No Committee Ever Got More Shocking Testimony


"Whenever the scientific men of any age have denied the facts of investigators on a priori groimds, they have always been wrong."

A committee to investigate the paranormal was formed by the Dialectical Society of London, founded in 1867. In January 1869 the society resolved, “
That the Council be requested to appoint a Committee in conformity with Bye-law VII., to investigate the Phenomena alleged to be Spiritual Manifestations, and to report thereon.”  
The full 400-page report can be read here. The report issued by the Committe is summarized on pages 138-149 of the Psychical Review (Volume 1, Number 2, November 1892).  

The Committee was composed mainly of people skeptical about paranormal phenomena. Early in the report we read this:

"Of the members of your Sub-Committee about four-fifths entered upon the investigation wholly sceptical as to the reality of the alleged phenomena, firmly believing them to be the result either of imposture or of delusion or of involuntary muscular action. It was only by irresistible evidence, under conditions that precluded the possibility of either of these solutions, and after trial and test many times repeated, that the most sceptical of your Sub-committee were slowly and reluctantly convinced that the phenomena exhibited in the course of their protracted inquiry were veritable facts."

The Committee hoped to get a lot of negative evidence, but was disappointed. In the Psychical Review we read the following:

"Notices were printed in the daily papers inviting all interested persons to meet the committee and testify to events within their own knowledge, and a special invitation was given to all who had detected fraudulent manifestations or had seen such exposures, or who knew of any ways and means of detecting or of perpetrating frauds of that kind. Of the latter class of witnesses none appeared, except one man who attempted to prove by a priori reasoning that the manifestations were of the devil and were necessarily fraudulent!... Practically no evidence was offered against the reality of the phenomena." 

On this topic the Committee report states the following:

"Your Committee also specially invited the attendance of persons who had publicly ascribed the the phenomena to imposture or delusion. Your Committee, however, while successful in procuring the evidence of believers in the phenomena and in their supernatural origin, almost wholly failed to obtain evidence from those who attributed them to fraud or delusion."

A very distinguished Earl (called under British customs the Master of Lindsay or Lord Lindsay) reported a paranormal elongation of the body of the medium Daniel Dunglas Home, and something else equally strange involving a piano-like instrument:

"I saw a grand pianoforte raised in the air about four inches, without any noise; and subsequently the notes were struck, although it was locked and the key taken away. On another occasion I saw Mr. Home, in a trance, elongated eleven inches. I measured him standing up against the wall, and marked the place."

A Miss Douglas also testified to have seen the same paranormal elongation of Home. The effect is particularly notable as it is apparently impossible to fake. 

In the Committee report the same Lord Lindsay testified as having seen an apparition of Home's wife:

"A few minutes after, I saw an apparition which seemed like a column of vapour or an indistinct shadow, which grew gradually into a definite shape, and I then saw the form of a woman standing en profile to me. She stood between me and Home, I saw the features plainly, and should have recognised them again anywhere. She seemed to be attired in a long flowing gown which hung without belt from the shoulders. The figure seemed quite solid, I could not see through it, I spoke to Home, he said he saw her distinctly, and that it was the apparition of his late wife ; she often came to him. She moved and stood by his side. She then walked to the right of the bed and rather behind it, but not out of my sight, and then slowly faded away like a column of vapour. The next morning I found an album, and on looking over the pictures carelessly, I saw a photograph exactly like the figure I had seen. Mrs, Jencken said it was the likeness of the late Mrs. Home."

The same Lord Lindsay provided this remarkable testimony of Home levitating through one window, and floating back through an adjacent window:

"I saw the levitations in Victoria Street, when Home floated out of the window ; he first went into a trance and valked about uneasily; he then went into the hall ; while he was away, I heard a voice whisper in my ear, ' He will go out of one window and in at another.' I was alarmed and shocked at the idea of so dangerous an experiment. I told the company what I had heard, and we then waited for Home's return. Shortly after he entered the room, I heard the window go up, but I could not see it, for I sat with my back to it. I, however, saw his shadow on the opposite wall ; he went out of the window in a horizontal position, and I saw him outside the other window (that in the next room) floating in the air. It was eighty-five feet from the ground. There was no balcony along the windows, merely a strong course an inch and a-half wide ; each window had a small plant stand, but there was no connection between them. I have no theory to explain these things. I have tried to find out how they are done, but the more I studied them, the more satisfied was I that they could not be explained by mere mechanical trick. I have had the fullest opportunity for investigation."

