Debunkers maintain the fiction that large-scale psychic phenomena are all tricks and point to the many frauds who have been caught cheating. However they omit to mention those cases that were investigated by honest skeptics, specialists in detecting fraud, and found to be genuine.
One person in particular, who was investigated extensively by expert debunkers and scientists alike, produced some of the most remarkable phenomena on record and was never found to be dishonest or fraudulent in any way. Even to this day this extraordinary man is considered by all (except, of course, those who choose to close their eyes to anything outside of their narrow, mechanistic world view) to be absolutely genuine.
Daniel Dunglas (“D.D.”) Home (pronounced “Hume”) was the seventh son of a Scottish couple of modest means living in Edinburgh at the time of his birth in 1833. He was raised by his aunt, a Mrs. Cook, who emigrated to Norwich, Connecticut when he was a child. Evidently his mother had some psychic abilities that included clairvoyant and precognitive visions and, according to Home, his aunt told him that he too began having them at the age of four.
In his autobiography, Incidents in My Life, he reported that shortly after his mother’s death he heard “loud blows” on the head of his bed, as if it had been “struck by a hammer.” The following morning he and his aunt were startled by loud raps sounding from the breakfast table. His terrified aunt, jumping to the usual conclusion, believed them to be manifestations of the devil and summoned two clergymen to try to exorcise the evil spirit. Their efforts were in vain for not only did the raps continue but objects began to move about the room seemingly of their own accord.
His aunt believed that these were Satan’s doing (Home believed them to be God’s work) and when they didn’t stop, she threw him out of her house. He was 18.
D.D.HOME’S FAME SPREADS
By now, of course, word of the reports of his talent had spread and, although he never asked for direct payment or assistance, people came forward inviting him to live in their homes where he would hold séances and demonstrate his powers. These demonstrations must have been quite impressive in that they were nearly all conducted not in the dark but in good light with Home sitting among the observers rather than hidden out of sight behind curtains.
The following year—he was only 19—a group of men including a Harvard professor and the poet William Jennings Bryant reported on their investigation of a sitting he gave at the home of his benefactor. They reported that the heavy table moved “with great force” in all directions with no apparent cause and forced against them so that they and their chairs were moved several feet. Two of them tried to push it back but couldn’t.
The table also was seen to “rise clear of the floor, and to float in the atmosphere for several seconds, as if sustained by some denser medium than air.”
The men even sat on the table but it continued to float, rock, balance itself on two legs for some thirty seconds and then move around with the men sitting on it.
D.D. HOME’S EARTHQUAKE EFFECT
The most startling happening of the evening was an effect unique to Home. In their words:
Occasionally we were made conscious of the occurrence of a powerful shock, which produced a vibratory motion of the floor of the apartment in which we were seated—it seemed like the motion occasioned by distant thunder or the firing of ordnance far away—causing the table, chairs, and other inanimate objects, and all of us to tremble in such a manner that the effects were both seen and felt.”
This earthquake effect was to be experienced by many people in houses and palaces all over Europe, most of which Home had never stepped into before the evening of his demonstration.
Not only did Home cause objects to rise and float or fly slowly through the air, he himself levitated. In his younger days he was reported to rise up to the high ceilings of a large house. The rooms were dark but his form could be seen silhouetted against windows as he rose and floated past. He was handed up a pencil so that he could mark the ceiling to prove he was there.
Another report, verified by reliable witnesses, was of his floating out of a window, feet first, turning in mid-air and coming back in the same way.
Later in life, under the eyes of sophisticated observers, in the Crookes home for instance, he was seen to rise. Crookes tells us that there were at least a hundred recorded instances of Home’s rising from the ground “in the presence of as many separate persons.” He himself observed this phenomenon three times, once while Home was sitting in an easy chair, once kneeling on his chair, and once standing up.
