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Observations placeholder

Home D. D. - Floats out of one window on the third floor at No 5, Buckingham Gate and in again at the furthermost window of the adjoining room



Type of Spiritual Experience


Friar Herbert Thurston was a Catholic priest, a member of the Jesuit order and an historian.  He wrote extensively on Catholic mysticism and psychic phenomena and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research.  He was also widely read on this subject.  He is described as ‘an honest skeptic’, and once said ‘the role of Devil’s advocate is a thankless one and does not make for popularity’.

A description of the experience

Friar Herbert Thurston - The Physical Phenomenon of Mysticism

Of course it is well known that from the days of Iamblichus, or earlier still, to those of D. D. Home the number of persons without any claim to saint-ship who are said to have been levitated, either by the agency of spirits or by forces magical or psychic, has been considerable.

One particular instance is especially famous, as it was attested by three witnesses, Lord Lindsay (afterwards the Earl of Crawford), Lord Adare (afterwards the Earl of Dunraven), and Captain Wynne, who affirmed their absolute conviction of the genuineness of the occurrence before a committee of the Dialectical Society and at other times.

On this occasion, December 13, 1868, Mr. Home is alleged to have floated out of one window on the third floor at No. 5, Buckingham Gate and in again at the furthermost window of the adjoining room.

The three gentlemen mentioned were all present, but the lights were very low; one of them afterwards said that he saw what happened by the light of the moon, but as there was a new moon on December 13th, this is impossible if the date is correct.

There seems no doubt, from all the accounts preserved, that the witnesses had been worked up to a high pitch of nervous excitement by Home's announcement of what he intended to do, and it must also be admitted that there are many discrepancies among the witnesses as to minor details.

The late Mr. F. Podmore, who had twice discussed the evidence at some length, delivered himself on the second occasion of the following general pronouncement:

Personally I find no difficulty whatever in explaining the whole of the recorded feats of levitation, whether of Home, Gordon, Eusapia (Palladino), or Stainton Moses, as simple instances of rather crude sense deception in which the sensory data played an extremely small part. All the favouring conditions are present - a dim light, subtle suggestion on the part of the medium and a considerable degree of emotional exaltation.

Mr. Podmore was a resolute sceptic, and it seems to me that there is much more difficulty about explaining the allegations made in the case of Home's many feats of this kind than the reader would infer from the words just quoted.

Nevertheless the points which Podmore makes are all good points. These feats were all performed in a subdued and uncertain light. They were all in some sense "staged "and led up to by suggestions of a rather dramatic kind. Hence the witnesses were in a state of expectant attention, and if we admit the possibility of any hypnotic influence being exerted by Home the conditions were in every way favourable.

The source of the experience

Home, D. D.

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items


Activities and commonsteps