A Mr. Jones gave similar testimony. On page 212 of the Committee report we read this testimony by Jones:

" I have seen Mr. Home's levitations. I saw him rise and float horizontally across the window. We all saw him clearly. He passed right across just as a person might float upon the water. At my request he was floated back again."

Another witness states this on page 117:

"The levitations of Mr. Home are so well known, that I need not more than allude to them — upwards of one hundred levitations have taken place during his lifetime, of which perhaps the most remarkable was the carrying of his body out of one window of the third floor, at Ashley House, into an adjoiuiug window; and the lifting of his body raised 3 or 4 feet off the ground at Adare Manor for 20 or 30 yards. As regards the lifting of heavy objects, these I can testify to myself; I have seen the semi-grand [piano] at my house raised horizontally 18 inches off the ground, and kept suspended in space two or three minutes. I have also witnessed a square table being lifted one foot off the ground, no one touching or near to it, at the time, a friend present seated on the carpet and watching the phenomena all the time. I have also seen a table lifted clear over head, 6 feet off the ground ; but what may appear more remarkable, I have witnessed an accordion suspended in space for 10 or 20 minutes, - and played by an invisible agency."

The observations about Home are similar to those made by the very accomplished scientist Sir William Crookes, who reported many inexplicable occurrences involving Home (and no fraud) after testing Home in Crookes' own house.  Home was not at all the only person who reliable witnesses have described as levitating. You can read  accounts of other people levitating in my post "Levitation Reports: The Best Cases."  On the page here you can read eyewitness accounts by six named witnesses  who claimed to have seen Margaret Rule levitate around 1697. 

The Committee also received testimony about what are called apports -- objects that seem to mysteriously appear in a paranormal manner. Below from pages 153-154 is very dramatic testimony about such a phenomenon, given by a Miss Houghton, who describes the mysterious appearance of many types of fruits spontaneously requested by individuals in a group of 18 people:

"On the 3rd of October, 1867, I went to a dark seance at Miss Nicholl's own house, on which occasion there were eighteen ladies and gentlemen present, with all of whom I am acquainted...By raps the spirits desired me to wish for a fruit, and I chose a banana, which they promised me, and then said, ' Now all may wish,' which they did, for various fruits, sometimes having their wishes negatived, but in most instances, agreed to. The fruits were then brought in the order in which they had been wished for. One lady said, ' Why do you not ask for vegetables ; an onion, for instance? and even as she said it, the onion came into her lap. I will give you a list of the various things brought : a banana, two oranges, a bunch of white grapes, a bunch of black grapes, a cluster of filberts, three walnuts, about a dozen damsons, a slice of candied pine apple, three figs, two apples, an onion, a peach, some almonds, four very large grapes, three dates, a potato, two large pears, a pomegranate, two crystallised greengages, a pile of dried ciurrants, a lemon, and a large bunch of beautiful raisins, which, as well as the figs and dates, were quite plump, as if they had never been packed, but had been brought straight from the drying ground."

On page 128 a witness recalls seeing an apparition of a deceased relative, one that passed through a human body and caused the room to become "fearfully cold":

"We first heard raps and then saw a human figure at the window. It entered and several other figures came trooping in after it. One of them waved its hands. The atmosphere became fearfully cold. A figure which I recognised as that of a deceased relative, came behind my chair, leaned over me, and brushed my hair lightly with its hand. It seemed about eight feet high. Then approaching the Master of Lindsay it passed right through him, causing him to shiver with cold."
 
On page 195 a Signor Damiani gives some testimony. First he tells us that he was very skeptically inclined:

"I had been, up to that moment, an utter sceptic in spiritual matters ; chokeful of positivism, I conceived man to be but a very acute monkey (simia gigantis stupenda, to be scientific), and recognised in life only a brief and somewhat unsatisfactory farce."

His first experience at a seance left him disappointed:

"Shortly afterwards it came my turn to talk with the spirits. ' Who is there? 'Sister,' was rapped out in reply. ' What sister ?' 'Marietta.'  'Don't know you ; that is not a family name ; — are you not mis- taken'!' ' No ; I am your sister.' This was too much : I left the table in disgust."

But soon Signor Damiani reports a great success:

"'Who is there?' 'Your sister Antonietta.' ' That is a good guess,' thought I. ' Where did you pass away 1 ' ' Chieti.' ' When ? ' — Thirty-four loud distinct raps succeeded. Strange — my sister so named had certainly died at Chieti just thirty-four years before.  'How many brothers and sisters had you then? Can you give me their names?' Five names (the real ones) all correctly spelt in Italian were given. Numerous other tests produced equally remarkable results. I then felt I was in the presence of my sister. ' If that is not in truth my sister,' I thought, ' then there exists in nature something more wondrous and mysterious even than the soul and its immortality.' "

Upon later inquiry, Damiani found out that he had a sister he never knew about who died six hours after being born. The sister's name was Maria, and Marietta is a diminutive version of the same name. 

 The Committee received lengthy testimony by Cromwell F. Varley, who was the chief electrician of the first successful trans-Atlantic cable.  Varley told the Committee he saw a transparent apparition:

"I saw a man in the air -- a spirit -- in military dress.  I could see the pattern of the paper on the wall through him." 

Varley also gave this testimony to the Committee:

"My authority for asserting that the spirits of kindred beings do visit us is : — 1. I have on several occasions distinctly seen them. 2. On several occasions things known only to myself and to the deceased person purporting to communicate with me, have been correctly stated while the medium was unaware of any of the circumstances. 3. On several occasions things known only to our two selves, and which I had entirely for gotten, have been recalled to my mind by the communicating spirit, therefore this could not be a case of mere thought-reading. 4. On some occasions, when these communications have been made to me, I have put my questions mentally, while the medium private lady in independent circumstances — has -written out the answers, she being quite unconscious of the meaning of the communications. 5. The time and nature of coming events, unanticipated and unknown both to myself and the medium, have, on more than one occasion, been accurately made known to me several days in advance. As my invisible informants told the truth regarding the coming events, and also stated that they were spirits, and as no mortals in the room had any knowledge of some of the facts they communicated, I see no reason to disbelieve them."

Besides taking testimony from other people, some committees of the Dialectical Society of London did their own experiments. One set of experiments was carefully done to test whether a mysterious movement of tables (reported very widely by a large number of observers) were due to mere subconscious movement by finger tips resting on the tables. Below is a discussion in the report of the very careful experiments done:

"Since their appointment on the 16th of February, 
1869, your Sub-committee have held forty meetings 
for the purpose of experiment and test. 

All of these meetings were held at the private 
residences of members of the Committee, purposely 
to preclude the possibility of pre-arranged mechanism 
or contrivance. 

The furniture of the room in which the experi- 
ments were conducted was on every occasion its 
accustomed furniture. 

The tables were in all cases heavy dining tables, 
requiring a strong effort to move them. The small- 
est of them was 5ft. 9in. long by 4ft. wide, and the 
largest, 9ft. Sin. long and 4.^ft. wide, and of propor- 
tionate weight. 

The rooms, tables, and furniture generally were 
repeatedly subjected to careful examination before, 
during, and after the experiments, to ascertain that 
no concealed machinery, instrument, or other con- 
trivance existed by means of which the sounds 
or movements hereinafter mentioned could be caused. 

The experiments were conducted in the light of 
gas, except on the few occasions specially noted in the 
minutes. 

Your Committee have avoided the employment of 
professional or paid mediums, the mediumship being 
that of members of your Sub-committee, persons of 
good social position and of unimpeachable integrity, 
having no pecuniary object to serve, and nothing to 
gain by deception... 

Every test that the combined intelligence of your 
Committee could devise has been tried with patience 
and perseverance. The experiments were conducted 
under a great variety of conditions, and ingenuity 
has been exerted in devising plans by which your 
Committee might verify their observations and pre- 
clude the possibility of imposture or of delusion....

