Search for Truth  by Harry Price  (1942)


Chapter 4  .  Some Early Adventures With the Mediums

FROM about the year 1896 onwards, I spent many of my free evenings in attending spiritualist meetings and séances, mostly in South-East London.  In addition, I was reading - and buying - every book on spiritualism, conjuring, and psychical research that I could find.  Also, I was answering the advertisements that mediums inserted in the psychic journals, with interesting results.  For example, one man guaranteed to develop my 'latent psychic powers' if I would sit alone in a dark room for one hour a week, and mentally concentrate on his 'instructions,' which he sold for half-a-crown.  The instructions were that if I thought of a deceased person very intently, that person would eventually 'appear' - perhaps after a couple of months.  Failure would be caused by my not 'concentrating' sufficiently.  Another man, who also guaranteed to develop mediumship, put his 'students' on a strict vegetarian diet.  He was more sanguine of success as, after a week of this sort of thing, one was supposed to be able to 'project one's astral' to - anywhere!  He had a theory - or said he had - that fasting, strict and prolonged, would enable anyone to 'see things.'  I am sure he was right - if one fasted long enough!  Another medium - a woman - with whom I corresponded had two addresses and 'operated' under two names.  From one address she would divine your fortune by the number of letters in your name, your birth-place, and the year in which you were born; from the other, she sent out a sheet - price one shilling - giving instructions how to become a clairvoyant.  She, too, believed in fasting as an aid to mediumship.

Then there were the people who sold instructions as to how to develop physical mediumship; how to form a 'home circle'; and how to acquire a good memory.  This last is very necessary if one is blossoming out as a professional clairvoyant!  This particular woman also sold trumpets for voice séances, crystals, and ouija boards.  Then there were the astrologers upon whom, I must admit, I wasted little money.  However, my horoscope was 'cast' by more than one dealer in planetary prognostications, and the results usually tallied.  This was due, I assumed, to the fact that people whose birthdays fell on the same date received similar or identical horoscopes.  In one case this was quite obvious, as my horoscope had been prepared by a duplicating process, and had a serial number in one corner!


I have often wondered what sort of a living these people make.  The fact that their advertisements appear regularly every week, year after year, proves that money is made by deceiving the credulous, the bereaved, and the morbidly curious.  The people who run this psychic racket live usually in suburban back streets, and have few expenses other than their modest advertisements and the cost of their smudgy printed sheets.  Occasionally these charlatans get hold of a particularly silly dupe and bleed him - or more often her - of many pounds for 'personal tuition' in fusty back parlours.  The better-class spiritualist journals refuse to accept advertisements from these psychic quacks.

I have been speaking of the 'small' psychic trader whose wares would not deceive any intelligent person.  But in America - especially - the sale of occult 'knowledge' is carried to a very fine art.  I have before me a catalogue of nearly 500 pages, with hundreds of illustrations, emanating from a 'psychic corporation' with branches in various parts of the United States.  The folly of mankind, as represented by this catalogue, is almost unbelievable.  In addition to many books on 'magic,' there are to be bought love potions, death spells, powders to cure the 'evil eye,' pastilles for raising the dead, tablets for 'acquiring personality and will power,' instructions for recovering lost or stolen property by magical means, elixirs guaranteed to produce second-sight, antidotes to being 'overlooked,' and many other noisome concoctions.  In addition, talismans, amulets, pentagrams, magic rings, and similar rubbish are to be had by the thousand.  The fact that this precious catalogue is sent all over the world - in my case, free and unasked for - shows the extent of the business.  As a literary curiosity, the book must be unique.

Some of my most interesting experiences with the better-known early mediums I gained at a small house in Manor Road, Brockley.  The place was run by a lady whose interest in spiritualism was not entirely a financial one.  She kept open house for those sincere 'believers' who were prepared to contribute towards the expenses of engaging the various mediums and speakers who assembled under her roof, and the entree to her circle was by introduction only.

