Articles from A Modern Panarion
A Collection of Fugitive Fragments
From the pen of
H P Blavatsky
First published 1895
H P Blavatsky
The Holmes Controversy
H P Blavatsky
A FEW weeks ago, in a letter, extracts from which have appeared in The
Spiritual Scientist of December 3rd, I alluded to the deplorable lack of accord
between American Spiritualists, and the consequences of the same. At that time I
had just fought out my useless battle with a foe who, though beneath my own
personal notice, had insulted all the Spiritualists of this country, as a body, in a caricature of a so-called scientific exposé. In dealing with him I dealt with but one of the numerous “bravos” enlisted in the army of the bitter opponents of belief; and my task was, comparatively speaking, an easy one, if we
take it for granted that falsehood can hardly withstand truth, as the latter
will ever speak for itself. Since that day the scales have turned; prompted now,
as then, by the same love of justice and fair play, I feel compelled to throw
down my glove once more in our defence, seeing that so few of the adherents to
the cause are bold enough to accept that duty, and so many of them show the
white feather of pusillanimity.
I indicated in my letter that such a state of things, such a complete lack
of harmony, and such cowardice, I may add, among their ranks, subjected the
Spiritualists and the cause to constant attacks from a compact, aggressive
public opinion, based upon ignorance and wicked prejudice, intolerant,
remorseless and thoroughly dishonest in the employment of its methods. As a vast army, amply equipped, may be cut to pieces by an inferior force well trained and handled, so Spiritualism, numbering its hosts by millions, and able to vanquish every reactionary theology by a little well-directed effort, is constantly
harassed, weakened, impeded, by the convergent attacks of pulpit and press, and by the treachery and cowardice of its trusted leaders. It is one of these
professed leaders that I propose to question to-day, as closely as my rights,
not only as a widely known Kabalist but also as a resident of the United States,
will allow me. When I see the numbers of believers in this country, the broad
basis of their belief, the im-pregnability of their position, and the talent that is embraced within their ranks, I am disgusted at the spectacle that they manifest at this very moment, after the Katie King—how shall we say—fraud? By no means, since the last word of this sensational comedy is far from being spoken.
There is not a country on the face of our planet, with a jury attached to
its courts of justice, but gives the benefit of the doubt to every criminal
brought within the law, and affords him a chance to be heard and tell his story.
Is such the case between the pretended “spirit performer,” the alleged bogus
Katie King, and the Holmes mediums? I answer most decidedly no, and mean to
prove it, if no one else does.
I deny the right of any man or woman to wrench from our hands all possible
means of finding out the truth. I deny the right of any editor of a daily
newspaper to accuse and publish accusations, refusing at the same time to hear
one word of justification from the defendants, and so, instead of helping people
to clear up the matter, leaving them more than ever to grope their way in the
The biography of “Katie King” has come out at last; a sworn certificate, if
you please, endorsed (under oath?) by Dr. Child, who throughout the whole of
this “burlesque” epilogue has ever appeared in it, like some inevitable
deus-ex-machinâ. The whole of this made- up elegy (by whom? evidently not by
Mrs. White) is redolent with the perfume of erring innocence, of Magdalene-like
tales of woe and sorrow, tardy repentance and the like, giving us the abnormal
idea of a pickpocket in the act of robbing our soul of its most precious,
thrilling sensations. The carefully-prepared explanations on some points that
appear now and then as so many stumbling-blocks in the way of a seemingly fair
exposé do not preclude, nevertheless, through the whole of it, the possibility
of doubt; for many awkward semblances of truth, partly taken from the
confessions of that fallen angel, Mrs. White, and partly—most of them we should say—copied from the private note-book of her “amanuensis,” give you a fair idea of the veracity of this sworn certificate. For instance, according to her own statement and the evidence furnished by the habitue’s of the Holmeses, Mrs. White having never been present at any of the dark circles (her alleged acting as Katie King excluding all possibility, on her part, of such a public
exhibition of flesh and bones), how comes she to know so well, in every
particular, about the tricks of the mediums, the pro-gramme of their
performances, etc.? Then, again, Mrs. White who remembers so well—by rote we may say—every word exchanged between Katie King and Mr. Owen, the spirit and Dr. Child, has evidently forgotten all that was ever said by her in her bogus personation to Dr. Felger; she does not even remember a very
important secret communicated by her to the latter gentleman! What an
extraordinary combination of, memory and absence of mind at the same time.
