A Look at Col. Olcott's

An article by Geoffrey Farthing

hpb seal

from Theosophist article Nov 1978

MANY people know that Madame Blavatsky and Col. Olcott, the two senior founders of the Theosophical Society, met first at the homestead of the Eddy brothers in Chittenden, Vermont, (New England) U.S.A. Not many people, however, know much about the spiritualistic phenomena that took place there nor about their extraordinary quality and quantity. Further, little is known nowadays about the considerable investigation of the phenomena by Col. Olcott, neither is it appreciated that the report of his investigations constitutes a book of nearly 500 pages of relatively small type, with many illustrations.

The book was published in 1875 but the phenomena were observed in 1874. Col. Olcott was at the Eddy homestead for three months all told, in two periods from August to December 1874.

In the book he describes the Eddy family and their early circumstances. There was Zephaniah Eddy, who married a woman of Scottish extraction, Julia Ann Macombs, and they had seven children, four sons and three daughters. Mrs. Eddy was mediumistic, having 'inherited from her mother the gift of 'foreseeing', or more properly 'clairvoyance', for she not only had previsions of future events but also the faculty of seeing the denizens of the mysterious world about us from whom she claimed to receive visits as commonly as though they were ordinary neighbours. She could also hold speech with them.

Mysterious Sounds and Strange Noises

All her children, except the first, were also mediumistic. 'Mysterious sounds were heard about their cradles, strange voices called through the rooms they were in, they would play by the hour with beautiful children, visible only to their eyes and the mother's, who brought them flowers and pet animals, and romped with them; and once in a while their little bodies would be lifted gently and floated through the air by some mysterious power'.

This, and other phenomena, greatly frightened and angered Mr. Eddy who grossly beat and generally maltreated his children. When they were still very young, he hired them out to a travelling showman. They gave public exhibitions of mediumship under the most arduous, sometimes appalling, conditions. The custom at the performances was for the audience to elect a 'committee' from their members whose appointed task was to see that the medium could not cheat by producing phenomena by any means other than 'supernatural 'ones. The poor children - and later as they grew up and continued with the mediumship - were subjected to being bound and gagged. They were tied to wooden crosses in the crucifixion position; they were tied to chairs and bedsteads. Their limbs were secured in all sorts of grotesque positions. Often the tying's were so tight and so prolonged as to cause bleeding and eventual permanent malformation of their wrists. Apart from all this they were subjected to mobbing, stoning, being hooted at and even shot at.

Careful Investigation

The Daily Graphic (U.S.A.) said of one of Olcott's letters about the Eddys that 'the story is as marvellous as any to be found in history.' Olcott says, in setting out his findings, 'But I shall at least take good care to be within the limits of the truth, so that my story may be verified by any future investigator ...' He continues; 'I went to Chittenden to discover the truth as to the 'Eddy manifestations' and as I find things, so I shall describe them ...'

In the book he gives a detailed description of the house, the normal domestic rooms and the special 'Circle room' that was built with a stage, the better to exhibit the manifestations.

He describes in detail, with their weighty height and dress, the brothers William and Horatio who at the time of his visit to Chittenden were the chief mediums. He does this so that they can be compared with the materialised 'spirits' because some people were then claiming that the spirits were the mediums disguised and dressed for the part. These descriptions give the lie completely to that theory. Another recognition factor Olcott used was hands. 'We compared those of the mediums with those of the spirits. In the cases investigated there was no resemblance.' One witness testified to having seen three spirit hands. One was that of a lady, a long slim hand as white as marble; a second the great hand of a man with the entire little finger of the right hand missing; the third, another man's hand, very white.' From all this we see clearly the attitude of the Colonel in his investigations. He took nothing on trust. The extent of the manifestations generally was such as to eclipse completely the materialisation of hands alone.

Before the most. important manifestations started, the family had had many visitations from spirits, often in connection with impending death but also sometimes for more positive purposes. One evening in March 1872 the family was visited by William's grandmother's spirit. He had cut his foot very badly with an axe. The ghostly grandmother gave instructions 'for some salves to be applied to the wound and for a cooling draught to abate the fever that had set in.' She then disappeared. He recovered. On another occasion shortly afterwards the spirits informed the family 'that William was to be developed as the greatest medium of the age and that he must no longer sit for the instrument-playing exhibitions as he had been doing for a number of years but must go into the cabinet or closet alone and take no bells or instruments with him.' Col. Olcott says that it was soon after this that spirit faces began to appear and finally the full-length figure of a giant Winnebago Indian chief who was called Santum, manifested. Another spirit came regularly, Electa, a light-complexioned squaw about seventeen years of age, who always brought her pet robin with her. After this, came deceased members of the family and many others who had passed over and then the routines for the public performances were instituted, together with the building of the circle room and stage.

Greatest Medium of the Age

The spirits' claim that William was to be the greatest medium of the age seems to have been well justified. Here is what Col. Olcott has to say: 'It is scarcely exaggeration to say that this family of mediums, if we may believe their story, is the most remark able as to psychological endowments of which mention is made in the history of European races.' He had some justification for saying this for he was obviously well-informed on Western psychism and spiritualistic phenomena, as is instanced by his references, in the early chapters of the book and by the bibliography at the end, to standard works and important investigations.

He continues: 'The Eddys represent about every phase of mediumship and seership: rappings, the disturbance of material objects from a state of rest; painting in oil and watercolours under influence ; prophecy, the speaking of strange tongues; the healing gift; the discernment of spirits; levitation, or the floating of the body in free air: the phenomena of instrument playing and the show of hands; the writing of messages on paper upborne in mid-air, by pencils held by detached hands; psychometry, or the reading of character and view of distant persons upon touching sealed letters; clairvoyance; clairaudience, or the hearing of spirit voices; and, lastly, and most miraculous of all, the production of materialised phantom forms that become visible, tangible and often audible by all persona present.'

All these happenings occurred during three kinds of séance - the dark circle, the light circle (usually held by Horatio) and the open materialisation séances held by William.

Dark Circle

The dark circle was, as its name implies, held in total darkness, curtains being fastened over the windows to exclude even starlight. All those present sat in a row and held hands. The medium, Horatio Eddy, was tied to a chair placed in front of the spectators. When the light was put out 'the gruff voice of the sailor-spirit, George Dix, and the piping whisper of the little girl-spirit, Mayflower, are heard' greeting those present. Dix claimed to be a sailor drowned in the wreck of the S.S. 'President'. Mayflower had died a hundred years before when a captive of Indians. She was the daughter of Italian immigrants who were murdered on their clearing during an Indian raid. 'She exhibits the Italian talent for improvisation, hardly missing an opportunity to rattle off verses upon any subject named impromptu by any person in the audience. She is also an accomplished performer on various instruments, which she plays with rare power and expression. Her nature, judging by her conversation and acts, is simple, innocent and kindly; her heart is warm and sympathetic and her chief desire to afford pleasure to those of a refined disposition whom the fame of these circles may have attracted to the place. George Dix, on the other hand, is a manly, powerful spirit, with a grip like a vice, a rollicking, prankish nature and a hoarse voice like that of one accustomed to shout in storms from maintop to deck.' Olcott goes on to tell us that he was a spinner of yarns ... an ingenious fellow, who sings, plays well on the violin, whistles like a Boehm flute ...' He could move ponderous objects and ring bells and imitate almost any sound produced by any of the mechanic arts with which he is familiar.'

This is typical of the detailed description of the various characters that manifested at all three kinds of séance. Here is some more about Dix.

'When Dr. B ... was here, it was Dix's hand that, in Horatio's light circle, beat that worthy over the head with the guitar, causing his precipitate flight and striking terror into his guilty soul; and it was he who one night in a dark circle pulled a man named Frost by the legs out of his chair to the floor, with a great bump that shook us in our seats. When I say 'grip' I mean just that, for this spirit, in addition to shaking hands with me sundry times, once gave me one of the grips of a Master Mason.' The medium was not a mason.

At one of the early dark circle meetings, after the introductory compliments, the spirits played instruments that had been set out on a table for them. They indulged in 'a dance of a pack of a dozen howling, leaping, skylarking Indians, who beat on the drums, rattle the tambourines, blow the horns, ring the heavier bells, and make a din so hideous that one easily fancies oneself caught in the mêlée of a dance of live redskins starting on the war path.' So the description goes on and finishes with ... ' As an exhibition of pure brute force, if such a term may be applied to the occult power that produces it, this Indian dance probably is unsurpassed in the annals of spiritual manifestations.'

After more manifestations and an interval this séance proceeded, with someone sitting on the bound medium's lap and Olcott sitting close to and opposite them, touching Horatio's toes. 'The light was again extinguished, and a new performance began. Hands, cold, clammy, and firm, stroked our faces, patted our heads and hands, slapped me on my back and legs, and Mr. Nichols on the parts of his person not leaning against the medium, a pair of lips kissed my cheek and two huge hands tickled me under my arms at one time.' Again, the instruments were played, and swords used as if in combat. Then Mayflower improvised some verses hardly worth preservation 'but sweet and descriptive of a 'fairy-land.' The performance ended with a rendering by the spirit 'band 'of 'The storm at Sea.' The spirits, of which there were eight in the band, were all known by name to the audience. The rendering was complete with all the sound effects of wind and sea one would associate with such a storm. A music critic gives a long critical description of the performance.

Olcott follows this verbal description of a typical dark circle by what a clairvoyant says she saw during the performance and there is an artist's impression of her description. The picture is reminiscent of other clairvoyantly inspired pictures. There is a great column of 'light' over the medium, which mushrooms out eight or ten feet over his head. This 'light' seems to suffuse the atmosphere and in it appears a great throng of spirit faces, almost as a second audience; then there are the full-figure images of the performers handling the musical instruments, swords and other objects. This picture shows the spirits indulging in the antics so graphically described by Olcott. The clairvoyant also described the spirits as handling the bright ethereal fluid of spirit energy. 'When he (Dix) imitated the pumping of water it seemed as if he forced two masses of electricity together, handling the subtle agent as if it were a solid substance ... .'

Light Circle

The light-circle séance, in contrast to the dark-circle, was held in the lighted circle-room. The performance 'takes place on the platform, on which the cabinet is built between the right of the chimney breast and the right hand wall, occupied by William Eddy for his 'open manifestation' séances, but not used by Horatio for the light circles. Between the chimney breast and the left-hand wall is a recess across the opening of which two large shawls are hung on a tight cord fixed a foot and a half or so below the ceiling. The medium Horatio sits with his back to the shawls and, on his right, a male member of the audience. They are covered to their necks by a third shawl draped round them. With them, on the stage, is a woman member of the audience, sitting free, not covered by the shawl but holding the man's right hand in her left. All this is illustrated. Behind the shawls, on a table, are placed 'one guitar, one concertina, seven bells of various sizes, two tambourines, eight harmonicons (mostly disabled) one flute, one piccolo, one flageolet, one tin ditto and one triangle.' A bright light is thrown upon the group (in front of the suspended shawls) from a kerosene lamp placed near turned up high. Presently, there is a commotion among the articles on the table and loud knocks resound. The bells ring, various instruments are displayed above the curtain; the guitar is played upon near the ceiling, beneath the sitters' chairs, between the chimney side and Horatio's chair to the left, flat against the south wall, beyond the lady sitter to the right, and elsewhere; a familiar air is played in concert by a number of instruments; bells are rung singly and in harmony together, and hands of various sizes and tints dart into sight through the aperture in the curtain, or show themselves above the cord.'

