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Mediums and Psychic Researchers Part 2

By:Richard Rowley
Date: Mon,20 Sep 2010
Submitter:Richard Rowley

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Professor of Chemistry Robert Hare, one of the first psychical researchers.

Most Psychical Research deals with physical matters as well as psychical, so as well as examining the nature and quality of the psyche, or soul and spirit, it places their phenomena well and truly within the bounds of the material world so as to understand them better. A proper study of the intangible spirit might seem to be made more sympathetically in the areas of transpersonal
psychology, and mysticism, but Psychical Research deals practically
with what it can see, hear and measure, that is to
say, physical phenomena, as well as corroborating the evidence of mental and trance mediumship. But it gets into trouble
straight away when it cannot find scientific
explanations for apports, ectoplasmic
materializations, poltergeist activity, levitation,
bilocation and independent direct voice, spirit photography, ITC and EVP. These happenings do not follow
or obey the known laws of science. Hence, they
cannot be tested or replicated exactly. As a result,
they are either ignored, not properly examined, or
written off as hallucinations or delusions, or natural
events not yet understood or accounted for.
Then, in the testing of mediums, physical control
and surveillance has to be made, to prevent the
possibility of fraud. Dishonest mediums or pure fakes
have been caught in the act of speaking directly into
the trumpet, or dressing up to act as a materialized
spirit. The main reason for holding hands, or linking
fingers, in a circle or séance is to prevent the
medium from breaking away and producing raps and other
phenomena fraudulently. Psychical energy does not need
any physical contact to enhance it, and in fact, in
physical mediumship, touching a medium who is
producing ectoplasm may prove to be fatal. Contact
should only be made when the spirits, or the guides or
controls, allow it.

The spirits report that the spiritual planes
seem to them to be just as solid and real as our
physical world seems to be to us. But even material
science tells us that our reality is not solid at all,
but a mass of whirling subatomic particles spinning in
infinite space. What used to be called the ether is
no longer held to be an appropriate term for the
intangible substance we are living in. Spirits try to
give evidence of their former physical identity by
describing their physical appearance and reproducing
recognizable mannerisms and timbre and tone of voice,
and their mode of thinking and turn of phrase in their
native language. So physical attributes are
important in assessing the legitimacy of a spirit’s

But more important for us is the study of the
philosophy and spiritual wisdom which the more
advanced spirits bring back to offer us in their
communications. It is this knowledge that is the most
important factor in psychical research, not the
presentation of physical phenomena alone. Psychic
abilities are important to develop, if they are used
appropriately to search more deeply into the meaning
and purpose of life and what lies beyond. But our
quality of mind is what we take with us with our
eternal spirit when we finally leave our physical
bodies. Good quality is what we are really looking for
in psychical research, and so this will be our focus
in this study of researchers and investigators from
the past. We will listen to what the spirits have to
SAY, rather than look at the wonders they can perform.
That is how we will measure the maturity of their
mind, and so the reliability of their information.
What are their intentions in communicating with us?
Is it to help, teach and heal, or to disrupt and
distract us and lead us astray in order to obtain further experience of the material world vicariously by obsessing or possessing us?

This series commences with one of the early
investigators into Mediumship and Spiritualism.
After that, in subsequent episodes, researchers will
be selected at random from different times and
places, rather than being kept in a chronological
order, which would take many years to complete, if
ever. The chief reason for darting back and forth is
to show that the working of spirit is the same,
everywhere, and for all time. All the reports,
evidence and communications read as if they are taking
place here and now. There may have been a few changes
in language and idiom, and developments in technology
may have changed some conditions – electric light,
recording techniques, infra-red cameras, tapes, videos
DVDs, EVP, ITC and so on, but in the eternal present,
everything seems fresh, new and exciting, whether it
is happening right now, back in the Middle Ages or in
Biblical times. The essence of spirit has been behind
the universe, over trillions upon trillions of our
earth years. In turn it has been enriched by the
material experiences we take part in, and all the
changes and inventions, and Evolution itself, are
inspired first from the world of spirit, which is the
home we will return to.

A similar time-span covered the Rescue Circle series,
moving back from Dowding’s work in the 1940s to
Theophila Dittus in the 1830s, the work done in
Buffalo and Rochester from the 1890s up to the First
World War, various groups during and after that war,
then the Phillips’ investigations between the 1930s
and the 1960s, a rescue circle held in the 1990s after
the Gulf War, and more recently, after 9/11. In fact,
so much work has been done over this time period by
investigators, mediums and sitters alike, that we can
say with assurance that Spiritualism has been active,
alive and well since it first emerged all those years ago.