May not a certain memorandum-book, with its carefully-noted contents, account for it, perhaps? The document is signed, under oath, with the name of a non-existing spirit, Katie King. . . . Very clever!
All protestations of innocence or explanations sent in by Mr. or Mrs.
Holmes, written or verbal, are peremptorily refused publication by the press. No
respectable paper dares takes upon itself the responsibility of such an
The public feel triumphant; the clergy, forgetting in the excitement of their victory the Brooklyn scandal, rub their hands and chuckle; a certain exposer of materialized spirits and mind-reading, like some monstrous anti-spiritual mitrailleuse shoots forth a volley of missiles, and sends a condoling letter to Mr. Owen; Spiritualists, crestfallen, ridiculed and defeated, feel crushed for ever under the pretended exposure and that overwhelming, pseudonymous evidence. . . . The day of Waterloo has come for us, and sweeping away the last remnants of the defeated army, it remains for us to ring our own death-knell.
Spirits, beware! henceforth, if you lack prudence, your materialized forms
will have to stop at the cabinet doors, and in a perfect tremble melt away from
sight, singing in chorus Edgar Poe’s “Never more.” One would really suppose that the whole belief of the Spiritualists hung at the girdles of the Holmeses, and
that in case they should be unmasked as tricksters, we might as well vote our
phenomena an old woman’s delusion.
Is the scraping off of a barnacle the destruction of a ship? But, moreover,
we are not sufficiently furnished with any plausible proofs at all.
Colonel Olcott is here and has begun investigations. His first tests with
Mrs. Holmes alone, for Mr. Holmes is lying sick at Vineland, have proved
satisfactory enough, in his eyes, to induce Mr. Owen to return to the spot of
his first love, namely, the Holmeses’ cabinet. He began by tying Mrs. Holmes up
in a bag, the string drawn tightly round her neck, knotted and sealed in the
presence of Mr. Owen, Col.Olcott and a third gentleman. After that the medium was placed in the empty cabinet, which was rolled away into the middle of the room, and it was made a perfect impossibility for her to use her hands. The door being closed, hands appeared in the aperture, then the outlines of a face came, which gradually formed into the classical head of John King, turban, beard and all. He kindly allowed the investigators to stroke his beard, touch his warm face, and patted their hands with his. After the séance was over, Mrs. Holmes, with many tears of gratitude in the presence of the three gentlemen, assured Mr. Owen most solemnly that she had spoken many a time to Dr. Child about “Katie” leaving her presents in the house and dropping them about the place, and that she—Mrs. Holmes—wanted Mr. Owen to know it; but that the doctor had given her most peremptory orders to the contrary, forbidding her to let the former know it, his precise words being, “Don’t do it, it’s useless; he must not know it I leave the question of Mrs. Holmes’ veracity as to this fact for Dr. Child to settle with her.
On the other hand, we have tile woman, Eliza White, exposer and accuser of
the Holmeses, who remains up to the present day a riddle and an Egyptian mystery to every man and woman of this city, except to the clever and equally invisible party—a sort of protecting deity— who took the team in hand, and drove the whole concern of “Katie’s” materialization to destruction, in what he considered such a first-rate way. She is not to be met, or seen, or interviewed, or even spoken to by anyone, least of all by the ex-admirers of “Katie King” herself, so anxious to get a peep at the modest, blushing beauty who deemed her self worthy of personating the fair spirit. Maybe it’s rather dangerous to allow them the chance of comparing for themselves the features of both? But the most perplexing fact of this most perplexing imbroglio is that Mr. R. D. Owen, by his Own confession to me, has never, not even on the day of the exposure, seen Mrs. White, or talked to her, or had other wise the least chance to scan her features close enough for him to identify her. He caught a glimpse of her general outline but once, viz., at the mock séance of Dec. 5th referred to in her
biography, when she appeared to half a dozen of witnesses (invited to testify and identify the fraud) emerging de nova from the cabinet, with her face closely covered with a double veil (!) after which the sweet vision vanished and appeared no more. Mr. Owen adds that he is not prepared to swear to the identity of Mrs. White and Katie King.
