29th September 1875
Letter from my Grandfather; to my Grandmother on SPIRITUALISM
[Translation by Bettina STEIN]
As promised I shall tell you now about my latest experiences, i.e. about Spiritualism. I was sitting last week next to a Posish Countess and the conversation turned to Spiritualism, this concerns spirits which appear to those people who are suitable by Nature. This phenomenon has increased so much amongst the Aristocracy, that there is hardly a countess or baroness, specially in France and England amongst the Lords and Ladies- who not belong to the secret sect of Spiritualists. These people have their secret connections, have weekly "Séances", where they talk to the Spirits of their Dead with the help of the Medam Voyant. These spirits make known their views while the Medium writes them down in his sleep.
After that short explanation, my countess told me, that she believes, that I have in my nerves much Spiritualism and magnetism. In order to amuse myself I agreed, telling her that I have so much magnetism that I could calm wild animals with the touch of my hands.
A live lobster was brought to the table, I touched him 3 times with my hand and the lobster, which was so wild that he knocked down 2 glasses with, his tail, was mesmerized. I could put him upside-down while I gave him 2 points of support. Then I asked for a live chicken and put it also in magnetic sleep. You can imagine what an impression these exercises made on all those spiritists. I was accepted into their circle and was invited to their next meeting.
It took place in a medium room, lit by one candle standing on the stove. There were about 25-27 people. They all sat around a Table, one man was already asleep. They now prayed to their Spirits. There appeared the Spirit of an English Lady, who demanded via the Medium that he should immediately travel to England for his business affairs, as something unpleasant had happened. The person had left for England already. Then they asked me to hypnotize some one present. I felt very uncomfortable and declared, that I never had done anything of this kind. But they urged me and I agreed. Immediately the person fell into the sleep and made grotesque movements. All this in a dark room with 25 persons, all in secrecy. It was quite clear to me. These people put themselves in such a sensitiveness of their nerves by searching for Spirits, that they really believe of seeing them. They were so taken by my experiments that they saw in me a spiritistical prophet. And my experiments were only based on physical laws. When I tried to explain this to them, they said, I make a mistake, and I will eventually learn to believe in myself and my mission. You see, Thekla, that the honest man can not prevail while the world and the Aristocracy is amazed that I one does not want to mislead them.
That was the day before yesterday. Yesterday, it was even more interesting. A gentleman approached me and asked whether I had seen photographs of spirits? I told him that that story is based on a monstrous court-case in Paris and that I believe it to be a great swindle. However, he showed me photos of spirits, which were made specially for him in Paris. He swears that it is the picture of his deceased child of whom no photo exists; — I told him, that I possess a camera and that I am willing to convince him of those deceits.
What happened? They hired a studio for me for one afternoon to allow me to photograph these spirits. Yesterday was the meeting. A man called the spirit, only seen by him and the Medium Voyant. After I had put the Negative into the camera, he said: “now open the Door” I opened the lid and closed it again after 15 seconds. During that time there were 10 people standing around me trembling all over, all staring at my camera. I then went into the Dark-room, accompanied by 2 gentlemen. When I took the Negative out, there was nothing on it. I put it in "to a solution of Sulpha and suddenly there appeared the ghost picture of the English Lady who had appeared the previous day. You can imagine the ecstasy of the people around me. They saw in me the Messiah of spiritualism.
How did I do it? Very simple, I bought a Magazine with pictures of women clothed in that period and I had photographed one of these women on my Negative in the Dark-room and made it visible later. I explained that simple fact to my audience to teach them how they are taken for a ride by the spiritist Photographers, but nothing doing, they believe in their English lady and in my mission. Here you have a picture of the Haute Aristocracy and how one can make them to one’s slaves with a little physical Knowledge