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THE HOLMES CONTROVERSY
From A Modern Panarion
Articles by HPB
IN the last Religio-Philosophical Journal (for February 27th) in the Philadelphia department, edited by Dr. Child, under the most poetical heading of, "After the Storm comes the Sunshine," we read the following:
I have been waiting patiently for the excitement in reference to the Holmes fraud to subside a little. I will now make some further statements and answer some questions.
The stories of my acquaintance with Mrs. White are all fabrications.
I shall not notice the various reports put forth about my pecuniary relations farther than to say there is a balance due to me for money loaned to the Holmeses,
I claim the right to answer the above three quotations, the more so that the second one consigns me most unceremoniously to the ranks of the liars. Now if there is, in my humble judgment, anything more contemptible than a cheat, it is certainly a liar.
The rest of this letter, editorial, or whatever it may be, is unanswerable, for reasons that will be easily understood by whoever reads it. When petulant Mr. Pancks (in Little Dorrit) spanked the benevolent Christopher Casby, this venerable patriarch only mildly lifted up his blue eves heavenward, and smiled more benignly than ever. Dr. Child, tossed about and as badly spanked by public opinion, smiles as sweetly as Mr. Casby, talks of "sunshine," and quiets his urgent accusers by assuring them that "it is all fabrications."
I don't know whence Dr. Child takes his "sunshine," unless he draws it from the very bottom of his innocent heart.
For my part, since I came to Philadelphia, I have seen little but slush and dirt; slush in the streets, and dirt in this exasperating Katie King mystery.
I would strongly advise Dr. Child not to accuse me of "fabrication," whatever else he may be inclined to ornament me with. What I say I can prove, and am ever willing to do so at any day. If he is innocent of all participation in this criminal fraud, let him "rise and explain."
If he succeeds in clearing his record, I will be the first to rejoice, and promise to offer him publicly my most sincere apology for the "erroneous suspicions" I labour under respecting his part in the affair; but he must first prove that he is thoroughly innocent. Hard words prove nothing, and he cannot hope to achieve such a victory by simply accusing people of "fabrications." If he does not abstain from applying epithets unsupported by substantial proofs, he risks, as in the game of shuttlecock and battledore, the chance of receiving the missile back, and maybe that it will hurt him worse than he expects.
In the article in question he says:
The stories of my acquaintance with Mrs. White are all fabrications. I did let her in two or three times, but the entry and hall were so dark that it was impossible to recognize her or any one. I have seen her several times, and knew that she looked more like Katie King than Mr. [?] or Mrs. Holmes.
Mirabile dictu!This beats our learned friend, Dr. Beard. The latter denies, point-blank, not only "materialization," which is not yet actually proved to the world, but also every spiritual phenomenon. But Dr. Child denies being acquainted with a woman whom he confesses himself to have seen "several times," received in his office, where she was seen repeatedly by others, and yet at the same time admits that he "knew she looked like Katie King," etc. By the way, we have all laboured under the impression that Dr. Child admitted in The Inquirer that he saw Mrs. White for the first time and recognized her as Katie Ring only on that morning when she made her affidavit at the office of the justice of the peace. A "fabrication" most likely. In the R.-P. Journal for October 27th, 1874, Dr. Child wrote thus:
Your report does not for a moment shake my confidence in our Katie King, as she comes to me every day and talks to me. On several occasions Katie had come to me and requested Mr. Owen and myself to go there [meaning to the Holmeses'] and she would come and repeat what she had told me above.
Did Dr. Child ascertain where Mrs. White was at the time of the spirit's visits to him?
As to Mrs. White, I know her well. I have on many occasions let her into the house. I saw her at the time the manifestations were going on in Blissfield. She has since gone to Massachusetts.<p">And still the doctor assures us he was not acquainted with Mrs. White. What signification does he give to the word "acquaintance" in such a case? Did he not go, in the absence of the Holmeses, to their house, and talk with her and even quarrel with the woman? Another fabricated story, no doubt. I defy Dr. Child to print again, if he dare, such a word as fabrication in relation to myself, after he has read a certain statement that I reserve for the last.
In all this pitiful, humbugging romance of an "exposure" by a too material she-spirit, there has not been given us a single reasonable explanation of even so much as one solitary fact. It began with a bogus biography, and threatens to end in a bogus fight, since every single duel requires at least two participants, and Dr. Child prefers extracting sunshine from the cucumbers of his soul and letting the storm subside, to fighting like a man for his own fair name. He says that "he shall not notice" what people say about his little speculative transactions with the Holmeses. He assures us that they owe him money. Very likely, but it does not alter the alleged fact of his having paid $10 for every séance and pocketing the balance. Dare he say that he did not do it? The Holmeses say otherwise, and the statements in writing of various witnesses corroborate them.
