Direct Drawing and Painting
Direct Drawing and Painting
A development of automatic drawing and painting in which the hand of the automatist is not made use of, and sometimes even drawing and painting materials are dispensed with, the sketch being precipitated in the darkness in a time that is usually too short for normal execution. It is a fairly well known mediumistic phenomenon but also one that is always open to suspicion of fraud as the transcendental pictures are often found to be feeble copies of existing works of art and since practitioners of direct drawing and painting have often been caught in deception.
Mary Marshall 's direct pencil portrait of Goethe was a close copy of an engraving in The Life of Goethe; many illustrations of David Duguid 's Hafed were identical with pictures in Cassell's Family Bible; and still-life paintings of Mrs. E. J. French, of New York, were similarly wanting in originality.
Taken to task, the controls of Duguid defended themselves by saying that they often took impressions from the medium's subconscious. His defense drew support from the hypothesis that the mind of the sitter may also contribute the subject. On occasion, for example, visitors to Duguid recognized, in the direct paintings, scenes they were acquainted with in America and Australia, which the medium could not have seen. An art dealer found a direct painting strangely familiar and later discovered its facsimile among some pictures he had bought. Frank Miller writes in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research of a well-known artist who could paint scenes he never saw but that she remembered having seen.
Duguid specialized in miniature paintings in oil. They were done under the alleged control of the spirits of Dutch painters Jakob Ruysdael and Jan Steen. The size of the pictures was sometimes as small as a sixpence and the execution, done in the dark, was always very fine. While the medium was tied to his chair, or held by the hands, the noise of the brushes was heard above the table and sometimes half a minute later the brushes or pencils and the picture fell down. Occasionally the drawings were obtained in a few seconds in sealed envelopes on folded sheets of paper.
Mrs. E. J. French excelled in still life paintings done under a small table that was surrounded by a shawl. For eight to fifteen minutes furious scraping and rubbing was heard, then a signal, then the brushes and pencils dropped out and, fresh with paint, a brightly colored picture was produced from under the table.
Samuel Guppy, in his anonymously published Mary Jane, or Spiritualism Chemically Examined (1863), describes drawings of varicolored flowers obtained, often without any drawing or painting material, in the presence of his first wife. Specially bought and marked paper was placed in a box that was itself carefully wrapped in paper and sealed to remove any chance of deception. Yet the picture appeared occasionally in as many as seven colors, covered with a varnish of unknown origin.
In one instance the effect appeared to have been produced at a distance. In a letter to the London Dialectical Society, Countess Panigai described a visit to D. D. Home during which she was promised a distinct sign from her deceased child the following day. The promise was well kept. At her home, which the medium never visited, she heard raps, apparently coming from a drawer where, unknown to all, the last pair of boots her child wore was hidden in a box. "Unlocking the drawer and the box, on the elastic of one boot was imprinted a perfect star, and in the centre of the star an eye," the countess recalled. The sub-stance with which it is drawn is black. It has since faded slightly, but remains still thoroughly distinct. So mathematically perfect is the drawing that great skill and precision is necessary for an accurate copy to be taken." Letters at each point of the star formed the name of the child, "Stella."
The most unusual demonstrations in direct art were given by the Bangs sisters of Chicago. On paper-mounted canvases held against the light near the windows, they produced spirit portraits in plain sight of the sitter, who was usually advised to keep about his person a photograph of the departed friend whose spirit picture he desired to obtain. Admiral Usborne Moore often witnessed the phenomenon and describes it in Glimpses of the Next State (1911):
"We had to wait some time. After a few minutes the canvas assumed various hues, rosy, blue and brown; it would become dark and light independently of the sun being clouded or not.
"Dim outlines of faces occasionally appeared in different parts of the canvas…. We had been sitting forty minutes when the right and left edges of the canvas began to darken, and the face and bust suddenly appeared. It was finished in thirty-five minutes—i.e., one hour and fifteen minutes from the time we first sat down. On separating the two canvases it was found that the picture was on the further side of the one nearest to me, and the material was quite damp; the other canvas, which had been pressing against it all the time, was unsoiled. The stuff comes off on the finger, a smutty, oily substance….
"The actual picture therefore, took thirty-five minutes to precipitate. It is richer in tone now than it was when put on a sofa after the sitting, but in other respects just the same. The likeness to the cartes-de visiti in my dollarpocke is not remarkable, but there are points about it which show that the invisible workers had access to these photographs."
