Freethought Liberal turned to spiritualism, much aided by the ministries of the mediumship of Dr. J. B. Bouton. Then in 1887-88 there was a fire at Bouton’s, a trap door was found, and his chicanery was exposed. Mr. W. S. Van Camp and Mr. J. H. Roberts had aided with acting as spirits.
Rather than hide what had happened, the duped people of Liberal put out the word. George H. Walser, the town’s founder, having been himself converted to spiritualism, wrote notifications giving the facts on what had been discovered in Bouton’s home.
In turn, Bouton then wrote his own side of the story, published in 1888. He portrayed himself as a doctor whose ruse was a planned dispensing of bitter medication in order to help the citizens of Liberal get over the “contagious disease” of spiritualism–never mind that it was a plan that played out over nearly four years and involved his concertedly–and with great delight–converting even diehard materialists to spiritualism through his pretenses. And never mind that Bouton did not out himself. His plan to cure the people of Liberal of their belief in spiritualism, which curiously involved convincing non-believers that he was a true medium, appeared to have no end date. It was the fire that brought out the truth.
I located a surviving copy of J. B. Bouton’s book at DeGolyer Library at the Southern Methodist University and they generously sent me a photocopy of it which I will be transcribing here. The book is forty pages long and not divided into chapters.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Pg. 31 MARY ASKS, “WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH ELMINA?”
“Will some friends of Truth visit a few of the seances held in Liberal by Dr. Bouton, and write out the experiences for Elmina? Some who are not believers–who will be given chances to find out the facts. I am more interested in the ism at Liberal than at any other place. I am not able to go there at present, and I want to be sure before going that I shall see something real. Truly, ELMINA.
“Some friends of truth” have “visited a few of Dr. Boutons seances” and “written out their experiences.” They were “not believers,” and were “allowed to investigate in a careful, kindly manner.” They were “given chances to find out the facts.” They did find out “facts.” What is the matter with Elmina that she is not satisfied? What more does she want? Will she contend that G. H. Walser is not a “friend of truth”? Does she take him for a fool or a knave? Many others as good and as truthful and as unbelieving as Mr. Walser, enjoyed the same privileges at Dr. Bouton’s, and wrote their experiences for the world. They wrote the truth; I being an eye witness testify that they did.
Btu they were not written for Elmina. They were not the kind of “write out” that she years for. Clark Braden, if he had a chance, would write it out to suit her. So would Truesdell. So would other “fraud hunters.” The honest people of Liberal are not so base as to palm off tricks on mediums and then pretend to expose them. Such practices are usually confined to “lovers of the Lord.” This is a popular and paying business with some; but they are not in Liberal. Why are you interested in the “ism” in Liberal, more than elsewhere, Elmina? Is it the interest that hawks have in chickens? Why do you call a demonstrated fact an “ism?” We who were eye witnesses to these facts never saw any “ism” in them.
You want to be sure before you go that you “will see something real.” You will never be sure, Elmina. All the “friends of truth” in the world could not make you sure of anything when you doubt your own senses. Besides, there is no use in going to Liberal to see “something real” at Dr. Bouton’s, after insulting the Dr. and his family and all his friends, as you have done in the above little squib. If you don’t mean in that you believe Dr. Bouton and family (for they must be in the plot, if there is one) to be the grandest of frauds and rascals, you can’t mean anything. You would not be invited to Dr. Bouton’s now if you were to visit Liberal. The Dr. and family have not been running around begging people to come to their seances. None go there but as invited guests, though their invitations have been numerous. Would you have the “cheek” to push yourself into their company after the insinuations you have herein made against them? You were invited by
Pg. 32 MARY “NOT ANGRY” WITH ELMINA–OH, NO!!!