May I he allowed to enquire as to the necessity of such a profound mystery, after the promise of a public exposure of all the fraud? It seems to me that the said exposure would have been far more satisfactory if conducted otherwise.
Why not give the fairest chance to R. D. Owen, the party who has
suffered the most on account of this disgusting swindle—if swindle there is—to
compare Mrs. White with his Katie? May I suggest again that it is perhaps
because the spirit’s features are but too well impressed on his memory, poor,
noble, confiding gentleman. Gauze dresses and moonshine, coronets and stars can possibly be counterfeited in a half-darkened room, while features, answering
line for line to the “spirit Katie’s” face, are not so easily made up; the latter require very clever preparations. A lie may be easy enough for a smooth tongue, but no pug nose can lie itself into a classical one.
A very honourable gentleman of my acquaintance, a fervent admirer of the
“spirit Katie’s” beauty, who has seen and addressed her at two feet distance
about fifty times, tells me that on a certain evening, when Dr. Child begged the
spirit to let him see her tongue (did the honour-able doctor want to compare it
with Mrs. White’s tongue—the lady having been his patient?), she did so, and
upon her opening her mouth, the gentleman in question assures me that he plainly saw, what in his admiring phraseology he terms “the most beautiful set of
teeth—two rows of pearls.” He remarked most particularly those teeth. Now there are some wicked, slandering gossips, who happen to have cultivated most
intimately Mrs. White’s acquaintance in the happy days of her innocence, before
her fall and subsequent exposé and they tell us very bluntly (we beg the penitent angel’s pardon, we repeat but a hear say) that this lady can hardly number among her other natural charms the rare beauty of pearly teeth, or a perfect, most beautiful formed hand and arm. Why not show her teeth at once to the said admirer, and so shame the slanderers? Why shun “Katie’s” best friends?
If we were so anxious as she seems to be to prove “who is who,” we would surely submit with pleasure to the operation of showing our teeth, yea, even in a court of justice. The above fact, trifling as it may seem at first sight, would be
considered as a very important one by any intelligent juryman in a question of
Mr. Owen's statement to us, corroborated by “Katie King” herself in her
biography, a sworn document, remember, is in the following words:
“She consented to have an interview with some gentlemen who had seen her
personating the spirit, on condition that she would be allowed tokeep a veil over her face all the time she was conversing with them.”
(Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 11th, 4 col., “K. K. Biography.”)
Now pray why should these “too credulous weak-minded gentle men,” as the
immortal Dr. Beard would say, he subjected again to such an extra strain on
their blind faith? We should say that that was just the proper time to come out
and prove to them what was the nature of the mental aberration they were
labouring under for so many months. Well, if they do swallow this new veiled
proof they are welcome to it.
Vulgus vult decipi decipiatur! But I expect something more substantial before
submitting in guilty silence to be laughed at. As it is, the case stands thus:
According to the same biography (same column) the mock séance was prepared
and carried out to everyone’s heart’s content, through the endeavours of an
amateur detective, who, by the way, if any one wants to know, is a Mr. W. 0.
Leslie. a contractor or agent for the Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York
Railroad, residing in this city. If the press and several of the most celebrated
victims of the fraud are under bond of secrecy with him, I am. not, and mean to
say what I know. And so the said séance took place on Dec. 5th last, which fact
appearing in sworn evidence, implies that Mr. Leslie had wrested from Mrs. White the confession of her guilt at least several days previous to that date, though the precise day of the ‘‘amateur’s’’ triumph is very cleverly withheld in the sworn certificate. Now comes a new conundrum.
