Mr. Marriott's Demonstration

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Mr. Marriott's Demonstration is an article written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Sunday Express No. 154 on 11 december 1921.

Mr. Marriott's Demonstration

Sunday Express No. 154 (p. 6)

Mr. Marriott has clearly proved one point, which is that a trained conjurer can, under the close inspection of three pairs of critical eyes, put a false image upon a plate. We must unreservedly admit it.

When, however, we are asked to draw the inference that Mumler, Hudson, Boursnell, Hope, and the whole succession of psychic photographers are swindlers, we must point out the one huge fatal flaw in the argument. Not one of these men has been shown to have been a skilled conjurer, or, indeed, to have had any knowledge of conjuring at all. Conjuring is not a thing which is a sudden growth. If a man has such a power there are always other men living who can say, "I taught him." "I knew him when he was learning." A conjurer has certain physical characteristics. One has only to look at the long, nervous, artistic fingers of Mr. Marriott and compare them with the short, thick, work-stained hand of Mr. Hope to see the difference in their capacities for trickery.

The fallacious argument that because a man can imitate a thing therefore the thing itself does not exist has stood too long on the path of human progress, it is not argued that because a conjurer can produce an egg from his sleeve any suspicions rest upon a hen. And yet the public from the time of the Davenport brothers have been misled again and again by the delusion that became Mr. Maskelyne or some other professional, with machinery, confederates, and his own conditions, can produce certain results, therefore the same results when produced in a private house must also be tricks. Surely the fallacy is obvious.


Mr. Marriott produced a very pretty group of fairies dancing round me, and I hope he will give me a copy as a souvenir. But I have a photograph before me as I write which has a deeper meaning. It was given me by Mr. Gibson, a professional photographer of Nottingham, on my recent visit. He went to Crewe, took the photograph himself, and received an extra of his dead son, clearly recognised by other Nottingham photographers, and unlike any existing picture. Here we reach a point which can only be psychic, for it is outside the realm of trickery.

Mr. Douglas and I were conducted by a friend on Sunday last to see the work of a London amateur, a man of science, who not only gets psychic photographs, but gets them of finer quality than Hope, and with, I should think, a smaller proportion of failures. He also receives images of the dead. In this case all allegations of a mercenary nature fall to the ground, and I venture to say that when the gentleman publishes his completed results people will begin to realise the injustice which has been done to the various humble individuals who have been endowed with the singular atmosphere which makes such things possible. The experience of this amateur medium may show that with systematic development the gift is not so rare as has been supposed.

Arthur Conan Doyle