Reported pictorial appearances of the Virgin Mary in churches and other places of worship have caused some to hypothesize that the phenomena under this heading also occur in a spontaneous manner. It was reported in the London Press in the summer of 1923 that, on the plaster wall in Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford—under the Burne Jones window that Dean Liddell had caused to be placed there as a memorial of a dearly loved daughter and close to three tablets erected to the memory of the dean and his family—there had gradually emerged, over a period of two years, a remarkable likeness to the late dean, whose life and work were so closely associated with Christchurch.
Relating the Liddell portrait to the phenomenon of psychic photography. Frederick Bligh Bond argues in the October 1923 issue of Psychic Science that "… instead of a photographic plate and the chemical changes in salts of silver, there is in the smooth white plaster wall and the mineral salts contained in the plaster, a combination susceptible to slow chemical change; and instead of the presence of a physical medium required in psychic photography, there is the physical atmosphere of a building constantly dedicated to prayer and aspiration, full of spiritual and psychical emanations of countless worshippers tending to provide the conditions necessary for the accomplishment of a process in which the alchemy of thought may succeed in affecting the grosser particles of matter."
This portrait of Dean Liddell remained unaffected by the passing of years. Barbara McKenzie, wife of James Hewat McKenzie, writes in Psychic Science, October 1931, that "the Dean's face is beautifully clear and there certainly seems an emergence of other outlines close by which bear a resemblance to two human heads." One of these was noticed to be forming in 1923; the other is more recent.
Similar appearances have been noticed in other parts of the building. Mrs. McKenzie was shown a gray marble pedestal base. About a foot from the floor a white patch appears on the marble, containing a very clear face of an elderly man with bushy hair and full whiskers and beard. An even clearer face was to be seen on a wall behind the organ and within twenty yards of the choir stall. It was popularly associated with a chorister who for many years sang in the cathedral.
The evidence for the genuineness of direct drawing and painting is far from satisfactory. Both Duguid and the Bangs sisters were exposed in mediumistic frauds, and the amateur conjurer David P. Abbott successfully duplicated the sisters' direct painting phenomena by trickery.
Theoretically, an isolated paranormal voice in space without visible source of agency. In classical Spiritualist séances, the voice issued primarily from a trumpet that sailed about the séance room in the dark and appeared to serve as a condenser. At other times mediums dispensed with the trumpet, and the voice could be heard from the center of the floor or from any part of the room.
H. Dennis Bradley records an experience in which the communicator began his sentence in the middle of the room; halfway up he dropped the trumpet while his voice traveled upward to the extreme right-hand corner of the ceiling and there ended on the pronouncement of the last syllable of his last word (Towards the Stars, 1924, p. 20).
Physically the phenomenon requires the supposition that some material more solid than air is withdrawn from the medium's or from the sitter's body to produce the necessary vibrations in the surrounding atmosphere. Séance room communications speak of improvisation of a larynx—a strange notion, yet the improvisation of human limbs and entire bodies is even stranger.
The first vague description of a "voice box" is to be found in an out-of-the-body experience of Stainton Moses, who stated, "I did not observe how the sound was made, but I saw in a distant part of the room near the ceiling something like a box round which blue electric light played, and I associate the sound with that."
The "voice box" of "Walter," the control of Margery (i.e., Mina Crandon ) has been photographed as a white mass on the medium's shoulder, connected to her left ear and nostril with tubes of the mysterious substance ectoplasm. This psychic microphone seems to be very closely associated with the medium's organism. "John Watt," the control of Mrs. Thomas Everitt, claimed that he used the medium's breath in speaking. If Everitt held her hand over her mouth the volume of the voice diminished, and it ceased entirely if Everitt placed her palm on her mouth. The spirit of Cecil Husk warned Dennis Bradley not to smoke excessively on the days he was sitting in séances, since smoking sometimes affected the vocal organs from which part of the ectoplasmic force was taken.
Thomas Colley described an instance in which Frank W. Monck was wakened from a trance to greet a materialized fellow student. He and the spirit had to speak in turn; there was an impasse if they tried to speak at once. Harry Bastian 's direct voice was heard when his mouth was full of water, but it immediately ceased if his nose was temporarily stopped. Everitt could never speak simultaneously with the spirits. Her lips and tongue moved but no sound was made. Other mediums felt no handicap.
Multiple Spirit Voices
Signor Damiani, in his testimony before the London Dialectical Society in 1870, spoke of a séance with D. D. Home in which two voices were heard besides that of the persistently speaking medium.
