Conjurers and the Spirits

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Conjurers and the Spirits is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in the Daily Mail on 10 march 1919.

Conjurers and the Spirits

Daily Mail (10 march 1919, p. 4)

To the Editor of The Daily Mail.

Sir, — I do not think that Mr. H. M. Dickens's argument that because Houdin was unconvinced on a particular occasion he was therefore never convinced will hold water. I have myself been certain that a medium was a fraud, but I have not extended the proposition until it included all mediums.

I have seen an opinion of Houdin's upon the subject, but in the vast bulk of psychic literature it is not easy to lay one's hands upon a reference. Perhaps, some spiritualist can help me.

Meanwhile I take the following note from Light, February 25, 1882:— "Robert Houdin, the great French conjurer, investigated the subject of clairvoyance with the sensitive Alexis Didier. In the result he unreservedly admitted that what he had observed was wholly beyond the resources of his art to explain." See Psychische Studien for January 1878, p. 43. If my friend Mr. Dickens will follow up this reference he will appreciate the work which his letter to The Daily Mail has cost me.

In looking for Houdin's opinion I came upon Kellar's (another world-famous conjurer), which may be of interest. It is from the Indian Daily News, January 30, 1882:

"After a most stringent trial and strict scrutiny of these wonderful experiences, I can arrive at no other conclusion than that there was no trace of trickery in any form, nor was there is the room any mechanism by which could be produced the phenomena which had taken place. The ordinary mode by which Maskelyne and other conjurers imitate levitation or the floating test could not possibly be done in the room in which we were assembled."

Some conjurers have been parasitic upon the spiritual movement, giving faked imitations of real phenomena, so as to attract and at the same time to mislead the public. They are no doubt within their rights in doing this, but they are not within their rights when they speak as if they were the mouthpiece of the whole race of conjurers in condemnation of the cult which they make money by clumsily imitating. I can give several other references by famous conjurers in support of my contention.

Arthur Conan Doyle,
Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex.