The Name Of The Dead

In the book entitled Psychics: Facts and Theories, by Rev. Minot J.

Savage, at page 15, the following account will be found:

"Soon I began to hear raps, apparently on the floor, and then in

different parts of the room. On this, the lady remarked, simply:

'Evidently there is some one here who wishes to communicate with

you. Let us go into the front parlor, where it will be quieter.'

This we did, the raps
following us, or rather beginning again as

soon as we were seated. At her suggestion I then took pencil and

paper (which I happened to have in my bag), and sat at one side of

a marble-top table, while she sat at the other side in a rocker and

some distance away. Then she said: 'As one way of getting at the

matter, suppose you do this: You know what friends you have in the

spirit world. Write now a list of names--any names you please,

real or fictitious, only among them somewhere include the names of

some friends in the spirit world who, you think, might like to

communicate with you, if such a thing were possible.' I then

began. I held a paper so that she could not possibly have seen

what I wrote, even though she had not been so far away. I took

special pains that no movement or facial expression should betray

me. Meantime she sat quietly rocking and talking. As I wrote,

perhaps at the eighth or tenth name, I began to write the name of a

lady friend who had not been long dead. I had hardly written the

first letter before there came three loud distinct raps. Then my

hostess said, 'This friend of yours, of course, knows where she

died. Write now a list of places, including in it the place of her

death, and see if she will recognize it.' This I did, beginning

with Vienna, and so on with any that occurred to me. Again I had

hardly begun to write the real name, when once more came three

raps. And so on, concerning other matters. I speak of these only

as specimens.

"Now, I cannot say that in this particular case the raps were not

caused by the toe joints of the lady. The thing that puzzles me in

this theory, is as to how the toe joints happened to know the name

of my friend, where she died, etc., which facts the lady herself

did not know, and never had known."

It has been the writer's good fortune to witness practically this

same experiment, performed by a very expert medium, Dr.

Schlossenger, who was traveling over the country a few years ago.

I was residing at that time in Falls City, Neb., a place of a few

thousand population. For two winters I had traveled some as a

magician, so when the medium came to town, and began to perform his

miracles, certain members of the community suggested having me

witness one of his seances, thinking I would be able to discover

whether his tests were genuine, or whether they were performed by

the aid of trickery. Accordingly, one evening, a prominent

physician invited me, with certain relatives and friends, to attend

a seance given in his parlors.

When we arrived I was introduced to the medium, an elderly

gentleman with a long white beard, and wearing glasses. He

appeared to be slightly deaf, as he placed his hand to his ear and

had my name repeated. He was introduced to the remainder of the

company en masse, the names of the visitors not being given to him.

The medium soon announced that "his mission on this earth was to

absolutely prove to humanity the immortality of the soul." He now

offered to give some tests to those desiring it, and asked for a

small table which was placed in an adjoining room. He invariably

held his hand to his ear, to catch what was being said, being

apparently quite deaf. He also used this same expedient when

listening to the voices of the unseen spirits, and reporting their


My father and another gentleman were selected for the first test,

as they were considered very skeptical in such matters. As they

retired to a closed room I did not see the experiment, but will

give some parts of it as reported to me, farther on. In a short

time they returned to the parlor, engaged in a discussion over the

matter; and my father remarked, "I do not know how you got your

information, but I feel certain it was not from my brother, or he

would have given a certain point correctly." The medium then said,

"If I will tell you where your father died, and the disease he died

of, will you be convinced?" My father replied, "I suppose I will

have to be, if you can do that."

They then retired, and the medium succeeded partially in the

experiment; and would have certainly succeeded entirely, had my

father followed his instructions. I will describe what was

reported to me of this test, farther on.

I now offered myself for a test. I retired to the room with the

medium, and incidentally offered him one dollar and fifty cents,

the same my father had given him; but he refused the money, saying:

"Your father is not convinced, and I will not take any more money."

He now took a sheet of paper from a tablet, and drew five straight

lines across it, spacing the sheet into six spaces about equal.

Next taking my hand, and looking earnestly into my face, he said:

"Promise me that if I succeed, you will not make light of this.

