XII

Spiritual “letters on the arm”⁠—​How to make them yourself⁠—​The tambourine and ring feats⁠—​Dexter’s dancing hats⁠—​Phosphorescent oil⁠—​Some spiritual slang.

The mediums produce “blood-red letters on the arm” in a very simple way. It is done with a pencil, or some blunt-pointed instrument, it being necessary to bear on hard while the movement of writing is being executed. The pressure, though not sufficient to abrade the skin, forces the blood from the capillary vessels over which the pencil passes, and where, when the reaction takes place, an unusual quantity of blood gathers and becomes plainly visible through the cuticle. Gradually, as an equilibrium of the circulation is restored, the letters pass away.

This “manipulation” is generally produced by the medium in connection with the ballot-test. Having learned the name of an investigator’s spirit-friend, in the manner stated in a previous article, the investigator is set to writing some other names. While he is thus occupied, the medium quickly slips up his sleeve under the table, and writes on his arm the name he has learned.

Try the experiment yourself, reader. Hold out your left arm; clench the fist so as to harden the muscle a little, and write your name on the skin with a blunt pencil or any similar point, in letters say three-quarters of an inch long, pressing firmly enough to feel a little pain. Rub the place briskly a dozen times; this brings out the letters quickly, in tolerably-distinct red lines.

On thick, tough skins it is difficult to produce letters in this way. They might also be outlined more deeply by sharply pricking in dots along the lines of the desired letters.

Among others who seek to gain money and notoriety by the exercise of their talents for “spiritual” humbuggery, is a certain woman, whom I will not further designate, but whose name is at the service of any proper person, and who exhibited not long since in Brooklyn and New York. This woman is accompanied by her husband, who is a confederate in the playing of her “little game.”

She seats herself at a table, which has been placed against the wall of the room. The audience is so seated as to form a semicircle, at one end of which, and near enough to the medium to be able to shake hands with her, or nearly so, sits her husband, with perhaps an accommodating spiritualist next to him. Then the medium, in an assumed voice, engages in a miscellaneous talk, ending with a request that someone sit by her and hold her hand.

A skeptic is permitted to do that. When thus placed, skeptic is directly between the medium and her husband, and with his back to the latter. The husband plays spirit, and with his right hand⁠—which is free, the other only being held by the accommodating spiritualist⁠—pats the investigator on the head, thumps him with a guitar and other instruments, and maybe pulls his hair.

The medium assumes all this to be done by a spirit, because her hands are held and she could not do it! Profound reasoning! If anyone suggests that the husband had better sit somewhere else, the medium will not hear to it⁠—“he is a part of the battery,” and the necessary conditions must not be interfered with. Sure enough! Accommodating spiritualist also says he holds husband fast.

A tambourine-frame, without the head, and an iron ring, large enough to pass over one’s arm, are exhibited to the audience. Medium says the spirits have such power over matter as to be able to put one or both those things on to her arm while someone holds her hands.

The party who is privileged to hold her hands on such occasion, has to grope his way to her in the dark. Having reached her, she seizes his hands, and passes one of them down her neck and along her arm, saying:

“Now you know there is no ring already there!”

Soon after he feels the tambourine-frame or ring slide over his hand and on to his arm. A light is produced in order that he may see it is there.

When he took her hands he felt the frame or ring⁠—or at any rate, a frame or ring⁠—under his elbow on the table, from which place it was pulled by some power just before it went on to his arm. Such is his report to the audience. But in fact, the medium has two frames, or else a tambourine, and a tambourine-frame. She allows the investigator to feel one of these.

She has, however, previous to his taking her hands, put one arm and head through the frame she uses; so that of course he does not feel it when she passes his hand down one side of her neck and over one of her arms, as it is under that arm. Her husband pulls the tambourine from under the investigator’s elbow; then the medium gets her head back through the frame, leaving it on her arm, or sliding it on to his, and the work is done!

She has also two iron rings. One of them she puts over her arm and the point of her shoulder, where it snugly remains, covered with a cape which she persists in wearing on these occasions, till the investigator takes her hands (in the dark) and feels the other ring under his elbows; then the husband disposes of the ring on the table, and the medium works the other one down on to her arm. The audience saw but one ring, and the person sitting with the medium thought he had that under his elbow till it was pulled away and put on the arm!

Some years ago, a man by the name of Dexter, who kept an oyster and liquor saloon on Bleecker street, devised a somewhat novel exhibition for the purpose of attracting custom. A number of hats, placed on the floor of his saloon, danced (or bobbed up and down) in time to music. His place was visited by a number of the leading spiritualists of New York, several of whom were heard to express a belief that the hats were moved by spirits! Dexter, however, did not claim to be a medium, though he talked vaguely of “the power of electricity,” when questioned with regard to his exhibition. Besides making the hats dance, he would (apparently) cause a violin placed in a box on the floor to sound, by waving his hands over it.

The hats were moved by a somewhat complicated arrangement of wires, worked by a confederate, out of sight. These wires were attached to levers, and finally came up through the floor, through small holes hidden from observation by the sawdust strewn there, as is common in such places.

The violin in the box did not sound at all. It was another violin, under the floor, that was heard. It is not easy for a person to exactly locate a sound when the cause is not apparent. In short, Mr. Dexter’s operations may be described as only consisting of a little well-managed Dexterity!

A young man “out West,” claiming to be influenced by spirits, astonished people by reading names, telling time by watches, etc., in a dark room. He sat at a center-table, which was covered with a cloth, in the middle of the room. Investigators sat next the walls. The name of a spirit, for instance, would be written and laid on a table, when in a short time he pronounced it. To tell the time by a watch, he required it to be placed on the table, or in his hand. With the tablecloth over his head, a bottle of phosphorated oil enabled him to see, when not the least glimmer of light was visible to others in the room.

If any of the “spiritualist” philosophers were to be asked what is the philosophy of these proceedings, he would probably reply with a mess of balderdash pretty much like the following:

“There is an infinitesimal influence of sympathy between mind and matter, which permeates all beings, and pervades all the delicate niches and interstices of human intelligence. This sympathetic influence working upon the affined intelligence of an affinity, coagulates itself into a corporiety, approximating closely to the adumbration of mortality in its highest admensuration, at last accuminating in an accumination.”

On these great philosophic principles it will not be difficult to comprehend the following actual quotation from the Spiritual Telegraph:

“In the twelfth hour, the holy procedure shall crown the Triune Creator with the most perfect disclosive illumination. Then shall the creation in the effulgence above the divine seraphemal, arise into the dome of the disclosure in one comprehensive revolving galaxy of supreme created beatitudes.”

That those not surcharged with the divine afflatus may be able to get at the meaning of the above paragraph, it is translated thus:

“Then shall all the blockheads in the nincompoopdome of disclosive procedure above the all-fired leather-fungus of Peter Nephninnygo, the gooseberry grinder, rise into the dome of the disclosure until coequaled and coexistensive and conglomerate lumuxes in one comprehensive mux shall assimilate into nothing, and revolve like a bobtailed pussy cat after the space where the tail was.”

What power there is in spiritualism!

I shall be glad to receive, for publication, authentic information, from all parts of the world in regard tothe doings of pretended spiritualists, especially those who perform for money. It is high time that the credulous portion of our community should be saved from the deceptions, delusions, and swindles of these blasphemous mountebanks and impostors.