On the evenings of Dec. 2nd and 3rd at two séances held at the Holmeses’, I,
myself, in the presence of Robert Dale Owen and Dr. Child (chief manager of
those performances, from whom I got on the same morning an admission card),
together with twenty more witnesses, saw the spirit of Katie step out of the
cabinet twice, in full form and beauty, and I can swear in any court of justice
that she did not bear the least resemblance to Mrs. White’s portrait.
As I am unwilling to base my argument upon any other testimony than my own,
I will not dwell upon the alleged apparition of Katie King at the Holmeses’ on
Dec. 5th to Mr. Roberts and fifteen others, among whom was Mr. W. H. Clarke, a reporter for The Daily Graphic, for I happened to be out of town, though, if
this fact is demonstrated, it will go far against Mrs. White, for on that
precise evening, and at the same hour, she was exhibiting herself as the bogus
Katie at the mock séance. Something still more worthy of consideration is found
in themost positive assertion of a gentleman, a Mr. Wescott, who on that evening of the 5th on his way home from the real séance, met in the car Mr. Owen, Dr. Child and his wife, all three returning from the mock séance. Now it so happened that this gentleman mentioned to them about having just seen the spirit Katie come out of the cabinet, adding ‘‘he thought she never looked better” ; upon hearing which Mr. Robert Dale Owen stared at him in amazement, and all the three looked greatly perplexed.
And so I have but insisted on the apparition of the spirit at the mediums’
house on the evenings Dec. 2nd and 3rd, when I witnessed the phenomenon,
together with Robert Dale Owen and other parties.
It would be worse than useless to offer or accept the poor excuse that the
confession of the woman White, her exposure of the fraud, the delivery to Mr.
Leslie of all her dresses and presents received by her in the name of Katie
King, the disclosure of the sad news by this devoted gentleman to Mr. Owen, and the preparation of the mock séance cabinet and other important matters, had all of them taken place on the 4th the more so, as we are furnished with most
positive proofs that Dr. Child at least, if not Mr. Owen. knew all about Mr.
Leslie’s success with Mrs. White several days beforehand. Knowing then of the
fraud, how could Mr. Leslie allow it to be still carried on, as the fact of
Katie’s apparition at the Holmeses’ on Dec. 2nd and 3rd prove to have been the
case? Any gentleman, even with a very moderate degree of honour about him,
would never allow the public to be fooled and defrauded any longer, unless he
had time firm resolution of catching the bogus spirit on the spot and proving
the imposition. But no such thing occurred. Quite the contrary; for Dr. Child,
who had constituted himself from the first not only chief superintendent of the
séances, cabinet and materialization business, but also cashier and
ticket-holder (paying the mediums at first ten dollars per séance, as he did,
and subsequently fifteen dollars, and pocketing the rest of the proceeds), on
that same evening of the 3rd took the admission money from every visitor as
quietly as he ever did. I will add, furthermore, that I, in propriâ personâ,
handed him on that very night a five—dollar bill, and that he (Dr. Child) kept
the whole of it, remarking that the balance could he made good to us by future
Will Dr. Child presume to say that getting ready, as he then was, in company
with Mr. Leslie, to produce the bogus Katie King on the 5th of December, he knew nothing, as yet, of the fraud on the 3rd?
Further; in the same biography (chap. viii, column the 1st), it is stated that, immediately upon Mrs. White’s return from Blissfield, Mich., she called on
Dr. Child, and offered to expose the whole humbug she had been engaged in, but that he would not listen to her. Upon that occasion she was not veiled, as
indeed there was no necessity for her to be, since by Dr. Child’s own admission
she had been a patient of his, and under his medical treatment. In a letter from
Holmes to Dr. Child, dated Blissfield, Aug. 28th, 1874, the former writes:
Mrs. White says you and the friends were very rude, wanted to look into all
our boxes and trunks and break open locks. What were you looking for, or
expecting to find?
All these several circumstances show in the clearest possible manner that
Dr. Child and Mrs. White were on terms much more intimate then than that of
casual acquaintance, and it is the height of absurdity to assert that if Mrs.
White and Katie King were identical, the fraud was not perfectly well known to
the “Father Confessor” (see narrative of John and Katie King, p. 45). But a side
light is thrown upon this comedy from the pretended biography of John King and his daughter Katie, written at their dictation in his own office by Dr. Child
himself. This book was given out to the world as an authentic revelation from
these two spirits. It tells us that they stepped in and stepped out of his office, day after day, as any mortal being might, and after holding brief conversations, followed by long narratives, they fully endorsed the genuineness of their own apparition in the Holmeses’ cabinet. Moreover, the spirits appearing at the public séances corroborated the statements which they made to their amanuensis in his office; the two dovetailing together and making a consistent story. Now, if the Holmeses’ Kings were Mrs. White, who were the spirits visiting the doctor’s office? and if the spirits visiting him were genuine, who were those that appeared at the public séances? In which particular has the “Father Confessor” defrauded the public? In selling a book containing false biographies or exposing bogus spirits at the Holmeses’? Which or both? Let the doctor choose.
If his conscience is so tender as to force him into print with his
certificate and affidavits why does it not sink deep enough to reach his pocket,
and compel him to refund to us the money obtained by him under false pretences?
According to his own confession, the Holmeses received from him, up to the time they left town, about $1,2OO, for four months of daily séances. That he admitted every night as many visitorsas he could possibly find room for—sometimes as many as thirty-five— is a fact that will be corroborated by every person who has seen the phenomena more than once. Furthermore, some six or seven reliable witnesses have told us that the modest fee of $1 was only for the habitués, too curious or over-anxious visitors having to pay sometimes as much as $5, and in one instance $10. This last fact I give under all reserve, not having had to pay so much as that myself.
Now let an impartial investigator of this Philadelphia imbroglio take a pencil and cast up the profit left after paying the mediums, in this nightly spirit speculation lasting many months. The result would be to show that the business of a spirit “Father Confessor” is, on the whole, a very lucrative one.
Ladies and gentlemen of the spiritual belief, methinks we are all of us between the horns of a very wonderful dilemma. If you happen to find your position comfortable, I do not, and so will try to extricate myself.
Let it be perfectly understood, though, that I do not intend in the least to
undertake at present the defence of the Holmeses. They may be the greatest
frauds for what I know or care. My only purpose is to know for a certainty to
whom I am indebted for my share of ridicule— small as it may be, luckily for me.
If we Spiritualists are to be laughed and scoffed at and ridiculed and sneered
at, we ought to know at least the reason why. Either there was a fraud or there
was none. If the fraud is a sad reality, and Dr. Child by some mysterious
combination of his personal cruel fate has fallen the first victim to it, after
having proved himself so anxious for the sake of his honour and character to
stop at once the further progress of such a deceit on a public that had hitherto
looked on him alone as the party responsible for the perfect integrity and
genuineness of a phenomenon so fully endorsed by him in all particulars, why
does not the doctor come out the first and help us to the clue of all this
mystery? Well aware of the fact that the swindled and defrauded parties can at
any day assert their rights to the restitution of moneys laid out by them solely
on the ground of their entire faith in him they had trusted, why does he not sue
the Holmeses and so prove his own innocence? He cannot but admit that in the
eyes of some initiated parties, his cause looks far more ugly as it now stands
than the accusation under which the Holmeses vainly struggle. Or, if there was
no fraud, or if it is not fully proved, as it cannot well be on the shallow
testimony of a nameless woman signing documentswith pseudonyms, why then all this comedy on the part of the principal partner in the “Katie materialization” business? Was not Dr. Child the institutor, the promulgator, and we may say the creator of what proves to have been but a bogus phenomenon, after all? Was not lie the advertising agent of this incarnated humbug—the Barnum of this spiritual show? And now that he has helped to fool not only Spiritualists but the world at large, whether as a confederate himself or one of the weak-minded fools—no matter, so long as it is demonstrated that it was he that helped us to this scrape—he imagines that by helping to accuse the mediums, and expose the fraud, by fortifying with his endorsement all manner of bogus affidavits and illegal certificates from non-existing parties, he hopes to find himself henceforth perfectly clear of responsibility to the persons he has dragged after him into this infamous swamp!