'On the occasion referred to, the gentleman sitting next to Horatio was requested to give place to a lady who, when she had taken her seat, and the shawl readjusted, was caressed by a child's hand, a tiny little thing, that might have belonged to a girl of two or three years. It patted her cheek, was held at the lips to be kissed, laid upon her head, smoothed her hair, and when her eyes filled with tears, wiped them away and renewed its caresses. The artist has shown me (Olcott) standing far in advance of the rest of the circle, where it will be noticed had unobstructed view of all that transpired; but when this little hand was thrust from another world to cheer and encourage the mother, whose bosom it had so ,often clasped in life, I had drawn close up in front, and saw the very dimples on it. I am, therefore, entirely able and ready to affirm that, even if the medium were an imposter, and had wished to deceive his sitters with a clever puzzle, he did not then, nor could not, for he could not transform long, brown, bony sinewy hand, and his wrist, mutilated by the cruel tying of many 'committees' in the size, colour and shape of the baby hand that was materialised before my eyes.'

Later on in the séance he says 'A call was soon made for writing materials and a succession of spirit-hands clutching the pen that William offered them, and using my notebook as a tablet, wrote names on cards and threw them towards the audience. Some were names of the dead, some of the living; none I am satisfied, familiar to the medium.'

'The performances of the evening concluded, at the request of a visitor, with series of imitations of the boring, sawing and splitting of wood, the filing of iron and the pumping of water, the sounds occurring behind the curtain and all being so true to nature as to evoke great applause.'

During the entire sitting, as during each of like character, Horatio's two hands are supposed to have clasped the bared left arm of the person next to him; his eyes were closed and, as I said before, there was neither rustle of curtain nor movement of his feet, body or shoulders. For all the attention he apparently gave to what was going on he might have been in a stupor or enjoying a nap after a full meal.'

Open Séance

As for the 'open' type of séance, the first that Col. Olcott attended is typical and is described in considerable detail. It was held on the evening of his arrival.

'Outside, a violent gale of wind was blowing, the clouds hung low, the rain fell, and the atmospheric conditions would, in almost any other locality, have been considered unfavourable. A company of twenty-five persons assembled in the circle-room, among them several who, like myself, had arrived that day. Shortly after seven o'clock William entered the cabinet and we waited expectantly for our weird visitors.'

The cabinet, as mentioned before, was in the right-hand corner of the platform in the space between the chimney breast and the right-hand wall. It had no windows (one was added later for ventilation) and only one door leading onto the platform. The cabinet was completely empty except for the chair on which William sat during the séance. The walls, floor and ceiling were perfectly plain.

'To promote harmony of feeling among the persons present, vocal and instrumental music was resorted to, continuity of sound and rapidity of time seeming to be more necessary than quality of execution.'

'We had not sat many minutes in our first 'circle' before a voice - the piping treble of an old woman - addressed to us some remarks from behind the curtain that hung over the door of the cabinet, to the effect that this was a bad night for manifestations and none but the strongest spirits could show themselves ... ' (This was the voice of a Mrs. Eaton, deceased, whom later Col. Olcott saw at a distance of not more than ten feet and then again heard her speak).

'The curtain presently stirred, and the Indian woman named Honto stepped onto the platform. She appears young, dark complexioned, of marked Indian features, lithe and springy in movement, full of fun, natural in manner, and full of inquisitiveness. She measures 5 feet and 3 inches in height, against a painted scale I had placed beside the cabinet door.'

Col. Olcott saw her some thirty times and had ample opportunity to compare her with William, whom she did not resemble at all.

