Other experiments with materialized ghosts
Some experiments took place at the home of Bolton, in London, with a sensitive of about 34 years. On one of these occasions the medium – seated on an armchair in a deep trance and in view of all the sitters in the light of gas lamps shielded with red paper – breathed heavily, while two female entities materialized simultaneously, one next to him, the other almost six feet away, closer to the sitters. The latter began to converse with them, with a melodious voice, while the other, after passing through the semicircle of 16 sitters, walked into the room outside the circle and placed behind two people, speaking in a perfectly understandable way and then entertaining a short conversation with the other entity that was inside the circle. The voices of the two entities could be heard simultaneously. One looked like a tall and very pretty woman, about the age of 25, who, passing between the sitters and talking to them, showed her beautiful hands, finely modeled, with long, tapered fingers. Stopping before Mr. D, one of the sitters, and guessing his thoughts, asked him to give her the chiseled gold ring that D wore on his little finger. Later, Mr. D recognized that at that moment he had was suspecting that – against all evidence – the medium might have managed to get out of his chair in disguise as a woman. With some difficulty, he took the ring off his little finger and handed it to the entity, who went to the center of the circle and, after showing the object to all the audience, pointed out how she could easily insert it not only in all her eight fingers, but also in her thumbs. Then she put the ring back in the pocket of Mr. D's jacket. At the end of the sèance Mr. D and all the others were able to see how the ring – even if pushed hard – did not go beyond the second phalanx of the medium's fingers, while did not enter at all in his thumbs.
At one of the séances held with the medium who did not go into trance the harmonium was not played because of the absence of the musician who usually played it. The instrument had remained closed near a wall, more than 20 feet from the circle of sitters. After about ten minutes from the beginning of the séance, a tall and thin man appeared in the middle of the circle and then, passing among the sitters, walked slowly towards the harmonium, lifted the cover that protected the keyboard, sat on the stool, and after adjusting some of the buttons, he played some well-tuned chords using both hands and even the feet on the pedal board. These chords were clearly heard not only by the 14 sitters present in the séance-room, but also by two assistants who remained outside the room to watch over the entrance door. In the meantime the sensitive had not moved from his chair, more than 20 feet away from the instrument. Later in the same séance, an entity said that some music would help create more favorable conditions. Bolton himself then went to the harmonium and was about to start playing when he heard the medium's voice, still at the same distance, saying to him: «Look behind you, please». Turning around, Bolton saw right next to him the same tall, thin entity who had played before (whose features were decidedly different from those of the medium), who told him: «We thank you, friend, for your kind help: the vibrations given off by this instrument are of very great assistance to us during these delicate experiments».
A séance at a Ministry office and the materialization of a mongoose
Another time two young gentlemen, after attending a séance at Bolton's home, asked him if the medium would consent to hold a séance in their office. Since the medium agreed, Bolton was also invited to participate, and he was given the address to which he would have to accompany the medium at the agreed time. Some years later, these two young men became important members of the Government, but at the time of the séance Bolton was not aware of their ministerial employment. It was only when he and the medium arrived at the address received, a side entrance to a large palace that faced Whitehall (the London street where many Government offices were based), that he had some suspicion that the office of those two young people was not that of a normal trading company, as he had believed. Anyway, even before he had the opportunity to express his doubts to the medium, the two young men went out into the street and in a hurry accompanied Bolton and the sensitive inside the building, passing through a grandiose hall and then up a staircase, until they entered a large room luxuriously furnished and decorated, with a massive desk, several chairs, leather armchairs and rich rugs. Two young ladies were waiting in the room. As soon as they entered the door was locked, the five participants sat in a corner around the medium and the séance began.
Although Bolton thought that the environment would not allow good results, the medium quickly passed into a trance, and in about ten minutes the figure of a tall and elederly man appeared, who stooped slightly as he walked. The two young men and the ladies recognised him istantly, but no name was mentioned by them. After a couple of minutes, the entity turned and approached Bolton, stopping within two feet from him. Bolton also recognized him at a glance, exclaiming: «Why, it is Lord X, whom lso often saw in 1881!». And the entity bowed his head and smiled at him in quite a friendly way, but although his lips moved distinctly, the sitters could not hear what he said. One of the young men was the first to speak aloud. He said: «This is more than wonderful. The place in which we are sitting is the... and this is Lord X's own room. We decided to sit here as a test, without telling you or the sensitive the place we had selected, in order that we might see whether it was possible for Lord X to return to the room which he so dearly loved, the one in which so many of his greatest diplomatic triumphs were carried to a successful issue». Two or three other entities then appeared, and a small mongoose from India also materialised, in spite of Bolton's imploring the entities not to let it do so, or at least to keep it in check in such a palatial apartment. But this the entities declared themselves incapable of doing so, and the little animal scampered into the room, climbed on to the gorgeous writing-desk and rushed across it, scattering official papers, pens, and pencils in wild confusioni. Bolton said that how the two young men escaped imprisonment for their escapade in a Government building, and in one of the most sacred rooms in that building, remained always an unsolved mystery to him!