We must demand a legal investigation. We have the right to insist upon it, for we Spiritualists have bought this right at a dear price:with the life-long reputation of Mr. Owen as an able and reliable writer and trustworthy witness of the phenomena, who may henceforth be regarded as a doubted and ever-ridiculed visionary by sceptical wise-acres.
We have bought this right with the prospect that all of us, whom Dr. Child has unwittingly or otherwise (time will prove it) fooled into belief in his Katie King, will become for a time the butts for end-less raillery, satires and jokes from the press and ignorant masses. We regret to feel obliged to contradict on this point such an authority in all matters as The Daily Graphic, but if orthodox laymen rather decline to see this fraud thoroughly investigated in a court of justice for fear of the Holmeses becoming entitled to the crown of martyrs, we have no such fear as that, and repeat with Mr. Hudson Tuttle that “better perish the cause with
the impostors than live such a life of eternal ostracism, with no chance for
justice or redress.”
Why in the name of all that is wonderful should Dr. Child have all the laurels of this unfought battle, in which the attacked army seems for ever doomed to be defeated without so much as a struggle? Why should he have all the material benefit of this materialized humbug, and R. D. Owen, an honest Spiritualist, whose name is universally respected, have all the kicks and thumps of the sceptical press? Is this fair and just? How long shall we Spiritualists be turned over like so many scapegoats to the unbelievers by cheating mediums and speculating prophets? Like some modern shepherd Paris, Mr. Owen fell a
victim to the snares of this pernicious, newly materialized Helen; and on him
falls heaviest the present reaction that threatens to produce a new Trojan war.
But the Homer of the Philadelphia Iliad, the one who has appeared in the past as
the elegiac poet and biographer of that same Helen, and who appears in the
present kindling up the spark of doubt against the Holmeses, till, if not speedily quenched, it might become a roaring ocean of flames—he that plays at this present hour the unparalleled part of a chief justice presiding at his own trial and deciding in his own case-—Dr. Child, we say, turning back on the spirit daughter of his own creation, and backing the mortal, illegitimate off spring furnished by somebody, is left unmolested! Only fancy, while R. D. Owen
is fairly crushed under the ridicule of the exposure, Dr. Child, who has endorsed false spirits, now turns state’s evidence and endorses as fervently spirit certificates, swearing to the same in a court of justice.
If ever I may hope to get a chance of having my advice accepted by some one
anxious to clear up all this sickening story, I would insist that the whole
matter be forced into a real court of justice and unriddled before a jury. If
Dr. Child is, after all, an honest man whose trusting nature was imposed upon,
lie must be the first to offer us all the chances that he in his power of
getting at the bottom of all these endless “whys” and “bows.” If he does not, in
such a case we will try for ourselves to solve the following mysteries:
Judge Allen, of
that when the cabinet, made up under the direct supervision and instructions of
Dr. Child, was brought home to the Holmeses, the doctor worked at it himself,
unaided, one whole day, and with his tools, Judge Allen being at the time at the
mediums’, whom he was visiting. If there was a trap-door or “two cut boards”
connected with it, who did the work? Who can doubt that such clever machinery, fitted in such a way as to baffle frequent and close examinations on the part of the sceptics, requires an experienced mechanic of more than ordinary ability? Further, unless well paid, he could hardly be bound to secrecy. Who paid him? Is
it Holmes out of his ten-dollar nightly fee? We ought to ascertain it.
2nd, If it is true, as two persons are ready to swear, that the party, calling herself Eliza White, alias “Frank,” alias Katie King, and so forth, is no widow at all, having a well materialized husband, who is living, and who keeps a drinking saloon in a Connecticut town—thenin such case the fair widow has perjured herself and Dr. Child has endorsed the perjury. We regret that he should endorse the statements of the former as rashly as he accepted the fact of her materialization.
