Wednesday, 22 December 2010

THE PARANORMAL IN VICTORIAN LITERATURE

It is time to shift ground for a change. Let us discuss something which believers ardently pursue and sceptics condemn as total rubbish. This is the fascinating topic of the Paranormal.

Many years ago I studied under an eminent Professor, an expert in Victorian Literature. As an MA student he recommended that I write a Thesis based on 'The Paranormal in Victorian Literature.' This was quite fortuitous, for I had been interested in what at the present time is described as 'The Paranormal.'


I had wondered for years whether the human mind had latent powers which could be harnessed. Or, whether there was 'something out there,' which one could tap into. Whatever is the case, from the time of writing my Thesis until now I have had numerous experiences which confirm that there is an energy, a power, call it what you will that one can communicate with.

I shall come to all that in future posts on and off.

Anyone who is familiar with the writings of George Eliot (The Lifted Veil), Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre), Thomas Hardy (The Withered Arm),  and Bulwer Lytton (A Strange Story) if one reads carefully one will notice many allusions to the paranormal.

I will perhaps go deeper into this at some future time,  but for now let us take a brief look at the background in which the Victorian writers were enmeshed.

Spiritualism was all the rage. I for one do not believe in it at all. Be that as it may, seances were held throughout England including Buckingham Palace. There were a number of charlatans that were exposed. Reading about it is all quite amusing. However, there is one case which was sensational in its day and for students of the paranormal, holds interest at this present time. This is the case of Daniel Dunglas Home, who I shall return to shortly.




Look at this  photograph of seven Spiritualists taken in 1906, getting ready for a seance. For some reason, the followers of the Spritualist Movement were mainly women.








 Below is a shot of Charles Dickens at work. Perhaps he was cracking out a Ghost Story.


The great writer Charles Dickens was an avid pursuer of the paranormal. As my early post showed he was proficient at making Magnetic Passes, and what is perhaps not so well known is his acquaintance with a young man who could apparently read in total darkness, and play cards blindfolded. An interesting book which explores the activities of Dickens in detail is entitled, Dickens and Mesmerism.' Well worth a read.









At the top of the page is an illustration of the famed Victorian Daniel Dunglas Home. His name is pronounced 'Home".

Home was once described as the greatest 'medium' of all time. Whether you believe in Spirit Mediums  or not, ( I do not) some of the facts of Hume's life are rather strange and well authenticated. For example, Hume claimed that all the powers he had were a result of possession by the Spirits. Modern investigators do not necessarily hold that view, rather that the mind has latent powers which Hume somehow harnessed.

In EVERY single case, Home insisted on performing in broad daylight, unlike the plethora of Mediums who insisted on semi darkened rooms. In addition Home allowed investigation of his feats by the famouse scientist, Sir William Crookes (Cathode Rays) and acknowledged witnesses such as the Chairman of the London Stock Exchange and Lord Adare. Home even performed in front of the Czar of Russia, Alexander II.

When Home performed in front of the Russian Czar he placed an accordion in a basket at one end of the square in St Petersburg, whilst he stood some distance away. At a word of command from Home, the accordion rose in the basket and began playing a number of tunes. All of this was done in broad daylight, in front of the Czar and other witnesses. Not once did Home touch the basket.

On another occasion Home, again in the presence of a number of reliable witnesses, in his apartment and in full daylight, wandered around the room, elongated his body until his head touched the ceiling. Then returning to normal height began to levitate. Within a few moments he opened the window, stepped out into thin air and walked in at an adjoining window.

Home seemed able to lift burning coals out of the fire, place them on the heads of people in the room without any ill effects. We could go on. he was able to move. at a word of command, heavy tables across the room, which required at least three men to move.

The activities of Home enraged the poet Robert Browning (Picture below)






The reason for this was that Hume had somehow bewitched the mind of his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning to such an extent that Robert Browning wrote a long poem attacking Hume. It is cast in the form of a dialogue wherein the Medium is apparently caught cheating and the observer seizes him by the throat.

The title of the poem was, Mr Sludge, the Medium' ( 1864)


Elizabeth Barrett Browning picture Right


Anyway, enough on Home. If you are interested in his abilities plenty of books and articles exist.

What must be said, in spite of those wishing to debunk him, not once was Home convicted of deception.

I think I shall leave things at that for the moment and return to the Victorian Background to the Paranormal in the next post.

Hope you enjoyed it.

KS

All photograph sources Wiki-Media Commons

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