David Duguid often spoke simultaneously. George Valian-tine and Etta Wriedt had no difficulty in joining with the spirit voices. According to Noel Jaquin, the problem consisted not so much in the use of the physical voice, but in the coordination of thought. He experienced an incoherence in thinking while the direct voice was heard and could only master through strong mental effort.
Independent conversation by two or three voices was occasionally carried on in the Wriedt séances. J. A. Findlay reported the same with the medium John C. Sloan. Admiral Usborne Moore was told that the spirits seemed to speak with his voice. During that time he often experienced a slight cough and irritation of the throat. Others observed that the sitters' voices weakened after a prolonged direct voice conversation. An interesting experiment was tried with Wriedt. She was asked to sit with seven deaf mutes from Flint, Michigan. No one in the room could utter an articulate word except for herself. No voices were heard.
Eugene Crowell writes of séances with a Mrs. Andrews in The Identity of Primitive Christianity and Modern Spiritualism (1875-79): "One of the common forms of manifestations at Moravia is singing by spirits. This generally occurs when the persons assembled sing with animation, the spirits seizing the moment when they are 'with one accord' raising their voices, to join in the strain, and generally the spirit voice is heard clearly above all others." He continued later: "When our spirit friends had conversed more freely than usual, the medium afterwards complained of much soreness and tenderness of the throat and lungs, evidently without any definite idea of its cause. It seemed to me that the spirits … were compelled to draw directly from the vocal and pulmonary organs of the medium those elements that are liberally supplied by public circles, and which are necessary for the production of spirit voices."
Findlay's On the Edge of the Etheric (1931) states that the communicators often make use of a psychic tube from the mouth of the medium to the trumpet. This might explain why the independent voice resembled that of the medium and also why moisture was sometimes found within the trumpet it but is consistent with the medium's speaking directly into the trumpet. Findlay's spirit communicators also offered a description of how the artificial larynx is made. It read:
"From the medium and those present a chemist in the spirit world withdraws certain ingredients which for want of a better name is called ectoplasm. To this the chemist adds ingredients of his own making. When they are mixed together a substance is formed which enables the chemist to materialize his hands. He then, with his materialized hands, constructs a mask resembling the mouth and tongue. The spirit wishing to speak places his face into this mask and finds it clings to him, it gathers round his mouth, tongue and throat. At first, difficulty is experienced in moving this heavier material, but by practice this becomes easy. The etheric organs have once again become clothed in matter resembling physical matter, and by the passage of air through them your atmosphere can be vibrated and you hear his voice."
Findlay's explanation received confirmation two years later at a séance recorded by the Rev. V. G. Duncan in his book Proof: An Account of Spiritualistic Séances (1933). The mediums in this instance were the Misses Moore. When asked how it was possible to speak to us on earth the communicator stated,
"I can only explain it like this. You know when you have been to the dentist for an extraction and been given an anaesthetic, he puts that queer mask over your face for you to breath the gas into your lungs. I have to use a contrivance like that in order to speak to you. This contrivance is composed of etheric matter, partly provided by the mediums and sitters, and partly supplied from our side. It is a kind of transformer, and it has a double purpose. It helps to retard my vibrations and so allows me to make my voice audible to you and provides a temporary set of vocal organs."
Findlay's views are further enlarged upon in his second book, The Rock of Truth (1933).
The Nature of Direct Voice
The process of direct voice speaking appears to be similar to ordinary speech. After a long sentence the controls would pause for breath, and the indrawing sound became distinctly audible. However, the phenomena differed from medium to medium, and the vocal effects varied from one to the other. The invisible communicator could laugh, whistle, or sing. "Walter," the control of Mina Crandon ("Margery"), could give expression to all sorts of moods—surprise, contentment, joy, anger, and melancholy—by whistling. Once Margery and "Walter" reportedly laughed at the same instant. The two chuckles came from a common point in space and gave the impression of being tangled together, as though conceivably from a common physical organism.
The language spoken may be unknown both to the medium and to the sitters. Yet the nationality of the medium may have a curious influence. English, for instance, is easier spoken when the medium is English than of another tongue. As an explanation it has been suggested that the material to build up the artificial larynx may be drawn from the oral cavity and therefore may be less adaptable to unusual inflections. The experience of Abraham Wallace with the spirit entity "John King," who unexpectedly spoke to him in broad Scotch, suggested to some a participation on the part of the sitter. When interrogated on the subject, King replied, "Why, I got it from you."
The bewildering variety of strange languages spoken through some mediums remain mysteries, though secret knowledge by the medium or collusion with sitters has been hypothesized as a likely explanation. In the séances of George Valiantine (repeatedly caught in fraud), Portuguese, Basque, Welsh, Japanese, Russian, Hindustani, and "ancient pure" Chinese was supposedly spoken. Neville Whymant, a famous orientalist, studied this linguistic phenomenon, and on March 25, 1927, it was recorded on a gramophone in Lord Charles Hope's apartment in London after a special telephone cable was laid to the Columbia Gramophone Company's recording house. A megaphone was connected to the recording machine and two assistants stationed outside the séance room gave the signals at various times. In the presence of Lord Hope and H. Dennis Bradley and his wife, three voices spoke in English, one in an Indian dialect, one in Hindustani, one in Italian, and two in Chinese. Whymant said the latter, which claimed to be the voice of Confucius, was apparently the same one he heard in New York.
Was Confucius actually present? When the question was asked in the Crandon circle in Boston, "Walter" explained the matter this way: "When K'ung-fu-T'zu manifests in our séance room he is not necessarily personally present. However, at the time of Whymant's interview with K'ung-fu-T'zu through Valiantine in trance, the Master was actually present in person."
Further suggestions relating to the problem are found in Mrs. E. Duffey's book Heaven Revised (1889). In answer to her doubts as to the presence of illustrious spirits a vision was given to her, of which she writes: "I beheld, or seemed to behold—for it was not sight, it was a perception as strong as the sense of seeing—a succession of links extending from sphere to sphere and from spirit and spirit, until it had finally found utterance on earth."
Colley heard direct voices in the darkness of the night when sleeping in the same room with Monck, while holding his hand over the mouth of his sleeping companion. During an operation on Eileen Garrett in 1931, while she was unconscious and gagged, the doctors in attendance heard voices in her proximity. One voice spoke in a tongue that none of the doctors under-stood. According to Reid Clanny's account of the strange case of Mary Jobson, individuals connected with the Jobsons were sometimes accosted in their own homes by a voice that spoke in the presence of the girl and they were told to go and see her.
In the first attempts at communication or when the spiritual power was insufficient, the direct voice was feeble or hoarse, writers said. With an increase of power or practice it became characteristic in tone and distinctive in enunciation. It had a conspicuous selective intelligence, tending to address itself to the right person in the right language.
As soon as the power began to ebb, the trumpet was used increasingly. This waning of power is curiously described in Mrs. G. K. Hack's notes of the July 8, 1928, séance in Millesimo Castle: "The power suddenly failed and consequently the pronunciation of the words he used became confused and the sounds almost inarticulate, until at last they became a sort of prolonged whistle which gradually extinguished itself and formed itself into a mournful sigh."
The general strength of the voice varied individually. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle heard a voice in Chicago that he could only compare to the roar of a lion. Duguid's voices were usually husky. But on one occasion his speaking was so loud and harsh that the sitters became alarmed and asked the spirit to retire. Similarly, in Mrs. Robert Johnson's séances, remonstrations had to be made because of the volume of the voice.
In Elizabeth Blake 's case the voices were occasionally heard at a distance of one hundred feet. "Kokum" and "Hawk Chief" (Valiantine) had tremendous, resounding voices. H. Dennis Bradley recorded that their voices were heard by his wife in a bedroom on the upper floor thirty to forty yards away with all the doors closed. "Kokum's" voice carried to a distance of two hundred yards. Mediums such as Blake, Valiantine, Wriedt, Hazel Ridley, and Mrs. Murphy Lydy often produced the phenomenon in full light. The usual demonstration was to shut the light out of the trumpet with the palm of the medium and hold the small end to the sitter's ear. Mrs. Lydy gave several successful platform demonstrations in this manner in May 1931, in London.
J. B. McIndoe of Glasgow constructed a telephonic apparatus for the hearing of the voice in daylight. A sensitive telephone transmitter was placed under a tightly buttoned, high, black oilskin coat, on the larynx of the medium Andrew McCreadie. The sitters were connected with a telephone receiver through which they could hear voices in daylight. The result was the same if a trumpet was placed with the small end under the oilskin coat on the medium's larynx. Through the large end, if one closely listened, voices came through.
Many and varied experiments were conducted to attempt to prove the reality of the phenomenon. Ventriloquism on the medium's part was the first natural explanation. This was, however, rejected by researchers James H. Hyslop and Hereward Carrington in their respective experiments and was also discounted by J. Malcolm Bird as part of his séances with "Margery."
