Conjurers and the Psychic

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Conjurers and the Psychic is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in The New-York Times, 20 august 1922.

Arthur Conan Doyle replies to Mr. Edwards-Ficken about Houdin's opinion on spiritualism.

Conjurers and the Psychic

The New-York Times (20 august 1922)

Houdin's Testimony as to Certain Inexplicable Phenomena.

To the Editor of The New York Times:

Will you excuse very belated reply, but your issue of June 26 has only just reached me in which Mr. Edwards-Ficken undertakes to set me right upon psychic matters. The particular statement to which he objects in that Houdin supported psychic phenomena as being outside the conjurer's art. Houdin's letters were published by the Marquis de Mirville to whom they were addressed, and the passages referred to are as follows:

"The more I reflect upon them (psychic phenomena) the more impossible I find it to rank them among those which belong to my art and profession."


"I have returned from the seance as astonished as it is possible to be, and persuaded that it is utterly impossible that chance or skill could ever produce effects so wonderful."

In the face of these extracts what becomes of Mr. Edwards-Ficken's denial, and his clumsy sarcasms about my alleged credulity.

As to ectoplasm the dispute as to its existence is ludicrous to any one who has, like myself, held it in his hand. Since returning to London I have again seen a plentiful emission from Frau Silbert, an Austrian medium. At the end of Schenck-Notsing's book will be found eight or ten of it from different mediums in various countries. Every new thing faces the opposition of ignorant and prejudiced people and ectoplasm is no exception. It is admitted that it cannot be produced to order. Even in the Bisson experiments there were many days when under favorable conditions none appeared. It is, indeed, a dull mind which does not perceive that this is not an argument for fraud, but rather a proof of the genuine psychic nature of the phenomena, since all psychic things are at present beyond our immediate control.

Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, Aug. 4. 1922.