THE HOLMES CONTROVERSY
IN the last Religio-Philosophical Journal (for
February 27th) in the Philadelphia department, edited by Dr. Child, under
the most poetical heading of, "After the Storm comes the Sunshine,"
we read the following:
I have been waiting patiently for the excitement in reference to the
Holmes fraud to subside a little. I will now make some further statements
and answer some questions.
The stories of my acquaintance with Mrs. White are all fabrications.
I shall not notice the various reports put forth about my pecuniary
relations farther than to say there is a balance due to me for money loaned
to the Holmeses,
I claim the right to answer the above three quotations, the more so that
the second one consigns me most unceremoniously to the ranks of the liars.
Now if there is, in my humble judgment, anything more contemptible than
a cheat, it is certainly a liar.
The rest of this letter, editorial, or whatever it may be, is unanswerable,
for reasons that will be easily understood by whoever reads it. When petulant
Mr. Pancks (in Little Dorrit) spanked the benevolent Christopher
Casby, this venerable patriarch only mildly lifted up his blue eves heavenward,
and smiled more benignly than ever. Dr. Child, tossed about and as badly
spanked by public opinion, smiles as sweetly as Mr. Casby, talks of "sunshine,"
and quiets his urgent accusers by assuring them that "it is all fabrications."
I dont know whence Dr. Child takes his "sunshine," unless
he draws it from the very bottom of his innocent heart.
For my part, since I came to Philadelphia, I have seen little but slush
and dirt; slush in the streets, and dirt in this exasperating Katie King
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.
Mirabile dictu! This beats our learned friend, Dr. Beard. The
latter denies, point-blank, not only "materialization," which
is not yet actually proved to the world, but also every spiritual phenomenon.
But Dr. Child denies being acquainted with a woman whom he confesses himself
to have seen "several times," received in his office, where she
was seen repeatedly by others, and yet at the same time admits that he "knew
she looked like Katie King," etc. By the way, we have all laboured
under the impression that Dr. Child admitted in The Inquirer that
he saw Mrs. White for the first time and recognized her as Katie Ring only
on that morning when she made her affidavit at the office of the justice
of the peace. A "fabrication" most likely. In the R.-P.
Journal for October 27th, 1874, Dr. Child wrote thus:
Your report does not for a moment shake my confidence in our Katie King,
as she comes to me every day and talks to me. On several occasions Katie
had come to me and requested Mr. Owen and myself to go there [meaning to
the Holmeses] and she would come and repeat what she had told me
Did Dr. Child ascertain where Mrs. White was at the time of the spirits
visits to him?
As to Mrs. White, I know her well. I have on many occasions let her
into the house. I saw her at the time the manifestations were going on
in Blissfield. She has since gone to Massachusetts.
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
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 knownot even Dr. Child himselfhas
proved, or even undertaken to prove, the innocence of their ex-cashier and
recorder. The fact that every word of the ex-leader and president of the
Philadelphian Spiritualists would be published by every spiritual paper
(and here we must confess to our wonder that he does not hasten much to
avail himself of this opportunity) while any statement coming from the Holmeses
would be pretty sure of rejection, would not necessarily imply the fact
that they alone are guilty; it would only go towards showing that,
notwithstanding the divine truth of our faith and the teachings of our invisible
guardians, some Spiritualists have not profited by them to learn impartiality
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 themthese two helpless uninfluential
creatures, who, if they sinned at all, perhaps sinned through weakness and
ignoranceto take their case in hand, and by doing justice to them,
do justice at the same time to the cause of truth. If their guilt should
be as evident as the daylight at noon, is it not ridiculous that their partner,
Dr. Child, should show surprise at being so much as suspected! History records
but one personthe legitimate spouse of the great Cæsarwhose
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
Kings "Father Confessor," he can have none whatever to share
the infallibility of Madame Cæsars 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:
"Katies" picture has been, let us say, proved a fraud,
an imposition on the credulous world, and is Mrs. Whites 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 declaredmostly 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
Now Dr. Child denies having had anything whatever to do with the sittings
for those pictures. He denies it most emphatically, and goes so far as to
say (we have many witnesses and proofs of this) that he was out of town,
four hundred miles away, when the said pictures were taken. And so he was,
bless his dear prophetic soul! Meditating and chatting with the nymphs and
goblins of Niagara Falls, so that, when he pleads an alibi, its
no "fabrication" but the truth for once.