Professor Robert Hare at first behaved towards
Spiritualism very like some of our present-day
parapsychologists. Educated at Yale and Harvard, an
Associate of the Smithsonian Institute and Professor
of Chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania in
Philadelphia, he wrote more than 150 papers on
scientific subjects and was the inventor of the
oxy-hydrogen blowpipe. Then, in 1853, at the age of 72
after a long and successful academic career, he “felt
called upon, as an act of duty to his fellow
creatures, to bring whatever influence he possessed to
the attempt to stem the tide of ‘popular madness,’
which in defiance of reason and science, was fast
setting in favor of the gross delusion called
Spiritualism.” He wrote many articles in the press
denouncing the new movement, and set up many
mechanical devices to test many different mediums and
try and trap the “tricky spirits.” But when he set up
apparatus to test the medium Henry Gordon, he found
that some outside intelligence was moving the device,
with a force of up to 18 pounds. So with other
phenomena such as table tipping, the rearranging of
letters into order, and the playing of melodies, a
human intelligence was present.
His own experiments and the spirit
communications received through the mediums he worked
with, including Henry Gordon and A. D. Ruggles,
convinced him that the phenomena behind Spiritualism
were genuine. He later became a medium himself, and
in 1855 published the results of his investigations,
and the spirit communications he had received, in his
book “Spiritualism Scientifically Demonstrated.” It
passed through five editions and was reprinted in
1963, over 100 years later, by the Sycamore Press.
Needless to say, his colleagues at Harvard
University were quick to denounce him and his “insane
adherence to the gigantic humbug.” He was forced to
resign from his chair of Chemistry, and when he
addressed the American Association for the Advancement
of Science in Washington in 1854, he was howled down
and silenced in a coarse and ungentlemanlike
discussion by this august body. It was decided that
Spiritualism was a dangerous subject to be introduced
into the convention, and so unworthy of their
attention. Yet, at the same session, there was an
extended, grave and profound discussion upon the cause
“why roosters crow between twelve and one-o-clock at
It was not only the results of his experiments
that changed Robert Hare from being a skeptic into
becoming an active Spiritualist. It was the meeting
of many different mediums and the demonstration of
their various gifts, and above all the communications
he received from his own relatives in spirit.
Modern critics can point out that these accounts
are anecdotal, or that no properly devised and
controlled scientific tests were made or that the
professor was naïve to accept and believe all that he
saw and heard. However the same will be said of us
when our statements are reviewed 100 years from now.
Those who had these experiences were quite justified
to record and validate them. Who are we to judge
them? We can compare, acknowledge and try to
understand what they experienced, rather than
cynically discount and discard their findings. If we
all thought in this way, History would be a closed
book, and our reality would have no depth or breadth
of perspective.

Here are a few of the experiences Robert Hare had
with the mediums of his day. To start with, this is
what he said at a Spiritualist conference in New York
in September, 1854, on the subject of the evidences of
spirit presence and power:

“Perhaps there is nothing more astonishing in the
history of science than that which is presented to the
human mind in the fact that the presence of a frail
boy or girl [medium] supplies the conditions for the
exhibition of an invisible power, physical and
intelligent, far transcending their normal capacities.
Although all men have the power to witness these
manifestations, yet there is, undoubtedly, something
in the sphere [aura]or presence of a rigid skeptic,
which interferes with the conditions and stifles the
outcoming of the phenomena.
I once went into a room appropriated to séances;
saw an ordinary dining table; examined it thoroughly,
and could ascertain nothing unusual or extraordinary
about it. A medium was present, and the table was
repeatedly moved, without any apparent physical
contact, and made to beat time to music. He then got
upon the table, with his limbs hanging over the side,
but without touching the floor, and it was raised
repeatedly from the floor, with his superincumbent
weight upon it, and made to beat time to a variety of
tunes that were sung, the quavers and semiquavers
[eighth and sixteenth notes] all being accurately
touched off by it, all of which it was impossible for
one in the form to accomplish.

On a subsequent occasion, I took a gentleman –
the editor of the Daily Courier – to the same place
with me, when the phenomena were repeated, the table
again beating time to the music with the gentleman
upon it, and other equally extraordinary exhibitions
of spirit-power. But afterwards, I took a Professor
of Dickenson College, who is a confirmed skeptic and
opposer of the manifestations, to the same medium and
although the external conditions were apparently alike
favorable, they failed to get the least manifestation
of spirit-power. I told him to call again and perhaps
they would succeed better. After he was gone, the
manifestations were produced as usual, and when I
asked the spirits why they did not manifest in his
presence, they said ‘Tell him we could not do so,
because he is himself a counter or antagonist medium,
and that his presence annulled the power of the

Subsequently I came again, and brought with me
another gentleman, Dr. Bird, who is favorable to
Spiritualism, and we all sat down together for the
manifestations. The medium was forthwith entranced,
and took the hand of Dr. Bird, when the manifestations
were, as usual, produced. The favorable influence of
Dr. Bird evidently countervailed the opposing sphere
[aura] of the Dickenson Professor. I believe that the
spirits told the truth, when they stated that the
sphere or aura of some persons, and especially
skeptics, is counter to that of the medium, and
destroys the power of the spirits to operate.
Inasmuch as there are degrees of mediumship, it is
natural to suppose that they shade off, until they
present in some persons, and especially skeptics, a
positive and antipodal [adverse] power, which
[counter-]balances and overcomes that of the spirit
through the medium.