I was taken to the house by a friend who was anxious that I should see some 'genuine' mediums, and I attended many meetings and séances there.  The charges for admission ranged from one shilling to five shillings per person, according to the status of the particular psychic who was demonstrating.  About thirty people usually assembled in her lower rooms (separated by folding doors), and we were an amiable crowd.  Everyone knew everyone else, and


the place was quite home-like and jolly.  Our meetings possessed the Gemütlichkeit (I cannot think of an English word that so well conveys the atmosphere of the place) of a private party.

The meetings were held every Wednesday evening at 7.30, and many old-timers among the mediums were her guests.  I was not there to expose the various tricks that I witnessed.  I had not the heart to do a thing like that in such a friendly atmosphere, though fraud was rampant.  I was there merely to gain invaluable experience.

Among the psychics I saw there was Mrs.: Thomas Everitt, the wife of a London tailor, who was an old lady when I met her.  She had been a famous medium in her time, and specialised in voice phenomena, psychic lights, and especially 'direct writing' - i.e. the spontaneous appearance of 'spirit' writing on pieces of paper or slates.  Actually, all she did on the evening I met her was to psychometrise a number of objects with - according to the owners of the articles - considerable success.  Mrs. Everitt was there on this particular evening merely as a guest, the principal speaker being a trance medium whose name I forget.

It was the physical phenomena of spiritualism in which I was particularly interested, and some well-known exponents of this phase of psychic activity - most of it very poor conjuring - found their way to Manor Road.  One of these was especially spectacular, and his name was, I think, Charles Eldred.  He was one of the first materialisation mediums I met.  A pair of curtains having been placed across a corner of the room, Eldred was searched and seated on a chair in the cabinet.  Then the lights were extinguished.  A minute or so later a white figure with a black beard made its appearance at the opening of the cabinet curtains.  The figure mumbled a few words, and a sitter immediately recognised it as her Uncle Joshua, who had died in Jamaica some years previously.  Then we heard faint strains as of a softly-played guitar, and another white figure, with a fierce black moustache and wearing a sombrero partly emerged from the cabinet.  No one recognised this spirit.  The Spaniard was followed by a girlish figure, also in white, who asked for 'Mabel' in a shrill voice, and a lady in the audience at once claimed her as a long-dead niece.  There were other 'appearances,' and the séance closed.

It was all most interesting, but not convincing - so far as I was concerned.  The only light by which one could see the figures was supplied by two pieces of paper, coated with luminous paint, that were pinned to the curtains at the entrance to the cabinet.  The whole display was very artificial, and there was no control of the medium's person.  The search of his clothes was perfunctory, and the various


effects - both visual and aural - could have been introduced into the cabinet without the sitters' being aware of the fact.

It was late in 1905 when I saw Eldred.  I had read accounts of his séances in the spiritualist journal Light (a well-known psychic weekly), and I had anticipated having a genuine thrill at meeting some denizens of the spirit world.  I was very disappointed at the show I witnessed, but other sitters went into raptures over the various materialisations.  I concluded that the 'spirits' could be explained in terms of normality.

That my suspicions were justified was proved by an incident that occurred a few months later.  Eldred was still giving séances and at one of these he was seized by the late Dr. Abraham Wallace.  Or rather, his chair was seized.  I have no recollection that Eldred, if it were he, used his own special chair at the Manor Road house, but it is a fact that this medium used to take a rather comfortable arm-chair about with him from séance to séance.  His excuse for this extraordinary proceeding was that it was 'saturated with his magnetism,' and that phenomena were produced more easily.

At one of these séances, in 1906, Dr. Wallace, who had long been suspicious of both Eldred and his chair, seized the latter and insisted upon examining it closely.  His curiosity was rewarded by his making the discovery that the back of the chair was in reality a box.  A tiny keyhole was found in the framework, and when the key was forthcoming and the 'box' unlocked, the lid, which formed the actual back of the chair, fell forward and an extraordinary sight met the gaze of the astonished investigators.  For inside the box were found the following articles, closely packed together: A number of wigs, beards, and moustaches; rolls of cheesecloth and tulle, with collapsible wire frames on which to hang them; several masks and faces; a collapsible dummy; reaching-rods for planting 'apports' (i.e. articles spontaneously precipitated into a séance by alleged paranormal agency); a musical box for producing 'spirit music'; perfumes to simulate the sensation of 'spirit flowers,' and so on.  This was really the end of Eldred as a medium, and I, personally, never saw him again.  An account of the exposure was printed in Light.

