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HOUDINI IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

1910–1924 | 1925–1926 | 1927–1930 | 1931–1943 | MORE RECENT

THE NEW YORK TIMES Oct. 16, 1924 Page 14, Column 2

‘MARGERY’ SÉANCES DIVIDE COMMITTEE

Majority of Investigators Decide to Hold Further Sittings With Medium


NO PROOF YET, 2 DECLARE


Interesting Case Says Dr. Comstock in Reporting on Contest for Scientific American Award.


Margery and PrinceThe séances of “Margery,” the medium, who in private life is Mrs. Le Roi G. Crandon of Boston, have caused such a diversity of opinion in the committee investigating alleged psychic cases in connection with The Scientific American award, that the investigators announced yesterday that they would hold further sittings with the medium. Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, Chairman of the committee, said that the next séances would be held before the end of the year.

Dr. Prince disclosed that there would be additional séances after The Scientific American had made public the preliminary reports of four members of the committee of five on the results of the Margery séances. The reports will appear in the November issue of The Scientific American. Two members of the committee in their preliminary opinions conclude that the numerous séances with Margery furnished no scientific proof of supernormal or psychic powers. Two members are non-committal in their preliminary reports. Three members of the committee, composing a majority, recommend further investigation of the Margery case.

In a foreword to the preliminary reports Dr. E.E. Free, editor of The Scientific American, among other things says:

“We present the statements of four individual members of the committee setting forth their views concerning the case. The fifth member, Dr. William McDougal of Harvard University, has been absent form Boston, has not participated in the more recent séances and could not be reached in order to secure a formal statement for publication in this issue.”

Statements of Committee.

From Margery PamphletThe statements of the members of the committee, except that of the Chairman, are given in alphabetical order.

Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, investigator for the American Society for Psychical Research, says:

“So much of an opinion as is possible to give at this time, and by me, is based principally on six sittings at which I was present and partly upon reports of sittings at which I was not present. In five of my sittings I was one of the immediate controllers. In one so placed that it was impossible in the darkness to form any independent judgment.

“The fourth and fifth were under a method of control to which the psychic could and did urge objections based upon purported laws of the phenomena, although consenting to it in advance; the others were expressly approved by her circle.

“The first three presented physical phenomena, the last three none. Nothing of this nature occurred, the possible normal explanation of which was not to me immediately apparent, except one striking detail, but that was unfortunately during the only sťance where I was so placed that I could not be a judge of the surrounding circumstances.

“I am compelled to render an opinion that thus far the experiments have not scientifically and conclusively proved the exercise of supernarmal [sic] powers.”

Dr. Hereward Carrington, writer on and investigator of psychical subjects, says:

“As the result of more than forty sittings with ‘Margery’ I have arrived at the definite conclusion that genuine supernormal (physical) phenomena frequently occur at her séances. Many of the observed manifestations might well have been produced fraudulently—and possibly were so produced. Disregarding these, however, there remain a number of instances when phenomena were produced and observed, under practically perfect control.

“I cite, as an example, the continued ringing of the bell of the ‘contact apparatus,’ when both the medium’s feet rested across my knees, being held there by my one elbow; both her hands were held firmly in mine, the arms pulled out to their full extent; and her head located by her talking at the time, at my request.

Said Control Was Perfect.

“The contact apparatus was on the floor; tipping of her chair would not have reached it (as I tested), and her shoes were on her feet, showing that they had not been removed and laid upon the contact board—which, moreover, was rung intermittently, as request. The degree of control I considered perfect, and the manifestations as repeated over and over again.

“I am convinced that no snap judgment is of any value in a case such as this; nor will preventing the phenomena demonstrate their non-existence.”

Dr. Daniel F. Comstock, scientist and engineer and member of the Advisory Council of the American Society for Psychical Research, in part says:

“It should be realized at the outset that any opinion regarding the reality of the phenomena in the ‘Margery’ case has nothing whatever to do with ‘spirits’ or any other theory as to the cause of the phenomena. The stipulations of The Scientific American were as to the existence of new physical phenomena only such phenomena as the movement of objects, the change in temperature, readings, &c.

“I have consistently been opposed to the attempt to investigate such phenomena in utter darkness and I have believed that every effort should be made to have the phenomena occur in a lighted room if such were possible. The ‘Margery control’ has repeatedly stated that the production of phenomena in the light, while much more difficult than their production in the dark, was only a question of getting used to the new conditions. Since in a field of this nature ‘get-wise-quick’ methods are not likely to succeed, my policy from the start has been to attend a large number of sittings (some forty now, in all), with the idea of allowing phenomena in the light to ‘incubate’ if they would and at the same time paying little, if any, attention to events in the dark which might occur during this supposed incubation period.

“I believe that in a field of investigation which has naturally awakened so much skepticism any phenomena to attain the dignity of actual proof must be very definite and often repeated. I have not yet seen in connection with this case such sufficiently definite and often repeated phenomena in the light; but I have seen enough in the light to awaken a lively interest on my part, and I think the investigation should be continued.

“My conclusion therefore is that rigid proof has not yet been furnished but that the case at present is interesting and should be investigated further.”

Fraud, Houdini Says.

Harry Houdini, magician and lecturer, says:

“Summing up my investigations of the five séances I attended of ‘Margery,’ which took place on July 23, 24 and Aug. 25, 26 and 27, 1924, the fact that I deliberately caught her manipulating with her head, shoulders and left foot, particulars of which I have handed to O.D. Munn with illustrations and the blank séances and incidents which took place at the last three [?], my decision is, that everything which took place at the séances which I attended was a deliberate and conscious fraud, and that if the lady possesses any psychic power, at no time was the same proved in any of the above dated séances.”

When Dr. Free was informed that Dr. Prince had decided to hold additional sittings with Margery he said:

“We have received no direct information from Dr. Prince, but we believed that the Committee would desire to continue their investigation of the claims of Margery. I desire to say that The Scientific American will be glad to operate further with the Committee in investigating the Margery claims or the claims of any other applicants.”

Dr. Free disclosed that there were a dozen additional applicants claiming psychic powers who wished to try for the $5,000 award. Entries will close on Dec. 31, 1924.

In reply to Houdini’s comment, Dr. Crandon issued the following statement in defense of his wife:

“From the first it has been apparent that Houdini would charge fraud as a basis of the ‘Margery’ mediumship. We do not propose now to discuss this charge.

“At some future date it may become necessary to discuss adequately Houdini as a man, as a psychic investigator and as a member of The Scientific American committee. We hope not.

“For the present we rest perfectly content with the positive results obtained by the committee. We have the records of more than ninety meetings and we have the signatures of all the members of the committee describing phenomena, preceded, and followed, always by the words, ‘Control perfect.’

“We do not propose to be diverted by mud-slinging or efforts of any one to obtain publicity. We are interested only in establishing scientifically the reality of psychic phenomena, quite apart from the cause thereof.

“Observation of this mediumship will be continued under proper test conditions and the results made public in due time.”

This article is reproduced here only for educational purposes. Please do not copy the text or accompanying images for commercial use.


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