Foster, Charles H - The journalist from the Philadelphia Press
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Salem Seer – George Bartlett
Upon arriving in Philadelphia, the first city which we visited, we called on Col. Forney, editor of the Philadelphia Press, who knew Foster, and was interested in Spiritualism, Mrs. Forney being a thorough believer. We invited the Colonel to a seance at the Continental Hotel, with the request that he should write for the Press what he there witnessed. He declined the invitation, and did not seem at all anxious to write an article on Spiritualism. …. We then requested him to send a capable man from his paper. He finally consented, saying he would send the city editor, remarking that he was a thorough skeptic, and a sarcastic writer, and he thought probably that he would do us more harm than good. We replied that he was just the kind of a man we wished him to send ; all we desired of him was to write exactly what transpired , and his impressions of the seance. An appointment was made for four o'clock the next day.
The gentleman was promptly on hand. Mr. Foster was in especially- good form, and gave a very remarkable seance. …..The following is a part of his account of the seance which took place at the Continental Hotel, on the last day of March, 1873 :
"Well, sir" (with the usual brusquerie of the journalist, who has no time to lose in conventionalities, for the paper must go to press at a certain time)— "well, sir, let me grasp the situation at once, and I confess candidly that I have not even a scintilla of doubt as to the falsity of Spiritualism and its varied forms and phases of
HUMBUG AND JUGGLERY,
contrived and carried out for the purpose of entrapping the simple minded, credulous ones who are always willing to prove in their own persons the truth of ' the fools are not all dead yet. ' First, who are you, for I confess never to have heard of C. H. Foster? "
The gentleman smiled meaningly in answer to the first part of the abrupt address of the journalist, and his smile passed into a quiet laugh, as if at the ignorance of the speaker as to who he, Mr. Foster, was. Indeed, his remark followed the laugh ; turning to his friend, he said, ''I have not heard such charming naivete for many a long day. It is quite refreshing to be spoken to in this way."
Passing by the by -plays and spicy sparring which always arise between a skeptic and a believer on almost any subject, the party, now augmented to the number of five (for a stranger and also a friend of the journalist had come up in the meantime), passed up stairs to
" ROOM NO. 110."
The ordinary caparison of a room in a hotel, with the usual number of stands, and trunks, and chairs, etc., was noticed more for the absence of machinery, and juggler's boxes, and absurd tokens, and cards, and all the varied contrivances for imposing upon the credulity of people who usually sit at the feet of these mountebanks. We say these things were conspicuous by their absence ; still, the utter want of faith of the newspaper man was not shaken in the ability of the quiet, gentlemanly man to even guess, with any degree of accuracy, at commonplace occurrences of the past, or to foretell any more of the future than any man of ordinary judgment and a knowledge of men and things could do.
As the journalist approaches his subject more closely, he feels that his usual impersonality must be sometimes sunk as
HE RECITES HIS EXPERIENCES
for that one-half hour in that medium's room. These experiences are not simply strange, unaccountable, mysterious, or any of the words which denote the idea of things unaccounted for by natural causes ; they are simply " awful." The writer feels as though he were drifting into sacrilege in his endeavor to give or to conceive of an idea of the power of this man. When the reporter saw this man look back over long years of time and long miles of space, and down deep into the moldering dust of long-forgotten graves, and drag up to the clear light of the present noonday sun of Philadelphia thoughts from the inmost recesses of the heart of a woman who, in life, would hardly have confessed those thoughts to herself — when he saw the name of the woman and that of the man she loved (names which the inquirer had himself almost forgotten, time and circumstance having almost completely blotted them out of memory) — when he saw those names written in
PLAIN, DISTINCT CHARACTERS, '
in letters formed of the living blood at that moment coursing through the hand of Foster — he could not refrain from yielding to the impulse to cry out in ideal pain and awe-striking fear, stagger up from the table, and walk about the room till a modified calmness came to his excited feelings. And yet these were but the mere rudiments of the "art," if it may so be called ; but it may not be so called, even though the loss of a word leaves the sentence unfinished, for it was no "art" that enabled this man to read the events of the past and its dead, the present and its living ; to tell of deeds done years ago and forgotten by their actors, of thoughts conceived of at the passing moment and unshaped even in the brain of the thinker. It was no "art" that gave this man the power to look into the heart of a woman far away and tell her secret, which she had concealed religiously for years. It was no art ; it was — but the pen of the journalist refuses to write the impious thought, when he knows that he writes about the power of a mortal such as you and I and all of us are.
Mr. Foster spoke truth when he made the remark, "Mr. , I will reveal to you things that you would not dare publish ; they are too sacred ; they touch family, social, and heart relations too nearly even to be mentioned by the faintest allusion." And the listener paid the penalty for his skepticism and scoffing even to the uttermost farthing, such a penalty the amount of which he dare not publish.
IT IS "TOO SACRED."
The writer then proceeded to give a lengthy account of the seance.