An American vaudeville medium whom I never saw, but who visited the Manor Road circle when she was in London, was Anna Eva Fay.  Why I mention her will emerge later.  Mrs. Fay was a 'physical' medium; in other words, she produced manifestations of a physical nature, as distinguished from mental phenomena.

One of Mrs. Fay's favourite tests was to allow herself to be tied to a post or stake fastened to the stage, her hands being secured


behind her by cotton bandages.  This experiment became known as the 'cotton bandage test.'  While thus immobilised, a screen would be placed round Anna, together with a number of objects such as a bell, a rattle, tambourine, glass of water, etc.  Before the committee appointed by the audience had time to return to their seats, the tambourine would come flying over the screen, the bell would be rung, rattle operated, and, finally, the screen itself would be pushed over by the 'spirits,' revealing Anna, still bound hands and feet, with all ties intact, and with the glass minus its water.

Anna worked this trick in two ways.  The easier and simpler way needed no apparatus except the post, only showmanship.  I cannot do better than quote my friend, Mr. John Mulholland's description of how the apparent miracle was worked:(1) 'All it amounts to is that the bandages would slip up her wrists some distance; the six-inch link between wrists gave extra leeway, and so did the ring on the post; all in all she could get a foot or more of play for one hand, and this was plenty for the manifestations she produced.'  In other words, she managed to get sufficient 'slack' which enabled one hand to ring the bell, reach for the water, etc., and push over the screen.  A sharp jerk would restore the ties to their original positions.

Mrs.- or Miss, as she was sometimes called - Fay was performing at the Crystal Palace in 1874, and her entertainment then included not only the 'cotton bandage test,' but also a mind-reading act.  For the former experiment she used a low mahogany stool, about 30 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 18 inches high.  At each end of the stool, let into the thickness of the wood, was a brass plate drilled with two holes, secured by means of strong steel screws.  The four legs of the stool unscrewed for purposes of packing, etc.

Mrs. Fay would seat herself on the stool and the committee from the audience would then bind her ankles to each of the two front legs of the stool.  The bandages would be bound round and round her ankles and stool legs, very tightly, and the ends not only sealed with wax but sewn again and again to the folds of the bandages.  Her feet were thus absolutely incapable of being moved.  Both stool and bandages were previously handed to the audience for examination, and sometimes the audience brought their own bandages.

Her hands were secured in the same way, the bandages being threaded through the holes in the brass plates screwed to the ends of the stool, the material resting in a semi-circular channel in the thickness of the wood.  Before doing this, however, four jointless

1. Beware Familiar Spirits, by John Mulholland, New York, 1938, p.161.


steel rings were placed on her right wrist, above the ties, which were bound round and round her wrists, very tightly, the folds being then sewn and sealed.

Anna was thus absolutely immobilised, and - apparently - could not move her hands and feet a fraction of an inch.  The usual articles were than deposited at her feet.

Her manager then came forward and, in a long 'spiel,' would dilate on the miracles about to be witnessed.  He was very careful not to attribute the manifestations to 'spirits,' he merely recalled that there were 'More things in Heaven and earth...' etc., and spoke of a certain 'unknown power' possessed by Mrs. Fay.  In the course of his talk he would offer a reward of £1000 to any person who could remove the rings from her wrists without (a) breaking them; (b) breaking the stool; (c) cutting or untying the bandages; or (d) cutting Mrs. Fay's wrist off!  His introductory remarks having concluded, he would invite the committee to place a six-foot threefold screen in front of the medium, and depart to their seats.

