IN Popular Science Monthly, Hereward Carrington, Ph. D., describes some of the ruses to which alleged mediums have resorted to impose upon the credulous. Nothing could be simpler than these tricks—both to accomplish and to understand.
You sit around a table with ten other believers in spiritualism, the hands of all eleven of you spread out flat and your little fingers touching. Next to you is the medium—a big, likable fellow with a kind, frank face.
“If the spirit moves,” says he, fixing his eyes on you, “I shall produce some startling phenomena with the very hand that your little finger now touches.”
It sounds incredible. “Not if I know it,” you say to yourself, pressing your little finger harder against his. You are determined that he shall not remove that hand—not for the fraction of a second.
Then the lights are lowered. Under cover of the darkness, the medium is seized with a series of convulsive twitches and spasms. His hands shake, and the table trembles.
However, you are not to be caught napping. You exert still more pressure on your little finger, and his hand is still there—or was. For lo ! a dinner-bell is suddenly rung in your ears, a whistle is blown, a gong is struck, and a flashlight shines in your face.
You are not only amazed and bewildered—you are really scared. And when the lights are turned on, there, just as you anticipated, is his hand with yeur little finger resting on it. You could swear away your reputation that he had not moved it. How, then, did it all happen?
Do you recall the instant when he was seized with convulsive twitches? At that time he was drawing his hands nearer and nearer together until, in one violent spasm, he had withdrawn one hand altogether—the very hand under your little finger!
Oh, yes, you regained control of it again instantly, and you forgot all about the loss of it a moment later.
The fact is that the medium substituted the outstretched first finger of his other hand for the little finger of the hand you held—so that then you and the man on the other side of him were both controlling the same hand, leaving the remaining hand free to perform the manifestations. Can you imagine anything which would be more simple than this?
But there are more elaborate demonstrations of the same character. The whole hand of the medium may be apparently controlled; yet he manages to release it all the same ! He sits in a chair and places his two hands on his knees, while an investigator sits on either side of him. The man on his right side grasps his right wrist, while the medium himself grasps the wrist of the man on his left side. Thus a circle is formed in which the medium is holding the wrist of one man, and is, in turn, having his other wrist held by the other man. Obviously, the wrist in the grasp of the other man cannot possibly be used to produce the manifestations. But they do take place, nevertheless.
After the lights are turned out, the medium requests the man on his right to remove his hand for a moment.
“I want to use my handkerchief,” he says. In a moment he returns his hand. Returns it? What he does, in reality, is this. He slips both feet forward and crosses his knees, the left knee being on top. Then, when he requests the man on his right to hold his hand again, he allows him to hold his left wrist—the one that is holding the wrist of the man on his left. The right hand is now free. The man on the left cannot tell that the hand has been removed, as, indeed, it has not; and the man on the right cannot. tell that any change has taken place
in the position of the hands, since he grasps a wrist which the medium tells him is his right hand. Since there is only one knee, the trick cannot be discovered if an investigator feels the other knee.
But some people will tell you that they have received “spirit touches” while they knew they held both hands of the medium securely all the time the manifestations were going on. In this case, the medium blindfolded the sitter, if the séance was held in the light, and with his teeth extracted a long feather from under his vest, and with it produced soft “spirit touches” upon the head, face, and hands of the gullible person.
An ingenious “holding” test, made famous by the Eddy Brothers in their socalled “light séances,” was carried out as follows:
Three chairs were placed in a row in one corner of the room. The medium sat in one—the right-hand one, as viewed by the spectators. The other two were occupied by investigators. The medium and the third man (in the opposite end chair) then grasped the arms of the man in the middle, one hand on the wrist and one hand high up on the arm. In this way the man in the middle was able to tell instantly if any hand was removed. A curtain was then pinned over the bodies of the medium and of his investigators. Presently manifestations took place. How?
Under cover of the cloth, the medium abstracted from his pocket a small piece of lead about the size of his hand. He bent this tightly around the arm of the man next to him, giving him the impression of being held by that hand.
Thus the hand could be removed and the impression remain—the left hand still grasping the arm lower down. Both hands were thus felt, while, as we have seen, only one was actually employed in holding the man—the other being free to play musical instruments and produce other “phenomena.”
Of course, various devices have been resorted to in an endeavor to prevent mediums from producing “phenomena” fraudulently, particularly in dark circles.
Among these may be mentioned ropeties of all kinds, chains, padlocks, handcuffs, etc., and especially various ways of holding the medium so that he cannot escape. These ai*e known as holding tests. The aim of the medium is to evade these and, by releasing one hand or foot, to produce “phenomena” with the free members.
Sometimes “phenomena;’ are produced a long way from the medium—so far, indeed, that the sitter feels sure he could not have reached that spot, even had his hands been free. In such cases, the medium has produced from his pocket a long jointed rod, known as a “reaching rod,” and after opening it is enabled to reach objects four or five feet away—to ring bells, shake the tambourine, etc.
The above are some of the simple methods by which fraudulent “physical mediums” bamboozle their sitters. I do not wish it to be understood, however, that I do not believe in any genuine phenomena of this kind. On the contrary, I am quite convinced that they sometimes occur. And it is for this reason that we “psychical researchers” are so anxious to eliminate the fraud. Spurious money does not prove that no genuine money exists: it is the same with spiritistic phenomena. I merely wish to warn would-be investigators of possible disappointments.
/ did not receive any copy of the last issue of MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE and would appreciate it it you would forward nie one it yon have a spare copy. I am hec¡ñng every number and expect to hare theyi bound in book form as I consider MACLEAN'S to be the leading magazine circulated or sold in Canada and therefore do not like to miss a cotry. C. C. W.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.