The result of their long-continued and carefully- 
conducted experiments, after trial by every detective 
test they could devise, has been to establish con- 
clusively : 

First: That under certain bodily or mental 
conditions of one or more of the persons present, a 
force is exhibited sufficient to set in motion heavy 
substances, without the employment of any muscular 
force, without contact or material connection of any 
kind between such substances and the body of any 
person present. 

Second: That this force can cause sounds to 
proceed, distinctly audible to all present, from solid 
substances not in contact with, nor having any 
visible or material connection with, the body of any 
person present, and which sounds are proved to pro- 
ceed from such substances by the vibrations which 
are distinctly felt when they are touched. 

Third : That this force is frequently directed by 
intelligence. 

At thirty-four out of the forty meetings of your 
Committee some of these phenomena occurred....
In all similar experiments the possibility of 
mechanical or other contrivance was further nega- . 
tived by the fact that the movements were in various 
directions, now to one side, then to the other ; now 
up the room, now down the room — motions that 
would have required the co-operation of many 
hands or feet ; and these, from the great size and 
weight of the tables, could not have been so used 
without the visible exercise of muscular force. 
Every hand and foot was plainly to be seen and 
could not have been moved without instant de- 
tection. 

Delusion was out of the question. The motions 
were in various directions, and were witnessed simul- 
taneously by all present. They were matters of 
measurement, and not of opinion or of fancy. 

And they occurred so often, under so many and 
such various conditions, with such safeguards against 
error or deception, and with such invariable results, 
as to satisfy the members of your Sub-committee by 
whom the experiments were tried, wholly sceptical as 
most of them were when they entered upon the in- 
vestigation, that there is a force capable of moving 
heavy bodies without material contact and which force 
is in some unknown manner dependent upon the pre- 
sence of human beings."

Such findings are shocking to the modern ear, but they should not have been so shocking to the observers; for they had merely replicated what a previous scientific investigation had found. The phenomenon of inexplicable table movements was scientifically investigated at length by Count Agenor de Gasparin, who had published in 1857 a scientific book describing countless paranormal effects (such as table levitation and mysterious rappings) observed under controlled conditions. (Gasparin's research is well-summarized in Chapter VI of a book by the astronomer Camille Flammarion.)   

Early in the report of the Dialectical Society we have this summary of phenomena documented in the report:

"These reports, hereto subjoined, substantially corroborate each other, and would appear to establish the following propositions : —
1. — That sounds of a very varied character, apparently proceeding from articles of furniture, the floor and walls of the room — the vibrations accompanying which sounds are often distinctly perceptible to the touch — occur, without being produced by muscular action or mechanical contrivance. 2. — That movements of heavy bodies take place with- out mechanical contrivance of any kind or adequate exertion of muscular force by the persons present, and frequently without contact or connection with any person. 3. — That these sounds and movements often occur at the times and in the manner asked for by persons present, and, by means of a simple code of signals, answer questions and spell out coherent coniimunications .4. — That the answers and communications thus obtained are, for the most part, of a common- place character ; but facts are sometimes correctly given which are only known to one of the persons present. 5. — That the circumstances under which the phenomena occur are variable, the most prominent fact being, that the presence of certain persons seems necessary to their occurrence, and that of others generally adverse ; but this difference does not appear to depend upon any belief or disbelief concerning the phenomena. 6. — That, nevertheless, the occurrence of the pheno- mena is not insured by the presence or absence of such persons respectively."

