They Do It With Drawers You Know July 30, 2012Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback
To a twenty-first century reader one of the strangest things about nineteenth century séances were the materialisation of physical objects at the hand of talented mediums aka conjurers. What seems to be just absurd to us was actually taken as a proof of the genuine nature of the swindlers, because they were typically searched before the lights were dimmed. How could they possibly have produced robes, blankets and ether? Well here is one attentive watcher explaining how it is done.
the most rigid search may fail to find [material used in materialisations]. A common silk neck-tie tied around the neck under a paper collar, will conceal a gauze-like texture, white silk handkerchief, &c., sufficient to produce your sister, mother, or daughter, as the case may be. The expert, too, can conceal them in the lining of his pants, vest, and coat, with threads so arranged as to deceive the eye, and in a moment’s time they can be taken out and replaced. Those who have never investigated this matter would be astonished at the small space required for the articles necessary to materialize a first-class spirit. Tissue paper also acts an important part in bogus materialization, it being used on the head and various parts of the body to complete the dress. It can be concealed in the lining of the vest, coat, or pants, and you may search for it but not discover it easily. It is an easy matter to deceive three out of five who attend these bogus circles Some people like to be humbugged; they take pleasure in it, as those did who attended G ‘s circles in New York.
A little more intimate is the following chapter. What nineteenth-century body search is going to involve underwear?
She informs her friend that she comes to the seance prepared with a dress that is easily taken off with a little practice. She says it may be done in two or three minutes. She wears two shifts (probably for warmth). She brings a muslin veil of thin material (she gives its name, which I forget). It is carried in her drawers! It can be compressed into a small space, although when spread it covers the whole person. A pocket-handkerchief pinned round the head keeps back the hair. She states that she takes off all her clothes except the two shifts, and is covered by the veil. The gown is spread carefully upon the sofa over the pillows. In this array she comes out. She makes very merry with the spiritualists whom she thus gulls, and her language about them is anything but complimentary.
Beach greatly appreciates the delicacy in the two extracts above. This author is less sparing.
The point of interest to us is to find how the medium concealed her trappings. No medium was ever more rigorously controlled, yet the fraud is obvious. The answer shows that you can almost never be sure of your medium. She was stripped naked before every sitting and sewn into black tights. Her mouth and hair were always examined. Occasionally her sex-cavity was examined. South African detectives have told me how this receptacle is used for smuggling diamonds, and, as Marthe was rarely examined there by a competent and reliable witness, she probably often used it. Dr. Schrenck admits that the outlet of her intestinal tube was scarcely ever examined until very late in the inquiry, and an independent doctor gave positive reason to suspect that she used this. (39)
Again Beach is vaguely surprised that a late 19 early 20 century seance would have involved stripping a medium, let alone a cavity search. Any other unusual receptacles: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com