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THE NEW YORK TIMES August 20, 1922 Sec. III, Page 16


A Review by HOUDINI

REVELATIONS OF A SPIRIT MEDIUM. Facsimile of the Original Edition, with Notes, Bibliography, Glossary and Index. By Harry Price, F.R.N.S., and Eric J. Dingwall, M.A. New York: H.P. Dutton & Co.

Original Edition of 'Revelations of a Spirit Medium'Many years ago, when I started to collect books on magic and kindred subjects, I frequented a second-hand book store on Chambers Street, where on a low and inconspicuous shelf devoted to such books, I came upon a copy of a book on spiritualism called “Revelations of a Spirit Medium,” which I purchased.

The book was of special interest to an enthusiastic young magician, but a “black eye” to the professional spirit medium who viewed the subject in its purely commercial aspects. It was equally obnoxious to the performing spiritualist, since it assayed to divulge fraudulent methods, deceit and deception practiced on the superstitious and credulously susceptible victims, and, because of these effects, it was rumored that, by the combined effort of mediums and spiritualistic adherents, the entire edition, so far as possible, together with the electrotypes and illustrative plates, was bought up and destroyed.

This may have been so, because the edition was soon off the market and unobtainable, except by chance opportunity occasioned by a copy getting on the shelf of a second-hand book store, from which the alert magician eagerly rescued it. All this accounts for the fact that in accumulating my personal library I have bought eight complete libraries belonging to magicians, and each contained a copy of this book. Consequently, I was somewhat surprised to learn that this book was about to be reprinted by my friends, Harry Price, F.R.N.S., librarian of the Magicians’ Club of London, and Eric J. Dingwall, M.A., member of the Society of American Magicians, both members of the Psychical Research of London and on the Investigating Committee at the Psychical Research Rooms during eight séances, at which Mlle. Eva, protégé of Mme. Bissono [sic], was the medium, under direction of the Hon. Everard Fielding, brother of Lord Denbigh.

The author of the original book is unknown, notwithstanding the strenuous efforts made to discover his identity. He candidly disclaims pretense to having produced a work of literary merit, or, as he puts it, “a literary gem,” but declares that it is a truthful disclosure of the wiles of fraudulent producers of spiritualistic phenomena.

The compilers of this book in their prefatory remarks seem to draw a sharp line of distinction between genuine and fraudulent mediums and seem to believe that the former predominate in England, while the latter are in the majority in the United States.

Their exact words are:

    The class of so-called physical phenomena of which the book treats has always been more popular among public mediums in the United States than in this country, and has at all times been regarded with suspicion by serious students of the subject. The reason for this is not far to seek. If genuine physical phenomena exist (and we believe such phenomena to be exceedingly rare), it is scarcely conceivable that such manifestations could take place at the will of any medium on whom a sitter happens to call. Public mediums, therefore, are to be especially guarded against, and any apparently successful results obtained with them should be scrutinized with the greatest care. The present great increase in psychic phenomena will probably result in the production of spurious physical phenomena by less honest mediums, and it is with this thought that we have decided to reprint the “Revelations of a Spirit Medium.”

The expression “If genuine physical phenomena exist (and we believe such phenomena to be exceedingly rare),” seems a trifle obscure, but if “rare” it must “exist.”

In conclusion, the editors “remind the reader that no more knowledge of magical secrets will ever guarantee him from being deceived by fraudulent mediums.”

Eusapia Palladino ScamThat statement is true; all magicians are not competent to pass judgment on the modus operandi of the things that transpire at a séance, whether it is a broad daylight or a dark séance. Nevertheless, a magician of intelligence is perhaps a most capable investigator, as he will insist that indisputable proof of genuineness be established. But, even though he may think the proof sufficient, he is liable to err, for greater magicians than he, perhaps, have been fooled, among them Robert Houdin, the old-time French magician; Jacobs, Ballachini, Hamilton and Rhys, a manufacturer of magicians’ appliances. Even our late dean, Harry Kellar, in 1882, before he was one of the master magicians, is on record as having been mystified in Calcutta by Eglinton, who was stamped in three different séances as a friend. The difficulties of investigation are not insurmountable; in some cases they may be complex, but in the large majority of cases so-called phenomena are not so difficult to fathom, provided the investigator is untrammeled and permitted to exercise freedom of intelligent action. The author’s view as “professional mediums,” whether justifiable or otherwise, leaves he reader to draw his own conclusions, but when he touches on other persons he loads the two trays of the weighing machine equally; the beam seems to stop on a dead centre. However, his published records seem to accord with my personal experience as to the genuineness of so-called “spiritualistic phenomena” as produced by the so-called “medium.”

Since this book has been republished, Monsrs. Price and Dingwall have assisted in causing a few of the spirit photographers in England some uneasy moments, having scared, so it is said, a number of spirit photographers who have never up to the present time been detected. This may eventually lead to a big legal fight, which for importance will overshadow the Home, Dr. Slade, Mumier, Dias Debar and Monck cases.

I was privileged to assist at the Mlle. Eva séances during which Mr. Dingwall held one arm and one leg of the medium, and I held the other arm and leg, pending the appearance of the ectoplasmic phenomena. In passing, I might say that in all of the eight séances, each of which was of three hours duration, and spreading over a period of one month, I was not convinced that the lady did anything out of the ordinary at any one of the séances, and I took part in all as a member of the investigating committee. I note with interest the report which I have just read from The Tribune of June 29, 1922, relative to the result of the Sorbonne investigation in Paris, France, which The Tribune says: “Perhaps for the first time in history a great university has made a systematic scientific search for proof of the existence of so-called spiritual phenomena. The Sorbonne has devoted six months examining witnesses of every kind and investigation everything that was offered as evidence.” The result of this investigation was nil, so far as convincing proof goes.

A correction might be here made with propriety. Evidently, The Tribune man has overlooked the investigation conducted for a period of three years by the Seybert Commission at the instance of the University of Pennsylvania in 1884–87.

If any one is seeking information merely from an educational point of view, or if desirous of a reputation as a so-called medium, the work as republished will serve admirably. It may also be regarded as a double-edged weapon to protect against deception practiced by any medium making use of any method described therein; although a deviation from any method used by a medium may nevertheless still deceive the most astute investigator, and much more so, ordinary mortals.

Rendering of Palladino Caught Cheating, New York, 1910All I have met who have been at any of Palladino’s séances tell me they invariably caught her cheating. I hold no brief for Palladino, but I will say that she certainly mystified the scientists for twenty years, and in spite of the old saying, “Truth is mighty and must prevail,” the name Eusapia Palladino will be on the lips of men long, long after the exposers have returned to dust and are forgotten.

I have personally met all the great mediums and am yet open to be convinced. I want to be put on record again that I do not say there is no such ting as spiritualism, but state that in the thirty years of my investigation nothing has caused me to change my mind.

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