Then the manifestations began.  Long before the committee had time to leave the stage, a tambourine would come hurtling over the screen, followed by the four steel rings; a pistol would be fired; the contents of a glass of water would follow the tambourine; a nail could be heard being hammered into a piece of wood; a hand of the medium would appear around the side of the screen.  Then the medium's foot would appear, and so on.  Anna's manager emphasized that at any moment the committee could remove the screen and examine the medium's ties.  This was often done, Anna being found exactly as they had left her, with ties intact.  A few moments later, Anna herself would stand in front of the screen with her four bandages, uncut and undamaged, dangling in her hand.  Though the committee had spent fifteen minutes in tying her up, the 'spirits' had untied her in as many seconds.  Tremendous applause!

Of course, all this happened many years before I was born, but Anna's séances are classic.  I will now tell the reader how I come into the story.

Anna's manager, an Englishman, had been engaged by her in London and, apparently, had purchased from her her paraphernalia before she returned to the United States.  The stool was eventually sold to one of Hamleys' (the conjuring emporium) managers, from whom I purchased it about twenty years ago.  I have it to this day, and it is as good as new.  I have used it many scores of times in my entertainment, Half-Hours with the Mediums.

I will now share with the reader the secrets of Anna's 'phenomena.'  As a vice-president of the Magicians' Club, and a member


The Anna Eva Fay mechanical stool, showing how medium has managed to release mechanism, thus freeing her right arm. To her wrist is attached the block withdrawn from the stool, together with all "ties".  The automatic catch on the freed block can be plainly seen.  [See text.] (Reproduced from Price's Search for Truth)

of the Inner Magic Circle, I am in duty bound - even if I had the inclination - prevented from 'exposing' magicians' tricks.  But, where these tricks originated with the mediums, it is likewise my duty to inform the public as to the methods of deception.

The reader may have guessed that the secret of Anna's 'unknown power' lay in the stool.  It did.  The stool, though quite ordinary to look at, contains a piece of mechanism of beautiful workmanship.  When a person is tied to the stool he can, by stretching and flexing his right fingers, just reach that portion of it that lies under the seat behind the brass plate, through which the right-hand ties are threaded.  This plate, as I have said, appears to be screwed to the edge of the seat.  By pressing hard on the only spot that the fingertips can reach (i.e. on the wood behind the plate), the wood to which it is screwed, and of course the medium's hand and right-hand ties, come away from the stool.  Thus the 'medium' has one hand free.  A fraction of a second suffices to press the block back again (if necessary), where it is silently and automatically locked by means of a spring catch, restoring everything as the committee left it.  The join is quite invisible when the plate is locked.

I need hardly dwell upon what a commotion can be caused with one free hand.  Rattles, pistols, etc., can be operated, and pandemonium caused with the aid of a few noisy 'effects.'  That is the secret of the 'cotton bandage test.' (See plate.)

But there are subtleties in the entertainment not connected with the stool.  The manager was quite safe in offering the £1000 to anyone removing those four steel rings under the prescribed conditions.  I have made the same offer myself many times.  It was not possible.  But Anna had four duplicate rings secreted about her person.  All she had to do was to push the four original rings up her sleeve, and throw the duplicates over the screen.  When the committee came to examine her just before the finale (when she stood before the audience freed of all ties), the rings were, of course, missing.  They were then above her elbow, hidden by her sleeve.

Something similar occurred when the medium's foot appeared above the screen.  It was a duplicate - a dummy.  The hand that appeared was her own, as she could reach to the edge of the screen, taking care not to expose the block of wood and ties attached to her wrist.  For the finale, Anna whipped out a sharp penknife - secreted in her bodice and already opened - and, in a flash, cut all her ties.  These, too, she secreted in her bodice, at the same time as she produced four duplicate bandages - suitably decorated with bits of sealing wax and cotton ends - from the same hiding-place. If the


committee insisted upon using their own special coloured wax or cotton, she omitted this startling climax to the séance.