But how many witnesses were there in support of such phenomena? In the Dialectical Society's report we read the following summary:

"1. Thirteen witnesses state that they have seen heavy bodies — in some instances men — rise slowly in the air and remain there for sometime without visible or tangible support. 
2. — Fourteen witnesses testify to having seen hands or figures, not appertaining to any human being, but life-like in appearance and mobility, which they have sometimes touched or even grasped,
and which they are therefore convinced were not the result of imposture or illusion.
3. — Five witnesses state that they have been touched, by some invisible agency, on various parts of the body, and often where requested, when the hands of all present were visible.
4. — Thirteen witnesses declare that they have heard musical pieces well played upon instruments not manipulated by any ascertainable agency.
5. — Five witnesses state that they have seen red-hot coals applied to the hands or heads of several - persons without producing pain or scorching ; and three witnesses state that they have had the same experiment made upon themselves with the like immunity.
6 — Eight witnesses state that they have received precise information through rappings, writings, and in other ways, the accuracy of which was unknown at the time to themselves or to any persons present, and which, on subsequent in- quiry, was found to be correct.
7. — One witness declares that he has received a precise and detailed statement which, nevertheless, proved to be entirely erroneous.
8. — Three witnesses state that they have been present when drawings, both in pencil and colours, were produced in so short a time, and under such conditions, as to render human agency impossible.
9. — Six witnesses declare that they have received information of future events, and that in some cases the hour and minute of their occurrence have been accurately foretold, days and even
weeks before."
 
The 400-page report of the Dialectical Society of London is probably the most extensive report ever issued by an organization or committee devoted to an impartial inquiry into the paranormal. But you will find no mention of the report's astonishing findings in a typical textbook on psychology, and the report will not be mentioned in a college psychology course you may take.  Similarly, you will read no mention of how a five-year French committee investigation of the Royal Academy of Medicine came out very clearly in favor of the observational reality of clairvoyance. We must always remember that today's academia mainstream is very careful to not tell us about a large fraction of the most relevant observations that have been made pertaining to questions of mind, spirit and brain.  The academia mainstream is very careful not to tell us about the very many reliable observations that defy their belief dogmas, such as the dogma that the mind is a mere product of the brain. 

mainstream information censoring

A very different committee report on the paranormal (appearing as a mere preliminary report) was made by a University of Pennsylvania committee that was organized after Henry Seybert left money in his will to fund a committee to investigate the paranormal.  The report can be read here.  The report was obviously written by investigators very hostile to claims of the paranormal, and if you skim through the report, you may get the impression that it provides no support for claims of the paranormal.  

However if you make a very careful reading of the report (paying attention almost exclusively to what the witnesses report seeing and hearing and paying little attention to their attitudes towards such sights), you will actually find the witnesses (despite their intentions)  provide abundant evidence for the paranormal. Again and again we read testimony of extremely anomalous things that the paranormal-hostile witnesses fail to credibly explain, such as an abundance of inexplicable raps coming from spots other than where a human stood or sat. Justifying that claim will require a future blog post, but I can give now just one example. On pages 95-96 a skeptical witness reports a meeting in a sitting room in someone's house, and seeing something rather like what was reported occurring in great abundance by Henry S. Olcott.  A small corner of the room (only four feet in size) is covered with a curtain. From such a small corner of the sitting room the witness reports seeing over the course of two hours quite a few luminous faceless human-like forms arising from behind the curtain, some tall and some short, two such forms once appearing at the same time. The witness says  she touched one of the forms. But no credible explanation is given of how such forms could have appeared. 

No mention is made of any actual discovery of fraud by our skeptical witness, who no doubt would have inspected the room corner for any sign of a trap door. No mention is made of anything suspicious about the corner of the room, such as a sign of a trap door,  and no credible explanation is made of anything that might explain such sights. The witness does not report the luminous forms rising up from the ground as they would if a trap door had been used.  The only attempted explanation is an unbelievable one: "If the drapery were raised or lowered the appearance could readily have been produced, and the person holding it would have been quite invisible."  This explanation is not believable because if luminous forms had come from elsewhere, their entrance into the small corner area from elsewhere in the room would have been reported by the witness; and the witness reported no such thing. The witness also fails to report seeing anyone suspiciously entering into the small corner, something the witness would have seen even in darkness, because of the ability of the human eye to see dimly in darkness after ten minutes or so in darkness.  At one point the witness suggests the possibility that "luminous paint" was used to make the glowing forms. But the witness was writing in 1886, and when I ask Google "when was luminous paint invented" I get an answer of 1908. 

Such a thing happens very often in this Seyfert report: extremely skeptical observers describing very spooky paranormal-seeming things that they fail to offer credible explanations for.