Promise me, for this is very sacred to me." I did so. He now

directed me to write names in the spaces on the sheet, any names I

pleased, writing but one name in each space. All the names were to

be of living or fictitious persons except one, this one to be the

name of some one I had known who was then dead. He said, "Be fair

with me, and I will scratch out the dead person's name." These

were his exact words, therefore I in no way tried to hide my

writing from him, although he stood at a distance and did not

appear to watch me. I took a pencil and began writing the names;

being unprepared I had to think of the names I wished to write. I

desired to select names of persons living at a distance, so that he

could in no possible manner know them. While I was writing he

talked incessantly, which in spite of myself divided my attention.

At the same time he kept urging me to write, and immediately after

urging me, would begin talking rapidly on some spiritualistic

subject. I remember saying, "You must give me time to think." I

thought I used great care, so as to write each name with the same

precision, and tried to betray no emotion when writing the dead

person's name. I selected the name "Cora Holt" for the dead

person's name. This was the name of an aunt who had died in

another State.

As soon as I had written the names he asked me to cut them apart

into slips, having one name on each slip. Now here I do not

remember whether he folded them himself, or had me help, as I was

not expecting them to be folded. However, we folded each one into

a billet with the writing inside.

He now directed me to place them in a hat, and to hold the hat

under the table, take out the billets one at a time, and throw them

on the table top. This I did while he stood with his right arm

extended toward the table and about one foot above it. After I had

thrown a few billets on the table, as I threw the next one, I heard

three loud distinct raps. He said, "There, that's the one that is

dead. Open it and see if I am right, but do not let me see it.

Fold it up again and place it in your pocket." I opened the

billet. I did not know what the name would be, as I had mixed them

under the table; yet I had a feeling that it was correct. I opened

it and sure enough the name was "Cora Holt." I refolded it,

placing it in my pocket. I must confess that I felt a momentary

creepy feeling pass over me, as my emotions were wrought up to such

a pitch by the intense manner in which I had watched all the

details of the experiment. I informed him that he was right, but

did not tell him the name. He now took my hand in his, and leading

me into the parlor, had me state to the company what had just

occurred. Now placing his hand on my head, he said: "I will

endeavor to give you the name." Closing his eyes, his body

trembled or shuddered with a kind of paroxysm, and apparently with

a great effort he pronounced the name "Cora Holt." This effort

seemed to greatly exhaust him, and coming out of his temporary

trance he begged us to excuse him, saying that there were opposing

spirits present and he could do no more that night; that he had

done all for us that lay within his power. He now took his leave.

This was all very impressive to me at the time, except the raps.

It was only afterwards that I thought out the explanation, which I

will give farther on. As to the raps, they had the sound as of a

pencil tapping loudly on a thin strip of wood, or a ruler, and not

the sound of tapping on a table. I had previously known of the

mechanical and electrical rappers, supplied by certain conjuring

depots, and worn on the person of the medium, or attached to a

table. My impression was at the time that possibly he had a rapper

in the sleeve of the arm extended over the table, and by directing

the attention to the table the sound would appear to come from

there. As I was sitting right against the table, I will say that

the sound did not appear to me to come from the table, but more

nearly from his person.

Referring again to the test given my father, the medium first

announced his prices, which he would accept if satisfactory. This

was agreed to and paid. He then had my father write names on paper

in a manner similar to the way I have described, except he did not

request my father to write a dead person's name; instead, he

requested him to write, among other names, his mother's maiden

name, his wife's maiden name, his father's name, also the names of

certain members of his family and of some of his friends, some of

whom should be dead. This my father did.

Among the names written by my father was his mother's maiden name,

viz., "Celestina Redexilana Phelps," a name certainly out of the

ordinary. He also wrote his wife's maiden name, his father's name,

his brother's name, and several other names--six or eight


When the medium had the billets taken out of the hat he said, "You

have there the name of your mother; the name is something like

'Celestia (not Celestina) Roxalena (not Redexilana) Phelps,'" thus

giving wrong pronunciations to the first two names. However, when

my father opened it, sure enough it was his mother's maiden name.

