Newspaper & Journal Articles
In a recent article in the Journal of the American S.P.R., I commented upon the fact that an account of a séance to be convincing must be detailed, accurate, and presented in proper sequence; and instanced the work of Lodge, Richet, and other scientists, at the same time drawing attention to the careless way in which same investigators draw up their reports.
The ink was hardly dry upon my paper when I happened to pick up the Christian Spiritualist far April 1 1926, in which the Rev. John Lamond, D.D., gives a long account of an experience with William Hope, the Crewe photographic psychic, which illustrates my meaning much better than anything I could write in support of my contention. I want it to be distinctly understood that I am not going to comment upon the
merits or demerits of the case, but merely upon the manner it is presented to the reader.
Dr. Lamomd opens his story with a paragraph concerning myself, in which he says that in my volume, "Margery," I stated that "when Houdini and his friends were out to prove fraud they did not hesitate to tamper with the conditions," etc. There are two inaccuracies in Dr. Lamond's opening remarks: I have never written a volume on "Margery," and I have never made such a statement about Houdini. Then, in mentioning my Stella C. experiments, he says: "He sent the report of his investigations to the Press. Not a line appeared." But I have never sent any Stella report to the Press, and I do not know where Dr. Lamond acquired this information.
Dr. Lamond does not tell us the date of his experiment with Hope, but mentions that he called on him casually, and together they went to, a chemist's shop near Market Square, Crewe, and bought a packet of plates. He continues: "And here I wish to emphasise that the plates never left my hand until the negative was developed in the dark room." The italics are the Doctor's. This statement is merely ridiculous because in the photograph (with "extra") accompanying the article the Doctor's hands are visible and they do, not hold the plates, one of which, we will assume, was in the camera while the photograph was being taken.
Thirteen lines below the Doctor's emphatic statement that he never parted with the plates, he says : "Mr. Hope then took the plates between his hands "and held them" for a minute or two." The illumination of the dark-room (a recess under the stairs) was a "feeble red light given by a flash lamp," and the Doctor admits that it was his "first experience of photography." Yet he thinks that if Hope cheated he must be "one of the greatest magicians the world has ever known."
Dr. Lamond received his "conclusive proof" of the genuineness of the "extra" he received because of the fact that Hope charged only 4s. 9d. per dozen for the prints. Dr. Lamond bought a gross of them for £2 17s. Dr. Lamond (because he knows so little about photography) thinks this is cheap. But it is not at all cheap, and the Doctor could have had these pictures printed by any photographic dealer for half the money. I have the last (1925) list of "Agfa" printing papers before me, and I see that the retail price of one gross of ¼-plate gaslight papers is 8s. (postcards 14s.). The "trade" receive 40 per cent. discount off these prices. If Hope purchased his papers retail he would make at least 45s. out of the Doctor's visit. This does not include Hope's time; but, as I have remarked, any dealer would have supplied a gross of ¼-plate prints far half what Hope charged. Hope's charges are all right (assuming the "extra" to be genuine), but it is the Doctor's arguments that are all
wrong. The "extra" Dr. Lamond received may be perfectly genuine; but, the way the case is presented with its inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and curious logic, could hardly fail to raise a doubt in the mind of the reader as to whether any part of the story is a literal account of what actually happened. It is difficult to determine the value of an experiment when we are certain that it has been reported correctly; it becomes impossible to do so immediately we learn that the data supplied are under suspicion.
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