The Voice Box

Seeking to Establish and Share Knowledge and Understanding

A Knotty Problem

Leaves from the Book of Memory (4)

by Ernest W. Oaten


ONE OF THE most puzzling displays of physical phenomena I ever met was that manifested by young Emrys Pugh, of South Wales. I believe he is now in South Africa, but I remember on one of my South Wales tours being invited to sit with him at Caerau.

We met in a miner’s cottage, in a large kitchen, with a scullery about seven feet square, opening off it. There were about sixteen of us present, and the room was fully lighted.

Young Pugh was a lad of about eighteen. He was seated in a Windsor armchair, and we were invited to tie him with twelve yards of rope. I deputed the job to two sailors, and when they had completed their task I used a reel of coloured cotton to intertwine in the knots.

The sailors made notes on paper of the name of each knot which had been used, and their respective positions.

We were then asked to carry Pugh into the scullery, and put the chair upon the table which stood in the centre. This was done. All instructions came through Mr Pugh, in trance.

We were asked to leave the scullery and retire. The circle retired to the kitchen, but with the door open we could clearly see Pugh roped in his chair upon the table.

I was then asked to close the door for a few seconds, and to reopen it when I heard raps. I stood at the door with my hand on the handle, closed the door, and held my watch in my other hand.

In fifteen seconds there were raps. I threw the door open and we rushed in. The ropes were lying in a heap on the floor still knotted, and Emrys Pugh was sitting free in his chair.

Again we were asked to retire. I held the door closed, this time for forty seconds, and when I again entered the room Pugh was roped in his chair.

I called the men who had tied him — every knot was in its exact position. He was securely fastened. The cotton was still intertwined in the knots, and, had I not seen the rope a few moments before on the floor, I would have sworn that they had not been disturbed.

A third time we were asked to retire, and again I took my stand at the door. Within half a minute raps sounded, and we rushed into the scullery. The chair was deposited on the floor. Mr Pugh was lying full length on the table asleep, while the rope was carefully coiled on the floor in true sailor fashion.

The men who had done the tying agreed that it would have taken at least five minutes for them to undo those knots. Those are the bare facts, carefully observed and tabulated, and one may well ask, “Is the roping of a physical medium any evidence of his liberty being restricted?”


IN THE EARLY DAYS of my investigations, I spent a long time in my home circle experimenting with the planchette. Messages were very mixed — some of them were false, some of them true, and some partly true and partly false.

But after several years of sitting, the use of a planchette became very easy, and we got to know pretty intimately the people who were communicating. I tried for many months to get a planchette to move without anyone’s hands being actually placed upon it.

I made a large pad, similar to a blotting pad, with leather corners, but fitted with drawing paper instead of blotting paper. I stood the planchette on the paper, with a book resting upon it to give sufficient weight to cause the black lead to mark.

We would then place our hands upon the table, taking care not to touch the pad, so that the planchette would be a foot to eighteen inches from anyone’s hands.

I have seen that planchette scribble for ten or twenty minutes without a break (except to change the paper), and I can say that when it moved thus independently I never had a message that was not reliable.

Autograph signatures of deceased persons have come by the score, and I have shown some of them to bank managers, who have told me that had not the writers been dead they would have passed the signatures.

I never hear of experiments of this kind nowadays, and I am afraid there is too great a tendency for investigators to stick to the beaten track, rather than think out new methods of testing phenomena.


PSYCHIC PHENOMENA present many problems, and I have frequently wondered how far mediumship is temporarily transferable.

In the early days of my mediumistic career I gained some small reputation as a physical medium. I had no difficulty when sitting with any half a dozen people, chosen at random, in getting independent raps and independent levitations; and even today I have very little difficulty in getting evidential messages, correct names, dates, addresses, and exact details through table-tilts.

But in the light of later experiences I have many times found myself wondering how far the remarkable physical phenomena, which occasionally occurred in my presence, were due to the fact that I was sitting at the time, though on a different night, with Walter Jeune, certainly the finest physical medium I have ever known.

Some years ago I attended a series of séances with John Taylor, the Lancashire physical medium. One of the peculiarities of John’s medium- ship was that sitting in a red light, and while in trance, he could slap his hand on the table and long lines of light, like electric sparks, would flow out from his fingers. I have seen them twelve and eighteen inches in length.

Sitting next to him on one occasion at Attercliffe, his guide turned to me and said, “You could do that.” So of course I tried, but failed!

Catching hold of my wrist he slapped my hand upon the table, and the lights flashed out exactly as they did from his own hand.

Of course I put it down to the fact that he had hold of my wrist, but the fact is that for a few days after that, without any contact with him, I was able to produce these flashes of light. It gradually faded away.

A few years ago I had a couple of sittings with Tom Tyrell, who will be known by the old brigade as probably the finest clairvoyant this country ever produced.

Tom’s descriptions of spirit-people were invariably accompanied by names, the addresses at which they lived, the dates of their birth, death, and so forth, and it is a peculiar thing that for several days after a sitting with Tom Tyrell I had no difficulty whatever in giving clairvoyant descriptions accompanied by just such evidential details as he used to obtain. The power lasted a few days and then gradually petered out.

I have had somewhat the same experience in psychic photography with Mr Hope, at Crewe. The possibility of transferring such powers to another person creates a strong body of evidence for the possession by mediums of the powers thus transferred.

Experienced Spiritualists will not need to be told that sitting with a strong medium for any phase of phenomena very often stimulates that type of mediumship within themselves.

Thus, Mr Trefor Davies developed his physical mediumship as a result of regularly sitting with Evan Powell, one of the finest materializing mediums in the country. I recently gave publicity to Mr Webber, and here is another connection.

He has been sitting with Will Thomas, who was well known all over the country a few years ago as a medium for physical phenomena.

I believe Miss Scoggins, of Brighton, started transfiguration mediumship as a result of sittings with Mrs Bullock, In these cases it may be that there is a natural form of mediumship within the sitters, and that its development is due to spirit guides taking counsel one with another and learning one another’s
methods, but I have often wondered how far psychic power is transferable from one individual to another where there is close contact and deep sympathy over a period.

In my early days I spent a lot of time sitting at a table, and obtaining messages by means of table tilts.

Perhaps I was fortunate, but after forty-five years of Spiritualistic experience, I can say that I have received more convincing evidences by this means than by any other.

Even today, if I want exact information in the shape of full names, addresses, dates, etc., it is upon the table I rely, and in all the years I have very seldom known the table mislead me.

I have generally sat with other members of my family, and it may well be that there is a special type of psychic power which makes some folk successful with the table while others are consistently unsuccessful.

I am always trying to devise new experiments, for while the spirit people are often clever in initiating types of evidence, I have always recognised that spirit communion is a co-operative affair, and one can often suggest methods and ideas, which are eagerly accepted at the other end.


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