friends to visit Liberal when I was there. Your call for “friends of truth” to investigate for you, after the same friends who had invited you had done so, is an insult to their honesty and intelligence. You surely would not presume to accept their invitations after thus insulting them, would you Elmina? I wouldn’t. I don’t blame you for wishing to investigate for yourself; but when you call for “friends of truth” to investigate for you, you insinuate that those who have are not “friends of truth,” or else fools. Who do you call “friends of truth,” Elmina? Those who believe just as you do? That is bigotry of the deepest dye–worthy of a Christian. The “dog of a Jew” style of dealing with Spiritualists is getting rather thin for this enlightened age and free country. Spiritualists have rights that should be respected. To accuse one of fraud is to insult him. Dr. Bouton, with the kindest good nature, threw open his house to his friends and neighbors after the manifestations begun, and allowed them to scrutinize it from cellar to garret. With the consciousness of integrity, he did not care how much they searched for “trap doors and hidden hands.” And those whom you call “friends of truth” were on hand, Elmina. They were not alone in searching for the “trick,” and the good Doctor and his lady-like wife only smiled, and let the investigating committee investigate to their heart’s content.
As these things were published several times in THE LIBERAL, you read them, Elmina, without a doubt; and yet you are calling for “friends of truth” to find out the “facts” for you, as though you were the center of the universe and no one needed truth but you. Why didn’t you name the friends of truth who are to do your bidding? If the good people who have carefully investigated the facts at Dr. Bouton’s are not friends to truth, you will have to have them imported. Would Truesdell and Blundy suit you as friends of truth? I guess these worthies are interested in the ism at Liberal just as you are. If Dr. Bouton exercises the discretion that I think he will, you three (triumvirate of truth and wisdom) will still remain “interested in the ism”–on the outside. You would never bring the unholy influence of your attendant spirits into a spirit seance of mine. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, Elmina,; am sorry if I do. It is the truth that hurts, and I am a friend of truth–one of those whom your shallow insinuations have insulted. I am not angry with you because I tell the truth. You were not obliged to tell the friends of truth at Liberal that you thought they were fools and knaves. It was not smart in you to do so, and I for one tell you so.
Good bye, Elmina. I hope I’ll be there when you go to Liberal, to see something “real”. Will Truesdell pay for the trip?
MARY A WHITE
Pg. 33 BOUTON NEVER SAID IT WAS SPIRITS
ELMINA’S RESPONSE TO MARY A. WHITE
Every argument and fling made by Mary A. White at Elmina, for her request that others will investigate the phenomena at Liberal and report to her, has been again and again given by those making claims for other “isms and ologies.” “Examine our testimonials; read our god book, interview our converts, as others have done, and you will find that there are no delusions or deceit in our claims.”
But just as the Catholics and Protestants have presented their claims for 1800 years, and doubters still exist and skeptics disbelieve, while bona find whale swallowers are only found among the most credulous,–so does it seem to me with regard to spiritual phenomena. I do not for a moment doubt Mr. Walser’s honesty and truthfulness, or his belief that the phenomena is genuine; but I claim that he has been duped and deceived. My little “squib” did its work, and I have a pile of responses from outsiders and unbelievers, (some of whom have attended the seances,) others giving general impressions gathered from conversation with those who “ought to know,” and among all the letters, not one has come from a believer. The letters come from New York, Kansas, Liberal, and its vicinity, so I think I am in a fair way of arriving at the facts. “The Liberal” gives its quota as well as the letters. Some tell me that Bouton like Truesdell, never claimed the phenomena as the work of spirits, and that during seances where there is any chance for investigation, writing never comes on slates. It is no “insult,” therefore, to the Doctor to say that he is probably acting the thaumaturgist, either for profit or out of curiosity, or in the role of detective.
As to my proposed visit to Liberal, I am already promised enough to secure me chances for investigation should I find anything worth investigating. I have had the money laid aside for the trip for over a year though I see no reason why I should not accept contributions from Truesdell and others if proffered; for I will gladly contribute toward any other investigator’s trip whom I might deem worthy of it.
I don’t call anyone a “fool”–only claim that all are liable to be deceived when asked to believe phenomena outside of known laws of nature. Should you tell me our river had suddenly gone dry, I could believe it without much evidence, for it might find an underground passage and suddenly sink out of sight. But when you tell me D. M. Bennett lives and writes such messages as I have received in his name, I need proof piled upon proof mountain high.
