Letter to Harry Price (13 october 1922)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

This letter was written by Arthur Conan Doyle on 13 october 1922 to Harry Price about spiritualism, séances and ectoplasms.


Oct. 13. 1922

Dear Mr. Harry Price,

I was interested to hear of your remarkable library. I thought I was rich with my 300 psychic volumes. It is all one can do to keep up with the enormous output.

I have no 'fairy photograph' book, but I have a booklet 'The Case for Spirit Photography' in the Press. It is in this that I show the overpowering evidence for the genuine power of Hope and also of Mrs. Deane. No reasonable man could read that book without feeling that the case is clearly made out. I have nothing to say against your actual experiment — though the 24 days during which the plates were out of your actual case is a fatal blot — but I do feel strongly that the popular sixpenny pamphlet designed to ruin a man who had 17 years of fine psychic work behind him, on the strength of one case which had not been submitted to criticism was very wrong. If our people claimed conclusions on one case I should think it wrong, but it would not involve the ruin of any individual. The tone of the pamphlet, puns of Hope's name, etc. are all in shocking taste, which I say the more freely as my belief is that you did not yourself write it. However so long as your name is on it we can only go for you. But I am sure your personal conduct was quite honourable - and I say so.

However let us — as I said before — keep that in its own compartment. I was glad at your success at Munich. But since you pass the telekinesis, etc. you can hardly doubt Willy's ectoplasm which has been so tested and photographed — and as that ectoplasm corresponds very much to the photos of Eva's and others, I think you will have to grant ectoplasm all along the line. The opposition to it in the face of Richet, Geley, etc. always seemed to me most impossible. But Richet's name Ectoplasm precedes by nearly twenty years Notzing's 'teleplasm'. Perhaps simple 'Plasma' will solve the difficulty.

Davenport always advertised that he made no claims and left the audience to their own conclusions. He knew well that if, in public, he had claimed psychic power in an uncompromising way, he would have had even more persecution. Probably Willie Davenport had no psychic power at all by himself. Often it takes two to make the right mixture — Hope & Buxton for example.

I fear some heat gets into these questions, but it is on our side a generous heat, for we resent that people of whose honesty we have personal experience and who are often extraordinmily unmercenary, as Hope & Eva for example, should be ridiculed in public by ignorant men like McCabe who know nothing by practical experience of these matters.

Your sincerely,

A. Conan Doyle