As I have stated, I 'starred' the 'cotton bandage test' in my entertainment and the stool once let me down - metaphorically.  I had taken the trouble to convey it to Paris, to the Institut Métapsychique, where I was to lecture.  When the time came for me to demonstrate the Anna Eva Fay test I simply could not get my hand free, struggle as I might.  The releasing mechanism had become jammed on account of a knock it had received on the boat in crossing the Channel, so that part of my talk was a fiasco.

Although Anna was, admittedly, a vaudeville medium, she claimed paranormal powers and Sir William Crookes believed in them.  When she was in London in 1874 he tested her by seating her behind a curtain and making her form part of an electric circuit.  An electrode, wrapped in wet cloth, was put into each of her hands, a galvanometer being placed in another room.  The slightest change of pressure or movement in holding the electrodes would be revealed by fluctuations of the galvanometer needle.  For eight minutes the needle remained stationary, but during this period articles were moved, a hand was pushed through the curtain, a locked desk was opened, and other manifestations occurred.  It was considered impossible that the medium could have produced these phenomena herself, under the stringent electrical control.  I wonder!

Another famous vaudeville medium I saw at the Garrick Theatre in 1904.  She was a young woman called 'Magdeleine G.'  Starting her career as a singer and dancer, she came under the influence of a Swiss hypnotist named Émile Magnin, who found her an excellent subject.  He trained her for hypnotic displays on the stage.  Under hypnosis her interpretation of music and the opera was little short of miraculous.  In the trance state, and stimulated by the music, a transfiguration would take place and she would dance, sing, and impersonate the character in the comedy or tragedy in a way that was stated to be 'transcendental.'  The emotions were portrayed 'with a vividness which spellbound all beholders' (according to her advertisements): terror, joy, envy, hate, desire, avarice, pain, etc., transfigured her countenance in a way which, it was stated, was not possible in an unhypnotised state.

Magdeleine's performance impressed me as a brilliant musical and dramatic entertainment.  The hypnotic part of her performance was quite secondary, and I am wondering to this day to what extent her own histrionic powers were responsible for her success.  M. Magnin would hypnotise her on the stage and she would at once become listless and rigid.  But at the first chord struck by the


orchestra her face underwent an extraordinary transformation: it was as if she had had an electric shock.  She jumped up from the couch on which she had been reclining and began dancing wildly round the stage, her face changing with the different harmonies of the piece being played: the whole gamut of the emotions was portrayed.  Then a number of songs were sung, followed by violin, piano, and organ solos, to all of which she rendered a mimetic commentary.  An extraordinary feature of her renderings was that, when the music ceased, she held the pose suggested by the last chord played, just as if she had been petrified.  This may have been good showmanship.  Her manager alleged that she 'never rehearsed; did not know what music was going to be played to her and, when she awoke from her hypnotic sleep, was quite unaware of what had happened.'  Whatever part hypnosis played in her act, Magdeleine was very entertaining.

Among the physical mediums whom I saw at the Manor Road circle was Cecil Husk.  He, too, started life as a professional singer, but abandoned the stage when he began his 'materialising' séances.  His chief 'control' or spirit guide was 'John King,' an erstwhile pirate chief!  In addition to his materialisations, which gave one the impression of being formed out of a sort of luminous glow that surrounded him, Husk specialised in 'matter through matter' feats - e.g. the spontaneous appearance of a jointless steel ring on his 'controlled' arms, and similar wonders.  When I saw him he produced 'materialisations' that were not very convincing - they did not appear different to the cheese-cloth 'spirits' with which I was becoming only too familiar.  But some telekinetic phenomena (i.e. the paranormal displacement of objects) rather impressed me.  But I must emphasize that at the Manor Road séances I had no hand in the control of the various mediums I saw: I was a spectator, and nothing more.  I found out afterwards that Husk had been exposed some years previous to my séance (which was held in about 1906), the usual cheese-cloth being seized.

A medium who produced 'spirit paintings' was named David Duguid, a native of Glasgow.  He was an oldish man when I saw him, but a number of small pictures in oils, with the paint still wet, were produced spontaneously upon marked cards that had been quite blank a few minutes previously.  Alas! a few years later similar wet paintings were discovered in his trousers when he was seized at a séance in Manchester in 1905.  He was then seventy-three years old.