Pg. 34 ELMINA SEEMS TO KNOW “WHAT’S THE MATTER” WITH MARY
I wrote Bennett’s name in large script and in plain sight here in my room, nearly two months ago, and have asked medium after medium to tell on what it is inscribed; and yet this simple test is beyond their powers. If Bennett still lives, he could come and see it and tell any of you all about it in five minutes.
I never denied all phenomena, but I deny 89-1ooths of it, and that the dead perform any of it. I don’t doubt Mary’s honesty, but I think she is so glad to “believe” that her reason and judgment are SUBORNED TO HER FAITH AND CREDULITY.
I don’t mind flings and hard words. I want truth, facts, and hard pan realities. I want just one good reliable test. Bennett can give it if Bennett is still himself. My old friend and correspondent, Elizur Wright, can give it if he writes and says the things the “Banner of Light” puts in his mouth. Orson S. Murray, the good old man who pioneered our cause of Liberalism for a long life time, and who put the first letter of mine in print, but always protested against spiritology, can now undo it all by giving us only a few of his strong, striking, sound-sensed ideas from “over there.”
Am I reasonable? I think not. I mean only to ask and give pure facts and truth. ELMINA DRAKE SLENKER
Feb. 26th 1886.
Elmina intimates her intention in this article to visit Liberal for the purpose of investigating me and my seances. She had some time before sent a letter to Walser to be placed by him in my little closet to tempt the spirits to answer. The letter had been carefully sealed and a cloth wrapped around the envelope, and sewed through and through with a sewing machine. It would have been a hopeless task to have got at the contents of that letter without detection, and we didn’t try; but we guessed at an answer, and it seems that we guessed so close that her mind was at once made up to visit Liberal to investigate in person. I have not a copy of the passage, but it seems that she had written the name of D. M. Bennett on something in her room and in her letter requested an answer as to what it was. The answer, as nearly as I remember, was:
“Friend Elmina: Your question is unimportant compared with the truth of a future life beyond the grave. I desire to assure you of that fact. Your Friend. DMBennett.
Here, by another coincidence, we had hinted disparagingly at her question and given the name written in her room,–more evidence and a better test than thousands of Spiritualists have staked their faith upon.
Pg. 35 ELLA GIBSON SARCASTICALLY SAYS SHE IS NO “DEADHEAD.”
Aunt Elmina was startled a little, no doubt, at the closeness of our guess; but being a sensible woman, and little given to superstition, she desired further evidence, and so resolved to come to Liberal to find it; but here is a short letter from Ella Gibson which explains why Elmina did not come:
MR. WALSER:–Please say to Mrs. Elmina Drake Slenker, through your columns, that I will comply with her request, and “go” to Liberal “and investigate for me” (her,) the same as she did for others.
Besides, Mr. Editor, I have a special invitation from you to investigate at Dr. Bouton’s, under test conditions, volunteered and arranged by yourself. Having been conversant with the phenomena in all its varied forms, for thirty-five years, and not believing that spirits exist, I think Mrs. Slenker ought to admit that I am an “unbeliever,” “outsider,” which, as I understand, are the only conditions she stipulates.
I regret I cannot go before warm weather; but when I do come I will bear my own expenses, and not deadhead myself upon believers or unbelievers–neither friends or foes–provided I have the latter.
Yours, for Truth and Honesty, ELLA E. GIBSON
Barre, Mass., Feb. 17th, 1886.
But Ella didn’t come! REASON:–We had concluded that the farce had continued long enough, as all of us were tireing of it, and we were intending to ease down on the seances, for the benefit of the Spiritualists, so as to break as few of their hearts as possible, when the catastrophe of an exposure was presented them. Shortly after the publication of Ella Gibson’s letter I announced that no seances would be held during the Summer. So Ella deferred her visit.
We cannot refrain from giving one more letter, from Canada, to the LIBERAL. This letter is characteristic, decidedly radical, and although from a skeptic, is quite a contrast from the two just quoted. Here it is with the heading as published in “The Liberal:”
EDS. LIBERAL: Sir.–You may stop my paper any time, as I will subscribe no further for it. I see from the unmerciful handling without gloves, Mrs. Slenker got at the hands of Mary A. White and others, that it is best to be candid an plain. To one who does not believe in it, it is all whimsical and quite unbearable.
I used to be pleased to pass “The Liberal” to my friends, but now I conceal it carefully, as I would not for anything in the world have one think that I countenance any such tomfoolery.
–to be continued–
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
NOTES: I’m a little confused here by the letter from Ella E. Gibson in which she states she is an “unbeliever”. Ella E. Gibson was a somewhat known freethinker, spiritualist and medium. A cursory Google search shows her giving talks and exhibitions from at least the 1850s through the late 1870s, and probably beyond.
She would be the Ellen E. Gibson, 59, listed as a sister-in-law in the house of Timothy and Ruth A. Howland in the 1880 Barre, Worcester, MA census.
A genealogy states she was Ellen Elvira born at Winchendon in 1821 and married in 1861, at Geneva, Wisconsin, to Rev. John Hobart, then divorced in 1868 in Olney, Illinois. She was a “lecturer and writer on questions of morality, giving to the Northwestern sanitary fair at Chicago (1863) the first one hundred dollars realized from the sale of her pamphlet ‘The Soldiers’ Gift’, and closely identifying herself with the regiment of which her husband was chaplain, the 8th Wis. volunteers or “Live Eagle” regiment…In 1864, on the recommendation of Gov. Lewis of Wisconsin and other state officials, Miss Gibson was elected chaplain 2st Wis. heavy artillery then stationed at Fort Lyon, Va., and performed the duties of chaplain…”
I find “The Soldier’s Gift: The Dangers and Temptations of Army Life” as authored by Mrs. Ella E. G. Hobart.
After her divorce, she reverted to her maiden name.
This has to be the same Ella Gibson “formerly of New Hampshire” who was the spiritualist and wrote, “There will never be any permanent progress until all authority in the Bible is destroyed”? And, “The abominable laws respecting [women in the Bible]…are a disgrace to civilization and English literature; and any family which permits such a volume to lie on their parlor-table ought to be ostracized from all respectable society…”
OK, I find a bio on her in “400 Years of Freethought” published in 1894.
Ella E. Gibson was born in Winchendon, Mass., May 8, 1821. For twelve years she was a teacher in the public schools of Rindge, N. H., Winchendon, Asby, and Fitchburg, Mass., and was also a contributor to the press, and a public lecturer. In the first years of the war she was engaged in organizing “Soldiers’ Ladies’ Aid Societies” in Wisconsin. She was afterward connected with the Eighth Wisconsin Volunteers, known as the “Live Eagle Regiment”…the Wisconsin state officers recommended her for chaplain, she being at that time a regularly ordained minister. She was elected chaplain of the First Wisconsin Regiment, Heavy Artillery. The secretary of war refused to muster her in because she was a woman. She, however, received pay for her services as chaplain by act of Congress, March 3, 1869. While in her line of duty, she contracted malaria, and since then has become almost totally disabled from its affects. She has not yet been successful in securing the pension which she so rightly deserves, and this because she served her country as a woman.
Although confined to her bed nearly all the time for years past, Miss Gibson has done a great amount of mental labor. She has generously contributed to the cause of Freethought. She was the first to improvise poetry and speak upon subjects selected by the audience. She claims that this was not done by spirits, but through a peculiar nervous organization and natural clairvoyance. She has written for nearly every Liberal paper published in the United States. She edited “The Moralist” in 1891, but was compelled to relinquish this work on account of ill health. She is author of “The Holy Bible Abridged;” “The Godly “Women of the Bible, by an Ungodly Woman of the Nineteenth Century,” and other pamphlets. After over forty years’ labor she is still ready for the forward movement.
I find a letter from her published in “The National Tribune” on December 11, 1884 in which she writes, from Barre, on the subject of seeking her pension, and states she has malaria, rheumatism and neuralgia, her health lost. “I am not able to leave my bed, and too feeble to write.”
Was she better? How did she propose to make the trip to Liberal? She does note in the above letter that she felt a move to a warmer climate would aid her.
She was indeed a disbeliever in mediumship:
THE SEYBERT COMMISSION REPORT.
