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Fancher, Mollie - Blindsight the tests



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Friar Herbert Thurston - The Physical Phenomenon of Mysticism

Perhaps the most satisfactory evidence preserved to us regarding Mollie Fancher's strange powers of vision and in particular her faculty of reading sealed documents, is contained in certain communications of a Mr. Henry Parkhurst who wrote to the New York Herald when the case was being discussed by the American Press in 1828. Mr. Parkhurst was a scientist of some standing, and a little later held an official position in connection with the observatory of Harvard University. He and his wife lived near Miss Fancher at Brooklyn and were welcome visitors in Mollie's sickroom. In the earlier stages of the case-the year, to be precise, was 1867-while the poor paralytic was still unable to speak, Mr. Parkhurst devised a crucial experiment to test her alleged power of reading without the use of the organs of vision.

A slip of printed paper, so chosen at random that neither Mr Parkhurst himself nor any other person knew its contents, was given to the blind girl in a carefully sealed envelope, precautions being taken against fraudulent opening. As Mollie at that time could neither speak nor even write, she communicated laboriously by knocks, spelling out single words letter by letter as the alphabet was called aloud.

"Consequently," says Mr. Parkhurst, "all that was expected or desired of her was so much of an indication of the content of the printed slip as should be absolutely beyond guessing or chance."

 She first intimated that the slip was about "Court." She next read the word "jurisdiction,” stating positively that the word was there. Finally, she notified that the cutting contained the figures 6, 2, 3, 4. This Mr. Parkhurst regarded as sufficient information for his purpose, for, as he explains,

 "I had no idea that there were any figures on the slip and should have guessed that there were not. The letter was returned to me with the seal intact and was opened in my presence. The word "Court" occurs four times, jurisdiction once, and there are the figures 6, 2, 3,4, 5, and no other figures."

The cutting, he explains, was taken from the printed draft of a bill before the Maryland Constitutional Convention. Mr. Parkhurst had no notion that there were likely to be numbers on the slip he had submitted.

"It was not," he writes, "until the envelope was opened and found to contain section 6 with the lines numbered 2,3,4, 5, that the idea occurred to me that the line numbers could possibly have been upon the slip."

 The details furnished by Mr. Parkhurst are somewhat too copious for quotation in full, but he states clearly that the account printed in the New York Herald on November 30, 1878, was copied by him from documents drawn up and witnessed at the time, and also that the printed slip used for the test was still in his possession.

An editorial comment was appended to these communications. It seems thoroughly to endorse the trustworthiness of the experiment, and begins as follows:

Professor Parkhurst's interesting letter detailing an attempt to test the clairrvoyant powers of Miss Fancher ... is the most important paper yet called forth by the discussion of the case. It seems hardly probable that a man of scientific bent and methodical business habits, as the writer of the letter is known to be, could have been deceived at any stage of the experiment, the details of which he gives so minutely to the public.


It is noteworthy that the publicity given to Miss Fancher's case by the newspaper discussion of 1878-it was, in fact, carried on in several other journals besides the New York Herald- was extremely distasteful to the invalid herself. Mr. Parkhurst, for example, remarks in his letter:

 "these publications have been thus far made without the consent and against the wishes of Miss Fancher and her friends; and as one of her friends I shall continue to keep silence with reference to the physical aspects of the case."

He adds, however, that he had obtained her permission to make known the facts of the test he had carried out, because

 "it demonstrates, as it seems to me, so far as it is possible for a single experiment to demonstrate a general principle, that there may be a clairvoyance independent of mind-reading."

The source of the experience

Fancher, Mollie

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Science Items

Activities and commonsteps