cambridge, he naturally gravitated into the company of Sidgwick, Myers, and Gurney, as men busied in an undertaking that appealed to his detective instinct. He was radically different from them in temperament and point of view—not at all mystical, full of animal spirits, fond of all manner of sports, and interested in occult subjects only so far as they furnished working material for his nimble and[Pg 225] inquiring mind. The Cambridge trio, however, took kindly to him, invited him to join the Society for Psychical Research, and two years after its formation were instrumental in sending him to India to investigate the methods of Madam Blavatsky, the high priestess of the theosophic movement which was then winning adherents throughout the civilized world.
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« Reply #194 on: November 15, 2009, 05:50:43 am »

From this inquiry he returned to England with an international reputation as a detective of the supernatural. With the aid of two disgruntled confederates of the theosophist leader, he had demonstrated the falsity of the foundations on which her claims rested, and had shown that downright swindling constituted a large part of her stock in trade. With redoubled ardor he now plunged into the task of exposing the spiritistic mediums plying their vocation in England, and for this purpose enlisted the assistance of a professional conjurer, S. J. Davey, who was also a member of the Society for Psychical Research.

Davey, after a little practice, succeeded in duplicating by mere sleight of hand many of the most impressive feats of the mediums; doing this, indeed, so well that some spiritists[Pg 226] alleged that he was in reality a medium himself. Hodgson, for his part, by clever analysis of the Davey performances and of the feats of Davey's mediumistic competitors, brought home to his colleagues in the Society for Psychical Research a lively sense of the folly of depending on the human eye as a detector of fraudulent spiritistic phenomena. His crowning triumph came with his exposure of Eusapia Paladino, the Italian medium who is still enjoying an undeserved popularity on the European continent.
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