At another séance in London, while the same sensitive was in a trance seated in a corner of the room, a female entity appeared, who at once walked out amongst the sitters and stood talking to them for more than five minutes. When at a distance of about eight feet from the medium, one of the legs of the wooden chair on which he was seated suddenly gave way, and he fell forward into Bolton's arms, as he happened to be nearest to him. The medium, in deep trance, was breathing heavily and groaning slightly. While the sitters were agitated, surprised and alarmed by the accident, the entity was not nearly so startled as they were, her first thought being for the sensitive. She stood perfectly still at the spot where she had been at the moment of the accident, and after Bolton and some assistants had propped up the chair temporarily, and had placed the unconscious medium upon the seat once more, she walked slowly towards him and then dematerialised, as she often used to do, passing to all appearances through the floor. Bolton had been able to carefully observe this phase on several occasions, and so he described it: «The feet and ankles would first disappear; then slowly the legs, up to the hips, would sink downwards; next the body up to the neck; followed – after a few words of farewell – by the face, the top of the head remaining for about thirty seconds on the surface of the floor, the dazzling white of the drapery, in which the head had been draped during the appearance of the entity in our midst, showing plainly above the dark-coloured carpet. The dematerialisation last for about a minute and a quarter from first to last, and was clearly visible, by artificial light, to all present on every occasion».
Materializations of animals
Another aspect of particular interest in Bolton's experiments was represented by the materializations of animals, as in the case of the mongoose scampering inside the government building. The most striking case, often mentioned in the literature on mediumistic phenomena, was the materialization of a seal during a séance attended by a high-rank army officer, Lord Wolseley. At another séance, which was held in a house which the medium had never entered before, there was a voice that almost screamed some absurd sentences, finishing off with a kind of shrill whistle. «Why, that must be our old parrot, – said the lady of the house –. He lived in this room for many years, and would constantly repeat those very words». This was at once confirmed by her daughter, and also by the lady’s governess, who were present as sitters.
A lady, during a long stay in India, was fond of a small pet (called wild by Bolton, with no further details) which had been dead for three years or more, and had never been seen or heard of by the medium. During a séance, this little creature suddenly ran out from the spot where the sensitive was sitting, breathing heavily and in a state of deep trance, uttering exactly the same cry which it had always used as a sign of pleasure during its earth-life. Some entities told the sitters not to be alarmed at its appearance, as it would take on its old conditions, and would be quite harmless. The animal had shown itself altogether on about ten different occasions, staying in the room for not more than two minutes at a time, and then disappearing just as suddenly as it had arrived upon the scene. But on one occasion, the lady who had owned it called it to her by its pet name, and it then proceeded to climb slowly up on to her lap. Resting there quietly for about half a minute, it then attempted to return, but in doing so caught one of its legs in the lace with which the lady’s skirt was covered. It struggled violently, and at last got itself free, but not until it had torn the lace for nearly three inches, as was afterwards discovered. At the conclusion of the experiment, a medical man who was present asked everyone to remain in their seats whilst he made a careful inspection of the torn lace. He reported that there were five green-colored hairs hanging in the torn lace, which had evidently become detached from the little animal’s leg during its struggles. The lady at once identified the color and the texture of the hairs, and this was confirmed by the other sitter – himself a naturalist – who had frequently seen and handled the animal during its earth-life. The five hairs were carefully collected, placed in tissue paper, and then shut up in a light-tight and damp-proof box. They were shown to several scientific and other investigators in London, but after a few days they commenced to dwindle in size, and finally disappeared entirely, probably due to the action of the rays given off by the daylight.
Fragments of ectoplasm and replicas of animal bodies
Regarding the preservation of collected materials, the experimenters often were allowed by the entities to cut off with scissors pieces of the drapery in which they were wrapped: these fragments were carefully kept in suitable boxes, to be subsequently examined in attenuated light. However, despite the precautions taken, when the boxes were opened, the material inevitably had decreased in size, eventually disappearing entirely. It was never possible to carry out thorough investigations on the nature of these ectoplasmic substances.