To the Editors: Barre, Mass.
The preliminary report of the Seybert Commission for investigating modern spiritualism is just out, and deserves more than a passing notice from the pen of the reviewer.
This Commission has so well done its work, even in its preliminary report, that it would seem as if an unprejudiced person need only to read this book to be convinced that all the so-called spirit manifestations can be produced by individuals now living, and, therefore, in every case where a spirit claim is made, the right to demand the strictest test conditions should be maintained by every investigator, or else unfairness be conceded on the part of the medium.
Who can doubt, after reading this report, that these ten Commissioners would have been deceived by Slade, as was Professor Zoellner and his four colleagues, had they been equally satisfied without any knowledge of jugglery to take everything that passed before their eyes above board as fact, to the exclusion of all their peering beneath the board (table) and there discovering the process by which Slade performed his wonderful feats.
The exposure of Slade is not unlike that by Mr. John W. Truesdell, of Syracuse, in Bottom Facts. But the Commission has done other similar good work in showing the method by which the ” sealed letters” are opened and read, materialization is effected, even when the spirit apparently rises through the floor in the presence of numerous spectators, and the various other frauds imposed upon a too credulous public.
But I will not detain the readers of The Open Court with my remarks, but refer them directly to the book itself, only premising that if they will read it carefully and without prejudice, they will arrive at the conclusion that the believers in spiritualism, who have been converted to its theories by any of the so-called mediums exposed by this Commission will feel that they have been most egregiously humbugged.
In the case of Mrs. S. E. Patterson, Dr. Knerr, a member of the Commission, saw her in a pocket mirror, adjusted for the purpose, for the third (illegible) open the slates, read the question, and do the writing that she avowed was performed by spirits.
Dr. Furness, another member of the Commission, who sent questions in sealed envelopes to four of the most noted “sealed-letter” writers in the country, reports: “In every instance the envelopes had been opened and reclosed; it is, therefore, scarcely necessary to add that every instance bore the stamp of fraud.”
And thus it went on with nearly all the mediums; those who were not detected in actual fraud, were inferentially duplicating what they claimed as spirit work, while none gave entire satisfaction.
The famous Slade-Zoellner investigation, the accounts of which have made so many converts in this country, was completely exploded by Professor Fullerton, the Secretary of the Commission, who, in his visit to Germany in 1886, held long conferences with the three surviving colleagues of Professor Zoellner, by which he was able to ascertain that these “scientific men” were in no condition to arrive at a correct conclusion in reference to the subject that they had professed to investigate.
“In conclusion,” the Commission reports, “we beg to express our regret that thus far we have not been cheered in our investigations by the discovery of one single novel fact; but undeterred by this discouragement, we trust, with your permission, [the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania] to continue them, with what thoroughness our future opportunities may allow, and with minds as sincerely and honestly open, as heretofore, to conviction.”
I trust this investigation will go on until such scathing exposures are made, that not one solitary trickster can be found who will ply his or her infamous trade under the delusive appellation, “Spiritual Medium.” Ella E. Gibson.
Another letter from Ella Gibson (I’m taking this from an OCR transcribed document online so there are errors, some of which I can correct while others not),
THE OPEN COURT.
In Dr. Hodgson’s article in the May number of the Psychical Research, he fully demonstrates his affirmations of mal-observation by the reports of honest intelligent witnesses, who, although present at the same sittings, vary so widely in their descriptions of the same proceedings that it amazes the reader. Furthermore, Mr. Davey utterly denies the reports of his friends who assert that they never take their eyes from the medium or the slate, or that the slate never leaves their hand or sight, or is hidden away under their coats; while Mr. Davey assures them their attention was misled just long enough — perhaps thirty seconds — for him to do what he desired in order to enable him to perform the jugglery. What renders this all the more interesting and satisfactory is, Dr. Hodgson and others in the secret, witness the whole operation, and know that Mr. Davey’s affirmations are correct; the same as I was privileged in the case of Mr. Truesdell, and saw him perform the wonders himself, and know he tells the truth when he declares, “I know I do it myself.”