"She changes her dress frequently, sometimes appearing in a dark skirt with light overdress, shaped like the garment called a polonaise; sometimes with these shades reversed; sometimes with light clothing throughout and a sash around her waist, or bands crossed over her bosom; sometimes with a cap, and at others bareheaded; sometimes with her black hair a yard or more in length, flowing over her shoulders, and again with it braided in a single rope down her back. A remarkable fact is that at times her hair is very long and at others not longer than the artist has represented it in the picture (a little longer than shoulder length). I have seen her with what seemed to be buckskin leggings, and a short dress reaching a little below the knee; and again with high moccasins trimmed about the top with what looked like fur ...' Honto steps either to the wall or to one of the two persons who usually occupy chairs on the platform, and suddenly produces a knitted shawl or a long piece of gauze fabric, apparently from the air itself, and exhibits it to the audience. The light in the room is so very bad - about as strong as that in the parlour When we sit before dying embers 'twixt the gloamin' and the mirk' before the lamps are lighted - that it is impossible to see the features of Honto or the pattern of her shawl ... She threw the slender fabric over the railing and so gave us an opportunity to see that its strands were perfectly opaque. 'Then, throwing it over her head as a Spanisb woman wears her mantilla, she produced another, woollen, black and apparently striped; and then passed both behind the curtain.'

Somebody in the audience asked if she would allow Mrs. Cleveland (on the platform) to feel the beating of her heart, whereupon she opened her dress and Mrs. Cleveland laid her hand upon the bare flesh. It felt cold and moist, not like that of a living person ... the heartbeat feebly but rhythmically.

'After Honto retired, various other spirits of Indians and Whites (among the latter two little children) appeared before us.'


Col. Olcott then devotes a chapter to describing the other materialised spirits who came after Honto. There was a dark-faced squaw, Bright Star, wearing a 'sort of frontlet' in the centre of which was a jewel or luminous spot' that gives out a phosphorescent gleam, shining in the obscurity like the diamond in a Rajah's turban.' There was another squaw, Daybreak, who danced to the playing of a violin. Then came Santum, 6 feet 3 inches tall, wearing what appeared to be a hunting shirt of dressed buckskin, striped perpendicularly and fringed at the seams. and so on. After Santum came two other Indian men, and then several whites who were recognised and named by people in the audience. Two were brothers, William and John Reynolds. Their surviving brother George was in the audience. 'We then recognised Stephen, his nephew, a lad of fifteen, with light curly hair', who came. Mrs. Reynolds asked Mrs. Eaton, the spirit directress, if she would answer a mental question. She did so immediately.

Then appeared a William Brown, whose son was in the audience. The son had been to previous séances held by different mediums with no result and had, in fact, been a few weeks already at the Eddy homestead but his father had not previously come. Now he did. He tried to speak but 'for a while he could not speak at all; then he uttered a few simple greetings in a faint whisper; and at length he conversed in a strong, full, natural voice, saying whatsoever he pleased with as great ease, apparently as in life.' Col. Olcott says, 'after hearing numerous spirit addresses and conversations, I have detected no difference in the movement of the lips from those of a living person.' This followed some remarks on the question of how the spirits uttered these voice-sounds which sounded exactly as if the 'person' were alive.

The phenomena of the evening concluded with an incident which furnished the subject for one of the illustrations in the book:

'A German music-teacher of Hartford, named Max Lenzberg, was at Chittenden with his wife and daughter Lena. At Mr. Eddy's request he played on the flute during the séance and so occupied a chair in advance of the front row of spectators and within a few feet of the cabinet. After Mr. Brown's disappearance the curtain was again drawn aside and we saw, standing at the threshold, two children. One was a baby of about one year and the other a child of twelve or thirteen. Behind them, very indistinctly, could be observed the form of an old woman, who held up the curtain with her left hand and supported the baby with her right. Mrs. Lenzberg, with a mother's instinct, recognised her departed little ones and with tender pathos eagerly asked in German if they were not hers. Immediately there came several loud responsive raps and the little Lena, as if drawn from her mother's side by an irresistible power, crept forward and peered at the forms that stood just at the edge of the black shadows of the cabinet. There was a moments silence as she strained her eyes in the gaze and then she said joyfully: "Ja! Ihr seid meine kleine schwestern! Nicht wahr? "There came again responsive raps and the spirit-forms danced and waved their arms as if in glee at the reunion.'

Talking of his experiences, Col. Olcott says:

'I have seen, say, three or four hundred different materialised spirits, or what purported to be such, and in every imaginable variety of costume. I have seen them of all sizes and shapes, of both sexes and all ages. I say seen them, because that is just what I mean. True, the light has been dim, very dim, and I have not been able to recognise the features of a single face. I could not even swear to the lineaments of certain of my own personal friends who presented themselves. But, for all that, practice has so trained my faculties that I am able to distinguish the salient points of difference between figures. I have no trouble, for instance, in recognising the aged from the young, the dark from the light or white-haired, European from Indian, Asiatic and African dresses, marked contrasts in stature and bulk, and especially whites from negroes.'

In the book there are numerous descriptions and illustrations of happenings during these 'manifestation' séances. The voices of several of the known spirits were heard in conversation in the cabinet. One evening seventeen spirits appeared, all whites on this occasion. There were two babies, three small children, five women, young and old, and seven adult males. The smallest child bowed and curtsied to its mother in reply to her question as to its identity.

Weighing the Spirits

Col. Olcott, as well as measuring the height of the spirits, had them stand on a platform weighing machine. Honto stood on the scale on one occasion and it registered 138lbs according to Mr. Pritchard who was on the platform. He, it transpired, had misjudged the size of the weight on the scale so that in fact Honto had weighed only 88lbs. On being asked to make herself lighter, she was weighed again, and the machine showed 58lbs. Another time the beam showed 68lbs with her on the platform and without any change of clothing. She was certainly not insubstantial.

On another occasion he asked Honto to make herself weightless and then step onto a plunger-type mechanical bell. The bell did not ring. Then he asked her to tap it with her foot and to her evident amusement it rang. She repeated the performance for fun.

One evening in a light circle, Olcott rigged up a spring balance. One end was fastened to the rail of the platform and the other made available to hands issuing between the shawls. Dix, the sailor, pulled out the balance to 40lbs on one occasion and 50lbs on another. He indicated he could have pulled 100 lbs more if the apparatus would have stood it.

An apparently stock 'trick' in the Eddy circle was one in materialising a heavy iron ring. 'A member of the audience and Horatio hold hands so as to form a closed circuit. Of a sudden an iron ring forms round the medium's arm and then falls over the wrist of his audience assistant. As the ring is completed round Horatio's arm the assistant can feel a sudden spasm in him. The ring is made to disappear by a reversal of this process.'

Materialisation sessions were held both out of doors, at a peculiarly suitable place they called Honto's cave, where Santum and others appeared, and in the sitting-room of the house. This latter was used at Olcott's request because the 'cabinet' then used was in fact an interior room under the stairs, used as a farm labourer's bedroom, which had no window or opening apart from the door into the living room. Before the séance, the room was emptied of everything and examined by Olcott. The same familiar spirits presented themselves, including Honto who materialised a shawl, 'in the light, in the open night in front of, and near to, all the audience.' Mrs. Eaton, who had previously been just a voice, now appeared and spoke to Olcott.

At other séances a number of remarkable spirits appeared. One was, for example, the Witch of the Mountain, 'old and decrepit' who 'usually has to sit in a chair while discoursing to us. Her black eye gleams with intelligence and a fiery resolution and her voice, although pitched in a high falsetto, has the ring of command in its penetrating tones.' She once had William throw a dipper full of water on a chip fire out in the open and it flared up as if fed with oil or alcohol. She turned charcoal into stones and produced large bright gemstones.

"Eccentric Character"

Col. Olcott records that on the 14th October 'a Russian lady of distinguished birth and rare educational and natural endowments' arrived at Chittenden and in the Colonel's view, her arrival 'was an important event in the history of the Chittenden manifestations.' It should be noted that these words were written in late December 1874 or early January 1875, nearly eleven months before the Theosophical Society was founded.

This lady was, as he then styled her, Madame Helen P. de Blavatsky who, he says, 'has led a very eventful life, travelling in most of the lands of the Orient' The adventures she has encountered, the strange people she has seen, the perils by sea and land she has passed through, would make one of the most romantic stories ever told by a biographer. In the whole course of my experience I never met so interesting and, if I may say it without offence, eccentric a character.' He then went into some details concerning her family and connections.

