Laud Conan Doyle, A Pioneer Spiritualist

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Laud Conan Doyle, A Pioneer Spiritualist is an article published in The New-York Times on 8 july 1930.

Hommage to Arthur Conan Doyle the day after his death. See also obituary in the same issue.

Laud Conan Doyle, A Pioneer Spiritualist

The New-York Times (8 july 1930, p. 9)

Psychic Investigators Extol His Sincerity, Enthusiasm and 'Utility as an Advocate.'


Heads of Large Agencies Say Ideas of "Sherlock Holmes's" Creator Were Effective in Practise.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his dual capacity as the world's most widely known advocate of spiritism and the creator of the character of Sherlock Holmes, had tribute paid to his memory yesterday by leading spiritist and detectives in this city.

Frederick Bligh Bond, editor of Psychic Research, official publication of the American Society for Psychical Research, official publication of the American Society for Psychical Research, Inc., at 15 Lexington Avenue, when told of Sir Arthur's death commented as follows:

"Sir Arthur was eminently the great plowman in our field of work. From the very forcefulness of his work and the enthusiasm of his faith in its verity he was prone to pay little heed to those principles of scientific discrimination and critical watchfulness which are held as vital to the work of psychical research. Hence, beyond that measure of respect and sympathy which would be the universal tribute accorded to him and the recognition of his great utility as an advocate and publicist, his activities lay in a great measure outside the scope of philosophic inquiry for which the official societies stand. For this reason the relation between himself and the American Society for Psychical Research would be based on a cordial and friendly appreciation rather than on any intimacy of work or ideals.

His Belief "a Religion."

"With Sir Arthur, belief in the continuity of human life and intercourse with the other world was a religion, and his fervent spirit would scarcely tolerate another view. Spiritualism was, for him, the great tree of which all the notable world-religions were but the branches. His experience led him to some extent to 'prove all things and hold fast that which is true,' but the scientific method he probably never grasped in its entirety; and his lifelong training as a writer of romantic fiction inevitably created in him an imaginative mentality liable to unfit him as a recorder of statistical fact or as an assayer of evidential values. But when all is said and done, his work was essential in its own sphere and its conscientious thoroughness cannot be denied."

Hereward Carrington, psychic investigator and writer, spoke in a similar vein:

"There is a great difference," he said, "between the attitude assumed by Sir Arthur and that of the average scientific psychical researcher, Conan Doyle was a spiritualist and regarded it as a religion, whereas the psychic investigator regards this subject as a science. Sir Arthur was in a sense a bishop of a church, and he represented it just as any other bishop would represent any other church.

"Personally Sir Arthur was a most delightful and charming man, very sincere and quite incapable of under-standing the fact that one-half of humanity is out to fool the other half. In other words, his own nature was in a sense his own worst enemy.

Says Sir Arthur Erred.

"Believing as I do in the reality of psychic phenomena, I do not doubt that he witnessed many genuine manifestations. At the same time he undoubtedly endorsed many mediums who were unquestionably fraudulent. For example, his endorsement of the fairy photographs was, from our point of view, a very foolish stand for him to take. However, I do not doubt he gave help and encouragement to thousands of people in their distress, by reason of a spiritual world. He was a most charming personality and a delightful friend, and his loss will be keenly felt by all those who had the privilege of knowing him."

Raymond J. Burns, president of the William J. Burns International Detective Agency, said he considered "Sherlock Holmes" "the greatest of all fiction detectives."

"We very knew Sir Arthur very well," said Mr. Burns. "My father, William J. Burns, had been one of his intimate friends for twenty-five year, and they always had many interesting discussions together about the detection of crime. I met him for the first time about twenty years ago, when my father took us all for a visit to Sing Sing.

"In his day the methods employed by 'Sherlock Holmes' were the most advanced ever developed. Of course detective work today is on a more scientific basis, but the work in general profited greatly by the methods of Sir Arthur's fiction detective. Of all the detectives in fiction 'Sherlock Holmes' still remains the greatest."

Gerard M. Flynn, head of the William J. Flynn Detective Agency, and son of William J. Flynn, said Sir Arthur possessed "one of the greatest detective minds of all time."

"My father and I have read his works," he said, "and enjoyed them as well as profited by them. I derived from them practical suggestions on several occasions, and I believe that detectives the world over have been helped by them quite a lot. Sherlock Holmes's methods were not merely workable in fiction; they could have been used in actual practice."

Gillette Feels Loss of a Friend.

William Gillette, who created the stage rôle of Sherlock Holmes and played it Intermittently for nearly half a century, until his retirement last year, asked to be excused from commenting on the death of his friend of long standing, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Gillette is now at his Summer home in Deep River, Conn.

However, Mr. Gillette stated that he could speak of Sir Arthur only in the very highest terms and that his long years of friendship with him had been most pleasant ones.

Spiritists in Rochester, N. Y., the city Sir Arthur termed "the birthplace and world centre of spiritualism," planned to pay a tribute to his memory at the Hydesville Memorial, the international shrine of spiritism, which stands on the lawn of the Plymouth Spiritualist Church. Sir Arthur made the first subscription to the memorial, $500, when he visited Rochester on April 14, 1923, for the purpose of talking to the Fox sisters, whose mediumistic activities were attracting wide attention at the time.

Bernard M. L. Ernst, attorney at 25 West Forty-third Street, legal representative of Sir Arthur in this country for many years, yesterday made public a letter written to him by his client and friend, dated Nov. 20, 1929, in which Sir Arthur referred to the alleged spirit message of Houdini and indicated his awareness of the nearness of death.

"I write this in bed," the letter reads, "as, I have broken down badly and have developed angina pectoris, so there is just a chance that I may talk it all over with Houdini himself before so very long. I view the prospect with perfect equanimity. That is one thing that psychic knowledge does. It removes all fears of the future."

Houdini and Sir Arthur differed violently over spiritism, but the two remained close friends until Houdini published what amounted to a personal attack on Sir Arthur in his "Magician Among the Spirits." However, when Houdini died in 1926, Sir Arthur wrote his widow that Houdini was "the most remarkable man he had ever met."