What then becomes of Mr. Eglinton’s claim to spirit aid and power when Mr. Davey performs the same feats by jugglery? And what becomes of Mr. Wallace’s boast that “The physical phenomena of Spiritualism have all, or nearly all, been before the world for twenty years ; the theories and explanations of reviewers and critics do not touch them, or in any way satisfy any sane man who has repeatedly witnessed them; they have been tested and examined by skeptics of every grade of incredulity, men in every way qualified to detect imposture or to discover natural causes — trained physicists, medical men, lawyers, and men of business — but in every case the investigators have either retired baffled, or become converts.” Now, Dr. Hodgson has shown that these men were not “qualified to detect imposture,” by proving the imposture himself; that the jugglery was as far beyond their perception as is the ordinary juggler’s performances beyond the ken of the crowds who gaze at them; that these “qualified men” were not able, through mal-observation, lapse of memory, and misdirection of attention, to even describe the occurrences of a sitting accurately, when they themselves were the chief participants, and cautioned constantly to watch every movement lest they be imposed upon by trickery.
I cannot forbear quoting from a review of the May number of the above proceedings “By a Firm Believer,” published in the Pall Mall Gazette (London, September 6, 1887): “The Society for Psychical Research has been at it again. * * * When Mdme. Blavatsky came, a few years ago, with her bright army of gurus, theosophists, and chelas, to rescue us from the sordid realities of nineteenth century materialism, we were pleased, stimulated, interested, and morally regenerated. Nobody asked the Pyschical Society to interfere. But they did; and spoiled the fun, too, in no time. Actually sent a man named Hodgson — a man who called himself a gentleman — who reckoned up Mdme. Blavatsky as if he were a detective and she a common card-cutter and fortune-teller. He found out a lot of things which he might as well have kept to himself; and the end was that Mdme. Blavatsky was exposed by the very Society that might have been expected to shield her.
“But one favorite of the unseen world was left to us. If we wanted a message from a deceased relative, or a hint, written by shadowy hands, as to the final mystery of existence, we could still buy a three-penny slate; bring it to William Eglinton, and there we were. You might wash that slate, and tie it up, and screw it down, and never take your one eye off it and your other off William Eglinton; you might grab it tight with your right hand and him with your left; you might keep your questions unuttered in the most secret recesses of your soul — yet when you untied and unscrewed the slate you would find your answer, or your loved and lost one’s message, written there in her own writing and in any colored chalk you liked to name. * * *
“Nobody would believe the mean thing the Psychical went and did under these circumstances. Hodgson was in it, of course; but they got another man, named Davey, who, no doubt, dropped the suffix Jones in order to hide the real nature of his powers. He started slate-writing under the name of Clifford. * * * Seconded from below, Davey set to work to do everything Mr, Eglinton had done. He did not get the beautiful consoling messages, * * * but, of course, he got the writing in the colored chalks on the washed, tied, screwed, jealously-watched slates, and all the merely extraordinary stuff, such as answering hidden questions, quoting lines from books that had been secretly selected from the shelves by the sitters, and other things which are on the face of them utterly impossible except by supernatural aid. And now he has the audacity to turn round and declare that he is only a conjurer, and that therefore poor Mr. Eglinton may be a conjurer too! * * * The inference is obvious. The evidence for Mr. Davey’s miracles is as striking as that for Mr. Eglinton’s. But Mr. Davey’s miracles were conjurer’s tricks. Ergo, Mr. Eglinton’s may also be conjuring tricks. This may be convincing to materialists, who deem that anything is more probable than that Mr. Davey should be in league with the Powers of Darkness. But to us who already know that Mr. Eglinton is in league with the Powers of Light, such an unholy compact is far more credible than that a number of respectable ladies and gentlemen should, even at the instigation of the man who blasted the career of Mdme. Blavatsky, bear false testimony. * * *
“They shall not take our Eglinton from us as they took our Blavatsky.”
Here follows a review of Mr. Morell Theobald’s book of three hundred pages, in which he “gives example after example of the intimate and familiar intercourse which he has enjoyed for years with the guardian spirits of his hearth.” One of these “examples” which “A Firm Believer” fancies “might touch even Mr. Hodgson, so unforced is its simple domestic pathos,” must suffice.