She attended the séances on the evening of her arrival and the spirit of a Michalko Guegidze appeared. She recognized him as the servant of Mme. Witte; a relative of her own, who had waited on her in Kütais. In the following light circle his hand appeared through the curtain. On his wrist was a bracelet of yellow amber beads such as was traditionally worn in his country. It would have been exceeding unlikely for the medium, Horatio, to have had such a bracelet but apart from that Madame B. recognised the hand because of some other peculiarity. She then asked Michalko in Russian and Georgian languages, which no one else present knew, to play some of his local traditional music on a guitar provided for the spirits. He played two pieces which Mme. B. and Mr. Lenzberg, the musician, transcribed for Col. Olcott and which he reproduced in his book.

The next evening the spirit of a wealthy merchant, Hassan Agba, of Tifflis came to Mme. Blavatsky. Another spirit was that of an old family nurse who had had charge of her and her Sister in early childhood. She advanced towards the lady and, after making a respectful salutation said something to her in her native tongue. ...'

On another occasion a Khurd warrior materialised. He was the spirit of one Safar Ali Bek, who had once been detailed as the lady's personal escort. Ali Bek appeared from the cabinet empty handed but attired in his traditional garb, with a sword at his side and daggers in his belt. 'Then, suddenly, he held in his right hand the most curious-looking weapon I ever saw. It was a spear with a shaft that might have been a dozen feet in length (perhaps more, for the butt seemed to extend into the cabinet).'

"Astonishing Spiritual Feat"

And so, the wonders went on and on with materializations, spirits discoursing, family reunions, spirit writing, all quite remarkable. Amongst the most remarkable, however, was the following: 'But I doubt if any circle ever witnessed a more astonishing spiritual feat than that which I am about to relate.'

'The evening of October 24th was as bright as day with the light of the moon and, while there was a good deal of moisture in the air, the atmospheric conditions would, I suppose, have been regarded as favourable for manifestations. In the dark-circle, as soon as the light was extinguished, George Dix, addressing Mme. de B. said: "Madame, I am now about to give you a test of the genuineness of the manifestations in this circle, which I think will satisfy not only you, but a skeptical world beside. I shall place in your hands the buckle of a medal of honour worn in life by your brave father and buried with his body in Russia. This has been brought to you by your uncle, whom you have seen materialised this evening." '

Presently, I heard the lady utter an exclamation and, a light being struck, we all saw Mme. de B. holding in her hand a silver buckle of a most curious shape, which she regarded with speechless wonder.'

'When she recovered herself a little, she announced that this buckle had, indeed, been worn by her father, with many other decorations, that she identified this particular article by the fact that the point of the pin had been carelessly broken off by herself many years ago.' ... 'As to the authenticity of this present, so mysteriously received, she possessed ample proof, in a photo graphic copy of her father's oil portrait, in which this very buckle appears, attached to its own ribbon and medal.'

In writing the book Col. Olcott is, at first, obviously concerned that more people should see and investigate these spirit phenomena. He sees them, amongst other things, as being of immense practical consolation to the bereaved. Later, there seem to be growing doubts as to the real nature of the manifestations and of the powers and forces producing them. He questions various theories. It is significant that Mme. Blavatsky did not, at this time, give any of the explanations which she later gave many times in her voluminous writings, mostly in those now gathered together in her Collected Writings edited by Mr. Boris de Zirkoff.

Col. Olcott finished his book with an account of his investigation of the mediums Holmes. They had been accused of fraud in connection with the materialization of a famous spirit, Katie King. In this account we are introduced to John King, alias Henry Morgan, buccaneer, and we begin to get the impression that greater powers than 'spirits' were behind this spate of wonderful spiritualistic phenomena. There is also little doubt that it was intended to compel attention and open-minded investigation.


This document has been reproduced from Geoffrey Farthing's digital copy created in 2002, and currently in the archive material of The Blavatsky Trust. The Blavatsky Trust 2013
Button to return to top