Duguid also produced 'spirit photographs,' though not at the séance that I attended.  However, a photographic medium whose


name I forget gave a demonstration at Manor Road and produced spirit heads on plates that were alleged to be unprepared.  The whole thing was such a farce that I went home and promptly duplicated his 'miracles.'  We employed an old gardener named George, and I roped him in as 'sitter.'  In the dark-room I allowed George to choose any plate out of a new packet, and then I stood him in the garden and photographed him.  On the resultant negative, in addition to a portrait of himself, there was my head and shoulders (only) 'materialising' in the bushes behind him, about to hit him on the head with one of his own spades!  The explanation?  Double exposure, and substitution of the plate - the usual method with most spirit photographers.  I was destined to test many photographic mediums in after years, but never once have I considered one genuine, though on one occasion I did get a sort of symbolic hand on a plate under good conditions with a Mrs. Irving at the British College of Psychic Science.

I sat with many minor mediums in the Manor Road circle, and a few major ones, but I forget their names.  Among the speakers I heard were Edmund Dawson Rogers (a joint founder of Light) and C. C. Massey.  I regret never having seen D. D. Home, the Davenport Brothers, William Eglinton, Florrie Cook and Eusapia Palladino, but these mediums - or at least their manifestations - were before my time.

Before I conclude this chapter on my early contacts with spiritualism, I must relate two startling - and not unamusing - incidents at which I 'assisted.'  I have mentioned that most of my psychic experiences were in South London.  But one Saturday I was persuaded by a friend to go to a séance at Swanley, Kent.  As I was then living at Brockley, this was convenient for me, Swanley being about twelve miles distant from my home.  It was a fine Saturday, and we decided to cycle.  I particularly remember this ride, as it was the first time that I really tried out my invention of a cycle-yacht.  It was just a largish sail attached to the front of a bicycle, and in principle similar to the ice-yachts used in Holland, etc.  The 'invention' part of it lay in the fact that by operating a small lever on the frame, the sail and mast - which was telescopic - was instantly drawn, by means of springs, into a box in front of the handle-bars.  I constructed the mechanism in my workshop.  With a following wind one could travel very rapidly by means of this sail, which created quite a sensation as we made our way through Catford, Bromley, and Orpington, on our way to the séance.

After some tea at St. Mary Cray we pushed on to Swanley, where we arrived at about seven o'clock.  Swanley in those days was a


centre for market-gardening, and it may be so still - I have never been there since.  We inquired our way to the 'hall,' which was nothing more than a big, tall barn that was loaned to the 'circle' by a friendly grower of spring cabbages.  The barn was a two-storey affair, the upper part being reached by means of a flight of wooden steps outside the building.

We found about thirty people inside the very lofty barn, which was equipped with chairs, a harmonium, a couple of tables, some paraffin oil lamps, and a stove.  The psychic, we discovered, was an 'inspirational medium.'  That is, she went into a trance and then reeled off a long discourse of the religio-ethico-uplift variety.

I have mentioned that the barn had two floors.  The boards forming the floor of the upper storey were loose and all to pieces, and to prevent dust and debris falling upon the heads of the spiritualists when they held their meetings, a huge tarpaulin had, some months previously, been swung, hammock-fashion, just under the flooring of the upper storey.  This prevented the dust, etc., falling upon the heads of those below.  Pieces of rope had been attached to the four corners of the tarpaulin, the two pieces at either end being twisted together, forming single lengths which were carried to the sides of the barn, where they were secured to staples.  The tarpaulin was thus suspended by two ropes only, one at each end, high over the heads of the sitters.

The séance did not begin until a little after eight o'clock.  It was late summer and, the barn having only one small window, the lamps had been lighted - fortunately!

About nine o'clock, when the entranced medium was warming up to her subject, we all heard an ominous noise above our heads, and to our horror saw the tarpaulin swooping down on us.  The supporting rope at one end had broken, gnawed through by a rat probably.