Unfortunately for the veracious Dr. Child"whose character
and reputation for truthfulness and moral integrity no one doubts,"
here we quote the words of "Honesty" and "Truth," transparent
pseudonyms of an "amateur" for detecting, exposing and writing
under the cover of secrecy, who tried to give a friendly push to the doctor
in two articles, but failed in bothunfortunately for H. T. Child,
we say, he got inspired in some evil hour to write a certain article, and
forgetting the wise motto, Verba volant, scripta manent, to publish
it in The Daily Graphic on Nov. 16th, together with the portraits
of John and Katie King.
Now for this bouquet of the endorsement of a fact by a truthful man,
"whose moral integrity no one can doubt."
To the Editor of "The Daily Graphic."
On the evening of July 20th, after a large and successful séance,
in which Katie had walked out into the room in the presence of thirty
persons and had disappeared and reäppeared in full view,
she remarked to Mr. Leslie and myself that if we, with four others whom
she named, would remain after the séance, she would like to
try for her photograph. We did so, and there were present six persons besides
the photographer. I had procured two dozen magnesian spirals, and, when
all was ready, she opened the door of the cabinet and stood in it, while
Mr. Holmes on one side, and I upon the other, burned these, making a brilliant
light. We tried two plates, but neither of them was satisfactory.
Another effort was made on July 23rd, which was successful. We asked
her if she would try to have it taken by daylight. She said she would. We
sat with shutters open at 4 p.m. In a few moments Katie appeared at
the aperture and said she was ready. She asked to have one of the windows
closed, and that we should hold a shawl to screen her. As soon as the camera
was ready she came out and walked behind the shawl to the middle of the
room, a distance of six or eight feet, where she stood in front of the camera.
She remained in that position until the first picture was taken, when she
retired to the cabinet.
Mr. Holmes proposed that she should permit him to sit in front of the
camera, and should come out and place her hand upon his shoulder. To this
she assented, and desired all present to avoid looking into her
eyes, as this disturbed the conditions very much.
The second picture was then taken in which she stands behind Mr.
Holmes. When the camera was closed she showed great signs of
weakness, and it was necessary to assist her back to the cabinet, and when
she got to the door she appeared ready to sink to the floor and disappeared
[?]. The cabinet door was opened, but she was not to be seen.
In a few minutes she appeared again and remarked that she had not been
sufficiently materialized, and said she would like to try again, if we
could wait a little while. We waited about fifteen minutes, when
she rapped on the cabinet, signifying that she was ready to come out. She
did so, and we obtained the third negative.
(Signed) DR. H. T. CHILD.
And so, Dr. Child, we have obtained this, we did that,
and we did many other things. Did you? Now, besides Dr. Childs
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
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 do not
very rudely call us "liars and charlatans" to our faces? It is
not the occasionally cheating "mediums" that have or can impede
the progress of our cause; its 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
In his "After the Storm comes the Sunshine," the Doctor makes
the following melancholy reflection:
It has been suggested that going into an atmosphere of fraud, such as
surrounds these mediums [the Holmeses] and being sensitive [O poor Yorick!]
I was more liable to be deceived than others.
We shudder indeed at the thought of the exposure of so much sensitiveness
to so much pollution. Alas! soiled dove! how very sensitive must a person
be who picks up such evil influences that they actually force him into the
grossest of fabrications and make him invent stories and endorse facts that
he has not and could not have seen. If Dr. Child, victim to his too sensitive
nature, is liable to fall so easily as that under the control of wicked
"Diakka," our friendly advice to him is to give up Spiritualism
as soon as possible, and join a Young Mens Christian Association;
for then, under the protecting wing of the true orthodox Church, he can
begin a regular fight, like a second St. Anthony, with the orthodox devil.
Such Diakka as he fell in with at the Holmeses must beat Old Nick
by long odds, and if he could not withstand them by the unaided strength
of his own pure soul, he may with "bell, book and candle" and
the use of holy water be more fortunate in a tug with Satan, crying as other
"Father Confessors" have heretofore, "Exorciso vos in
nomine Lucis!" and signifying his triumph with a robust Laus
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
Philadelphia, March, 1875.
"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
Support this site by visiting our donation page.
Site copyright © 1996-2014 by Estela Carson-Priede