Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

1831 - 1891


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H P Blavatsky meets

Colonel H S Olcott 1874


Colonel H S Olcott



In 1874 The New York Daily Graphic sent Colonel H S Olcott to investigate the phenomena of the Eddy Brothers at their farm in Chittenden, Vermont.


Olcott has already written a favourable article about phenomena occurring at the farmhouse in the New York Daily Sun and was subsequently given a commission for further articles by the Graphic. His interest in the spiritualist movement has been prompted by  an article about the Eddy phenomena which he read in the “Banner of Light” a leading spiritualist journal. 


Olcott spent ten days at the Chittenden farm which is several hundred mile from Nre York and came away convinced of the authenticity of the phenomena. He summarized what he had experienced in fifteen articles, which launched his career as a psychical investigator. The articles appeared twice weekly and caught  the attention of H P Blavatsky, drawing her to Chittenden


Olcott describes the meeting in “Old Diary Leaves”


The dinner hour at Eddy’s was noon, and it was from the entrance door of the bare and comfortless dining room that Kappes and I first saw HPB. She has arrived shortly before non with a French Canadian lady and they were at table as we entered. My eyes were first attracted by a scarlet Garibaldian shirt the former wore, as in vivid contrast with the dull colours around. Her hair was then a thick blond mop, worn shorter than the shoulders, and it stood out from her head, silken soft and crinkled to the roots, like the fleece of a Cotswold ewe. This and the red shirt were what struck my attention before I took in the picture of her features. It was a massive Calmuck face, contrasting in its suggestion of power, culture and imperiousness, as strangely with the commonplace visages about the room as her garment did with the grey and white tones of the walls and woodwork and the dull costumes of the rest of the guests.


All sorts of cranky people were continually coming and going at Eddy’s to see the mediumistic phenomena, and it only struck me on seeing this eccentric lady that this was one more of the sort. Pausing on the door-sill, I whispered to Kappes, “Good gracious 1 look at that specimen will you.” I went straight across and took a seat opposite her to indulge my favourite habit of character study.


The two ladies conversed in French, making remarks of no consequence, but I saw at once from her accent and fluency of speech that, if not a Parisian, she must at least be a finished French scholar. Dinner over, the two went outside the house and Madame Blavatsky rolled herself a cigarette, for which I gave her a light as a pretext to enter into conversation. My remark having been made in French, we fell at once into talk in that language. She asked me how long I had been there and what I had thought of the phenomena: saying that she herself was greatly interested in such things, and had been drawn to Chittenden by reading the letters in the Daily Graphic: the public were growing so interested in these that it was sometimes that it was sometimes impossible to find a copy of thepaper on the book-stalls an hour after publication and she had paid a dollar for the copy of the last issue.


“I hesitated before coming here” she said “because I was afraid of meeting that colonel Olcott.” Why should you be afraid of him Madame?” she rejoined “Oh !  because I fear he might write about me in his paper.” I told her that she might make herself perfectly easy on that score, for I felt quite sure Col, Olcott would not mention her in his letters unless she wished it. And I introduced myself. We became friends at once. Each of us felt as if we were of the same social world, cosmopolitans, free-thinkers, and in closer touch than with the rest of the company, intelligent and very worthy as some of them were.


Olcott goes on to comment on H P Blavatsky’s “sexlessness


It was the voice of common sympathy with the higher occult side of man  and nature ; the attraction of soul to soul and not that of sex to sex. Neither then, at the commencement, nor ever afterwards had either of us the sense of the other being of the opposite sex. We were simply chums ; so regarded each other, so called each other.


Some base people from time to time, dared to suggest that a closer tie bound us together, as they had that that poor, malformed, persecuted HPB had been the mistress of various other men, but no pure person could hold to such an opinion after passing any time in her company., and seeing how every look, word and action proclaimed her sexlessness.




Another meeting with H P Blavatsky came with the Holmes scandal. Nelson and Jennie Holmes, husband and wife, were spiritualistic mediums who had been accused of fraud. H P Blavatsky then arranged for further seances and for Olcott to witness them to prove their authenticity.


It was rumored that the Holmes, particularly Jennie, had impersonated Katie King, the daughter of thespirit John King, in a previous séance. In the seance which Olcott witnessed, John King was said to have spoke again, clearing his daughter of all wrongdoing and "rapping out" an account of what actually occurred before. His statement cleared the Holmes, and Katie King appeared in white again. Olcott knew it was not Jennie Holmes whom he had securely tied up. This strengthened Olcott's belief in psychical phenomena.


After the Eddy and Holmes investigations Olcott was thought to be a creditable psychical researcher. When the professors of the Imperial University of St. Petersburg, at the wish of the Grand Duke Constantine of Russia, decided to make a scientific investigation of Spiritualism, they asked Olcott and Helena Blavatsky to select the most qualified American medium. Henry Slade was their choice.


From their first meeting at the Vermont farm Olcott seemed fascinated by

Helena Blavatsky's psychic power. In those early days Helena Blavatsky

professed to have been controlled by the spirit of John King during which

she specialized in automatic writing and supernormal duplication of letters and other items. In the presence of Olcott and the Honorable John L. Sullivan she produced a $1,000 banknote which dissolved into a drawer.


These feats occurred after the founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875. Olcott, himself, witnessed more of the Magnificent acts" performed by Blavatsky than anyone else. This was a major reason why he eagerly assumed the presidency of the Society.





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