The sitters often asked the entities questions about the possibility that animals also had a spirit, and about the causes that allowed their materialization. The entities answered that the energy which produced materializations was partially owing to the sitter's deep interest in animal life of all kinds, as a naturalist; but even more on account of the great affection which the animals
When asked how there could be enough space for the survival of billions of billions of animals lived on Earth, an entity responded, very sensibly: «Friend, I will answer your question as to what space is, when you tell me what eternity is».The existence of an afterlife was therefore implicit for animals, in a dimension in which the natural laws that operate in this world were no longer valid, since no animal could harm another nor did human beings harass animals. When an entity was asked why the Creator allowed laws in this world for which a creature can cause harm and suffering to other creatures, she answered: «You will yet learn that there were many Creators». This corresponds to what is also stated in other mediumistic communications, that is that the universe (or multiverse) is composed of many, perhaps infinite, levels of creation, each with its own laws and with its degree of development of consciousness, starting from a state of total unconsciousness. It seems therefore that the responsibility of what happens in a world is to be attributed above all to the Creator of that world and the laws that regulate it, rather than to the creatures that dwell there.
Experiments with Florence Cook
As we have seen, Bolton also conducted several tests with Florence Cook. This medium, which in her youth had been the subject of studies and experiments by William Crookes, was now a woman of almost 50 years, in precarious health conditions and mother of two grown-up daughters. In the past she had shown she could produce materializations (such as the famous Katie King) even in good light conditions, but her detractors accused her to impersonate materialized entities by herself or by a confederate. Bolton assured he had seen several times – directly opposite the gas-bracket, the flame of which was turned up to its full height, the light being only slightly shaded with a piece of yellow paper – a young lady, whom he called the French dancing-girl, standing fully materialised from head to foot, barely six feet away from heim, and three or four feet away from the medium. He noticed that, although her features appeared to be smaller than those of a normal young woman of her age, she was considerably taller than the sensitive. Her complexion was beautifully fair, whilst that of the sensitive was very dark, the hair in each case following the general coloring. Her ears were unpierced, while the sensitive always wore earrings. These things satisfied him that the entity and the medium were two absolutely separate beings.
Before and after the séances the medium was undressed to be sure that all her clothes and garments were without exception dark in color, while the French dancer was always wrapped in bright white drapes. The environmental conditions in which the séances were held, the identity of the sitters and the precautions taken led to rule out the hypothesis of the presence of confederate, and Bolton could see how the entity, if directly hit by the light rays of the unshielded gas lamp, began to fluctuate and dematerialized, melting like wax in heat: a process described as «an extremely painful and unpleasant sight to witness». In his book, Bolton openly pays homage to the memory of Florence Cook, stating that she had never escaped any tests or requests for control, but instead had always willingly and kindly collaborated so that the séances could occur in the conditions desired by the experimenters.
Information given by the entities
Often the sitters addressed the materialized entities questions that usually concerned the otherworld, the life of the spirit or the way in which the mediumistic phenomena were produced, obtaining various more or less satisfactory answers. For instance, a rather interesting description of the so-called spheres was offered: the communicating entity apologized, saying that she found it extremely difficult to explain matters of this kind to the sitters, on account of the limitations of human languages. Death, like birth in this world, are changes, and as when we are born we find ourselves living in this sphere that is the Earth, after dying we will go to live in a different sphere, depending on the level we have reached on the path of spiritual knowledge. In principle everyone goes to the first sphere, while someone manages to move on to the second. There is a fixed and immutable law for which from every sphere we can manifest ourselves in the lower ones, as entities that materialize in this world do, but not in the higher ones. But, although there is no death in the sense in which we employ that word, either on this Earth or in the spiritual spheres, something analogous to it occurs with the spirits in their spheres when the appointed hour for their transition to a higher one arrives: after passing through this change, they find themselves in a far grander sphere than the one which they had left, no matter how beautiful, how perfect, that sphere might have appeared to them to be. Each entity is progressing in its sphere until the period of training in that sphere is completed, when it at once passes to the next, progressing ever upwards. They can always return to the spheres below, if they wish so, but can never move to a sphere above until the established time has arrived.
As for materializations, in the first and second sphere – according to what was affirmed by the entities – there would be experts in chemistry able to use, under favorable conditions, the substances present in our dimension to produce the materialized bodies. It was the knowledge of these laws which made many so-called miracles possible in the past and make them possible today. The expression to be used to correctly describe the phenomenon, however, should be the spiritualization of matter – not, as we term it, the materialisation of spirits – for it is far other than this. Even the spiritualization of matter is governed by natural laws which, like all laws, are immutable and eternal. These laws are studied and applied in the higher spheres, and the so-called miracles fall within the phenomena by which the entities in a superior sphere are able to exercise control over the substances present in a lower sphere.