Before we fairly realised what had happened, we were enveloped in a shower of dust, feathers, bits of straw, old birds' nests, partly gnawed potatoes, decaying vegetables - and several rats and their families!  I have never seen a medium come out of a trance so quickly!  She and the other ladies, with petticoats round necks, leapt on to chairs, while the eight or nine males present chased the stunned rodents round the barn.  The women merely shrieked.  The confusion was indescribable.  However, we got the rats into the field at last, and proceeded to knock the dust off ourselves.  It is fortunate that the oil lamps (attached to the sides of the barn) were not extinguished, or there might have been some serious casualties.  I tremble to think what would have happened had it been a dark séance.


The second contretemps that I witnessed at a séance occurred at a private circle held at a house in Wickham Road, Brockley.  A friend of a friend of mine had 'discovered' a wonderful clairvoyant in the person of a plumber who worked for a local firm.  This man was supposed to possess a 'real gift' of some sort, and so my friend's friend invited him to his house to demonstrate, at the same time giving him half a soveriegn - with a promise of more to come - for his trouble.  I was invited to the small but select party.

The séance was fixed for 8.30 on a Saturday evening in December.  We assembled in good time, but the medium was not so punctual. We waited patiently until past nine o'clock, and were preparing to return to our homes when we heard a commotion outside the front door.  Suddenly the following refrain was borne in upon us:

'We'll all be merry,

Drinkin' whisky, beer and sherry. 

We'll all be merry,

On Corrination Dye!

We'll ask ole Brown to tea, 

We'll ask ole Brown to tea, 

If 'e won't come, we'll ask his son, 

And all his fam-er-lee.

We'll all be merry...'  (Chorus repeated). 


Then there was a short step-dance, followed by a resounding thwack on the front door.  Our host opened it and found the plumber, with a pal, with arms round necks, waiting to be admitted.

They were both drunk, but by no means incapable!  They were in that 'silly' state that usually precedes the aggressive or abusive stage of inebriety.

Our host's first reaction, was to refuse them admission to the house.  But they pushed their way in and, hearing voices, entered the study in which the séance was to have been held.  Both were wearing overcoats.  The medium looked at the startled faces around him, and, catching my eye, exclaimed: 'Hullo, Bertie!'  I tried to look unconcerned.  Then he and his friend did a double-shuffle down the room, halting at the fireplace.  On the mantelpiece were some ornaments, and the medium, suddenly noticing these, exclaimed: 'Wot lover-ly vawziz!'  He could not take his eyes off them and kept repeating 'Wot lover-ly vawziz! '  He was about to pick one up when our host stopped him.  Immediately the man became truculent.  Flinging off his overcoat and coat, he assumed a fighting attitude and shouted, 'I ain't afraid of none of yer! ' He then


offered to 'take on' anyone, and started sparring round the room.  Our host threatened to call a policeman.

By this time, the medium's friend had sobered considerably.  The unusual surroundings in which he found himself were counteracting the effects of too much gin and water in unfair proportions.  He tried to lead the medium out of the room.  This was too much for the 'psychic,' who lunged out and gave his friend a right-hand wallop in the solar plexus.  Then a regular set-to ensued, the astonished sitters still retaining their seats in semi-circular formation at one end of the room.  But the medium was no match for his friend, who pushed and punched him out of the room and into the hall.  Our host hastened to open the front door, and the two of them, still fighting, tumbled head first down the steps into the front garden.  One of the sitters had followed with the medium's coat and overcoat, and these were flung after the two men as they sprawled on the gravel path.  With a sigh of relief our host slammed the front door.

Well, we all had a good laugh after they had gone, as we sat round the study fire sipping our coffee, and the 'lover-ly vawziz' was a standing joke in the family for many a day.  I, personally, heard no more of the plumber-medium with a 'real gift,' and neither he nor his muscular friend troubled the Wickham Road family again.  Many other strange sights have I seen at séances, and these will be described in their proper place.



Chapter Three              Chapter Five 


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