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Observations placeholder

Andrew Lang - The Strange Case of Daniel Dunglas Home - The affair of Sir David Brewster and Lord Brougham



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

The Strange Case of Daniel Dunglas Home – Andrew Lang

After attracting a good deal of notice in New York, Home, on April 9, 1855, turned up at Cox's Hotel, Jermyn Street, where Mr. Cox gave him hospitality as a non-'paying guest.' Now occurred the affair of Sir David Brewster and Lord Brougham. Both were capable of hallucinations.

Lord Brougham published an account of a common death-bed wraith, which he saw once while in a bath (the vision coincided with the death of the owner of the wraith), and Sir David's daughter tells how that philosopher saw that of the Rev. Mr. Lyon, in St. Leonard's College, St. Andrews, a wraith whose owner was in perfect health.

 Sir David sent letters, forming a journal, to his family, and, in June (no day given) 1855, described his visit to Home. He says that he, Lord Brougham, Mr. Cox, and Home sat down

'at a moderately sized table, the structure of which we were invited to examine. In a short time the table shuddered and a tremulous motion ran up our arms.... The table actually rose from the ground, when no hand was upon it. A larger table was produced, and exhibited similar movements. An accordion was held in Lord Brougham's hand, and gave out a single note.... A small hand-bell was then laid with its mouth on the carpet, and after lying for some time, it actually rang when nothing could have touched it. The bell was then placed upon the other side, still upon the carpet, and it came over to me, and placed itself in my hand. It did the same to Lord Brougham. These were the principal experiments: we could give no explanation of them, and could not conjecture how they could be produced by any kind of mechanism.... We do not believe that it was the work of spirits.'

So Sir David wrote in a private letter of June 1855, just after the events. But the affair came to be talked about, and, on September 29, 1855, Sir David wrote to The Morning Advertiser. He had seen, he said, 'several mechanical effects which I was unable to explain.... But I saw enough to convince myself that they could all be produced by human feet and hands,' though he also, in June, 'could not conjecture how they could be produced by any kind of mechanism.'

Later, October 9, Sir David again wrote to the newspaper. This time he said that he might have discovered the fraud, had he 'been permitted to take a peep beneath the drapery of the table.' But in June he said that he 'was invited to examine the structure of the table.' He denied that 'a large table was moved about in a most extraordinary way.' In June he had asserted that this occurred. He declared that the bell did not ring. In June he averred that it rang 'when nothing could have touched it.' In October he suggested that machinery attached to 'the lower extremities of Mr. Home's body' could produce the effects: in June 'we could not conjecture how they could be produced by any kind of mechanism.'

On Sir David's death, his daughter and biographer, Mrs. Gordon, published (1869) his letter of June 1855.

Home then scored rather freely, as the man of science had denied publicly, in October 1855, what he had privately written to his family in June 1855, when the events were fresh in his memory. This was not the only case in which 'a scientist of European reputation did not increase his reputation' for common veracity in his attempts to put down Home.

The source of the experience

Home, D. D.

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps