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Observations placeholder

Patrick Proctor Alexander - Spiritualism: A Narrative with a Discussion – 02 The first intimations of spirit presence, chilly winds and faint rappings



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience


The table at which we sat down was an ordinary round drawing-room tea-table, solidly built, and thus of considerable weight, resting on a central stem, which branched at the base into three feet. The number of the party was nine ; and as certain of the ladies were somewhat expansively dressed, there was at first a little difficulty as to all of us being accommodated. To solve this, I proposed that, without taking active part in the Seance, I should look on as an outside spectator. This arrangement seemed adjudged by Mr. Home inadmissible, either for me or another; and there was some hint of one of the ladies (already familiar with the phenomena) having to leave the room.

Presently, however, by some ductility of arrangement, and compression of elastic bodies, we all found ourselves more or less comfortably seated, with our hands deposited before us on the table.

Distinctly, however, Mr. Home seemed to object to the presence of any observer outside the circle of those seated with him at table, and thus exercising a disengaged supervision.

This, at the time, I mentally noted as point of suspicion ; and as such, I in fairness think it well to make note of it, for behoof of the reader, who may assign to it what weight he pleases.

In my own mind, a soupcon of suspicion still clings to it ; but I attach to it no great importance, on the ground that, supposing everything to have taken place as it did it is not clear to me how, as outside observer, I should have had any facilities for detection of supposed imposture not to the full accorded me, as at the table, and occasionally under it.

……the little difficulty, as I said, was got over, and we found ourselves fairly en stance, with our hands before us on the table. Thus for some little time we sat, solemn, and for the most part silent ; and as nothing whatever took place, I confess I began to feel — as one so very often must in Society — a little like a fool among fools. Mr. Home then remarked that perhaps nothing was going to happen. At no time, he said, could he be certain — his will being in the matter quite powerless — that manifestations would take place. But in any case, he continued, it was no use taking the matter thus au serieux ; and he suggested that, without the least risk of offence to the Spirits, and consequent continued alienation of them, some light and easy talk might go on. The ‘topics of the day' were accordingly taken up, and carelessly bandied about, as at any ordinary party. And here it may be well to remark, that it was only in this preliminary stage of the proceedings that there was anything to be called solemnity.

Afterwards, when the Spirits of the just made perfect — as undoubtedly some of us believed — put themselves in close communion with us, we contrived to maintain a hilarity, not to say levity, of mood, which, had I seriously shared that belief, would have seemed to me but scant edifying.

The first hint or foreshine we had of the phenomena came in the form of certain tremors which began to pervade the apartment. These were of a somewhat peculiar kind ; and they gradually increased till they became of considerable violence. Not only did the floor tremble, but the chair of each person, as distinct from it, was felt to rock and — as we Scots , say — dirl under him. Meantime that Mr. Home produced, or could produce, these tremors, sitting quiet as he did like the rest of us, there was no evidence to show ; though that somehow he may have produced them, it would seem to me hazardous to deny, or decline to admit.

Presently some of us became conscious, or supposed they did, of ice-cold blasts of air drifting across their hands.

“Oh ! don't you feel it ? don't you feel it ?” would one person say to another ; and most of those at the table professed to feel distinctly these wafts of air and chill sensation. For my own part, I felt nothing of the kind ; neither did my friend Dr. Findlater. Once only it seemed I did feel something of the sort ; but it was so dim a ghost of sensation, that I could not at the moment determine (and cannot, of course, now) whether it was felt, or merely imagined, per infection from those about me……….

(Of my two friends referred to later, the one assures me he felt these chill sensations with a distinctness quite unmistakeable ; the other, that in his case they were felt to almost positive pain of refrigeration. I see no reason whatever to question the testimony of either. )

And on coming to inquire as to the cause of these effects of chill, to which my credence must be given, I find myself in a state of entire puzzlement. Supposing them phenomena of real sensation, how could Mr Home have induced them? How if not induced by Mr. Home, could they be at all induced ? I can form no theory of my own, either way ; and should be glad if any philosopher would furnish me with one to consider of.

The source of the experience

Home, D. D.

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items


Activities and commonsteps



Being left handed
Inherited genes