My father now took another billet which had written thereon his

father's name. This the medium gave correctly, stating that this

was his father's name. The next billet had written thereon the

name of my father's brother; the name was James Asahel Abbott."

The medium then said: "Your brother James is here, and he says to

tell you that he is happy and that you are making a great mistake

not to believe."

Now this brother had always been called by his second name and not

by the name of James. My father said, "If you are my brother, give

me your full name." The medium replied, "James Ash-a-bell Abbott,"

giving an entirely wrong pronunciation of the second name. This it

was, with some other error, that led to the discussion they had on

returning to the parlor, and in which my father remarked, "If you

get your information from the dead, they should be able to

pronounce their own names correctly."

My father, not being familiar with the methods of trickery, could

not with exactness give all the minute details of the test as I

would have wished; and as I never had an opportunity to see this

experiment myself, I can only surmise the means employed in its


The second experiment with my father had been an effort to tell the

disease of which my grandfather died, also the place where he died.

The medium required my father to write on the usual ruled paper, a

name of a disease and also a name of a place, in each space, that

is, one disease and one place in each space. He remarked in giving

directions, "Like New York measles, Philadelphia smallpox, etc."

He required, however, that my father write IN THE SAME SPACE the

correct disease, and also the correct place of his father's death.

The remainder of the spaces were to contain the names of any

disease or any place he might choose.

This my father did, writing in one space "Sacramento dysentery."

This was the correct disease, but the city was the place of my

grandfather's burial, and not the place of his death, the latter

being a village called "Hangtown." The medium quickly gave

dysentery as the disease, and Sacramento as the place of my

grandfather's death. It was plain that had my father written the

village where his father died, instead of his burial place, the

medium would have succeeded.

This, however, proved beyond a doubt that the medium obtained his

information FROM THE WRITING, and not from the spirits of the dead.

. . . . .

After thinking the matter over, I decided that, while I was

uncertain as to the manner in which Dr. Schlossenger had performed

all of these experiments, I could reproduce two of them with

certainty as often as he did. I immediately made the trial and

found I could succeed fully nine times out of ten on an average. I

might state that the doctor also failed about one time in ten on an

average; nevertheless, the people of the community were greatly

excited, talking of his miracles, in groups on the streets, for

some days. The medium was coining money, yet I found a few cases

where he failed totally. The failures were seldom mentioned; it

was the successes that excited the people.

The method I use in reproducing the first test given me, is to so

direct the attention of the subjects before the writing, by my

discourse, as to cause them to select unconsciously the name of the

dead person in advance. This is easily managed with a little

practice in talking, and still they will never guess that it is

done on purpose.

Now, as they begin to write, they will naturally pause before

writing each name, to think of a name to write. The pause may be

but slight, yet there is some pause. Of course, when they write

the selected name, no pause will be necessary; and if hurried

properly at that time they will make none. This is the object of

the incessant talking during the experiment. If left to

themselves, the subjects will, in about one half of the cases,

write the selected name in the third space from the top. In about

half of the remaining cases the selected name will be written in

the fourth space from the top. This is especially true if in your

instructions you direct the subject to "mix the dead person's name

somewhere in among the others where you cannot know where it is."

In the remaining cases the subjects are liable to write the

selected name anywhere, generally first or last. Now my object is

to so manipulate my subjects as to cause them to write the selected

name when I want them to do so. This is done by continuous

talking, and distracting their attention until the proper moment.

I choose the third space, since this, being the one they are most

liable to choose of their own accord, is the easiest to force.

Just as they begin to write the first name, before they make a

mark, I say suddenly, "Now be sure and select names of living

persons that I could not possibly know." This is almost certain to

insure a pause, and the name of a living person to be written

first. I continue my talking in a natural manner, taking the

attention to a great extent from the writing, and nearly always

observing another pause just before writing the second name. When

the second name is almost finished I exclaim suddenly, "Now write

as rapidly as possible!" If the subjects have been properly

impressed with the seriousness of the experiment, they will almost

invariably, on finishing the second name (in obedience to my

command "to be as rapid as possible," and in their desire to please

me), hurry into the name already in their minds, thus writing the

selected name in the third place. If such is the case they will

now most surely pause to think of a fourth name. If so, I am

certain that I now know the selected name. However, if they should

rapidly pass into the fourth name, it is then uncertain whether the

selected name is in the third or fourth space. This, however,

seldom happens if worked in an expert manner.