“After breakfast, while M. was in another room, she heard the knife machine going in the kitchen, where no one was, for the boy who cleans the knives was out; and on my daughter going in she found all the knives which we used for breakfast cleaned and put on the table. In the afternoon, the kettle was again filled by our little invisible friends and put to boil; and while both were sitting in the room, the teapot was half filled with boiling water and the tea made.” We leave to the reader to decide between the probabilities of the above statement compared with the probabilities of Dr. Hodgson’s theory of Mal-Observation and Lapse of Memory — or, possibly, a delusion bordering on the very verge of insanity.
Ella E. Gibson.
And finally a letter which describes how she once was a believer in mediumship of spirits but changed her mind (again, I’m taking this from an OCR transcribed document online so there are errors, some of which I can correct while others not):
To the Editor: Barre, Mass., Jan. 5, 1887.
If Mr. Benjamin Cross will examine his own quotation from my article in your journal of August 18, 1887, he will perceive that he abused himself where he states ” I, as one of the class of spiritualists included in the so-called humbugged,” etc., unless Mr. Cross was “converted to its theories (spiritualism) by some of the so-called mediums exposed by this commission,” for he quotes me correctly where he says “the believers in spiritualism who have been converted to its theories by any of the so-called mediums exposed by this commission, will feel that they have been most egregiously humbugged.”
Now, was Mr. Cross “converted by * * * any of the so-called mediums exposed by this commission? ” If so, then he was certainly included, if not, he will perceive at once that he has done himself injustice in his statement, for in his quotation those are specified and no other ” humbugged ” converts mentioned.
This gentleman says, “in thirty years of experience in spiritualism,” etc., by which I infer that he has been a believer all these years, consequently could not have been converted through Mr. Slade’s and Mrs. Patterson’s slate-writing, nor hardly Mr. Mansfield’s sealed (?) letter-reading, nor through many of the mediums exposed by the commission.
He goes on to relate phenomena through his niece, eleven years old, and other children nine and ten years of age, and then triumphantly inquires, “are they also humbugging me? Let Ella E. Gibson answer.” The great mistake with this gentleman lies in imagining that I have asserted that all the phenomena called spiritualism are a humbug, and that every one who manifested it was humbugging. I never said any such thing. How could I when the phenomena have accompanied me all my life, and for thirty-six years similar mental phenomena, as he describes in these children, were daily a part of my existence; 1852-1863 there was scarcely a day but what I “(illegible)” as I called it, for more than one person, and was lecturing months in succession on an average, daily. I called names and dates, diagnosed disease, personated both the living and the dead, described accurately persons and places I have never seen, etc., and I know I was neither a humbug nor humbugging.
At first (1852) I inferred it was spirits; but as I was constantly under this influence and never entranced, I had full opportunity to analyze my emotions, conditions and facts connected, therefore perceived it was not spirits but the result of my own unconscious powers. These little children, and thousands of others, are no more humbugs than was I. This psychic force and mental perception is soon to be analyzed, classified and assigned to its proper place, and until then I can afford to wait. The time has passed when every mystery not understood can, with reason and safely be relegated to the land of spirits, as in the dark ages when a god or goddess was supposed to have swallowed the moon during an eclipse.
I have a theory that accounts for the genuine phenomena about as fully as evolution accounts for what is. All that is has not yet been discovered. I wrote only of exposed humbugging, though, let it be distinctly understood that I do not believe any of the genuine phenomena are caused by spirits, for I do not believe a spirit exists or ever did exist. Ella E. Gibson.
Interesting woman, that both Christians and atheists claim her, and spiritualists and materialists. I imagine that most today claim her in ignorance, not having a firm grasp on what she believed. Though it’s certain she was a Freethinker.
Interesting, too, when faced with the prospect of a visit from Ella E. Gibson, that Bouton shut down his enterprise for the summer months, that time during which Ella felt she would be well enough to travel. He must have felt his seances wouldn’t have held up to her scrutiny and that she would have exposed him.