How did the word come to be selected? If the family of this distinguished man had used ordinary caution in formulating the test, they would certainly have chosen a word that had not occurred before, and I think that point must be clear to the reader. But, though they are probably sensible people in ordinary life, when they turn to the spirit world they fall a prey to their dissociated streams, in which was the knowledge that the word or something like it had been used before and was likely to be used again, especially if, as I suggest, the medium knew it had scored. Hence these believers were, as far as concerned their dissociated streams, deliberately introducing a source of error or, in laboratory language, cooking the experiment.
Among my card tricks is included the elementary one (technically known as ‘forcing a card’) described at the beginning of this chapter, but I may let some one choose a card from the pack on the table whilst my back is turned; then, the card being placed in the pack which I have now taken in my hand, I do some other trick. It is common for these tricks to be confounded, and for one of my audience to assure friends that I let him or her take a card from the pack on the table when my back was turned and then named it by ‘thought-reading.’ Such a performance is beyond me, but a like garbled account is characteristic of what we hear concerning séances: the story-tellers are in a state of mental confusion, they add or subtract in order to make the result emphatic, any power of criticism they possess is suspended, and we are asked to swallow the final product and confess ourselves believers.
After considering my own experiences and the evidence produced by Sir Oliver Lodge, I have reached the conclusion that no one desirous of believing only the truth can accept anything ‘supernormal’ without the strictest investigation on the spot, aided by a knowledge of trickery, verbal or material, as well as of the results produced by dissociation and logic-tight compartments in the minds of the would-be honest.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle shows how convincing a twice-told tale becomes. I borrow from _The New Revelation_ (p. 64):–
‘Or once again, if Raymond can tell us of a photograph no copy of which had reached England, and which proved to be exactly as he described it, and if he can give us, through the lips of strangers, all sorts of details of his home life, which his own relatives had to verify before they found them to be true, is it unreasonable to suppose that he is fairly accurate in his description of his own experiences and state of life at the moment at which he is communicating?’
The words ‘can tell us of a photograph no copy of which had reached England’ would lead us to believe that information that the photograph existed came from Raymond: fortunately the original account is accessible.
Here is the photograph story, taken from _Raymond_ (p. 195). The medium speaks, saying: ‘You have several portraits of this boy. Before he went away you had got a good portrait of him–two–no three. Two where he is alone and one where he is in a group of other men. He is particular that I should tell you of this. In one you see his walking-stick’. (Moonstone here put an imaginary stick under his arm.)
This is ordinary guess-work, and it would be true of the families of most officers, even as to the stick; but it was not true in this case, for we read that though they had ‘single photographs of him of course, and in uniform’, they had _not_ one of him in a group of other men; yet this is the revelation referred to by Sir Arthur–the photograph incident that has impressed so many.
Let us put the two statements side by side:–
Before he went away you … Raymond can tell us had … one where he is in a of a photograph no copy of group of other men. He is which had reached England? particular that I should tell you of this.
Not being able to explain the extraordinary identity of these photographs, I must leave the problem to the creator of Sherlock Holmes; we shall gain no help from Sir Oliver, for his ideas of identity, as we shall see in the next paragraph, are equally curious.
Now for ‘exactly as he described it’: Sir Oliver Lodge, having been informed in an ordinary letter that a group photograph containing Raymond is being sent to him from France, went to another medium and told her, ‘He said something about having a photograph taken with some other men’ (this itself is a garbled statement); leading questions followed, and the medium fenced with them. Here are the important ones:–
O. J. L.: ‘Do you recollect the photograph at all?’
‘He thinks there were several others taken with him, not one or two, but several.’ (This is not even a guess.)
O. J. L.: ‘Does he remember how he looked in the photograph?’
‘No, he doesn’t remember how he looked.’
O. J. L.: ‘No, no. I mean was he standing up?’