In rare cases the subject cannot be manipulated by the performer,

in which case it is purely guesswork; even in such cases, however,

I stand one chance in six of succeeding; and if I make a second

trial on failing (not uncommon with mediums), I stand one chance in

three of succeeding.

It is hardly worth while to say that as I fold the billets, I fold

the third one slightly different from the rest, so that while it

will not attract attention, I can see at a glance what it is when

thrown on the table. I memorize the name; also, if in doubt, I

fold a second choice in a still different manner for a second

trial. Frequently I memorize more of the names, folding so I can

pick them out. Then, after giving the dead person's name with

proper effect, I pick up the others, hold them to my head and call

out the names. The effect of this on a subject is very impressive.

With a little practice the above test can be given with very small

chance of failure; and in the event of making a failure it can be

explained by the statement that "there are opposing spirits

present," or some similar excuse. If one has other tests at his

command, it is well, in the event of failure, to announce that he

will try something else, and then give another test. As these

experiments are always tried alone with one or, at most, two

subjects, a failure attracts little notice.

Now I cannot say positively that Dr. Schlossenger performed this

experiment in exactly this same manner; but I do have a

recollection of his hurrying me along in my writing at some stage

of its progress. I also know that I can succeed as often as he

did. I will add further that a few days later I prepared six names

in advance, and, with my wife, had a sitting with the medium; this

time, although I paid him, he failed utterly. He tried in every

way and had me write additional names. This time I guarded the

points in the above explanation, yet no matter how he tried, he

made an utter failure. All tricks require certain conditions, and

this is why it is not safe to repeat the same trick for the same

person. There is too much danger that the subject may notice the

sameness of the modus operandi.

Referring to the second test which was given by the medium to my

father, I will state that when the subjects are writing the cities

and diseases, they will naturally pause after writing the city, to

think of a disease to go with it. Of course, when writing the

correct ones, which are already in mind, no pause will be

necessary. Also advantage may be taken of the fact that a small

per cent of persons die of smallpox or measles. If in giving the

directions one says, "Write like this: 'Philadelphia smallpox, New

York measles,'" and the subject writes smallpox or measles in the

list, it is safe to eliminate that from the case. This is

especially true if written in connection with some large city, the

name of which occurs readily to the mind. It is safe also to

eliminate Philadelphia or New York if these should be written,

providing you mentioned these names in the directions, and that the

test is not being given in their section of the country. A small

per cent of the people of a country die in any two places of

prominence. Yet these places will be written readily by most

subjects if they are suggested, or at least other places of equal

prominence will be written. If an unusual place or disease should

be written, it is almost certain these are the ones.

It can readily be seen how expert one can become at this by

continuous practice, such as a medium has many times a day; how one

can learn to take advantage of every little point, and use it with

telling effect on unsuspecting strangers, who do not know what is

going to happen, or what to look for.

I have been told that Dr. Schlossenger had a very sharp eye,

although wearing glasses; and that the glasses were probably to

make the subject think it impossible for him to read writing when

they were moved out of position and placed on the forehead, as they

were during the tests. It has also been suggested that his poor

hearing was feigned, to enable him to hear remarks made about

himself in his presence. I have suspected that his memory had

become trained to a high degree of accuracy, enabling him to give

his tests with such marvelous success, as he did with nearly all

wherever he went. That he does not use one set of principles only

in his tricks, I am certain, but has many more at his command which

he uses continually. However, I can only vaguely guess at them

from having seen his tests but once.

Now, I do not say that this was the method employed by the lady

with Rev. Savage, given in the account at the beginning of this

chapter. But as the experiments are practically the same, it is

safe to conclude that the methods used are the same, or nearly so.

If the test were genuine in the case of the lady mentioned, it was

probably genuine in the case of Dr. Schlossenger. On the other

hand, if it were trickery in one case, it probably was in both.