WIKIPEDIA’S ATTEMPTS AT DISCREDITING HOME
Of course, the people at Wikipedia attempt to “debunk” these reports with their usual distortions, insinuations and “explanations” of how it might be done. They pounce on the least documented of Home’s feats, the levitation in and out of a window, to cast doubts on his abilities.
They present “possible explanations” of how he might have performed his “alleged” levitations, completely ignoring the facts reported by reliable witnesses over a period of many years and under varying conditions. However, no magician has been able to duplicate Home’s feats under the same controlled conditions and close scrutiny of Sir William Crookes and his teams of observers. Moreover, contrary to their allegations, and despite what they claim, Home was never found to be cheating or fraudulent. The men Wikipedia quotes to the contrary are or were all arch skeptics or had some personal animosity toward Home.
For instance they mention Robert Browning’s nasty poem “Mr. Sludge the Medium” without giving any background information. What happened was that Browning, a celebrated dramatist and poet, was affronted when a disembodied hand at a Home séance they both attended in Ealing, crowned his wife, poet Elizabeth Barrett, with a laurel wreath, an honor Browning most likely felt he deserved.
At that time, Browning was annoyed that the public was less interested in his work than in his role as husband to the popular and much lauded Elizabeth. He was no doubt filled with envy and resentment at Home’s (or the phantom’s) gesture. His attitude was not helped by Elizabeth’s admiration and defense of the medium. She gave a detailed and vivid account of the phenomena they experienced, believed Home was a genuine medium and praised him, which further infuriated her husband.
DOTH THE GENTLEMAN PROTEST TOO MUCH?
Browning’s inordinate loathing of Home and his insults and slights when they encountered each other socially seem to have been generated by more than just believing the medium was a phony. He carried his grudge for years belittling Home publicly at every chance even calling him “effeminate,” an implication of homosexuality, which was a crime in England at the time. I would say that his judgment as to Home’s credibility was not reliable. Five years after the Ealing séance the conservative satirical publication Punch, championing Browning, published disparaging cartoons deriding séances and mediumship. One portrays Elizabeth as a goose being crowned by some kind of mechanical hand.
Browning was evidently still disgruntled nine years after the fateful séance when he published “Mr. Sludge,” which has been called “an exercise in casuistry for its own sake,” and his accusations in it said to “appear gratuitously sordid.” (p.1)
You will not find that back-story in Wikipedia’s article.
You might notice, too, that Home’s detractors don’t even mention, let alone try to explain, phenomena such as the “earthquake effect” or Home’s ability to handle red-hot coals with his bare hands and transfer that ability to other people or to objects, like a linen handkerchief.
DID D.D.HOME ALTER THE GRAVITATIONAL FIELD?
Not only did the tables Home levitated rise into the air, they often tilted. Sometimes these were heavy dining tables laden with dishes, glasses, cutlery, etc. What was striking was that when they tilted nothing fell off.
Pauline, Princess Metternich-Sandor, made an observation I consider very important. She reported that a candlestick was placed on a small table with the candle lit. “Now this small table started moving, raising, dancing, then tilting sideways so that under normal circumstances every object on top would have fallen down. Yet …the candlestick did not fall down, moreover the flame, instead of burning vertically upwards, inclined by the same angle as the table.” (my emphasis)
This phenomenon illustrates to me, as do many of his other feats, that Home must have been altering the gravitational field, just in that area, in some way.
The same sort of phenomenon was observed in the “flights” of Joseph of Copertino (see a video of discussion of Joseph of Copertino). When he, in an ecstatic trance, rose up outdoors landing in a tree it was as if he were in a bubble. His garments, which should have been moving with the breeze, remained still. When he rose inside the church and landed on the altar amid candles he wasn’t burned or affected by them in any way.
You may read many more details of Home’s feats and Crooke’s experiments in
Rosemarie Pilkington, The Spirit of Dr. Bindelof: The Enigma of Seance Phenomena, Anomalist Books.
Ref: Isobel Armstrong, Victorian Poetry, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Winter, 1964), pp. 1-9 (9 pages) Published By: West Virginia University Press.