Usually the substances necessary for the production of the phenomena are taken from the medium, from the sitters and from the atmosphere. The medium is the main source from whom the elements for the materialised bodies can be drawn, for the atmosphere is not always chemically favorable. At times, owing to unsuitable conditions, it is absolutely impossible to get together, even from both these sources – the atmosphere and the sensitive – sufficient material with which to build up a body; and then, if forms still appear in the midst of the sitters, the manifestation ceases to be a materialisation and becomes a transfiguration. This means that the sensitive is transfigured, as a sculptor might modify an old statue with his chisel instead of forming a new figure from fresh materials. In transfigurations the face of the medium is completely changed by the controlling entity, so as to represent the entity’s face temporarily. The unconscious sensitive is then brought from his chair and walks amongst the sitters, stopping before each of them, and showing his altered, transfigured features to them. Transfigurations, when substituted for materialisations, usually occur in perfect darkness only. Fully realising the danger that this fact represented for the medium, it was agreed by Bolton and his assistants that in no case should transfigurations be produced; but that when the conditions made materialisations impossible, the experiment should at once come to an end; and three important meetings were actually closed within half an hour of the start of each, without results of any kind being obtained, as the controls admitted that the atmospheric and other conditions made it altogether impossible for them to produce materialisations.
Spirit, soul and body
Another communication of the entities concerned the distinction between spirit, soul and body, which is in agreement with similar information found in other mediumistic communications: man (woman) is a spirit now and throughout the ages, and has a soul (or spiritual-body) now and for a portion of his life beyond the grave, and has a material, physical, or earth-body during his life on earth, which he/she leaves behind him/her there for ever, at the change which we term death. In this consists the greatest of all the trinities in our sphere, spirit, soul, and body, the three in one which forml life in the Earth-sphere. For, wherever there is life, there also is spirit, where there is Spirit, there also is soul (or spiritual-body) so long as the Earth-life lasts, and for a certain period in the spheres as well: where there is spirit on the Earth-sphere there also is a material body, which is left behind for ever at the death of that body. Our natural body is certainly not spiritual, so believing in the resurrection of the flesh is simply ridiculous. Our essence is sown in a natural body, and raised to the spiritual state. Immortal spirits visit the Earth on the basis of a program of spiritual evolution, for a period of training and discipline. As the spirit passes through successive experiences, it is purified becoming more and more ethereal, until it is completely freed from any remaining psychic attachment. The human condition, as we experience it in this life, marks the final phase of a cycle in which the spirit acquires and strengthens self-consciousness, that is, the awareness of its own existence as a spirit. When this happens, the spirit moves to other cycles of experiences and existences in the higher spheres, to improve in love and wisdom. First, however, it is necessary that the spirit be freed from the bonds that bind it to the earthly experience, especially from those of a psychic nature, determined by the animal origin of our bodies.
Fraud as a human expedient
Regarding the ways in which materializations were produced, the entities stated that their main desire was to be recognized, first of all by the voice and then by the features of the face. For this reason, in most cases, materializations were limited to the head and throat, complete with the organs of phonation, and then extended – if environmental conditions were favorable and there was enough energy – to the arms, hands and upper body, which generally appeared wrapped in rather shapeless drapery. Only in exceptional cases complete and well-defined materializations could be obtained in all details, with considerable expense of energy on the part of the medium and the sitters.
An entity, asked about the existence of the fraudulent mediumistic phenomena and the damage produced by them in relation to the possibility of investigating the genuine ones, sensibly answered that in all human things fraud is widely practiced: in business, in sport, in journalism, in human relationships, and even in science. This does not mean that there are no genuine elements in each of these fields. Therefore an an open minded investigator will never give a priori a drastic judgment – all true or false – without having first made a careful discernment of the phenomena investigated. The hypotheses of fraud to be taken into consideration are two: the first, and most obvious, is the conscious fraud by the medium and his/her possible accomplices, while the second is unconscious fraud by the medium, used in a misleading way by the control entities operating through him/her. The precautions taken by Bolton and his assistants proved to be effective against frauds of the first type. The entities, however, did not deny the possibility of frauds of the second type, and gave to Bolton and his collaborators some instructions on the precautionary measures to be taken to prevent the medium from being used by deceiving entities.
In his book, Bolton claimed to have conducted an investigation with serious research criteria, and argued that anyone who wanted to perform further experiments by adopting his method would have obtained similar results. As we know, the main problem in experiments of this type is represented by the possibility of finding gifted mediums: Bolton himself stated that the sensitives capable of producing the phenomena described by him were very rare, even in England, and today they seem to be even rarer or perhaps totally missing. As we have seen, this leads the detractors of mediumistic phenomena to claim that the researchers of the past were naive, ready to be easily deceived, and that today – since we have become more savvy – all traces of those phenomena have disappeared. But after reading the reports of their investigations, we can say that those researchers – or at least some of them – were by no means unwary. However, the fact remains that the phenomena of materialization described by them, under the experimental conditions in which they occurred in those days, no longer happen today, at least according to what is reported by specialized literature. In another page of this section (The end of an era?) We will examine what may have been the causes that in the past determined a golden age for mediumistic phenomena, and the subsequent decline to these days.