The Death of Dr. Crawford

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Death of Dr. Crawford. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Exposes a Mistake is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The New-York Times on 8 may 1922.

The Death of Dr. Crawford

The New-York Times (8 may 1922)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Exposes a Mistake.

To the Editor of The New York Times:

I make it a rule never to take notice of attacks upon myself, for I am really perfectly indifferent to them. I am here to speak what I know to be the truth, and those who reject it punish no one but themselves.

My attention has been called, however, to a cruel and cowardly assertion in your columns about a dead man whom I honor, the late Dr. Crawford. The words are: "He discovered his life's work had been utterly confused by rascally mediums and he committed suicide." This statement is characteristic of the blackguardly attacks which we have to meet. I would ask you, in the face of it, to publish the enclosed letter, which is the last which Crawford ever wrote, and was addressed to the editor of Light.

New York, May 3. 1922.

I regret that my reply is so belated, but I had not seen this statement before.


Upon reflection we feel that it is right to give the following quotations from a letter we received from the late Dr. Crawford, written just before the sad event. The letter, which is dated July 26, 1920, needs no comment from us. It speaks for itself:

"I am writing you for the last time. My brain has completely broken down through overwork. Until a few weeks ago it was perfectly clear and in good working order, but as soon as the holidays commenced something seemed to snap. I know now that I have unconsciously been overcrowding the brain cells for year on end and that they have given out. I feel that there is no possibility of recovery.

"The psychic work has had nothing whatever to do with it. I have simply overtaxed an instrument which gave no sign it was being overtaxed until too late. My psychic work was all done before the collapse, and is the most perfect work I have done in my life. Everything connected with it is absolutely correct and will bear every scrutiny.

"I am quite aware that my mental break-down will be put down by the enemies of spiritualism to my having worked so long at the subject. The 'demonist' will say it is due to evil spirits, and so on, but it is not so. It is simply a case of nervous elements becoming shattered through overwork and too long concentration. No one is to blame but myself. On the contrary, everybody has been exceedingly helpful and kind.

"My psychic work was done when my brain was working perfectly. I derived great happiness from it and it could not be responsible for what has occurred. Possibly some anatomical change has suddenly taken place in the brain substance which would have occurred in any case. We are such complicated bits of mechanism that it does not require much to put us out of action.

"I wish to reaffirm my belief that the grave does not finish all. I trust that I sill find myself with a renewed energy and able still to further the work in which we are both interested.

"With regard to my present condition I feel there is absolutely no hope. The break-down is making further way and I am getting worse daily. I feel that in a short time I might become a danger to those I love. You may think it etrange that all this could take place inside a couple of weeks, but so it is. But what I wish to affirm now with all my strength is that the whole thing is due to natural causes and that the psychic work is in no way responsible."