According to Carrington, at a near range it is impossible for a ventriloquist to produce the illusion of distant sounds or voices; he must then depend upon near ventriloquism, and the nearer the listener's ear to the mouth of the performer the less perfect the illusion, until at quite close range the illusion vanishes altogether and the sounds are correctly located as issuing from the ventriloquist's mouth. There is no such thing as "throwing the voice" across the room, or to any distant location in space he said. The voice merely seems to issue from the spot because the performer distracts the attention of his audience to it. Deprived of light to aid the view, the illusion cannot be produced and the investigators who sit quite close to the medium can immediately locate the voice at its point of origin.
The medium was often asked to hold water in her mouth to see whether the voices were independent. With Emily French, of Buffalo, New York, the voices were tested by Hyslop, Dr. Isaac Kauffmann Funk, and others for a full week. Findlay recorded how often he had his ear at the mouth of the medium Sloan when one or more voices were speaking, yet no sound came from the mouth. In other experiments a special solution was used which, under the effect of the saliva, changed color in proportion to the time during which it was held in the mouth. If one of the sitters also took an amount into his mouth and ejected it at the same time as the medium, the color should be identical. It was by this test that Abraham Wallace claimed to have established the good faith of Susannah Harris.
The Voice Control Machine, designed by Mark Richardson, of Boston, for use in the "Margery" séances was a modern control apparatus. It consisted of a U-shaped tube in which small luminous floats were placed on the surface of the water. The medium blew into a flexible tube that had a specially constructed mouthpiece and caused, by the pressure of air, the second column of water to rise. This position was retained as long as the mouthpiece was tightly held by the medium's lips and tongue. The collapse of the column of water could be immediately detected in the dark by means of the luminous floats.
An even more satisfactory control was devised by psychical investigator B. K. Thorogood. This was a cubical box, made of layers of seven different materials, completely sound proof, closed and padlocked, containing a large, very sensitive micro-phone, connected by two wires emerging from the box to a distant loudspeaker. While sitters in the séance room heard nothing, the voice of "Walter" issued from the loudspeaker in the distant room, suggesting that the voice had its origin through the microphone in the box. Under such conditions the independence of the voices in the "Margery" séances seemed proved.
In direct voice communications there are two elements of the paranormal—the voice in space and the contents of the message. If it turns out that the trumpet was actually used by the medium in the dark the validity of the communication may yet be established by the other criterion. Hereward Carrington, whose book The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism (1907) described many possibilities of fraud, pointed out that many investigators attended trumpet séances quite convinced that the medium did the talking. They contended that the content of the messages was the important thing.
There are many reports of voices heard in daylight with no obvious human source. In The Blue Room (1927), Clive Chapman describes séances with the New Zealand medium Pearl Judd, when direct voices were heard in a well-lighted room. Contemporary researcher D. Scott Rogo also reports similar cases in his book An Experience of Phantoms (1974). Well-researched poltergeist cases occasionally include voices originating in space in daylight.
Direct voice whispers in semidarkness were heard at sittings with Gladys Osborne Leonard. Her control "Feda" claimed to hear communicators talking in front of the medium. She conveyed their messages, which were not heard by sitters. Later confirmation came when sitters also heard the entities talking in whispered words. Robert Blatchford was convinced that his wife is spirit spoke to him in her particular manner of speech. Medium Leslie Flint was tested by C. Drayton Thomas in 1948 and by Robert Chapman of the Sunday Express newspaper and members of the Society for Psychical Research in 1971 and 1972, when use was made of throat microphones and night-sight binoculars.
Historically, the Davenport brothers and Jonathan Koons of Ohio were the first mediums through whom direct voice phenomena were reported. It was "John King" who introduced it, and it was also this control who invented the use of the trumpet in séances.
Voice mediumship is one of the most dramatic forms of supernormal manifestations. In view of the ease with which it was acquired by H. Dennis Bradley, one may understand his enthusiastic forecast in The Wisdom of the Gods (1925): "Communication with the spirits in their actual voices may, within this century, become as simple as the telephone or wireless. In fact, it seems to me that it is a new and phenomenal form of wireless communication." In recent times, the electronic voice phenomenon, popularly known as Raudive voices seems to have partially realized this hoped-for development. It uses a simple diode circuit and records claimed paranormal voices on a tape recorder.
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