A friend of mine in Philadelphia has a boy who is
an excellent medium. He is often alone with him in
his lecture room, and has witnessed a number of most
extraordinary test manifestations. On one occasion,
the spirit of his brother came and communicated and
said that he had died of dropsy, in intense pain,
which was occasioned by the water oozing through the
skin. He died sixty-four years ago. My friend is now
seventy-six years of age – has survived all his
family, and no one living knows the circumstances of
that brother’s death but himself.
On another occasion, a spirit came, moved the
spirit-scope [an automatic writing machine with a dial
containing the letters of the alphabet] without any
physical contact whatever, and spelt out his name, C.H.
Hare, and when I asked who it was, he replied, ‘Your
cousin from New Brunswick.’ This was in fact a second
cousin of mine with whom I have had but little
acquaintance while he was residing on earth.
I had a basket filled with a number of small glass
and metallic balls, and the spirits would, without any
visible contact, throw them about the room until the
basket was emptied, and then again collect them in the
basket. The boy-medium has never taken any money for
his time or the exercise of his mediumship. His
father, on my request, consented to let him accompany
me on my recent trip to attend the session of the
‘American Association for the Advancement of Science,’
at Montreal. One evening, on our way to Canada, we
were having a séance with the boy for a medium, at Dr.
Gray’s of this city. After the usual exhibition of
the spirit phenomena, the boy could not find his cap.
We searched high and low, through the room and house
for it, but without success. The spirits told him to
go without his cap; but, since he did not like to be
seen in the streets without it, we purchased another
for him. After we had gone about a hundred yards from
the house, the cap fell upon the table, in the
presence of those who remained.

Next morning, while we were yet in our state-room
on board the boat, we found the door locked, and the
key missing. We searched for a long time
unsuccessfully, when the spirits said it was in the
bottom of the carpet-bag. But the key of the
carpet-bag was also gone, when the spirits said it was
at the bottom of the trunk, and on taking out the
baggage we found it and then found the key of the door
at the bottom of the carpet-bag!
When we arrived at Montreal, and put up at our
hotel, I hunted my baggage for my toilet-case, but
could not find it. The spirits told me it was under
the bolster of my bed. I raised the bolster and
searched, but could not find it. I had my eye upon
the boy all the time. The spirits told me to look
again; and upon raising the bolster again, precisely
where I had looked before, I found it. It was
impossible that the boy could have done this, for he
stood in the same place all the time, and could not
have moved without my seeing him.
The next evening we went to a large party, at the
house of a lady, to hold a circle. We had packed the
spirit-scope, balls, and other apparatus in the
carpet-bag. There were many skeptics and disagreeable
persons present; many counter-mediums, I suppose. When
we came to open the carpet-bag we could not find the
key. We went to the table, but could not get any
communications. We entered into another room with the
boy, and the spirit spelled out, by means of raps,
that I would get the key before I got home. Whilst I
was riding along the streets of Montreal on my way
home, the key came down upon my breast!
On another occasion, while alone with the boy in
our room, and after we had just locked up the balls,
spirit-scope, shaving-case, etc., in my carpet-bag,
the balls were in some inscrutable way, taken from the
carpet-bag, and fell upon me in the shower. Then came
the box, razor-strap, etc., all falling, apparently
from above, on and around me.

When I entered my room one evening, I discovered
my spirit-scope, which I had previously locked in my
carpet-bag, hanging high upon the frame of the bar of
my bedstead. It was so high that the boy could not
reach it without procuring something to stand upon
much higher than the bed. I then called the
chambermaid and interrogated her in regard to it, but
she replied that she could not account for it. While
we were still together talking about it, the
spirit-scope came down beside me on the floor. This
could not have been performed by either the boy or the
girl, because I SAW that they did not do it.
I have been engaged in scientific pursuits for
upwards of half a century, and my accuracy and
precision have never been questioned until I have
become a Spiritualist, while my integrity as a man has
never in my life been assailed until the Harvard
Professors fulminated their report against that which
I KNOW to be true, and which they do not know to be

These events read like an evening with the Scole
Group in England, or what happened around Greta
Woodrew and Dr. Andrija Puharich in the USA. In the
next article we will review some of the interesting
communications Dr. Hare received from the other side.
Richard R.

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