3rd, Affidavits and witnesses (five in all) are ready to prove that on a certain night, when Mrs. White was visibly in her living body, refreshing her penitent stomach in company with impenitent associates in a lager beer saloon, having no claims to patrician “patronage,” Katie King, in her spirit form, was as visibly seen at the door of her cabinet.
4th On one occasion, when Dr. Child (in consequence of some prophetic
vision, maybe) invited Mrs. White to his own house, where he locked her up with the inmates, who entertained her the whole of the evening, for the sole purpose of convincing (he always seems anxious to convince somebody of something) some doubting sceptics of the reality of the spirit-form, the latter appeared in the séance-room and talked with R. D. Owen in the presence of all the company. The Spiritualists were jubilant that night, and the doctor the most triumphant of them all. Many are the witnesses ready to testify to the fact, but Dr. Child, when questioned, seems to have entirely forgotten this important occurrence.
5th Who is the party whom she claims to have engaged to personate General
Rawlings? Let him come out and swear to it, so that we will all see his great
resemblance to the defunct warrior.
6th, Let her name the friends from whom she borrowed the costumes to
personate “Sauntee” and “Richard.” They must prove it under oath. Let them
produce the dresses. Can she tell us where she got the shining robes of the
second and third spheres?
7th Only some portions of Holmes’ letters to “Frank” are published in the
biography: some of them for the purpose of proving their co- partnership in the
at Blissfield. Can she name the house and parties with whom she lodged and
When all the above questions are answered and demonstrated to our
satisfaction, then, and only then, shall we believe that the Holmeses are the
only guilty parties to a fraud, which, for its consummate rascality and
brazenness, is unprecedented in the annals of Spiritualism.
I have read some of Mr. Holmes’ letters, whether original or forged, no
matter, and blessed as I am with a good memory, I well remember certain
sentences that have been, very luckily for the poetic creature,suppressed by the blushing editor as being too vile for publication. One of the most modest of the paragraphs runs thus:
Now, my advice to you, Frank, don’t crook your elbow too often; no use
doubling up and squaring your fists again.
Oh, Katie King!
Remember, the above is addressed to the woman who pretends to have
personated the spirit of whom R. D. Owen wrote thus:
I particularly noticed this evening the ease and harmony of her motions. In
Naples, (luring five years, I frequented a circle famed for courtly demeanour;
but never in the best-bred lady of rank accosting her visitors, have I seen
well-known artist of
he had seldom seen features exhibiting more classic beauty. “Her movements and, bearing,” he added, “are the very ideal of grace.”
Compare for one moment this admiring description with the quotation from
Holmes’ letter. Fancy an ideal of classic beauty and grace crooking her elbow in
a lager beer saloon, and—judge for yourselves !
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
1111, Girard Street, Philadelphia.
THE HOLMES CONTROVERSY (PART 2)
the last Religio-Philosophical Journal (for February 2 in the
“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
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
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 Littie Dorrit) spanked the benevolent Christopher Casby, this
venerable patriarch only mildly lifted up his blue eyes 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.
my part, since I came to
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 dietu! 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
with a woman whom he confesses him self 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 King 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
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 [ 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
since gone to
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 theteachings 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 , 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
have many witnesses and proofs of this) that hewas 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
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
for getting the wise motto, Verba volant, scripta manent, to publish it in The
Daily Graphic on Nov. 6th, together with the portraits of John and Katie King.
Now for tins 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 reappeared 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 often at 4 pm. 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 beseen. 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, 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 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 he, Dr. Child,
helping her back to it on account of her great weakness, saw that there was no
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 donot 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
It has been suggested that going into an atmosphere of fraud, such as
surrounds these mediums [ Holmeses] and being sensitive [ 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 signify ing his triumph with a robust Laus Deo.
H. P. BLAVATSKY