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Observations placeholder

Gambier Bolton, Robert – A typical materialisation séance with all its stages and Precautions Against Fraud



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Ghosts in solid form – Gambier Bolton

We are now ready to see what happens at a typical experimental meeting for these materialisations, at hundreds of which I have assisted, and having the services of no less than six Sensitives placed at my disposal for this purpose. I will endeavour to describe what I should consider to be an ideal one, held under ideal (test) conditions.

Our imaginary test meeting is to be carried out — as it was on one occasion in London — in an entirely empty house, which none of us have ever entered before, a house which we will hire for this special event. By doing this we may feel sure that all possibility of fraud, so far as the use of secret trap-doors, large mirrors, and other undesirable things of that description are concerned, can be successfully thwarted.

I would ask you to bear in mind that we are about to take part in A Purely Scientific Experiment; and, whether I weary you with my descriptions or not, I intend to take just as elaborate precautions against trickery, so far as the room in which this imaginary meeting is to take place is concerned, as if I were at work getting a room ready for an actual test meeting ; for I intend to leave no possible loop-hole for fraud, otherwise our time will be wasted.

And I am going to take equally elaborate precautions to prevent trickery on the part of those attending this meeting, either as Sitters or Sensitive, treating one and all alike, however harsh this treatment may seem to be.

But in, a matter of such gravity I can trust no one, but must assume that every person attending the meeting is capable of assisting in the production of fraudulent phenomena — Sitters and Sensitive alike — and I shall take such preliminary precautions as will render trickery absolutely impossible by anyone present at this imaginary meeting.

Harsh as it may seem, it is the only possible attitude for an open-minded investigator to assume in a matter of such vital importance as this ; one which strikes down to the very roots of our existence as human beings, the origin and the — possible— continuity of life ; to the very roots of our social and legal systems; to the very roots of our various religions. For we must bear in mind that, during this experiment, we are to deal with a certain alleged fact, the possibility of entities from another sphere returning to earth in visible, tangible bodies; reasoning, thinking entities who are able to tell us of their life in other spheres; who proclaim the falsity of much that we regard as sacred — and we must therefore demand the most stringent tests that human ingenuity can devise, in order that we may be able to prove the truth or the falsity of the alleged fact. No other course is possible, in my opinion, for the investigator who is entering for the first time upon this little-known field of research.

Such vast numbers of persons, such incredible numbers, attended the experimental meetings which I instituted in London for the examination of this alleged fact — persons from all parts of Great Britain ; all parts of Europe, Canada, and the Americas; from far-off Japan, China, Burmah, India, Africa, Australia, and other portions of the world; persons in all stations of life, from those closely and intimately connected with the royal family; members of the royal household; distinguished soldiers like Field-Marshal Lord Wolseley, General Carrington, General Sir Alfred Turner, General Gordon and Colonel Valentine Gordon — both relatives of the great General Gordon, — and numerous other officers of the highest rank ; distinguished sailors like my friend Vice- Admiral Usborne Moore — a painstaking and highly critical investigator, who witnessed his first materialisations at these meetings; great physicians from Harley Street, London, and elsewhere, including the distinguished head of the Army Medical Department, Surgeon-General Fawcett; members of the diplomatic services from nearly every civilised nation on earth ; officials from the Treasury, the Foreign Office, the India Office, the Colonial Office, and the War Office; members of the House of Lords, members of the House of Commons — of all the many known shades of political opinion; great journalists like W. T. Stead, and many others from different parts of the world; great writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John Oliver Hobbes (Mrs Craigie), Florence Marryat, and many others ; great scientists like Signor Marconi ; celebrated ecclesiastics of almost every degree, and holding innumerable creeds and dogmas (some of them carefully disguised as laymen, and passing under assumed names) ; well-known actors and actresses ; well-known musicians, singers, artists, and architects ; men and women of all kinds, each in his or her own way what the world terms "celebrities," with many hundreds of others who make no claim to that title — such an incredible number of persons attended our experimental meetings in London that it is quite possible that out of that vast number you yourself may have attended one or more of them, and may be thinking that at the meetings to which you were admitted the conditions were not nearly so elaborately thought out, the tests were not nearly so stringent, as those which I am about to impose upon the Sitters and the Sensitive at the imaginary one in which we are now about to take part.

That is quite possible ; for at the ordinary experimental meetings held by my three societies, the conditions imposed were widely different to those insisted upon at our test meetings — such as those held with Florrie Cook (Mrs Comer), which were strictly confined not only to members, but to specially selected members.

