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Gambier Bolton, Robert

Category: Scientist

Robert Gambier Bolton (24 August 1854 – 29 July 1928) was an English anthropologist, naturalist, author and photographer of subjects on natural history.   

He was a Fellow of The Royal Geographical Society; a Fellow of The Zoological Society, President of The Psychological Society, London, a Lecturer before The Royal Society (London) and the author of "A Book Of Beasts And Birds [1903]. 

He was also a founding member of the club devoted to Siamese cats, founded in England in 1901.

Gambier Bolton and Psychic investigation

Quite probably nobody has heard of him today, despite his distinguished career and exceptional photographs, but he holds a key role in any investigation of psychic phenomena as he was also – along with Charles Fort – one of the key evidence based researchers into apporting.  He was the author of "Psychic Force, An experimental investigation into a little known Power [1904]" and a key book with the snappy title of Ghosts in Solid Form: An Experimental Investigation of Certain Little-known Phenomena (Materialisations) published in 1919.

Ghosts in Solid Form  - FOREWORD

As scientists in many parts of the world to-day are turning their serious attention to the question of the origin and the (possible) continuity of Life, I feel that the time has now arrived when a text-book on the subject of the phenomena, known to investigators as Materialisations, should be issued to the public, in order to assist inquirers, both scientists and laymen, in their endeavour to solve these vitally important matters ; as, in my opinion, it is by no means improbable that in Materialisations we may find the clue which will eventually enable us to solve the question, asked by each cradle, "Whence ? '' and by each coffin, “ Whither ?”

This text-book contains, in plain and simple language, the results of a series of experiments carried out during a period of seven years.

With the exception of a few conducted by that master scientist Sir William Crookes, President of the Royal Society, London, and referred to in Chapter III. (to which mine were in the nature of a sequel), all were carried out in my presence ; and the reports on these experiments have been collated from the official records kept by my three research societies in London.

Although we will be concentrating on Ghosts in Solid Form  , Psychic Force also has some interesting observations in it, for example, Gambier Bolton worked for a while with the medium Florence Cook and wrote;

Psychic Force

During any meal with Mrs Elgie Corner [Mrs Cook], in one’s own house and whilst she herself is engaged in eating and drinking – both of her hands being visible all the time - the heavy dining table will commence first to quiver, setting all the glasses shaking and plates, knives, forks and spoons in motion, and then to rock and sway from side to side, occasionally going so far as to tilt up at one end or at one side; and all the time raps and tappings will be heard in the table and in many different parts of the room.  Taking a meal with her in a public restaurant is a somewhat serious matter.

Thus those interested are encouraged to follow up their studies with his other book.

Working Hypothesis

In order to understand his working hypothesis, we must first give the definition that he gave to the word ‘materialisation’

Ghosts in Solid Form 

The meaning of the word Materialisation, so far at least as it concerns our investigation, I understand to be this : the taking on by an entity from a sphere outside our own, an entity representing a man, woman, or child (or even a beast or bird), of a temporary body built up from material drawn partially; from the inhabitants of earth, consolidated through the agency of certain persons of both sexes, termed Sensitives, and moulded by the entity into a semblance of the body which (it alleges) it inhabited during its existence on earth. In other words, a materialisation is the appearance of an entity in bodily, tangible form [i.e  one which we can touch], thus differing from an …. apparition, which is, of course, one which cannot be touched although it may be clearly visible to anyone possessing only normal sight.

Gambier Bolton used this definition and then framed a working hypothesis from which he was able to devise his experiments:

Ghosts in Solid Form 

that under certain known and reasonable conditions of temperature, light, etc., entities, existing in a sphere outside our own, have been demonstrated again and again to manifest themselves on earth in temporary bodies materialised from an, at present, undiscovered source, through the agency of certain persons of both sexes, termed Sensitives, and can be so demonstrated to any person who will provide the conditions proved to be necessary for such a demonstration.

By the end of the research he was convinced:

Ghosts in Solid Form 

Looking back to the seven years of my life which I devoted to a careful and critical investigation of the claim made, not only by both Occidental and Oriental mystics, but by well-known men of science like Sir William Crookes, Professor Alfred Russel Wallace, and others — ‘that it was possible under certain clearly defined conditions to produce, apparently out of nothing, fully formed bodies, inhabited by (presumably) human entities from another sphere’ — the wonder of it still enthrals me; the apparent impossibility of so great an upheaval of such laws of Nature as we are at present acquainted with, being proved clearly to be possible, will remain to the end as " the wonder of wonders " in a by no means uneventful life. ………………  When these claims were first brought to my notice I realised at once that I was face to face with a problem which would require the very closest investigation ; and I then and there decided to give up work of all kinds, and to devote years, if necessary, to a critical examination of these claims………………..
And, as I have said, the result has been that the apparently impossible has been proved to be possible; and I accept them whole-heartedly, admitting that our working hypothesis has been proved beyond any possibility of doubt, and that these materialised entities can manifest themselves to-day to any person who will provide the conditions necessary for such a demonstration.

Who they are, what they are, whence they come, and whither they go, each investigator must determine for himself; but of their actual existence in a sphere just outside our own, there can no longer be any room for doubt.

Brief life


Gambier Bolton was born on 24 Aug 1854 in Kilburn, London Borough of Camden, Greater London.  His father was the evangelical clergyman, James Jay Bolton (1824–1863). 

The Reverend James Jay Bolton married a vicar’s daughter on  30 June 1853, Lydia Louisa, but James Bolton died, aged 39, at the parsonage, Kilburn on 8 April 1863, when Robert was only 8.  Despite his relatively short life and marriage, James Jay Bolton had 6 children in ten years - two of whom died very young – Francis and James.  We can thus see where some of Robert's interest in death and the spirits came from.

Robert’s siblings were Francis James Bolton [1855–1858], Reginald Pelham Bolton [1856–1942],  William Washington Bolton [1858–1946 ], Mary Louise Bolton Cummins [1860–1939 ] and James Beauchamp Bolton [1861–1863 ].

Robert was educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and subsequently published a large series of animal photographs that he took while traveling in Europe, America, Canada, the Hawaiian Islands, Japan, China, Java, the Malay Peninsula, Burma, India, and South Africa.  He also accompanied the Duke of Newcastle on his world tour in 1893–94.

Robert Gambier Bolton died on 29 Jul 1928 (aged 73) in Bournemouth, Dorset, England.

Observations

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