The Holmeses may be scamps in the eyes of certain persons, and the only ones in the eyes of the more prejudiced; but as long as their statements have not been proven false, their word is as good as the word of Dr. Child; aye, in a court of justice even, the "Mediums Holmes" would stand just on the same level as any spiritual prophet or clairvoyant who might have been visited by the same identical spirits that visited the former. So long as Dr. Child does not legally prove them to be cheats and himself innocent, why should not they be as well entitled to belief as himself?
From the first hour of the Katie King mystery, if people have accused them, no one so far as I know—not even Dr. Child himself—has proved, or even undertaken to prove, the innocence of their ex-cashier and recorder. The fact that every word of the ex-leader and president of the Philadelphian Spiritualists would be published by every spiritual paper (and here we must confess to our wonder that he does not hasten much to avail himself of this opportunity) while any statement coming from the Holmeses would be pretty sure of rejection, would not necessarily imply the fact that they alone are guilty; it would only go towards showing that, notwithstanding the divine truth of our faith and the teachings of our invisible guardians, some Spiritualists have not profited by them to learn impartiality and justice.
These "mediums" are persecuted; so far it is but justice, since they themselves admitted their guilt about the photography fraud, and unless it can be shown that they were thereunto controlled by lying spirits, their own mouths condemn them; but what is less just, is that they are slandered and abused on all points and made to bear alone all the weight of a crime, where confederacy peeps out from every page of the story. No one seems willing to befriend them—these two helpless uninfluential creatures, who, if they sinned at all, perhaps sinned through weakness and ignorance—to take their case in hand, and by doing justice to them, do justice at the same time to the cause of truth. If their guilt should be as evident as the daylight at noon, is it not ridiculous that their partner, Dr. Child, should show surprise at being so much as suspected! History records but one person—the legitimate spouse of the great Cæsar—whose name has to remain enforced by law as above suspicion. Methinks that if Dr. Child possesses some natural claims to his self-assumed title of Katie King's "Father Confessor," he can have none whatever to share the infallibility of Madame Cæsar's virtue. Being pretty sure as to this myself, and feeling, moreover, somewhat anxious to swell the list of pertinent questions, which are called by our disingenuous friend "fabrications," with at least one fact, I will now proceed to furnish your readers with the following:
"Katie's" picture has been, let us say, proved a fraud, an imposition on the credulous world, and is Mrs. White's portrait. This counterfeit has been proved by the beauty of the "crooking elbow," in her bogus autobiography (the proof sheets of which Dr. Child was seen correcting), by the written confession of the Holmeses, and, lastly, by Dr. Child himself.
Out of the several bogus portraits of the supposed spirit, the most spurious one has been declared—mostly on the testimony endorsed by Dr. Child and "over his signature"—to be the one where the pernicious and false Katie King is standing behind the medium.
The operation of this delicate piece of imposture proved so difficult as to oblige the Holmeses to take into the secret of the conspiracy the photographer.
Now Dr. Child denies having had anything whatever to do with the sittings for those pictures. He denies it most emphatically, and goes so far as to say (we have many witnesses and proofs of this) that he was out of town, four hundred miles away, when the said pictures were taken. And so he was, bless his dear prophetic soul! Meditating and chatting with the nymphs and goblins of Niagara Falls, so that, when he pleads an alibi, it's no "fabrication" but the truth for once.
Unfortunately for the veracious Dr. Child—"whose character and reputation for truthfulness and moral integrity no one doubts," here we quote the words of "Honesty" and "Truth," transparent pseudonyms of an "amateur" for detecting, exposing and writing under the cover of secrecy, who tried to give a friendly push to the doctor in two articles, but failed in both—unfortunately for H. T. Child, we say, he got inspired in some evil hour to write a certain article, and forgetting the wise motto, Verba volant, scripta manent. [Translation: spoken words fly away, written words remain. -BNet Eds.] to publish it in The Daily Graphic on Nov. 16th, together with the portraits of John and Katie King.
Now for this bouquet of the endorsement of a fact by a truthful man, "whose moral integrity no one can doubt."
To the Editor of "The Daily Graphic."
On the evening of July 20th, after a large and successful séance, in which Katie had walked out into the room in the presence of thirty persons and had disappeared and reäppeared in full view, she remarked to Mr. Leslie and myself that if we, with four others whom she named, would remain after the séance, she would like to try for her photograph. We did so, and there were present six persons besides the photographer. I had procured two dozen magnesian spirals, and, when all was ready, she opened the door of the cabinet and stood in it, while Mr. Holmes on one side, and I upon the other, burned these, making a brilliant light. We tried two plates, but neither of them was satisfactory.