I would ask you to remember too that I am not describing the conditions imposed or the results obtained at any particular meeting at which I was present; but rather the conditions which I consider should be provided, and the precautions against trickery which I consider ought to be taken in a really scientifically carried out experiment for materialisations.

• •••••

Having all met together at an appointed hour in the hall of the empty house which we have hired for the night — all, that is, with the exception of the Sensitive, who is not permitted to enter the house until half an hour later — it is put to the vote as to which room shall be used for this meeting; and as soon as that is settled, we all walk up to, and into, it together, and find ourselves in a large and lofty room on the second floor absolutely empty.

Looking out of the window we see that there is a sheer drop of (say) fifty feet to the street below, and, as there are no houses anywhere in its immediate proximity, we are satisfied that it is altogether impossible for any person to either enter or leave the room by the window.

Turning our attention to the room itself, we see that there are four bare walls, with a gas-bracket fitted into one of them, a ceiling, a fireplace, and a solid floor. These must be critically examined first by an expert, and next the means of entrance to and exit from the room — the door, window, and fireplace.

I have purposely included amongst the Sitters a well-known London doctor, an equally well-known London architect — both extremely sceptical, as they actually were at one time, as to the possibility of obtaining results unless fraud was introduced, — and also two persons who have developed to a high degree their powers of second-sight (clairvoyance or clear-seeing), and shall make great use of them all during the meeting, as I frequently did when experimenting in London.

We hand the key of the room to you, and all, with the exception of the architect and yourself, then leave the room, it being your duty to watch the architect carefully whilst he carries out a critical professional examination of the empty room. He will then draw up a report, which you will both sign, saying that in your opinion the room is not " prepared ' In any way, but is in a perfectly normal state.

You then unlock the door and hand out the signed report; and we at once pass in to you seventeen chairs, a large photographic lamp (with a piece of india-rubber tubing, for you to attach from the lamp to the gas-bracket as fitted in the wall of the room), a strong wooden cover which fits tightly into the fireplace (with long screws and a screw-driver to enable you to fasten it securely in position), a piece of dark-coloured cloth or baize for you to nail up over the window (with a hammer and nails) so as to exclude all actinic light, and we push in a small harmonium and a music-stool.

Directly these are handed to you, you lock the door, and the architect joins with you in a close examination of each article ; and when you are both satisfied that none of the articles are "prepared" in any way, you draw up a second report which you both sign, stating that nothing whatever is, or can possibly be, concealed in them. You then both come out of the room, locking the door behind you and keeping the key in your possession.

Having thus dealt with the room, and every article inside the room in which our experiment is to be conducted, we now proceed to deal with each person who intends to be present during the experiment — the doctor, the architect, you yourself, and I myself, with the remainder of the Sitters, men and women alike, one and all being treated in exactly the same way, however harsh it may seem, for in a matter of such importance as this we can trust no one.

The doctor takes each Sitter alone into an adjoining room. Every article of clothing is removed in each case, and the doctor then makes a careful examination to see that the person has nothing in his or her possession concealed about their bodies, or in their clothing, which could be used in assisting to produce fraudulent phenomena. At the conclusion of this searching examination, the Sitter is permitted to dress, and you then show him (or her) into the empty room, you yourself unlocking the door to admit them and locking it after them.

The Sensitive now arrives at the house, and is met by the doctor, who takes him into the adjoining room and at once carries out a searching examination of the Sensitive's body.

His clothes are taken away from him, and, at the conclusion of the search, he is lent a complete outfit for the evening, in case he should haye secret pockets in his own clothing. If the Sensitive is a woman she is treated in exactly the same way; and, after her clothing has been taken away from her, she is lent, not only a black dress, but a complete set of black underclothing for use during the experiment, even her white pocket-handkerchief being taken from her before she enters the room, so that she cannot possibly masquerade as an entity clad in white draperies. .

When the search is over, and the change of clothing has been completed, you unlock the door, and the Sensitive is admitted to the room for the first time.

All are now in the room with the exception of the doctor; and it is then put to the vote as to who shall pass out and carefully examine the doctor, and only this Sitter is permitted to go out of the room. On the completion of the examination, the doctor and the Sitter return to the room, and the door is finally locked and bolted, you retaining the key during the whole evening.

The large gas-lamp on the mantelpiece has of course been lit previous to this, and the flame is now turned up fully. The Sensitive takes his seat on a chair placed in a comer of the room furthest away from the door, the window, and the fireplace; the Sitters placing their sixteen chairs in a half-circle round him, so that he can only escape from his chair into the room by climbing over the Sitters.

The architect is then given strips of gummed paper and a stylographic pen. He and you paste these strips round the door, the window, and the fireplace, writing on the strips of paper any word or words selected by yourselves and known only to you, so that, in the event of their being tampered with, you would be able to see at once that the paper had been broken.

One of the Sitters, who is a musician, takes his seat temporarily at the harmonium, and commences to play suitable music, and we are locked and sealed ready to start our experiment ; the general feeling of all those in the room being that every possible precaution against trickery has been taken, and that if any results of any kind whatever should follow they will undoubtedly be genuine.

The Sitters having been allotted their seats, so that a person of a positive and a person of a negative temperament shall be seated together, we now join hands, and form ourselves into what we are told is a powerful human battery ; the two persons sitting at the two ends of the half-circle having of course each one hand free : and from the free hands of these two persons, it is said, the power developed and given off by this human battery passes into the Sensitive at each of his sides.

Sitting quietly in our chairs and talking gently amongst ourselves, we soon feel a cool breeze blowing across our hands. In another two minutes this will have so increased in volume that it may with truth be described as a strong wind.

On looking at the Sensitive now, we see that he is rapidly passing into a state of trance — his head is drooping on one side, his arms and hands hang downwards loosely, his body being in a limp real trance condition, and just in the right state for use by any entity desiring to work through him, we are told.

I have only experimented with one Sensitive who did not pass into trance, but, seated amongst the Sitters, he remained in a perfectly normal condition during the whole of the experiment ; watching the materialised forms building up beside him, and talking to and with them during the process. I shall refer to him shortly.

We now set our clairvoyantes to work, and the statements made by one must be confirmed in every detail by the statements of the other as to what is occurring at the moment, or no notice is taken of their remarks.

Both now report that they see a thin white mist or vapour  coming from the left side of the Sensitive, if a man (or from the pelvis, if a woman), which. passes into the Sitter at the end of the half-circle nearest to the Sensitive's left side. It then passes, they state, from Sitter No. 1 to Sitter No. 2, and so on, until it has gone through the whole of the sixteen Sitters, passing finally from the last one (No. 16) at the end of the half-circle nearest to the Sensitive's right side, and disappears into his right side.

We assume from this that the nerve force, magnetic power — call it what you will — necessary for the formation of one of these temporary bodies starts from the Sensitive, passes through each Sitter, drawing from each as much more force or power as he or she is capable of giving off at the moment, returning to the Sensitive greatly increased in its amount and ready for use in the next process.

This, then, we will term the first of the three stages in the evolution of an entity clad in a temporary body :

In a few moments our clairvoyantes both report that the force or power is issuing from the side of the Sensitive, if a man (or from the pelvis if a woman), in the form of a white, soft, dough-like substance, which on one occasion I was permitted to touch. I could perceive no smell given off by it; it felt cold and clammy, and appeared to have the consistency of heavy dough at the moment that I touched it.

This mass of dough-like substance is said to be the material used by the entities — one by one as a rule — who wish to build up a temporary body. It seems to rest on the floor, somewhere near the right side of the Sensitive, until required for use : its bulk depending apparently upon the amount of power given off by the Sitters from time to time during the experiment.

This we will term the second of the three stages of the evolution of an entity clad in a temporary body : The Solid, but Shapeless Stage.

We are told that the entity wishing to show himself to us passes into this shapeless mass of dough-like substance, which at once increases in bulk, and commences to pulsate and move up and down, swaying from side to side as it grows in height, the motive power being evidently underneath.

The entity then quickly sets to work to mould the mass into something resembling a human body, commencing with the head. The rest of the upper portion of the body soon follows, and the heart and pulse can now be felt to be beating quite regularly and normally, differing in this respect from those of the Sensitive, who, if tested at this time, will be found with both heart- and pulse-beats considerably below the normal. The legs and feet come last, and then the entity is able to leave the near neighbourhood of the Sensitive and to walk amongst the Sitters, The Third and Last Stage of its evolution being now complete.

Although occasionally the entity will appear clad in an exact copy of the clothing which he states that he wore when on earth — especially if it should happen to be something a little out of the common, such as a military or naval uniform — they are draped as a rule in flowing white garments of a wonderfully soft texture, and this too I have been permitted to handle.

Our clairvoyantes both affirm that at all times during the materialisation a thin band of, presumably, the dough-like substance can be plainly seen issuing from the side of the Sensitive, if a man (or from the pelvis, if a woman), and joined on to the centre of the body inhabited by the entity — just like the umbilical cord attached to a human infant at birth, — and we are instructed that this band cannot be stretched beyond a certain radius, say ten to fifteen feet, without doing harm to the Sensitive and to the entity : although cases are on record where materialisations have been seen at a distance of nearly sixty feet from the Sensitive, on occasions when the conditions were unusually favourable.

On handling different portions of the materialised body now, the flesh is found to be both warm and firm. The bodies are well proportioned, those of the females — for they take on sex conditions during the process — having beautiful figures ; and hands, arms, legs, and feet quite perfect in their modelling : but, in my opinion, the body, head, and limbs of every materialisation of either sex of any age which I have scrutinised at close quarters carefully, or have been permitted to handle, have appeared to be at least one-third smaller in size (except as regards actual height) than those possessed by beings on earth of the same sex and age.

Not only have we witnessed materialisations of aged entities of both sexes, showing all the characteristics of old age, for the purpose of identification by the Sitters, as they tell us — but we have seen materialised infants also; and on one occasion two still-born children appeared in our midst simultaneously, one of them showing distinct traces on its little face  of a hideous deformity which it possessed at the time of his premature birth — a deformity known only to the mother, who happened to be present that evening as one of the Sitters.

We are told that, for the purpose of identification, the entity will return to earth in an exact counterpart of the body which he alleges that he occupied at the time of his death, and in order that he may be recognised by his relatives and friends who happen to be present. Thus, the one who left the earth as an infant will appear in his materialised body as an infant, although he may have been dead for twenty or thirty years. The aged man or woman will appear with bent body, wrinkled face, and snow white hair, walking amongst us with difficulty, and just as they allege they did before their death, although that may have occurred twenty years before. The one who had lost a limb during his earth-life will return minus that limb; the one who was disfigured by accident or disease will return bearing distinct traces of that disfigurement for the purpose of identification only.

But as soon as the identification has been established successfully, all this changes instantly : the disfigurement disappears : the four limbs will be seen, and both the infant and the aged will from henceforth show themselves to us in the very prime of life— the young growing upwards and the aged downwards, as we say, and, as they one and all state emphatically, just as they really look and feel in the sphere in which they now exist.

While inhabiting these temporary bodies, they state that they take on, not only sex conditions, but earth conditions temporarily too : for they appear to feel pain if their bodies are injured in any way ; complain of the cold if the temperature of the room is allowed to fall much below sixty degrees, or of the heat if the temperature is allowed to rise above seventy degrees ; seem to be depressed during a thunderstorm, when our atmosphere is overcharged with electricity ; and appear bright and happy in a warm room when the world outside is in the grip of a hard frost, and also on bright, starry nights.

And not only this, but they take on strongly marked characteristics of the numerous races on earth temporarily too : the materialised entities of the white races differing quite as markedly from those of the yellow or brown races, as do these from the black races ; and in speaking to us each one will communicate in the particular language only which is characteristic of his race on earth.

Five, six, and even seven totally diflferent languages have been employed during a single experimental meeting through a Sensitive who had never in his life been out of England, and who was proved conclusively to know no other language than English : the latter number, we were told, being in honour of a ship's doctor who was present on one occasion, and who — although the fact was quite unknown to any of us at the time — ^proved to be an expert linguist, for he conversed that evening with different entities in English, French, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and in the language of one of the hill-tribes of India.

On another occasion, when I was the only European present at an afternoon experimental meeting held in London by eight Parsees of both sexes from Bombay, the whole of the time — two and a quarter hours — during which the meeting lasted the entities and the Parsee Sitters carried on their conversation in Hindustani ; two entities simultaneously and one of the Parsee men engaging in a heated controversy, which lasted for nearly three minutes, over the disposal of the bodies of their dead : the entities insisting on cremation only, as opposed to allowing the bodies to be eaten by vultures — the noise which they made during this discussion being almost deafening. The Sensitive, it was proved conclusively, knew no other language than English, and had only once been out of the British Islands, when he paid a short visit to France.

The source of the experience

Gambier Bolton, Robert

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