Another effort was made on July 23rd, which was successful. We asked her if she would try to have it taken by daylight. She said she would. We sat with shutters open at 4 p.m. In a few moments Katie appeared at the aperture and said she was ready. She asked to have one of the windows closed, and that we should hold a shawl to screen her. As soon as the camera was ready she came out and walked behind the shawl to the middle of the room, a distance of six or eight feet, where she stood in front of the camera. She remained in that position until the first picture was taken, when she retired to the cabinet.
Mr. Holmes proposed that she should permit him to sit in front of the camera, and should come out and place her hand upon his shoulder. To this she assented, and desired all present to avoid looking into her eyes, as this disturbed the conditions very much.
The second picture was then taken in which she stands behind Mr. Holmes. When the camera was closed she showed great signs of weakness, and it was necessary to assist her back to the cabinet, and when she got to the door she appeared ready to sink to the floor and disappeared [?]. The cabinet door was opened, but she was not to be seen. In a few minutes she appeared again and remarked that she had not been sufficiently materialized, and said she would like to try again, if we could wait a little while. We waited about fifteen minutes, when she rapped on the cabinet, signifying that she was ready to come out. She did so, and we obtained the third negative.
(Signed) DR. H. T. CHILD.
And so, Dr. Child, ,em>we have obtained this, we did that, and we did many other things. Did you? Now, besides Dr. Child's truthful assertions about his being out of town, especially at the time this third negative was obtained, we have the testimony of the photographer, Dr. Selger, and other witnesses to corroborate the fact. At the same time, I suppose that Dr. Child will not risk a denial of his own article. I have it in my possession and keep it, together with many others as curious, printed like it, and written in black and white. Who fabricates stories? Can the doctor answer?
How will he creep out of this dilemma? What rays of his spiritual "sunshine" will be able to de-materialize such a contradictory fact as this one? Here we have an article taking up two spacious columns of ,em>The Daily Graphic, in which he asserts as plainly as possible, that he was present himself at the sittings of Katie King for her portrait, that the spirit come out boldly, in full daylight, that she disappeared on the threshold of the cabinet, and that heno one in the said cabinet, for the door remained opened. Who did he help? Whose fluttering heart beat against his paternal arm and waistcoat? Was it the bonny Eliza? Of course, backed by such reliable testimony of such a truly trustworthy witness, the pictures sold like wild-fire. Who got the proceeds? Who kept them? If Dr. Child was not in town when the pictures were taken, then this article is an "evident fabrication." On the other hand, if what he says in it is truth, and he was present at all at the attempt of this bogus picture-taking, then he certainly must have known "who was who, in 1874," as the photographer knew it, and as surely it did not require Argus-eyes to recognize in full daylight with only one shutter partially closed, a materialized, ethereal spirit, from a common, "elbow-crooking" mortal woman, whom, though not acquainted with her, the doctor still "knew well."
If our self-constituted leaders, our prominent recorders of the phenomena, will humbug and delude the public with such reliable statements as this one, how can we Spiritualists wonder at the masses of incredulous scoffers that keep on politely taking us for "lunatics" when they do not very rudely call us "liars and charlatans" to our faces? It is not the occasionally cheating "mediums" that have or can impede the progress of our cause; it's the exalted exaggerations of some fanatics on one hand, and the deliberate, unscrupulous statements of those who delight in dealing in "wholesale fabrications" and "pious frauds" that have arrested the unusually rapid spreading of Spiritualism in 1874 and brought it to a dead stop in 1875. For how many years to come yet, who can tell?
In his "After the Storm comes the Sunshine," the Doctor makes the following melancholy reflection:
It has been suggested that going into an atmosphere of fraud, such as surrounds these mediums [the Holmeses] and being sensitive [O poor Yorick!] I was more liable to be deceived than others.
We shudder indeed at the thought of the exposure of so much sensitiveness to so much pollution. Alas! soiled dove! how very sensitive must a person be who picks up such evil influences that they actually force him into the grossest of fabrications and make him invent stories and endorse facts that he has not and could not have seen. If Dr. Child, victim to his too sensitive nature, is liable to fall so easily as that under the control of wicked "Diakka," our friendly advice to him is to give up Spiritualism as soon as possible, and join a Young Men's Christian Association; for then, under the protecting wing of the true orthodox Church, he can begin a regular fight, like a second St. Anthony, with the orthodox devil. Such Diakka as he fell in with at the Holmeses' must beat Old Nick by long odds, and if he could not withstand them by the unaided strength of his own pure soul, he may with "bell, book and candle" and the use of holy water be more fortunate in a tug with Satan, crying as other "Father Confessors" have heretofore, "Exorciso vos in nomine Lucis!" and signifying his triumph with a robust Laus Deo.
H. P. BLAVATSKY
Philadelphia, March, 1875.