The Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle EncyclopediaThe Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, KStJ, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Do The Dead Still Live?

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Do The Dead Still Live? is an article written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in the Sunday Picctorial on 5 october 1924 and reprinted in the Daily Mail on 22 november 1924.


Do The Dead Still Live?

Daily Mail (22 november 1924, p. 10)
Daily Mail (22 november 1924, p. 13)

Why I believe In Communication With the Spirit World.

When I see an assembly of learned scientific men, or a congress of grave clergymen, the sight brings me both amusement and amazement. I know that they are earnest men. I know that they are good men. And yet I know also, with that assurance and certainty which come from actual personal experience, that these men who are public leaders, the one in matters of material and the other in matters of spiritual truth, have not as a fact the least perception of the real nature, possibilities and place in the universe of this world upon when they dwell.

I cannot blame them for ignorance. How can I when I once was ignorant myself? But I was never apathetic. I was always inquiring. There I may fairly blame them, for they have not inquired.

In face of the most vital problem in the world they have either turned away with a smile of contempt or they have accepted without question the superficial objections of our opponents. They have forgotten the old lesson that examination should precede judgment.

If I were atone in the world in my opinion I must still hold it, for how can a man, without lunacy, doubt the plain evidence of his own senses?

But when I look at the illustrious names which have endorsed these views — Crookes and Lodge, Lumbroso and Barrett, Victor Hugo and Thiers, and no many other leaders in every line of thought — I cannot understand how the world can take on lightly a matter of such personal and vital importance.

During the long years when I first studied the question of death I had little opportunity of personal experiment, but I was intellectually convinced by the detailed accounts of Judge Edmonds, Crookes, Russel Wallace, Zollner, and others, for I could not believe that these brilliant men were insane or that they were telling blasphemous falsehoods about the most solemn thing in life.

Finally I was able to devote myself to personal research, and I suppose I may now say that few people, if any, have had a wider experience of these manifestations or have tried harder to find some alternative explanation. There is no alternative explanation. These signs and messages come from the "dead," who still exist, who have changed in nothing, who find interests analogous to those which they found down here, and who have still to obey natural law, which hampers them much in their efforts to penetrate our dull understanding and to overcome our ingrained prejudices.


The nexus between the two states of being is the half immaterial stuff which is fine enough for them to handle, and yet gross enough to impinge upon our senses. It has been named ectoplasm by the famous physiologist Professor Charles Richet, who is being slowly forced under the weight of the evidence, and apparently against his own will, from a material to a spiritual position.

It is fifty years since Professor Crookes investigated a materialised ectoplasmic form in his own laboratory, taking three years over the experiments, and confirming them by forty photographs and many witnesses. Our enemies have since objected that no scientific man has confirmed this experience, though it has been duplicated many times in Spiritualistic circles. But now such an objection merely shows want of familiarity with the facts.

Three good scientific men, Richet, Geley and Count Grammont, have thoroughly investigated similar apparitions in the Institut Métapsychique of Paris. These figures are visible. They are tangible. They walk. They talk. They answer to instructions. Moulds of their hands and feet have been taken, with the wrist and ankle apertures so narrow that it is only by dematerialisation that the limb could be withdrawn. These moulds have been photographed and duplicates can be seen in London. All this under strict test conditions.

What have our opponents to say? They can say nothing, but they can try to ignore the facts. The public are beginning to realise those facts, and that is the beginning of the end.

Let me give in brief a few of the instances which I have myself experienced of spirit return. I could fill a book with them, and these are but samples.

At a meeting at Southsea five years ago my son returned to me. He was so far materialised that his hand pressed my head down and his lips rested on my forehead. He spoke with me in his own manner on a private matter which concerned himself in the past. All in the room heard the conversation, and all signed afterwards as witnesses. They were my wife, Mr. and Mrs. McFarlane, of Southsea, Mr. Blake, of Bournemouth, Mr. Engholm, of London. It is a favourite saying of our opponents that the evidence is merely personal, but how can evidence be merely personal if it is attested by six or more witnesses?

At a meeting at Merthyr, with the same medium, my brother, General Doyle, came back. He gave me advice as to the health of his widow, and mentioned a man in Copenhagen whom he wished her to consult. The name was new to me, but on inquiry I found that such a man did exist. The lady was a Dane, and was in Copenhagen. Mr. Southey, the editor of the Merthyr paper, was my neighbour at that séance, and heard the conversation, as did all who were about me.

Sitting with Miss Besinnet in our own home I have seen the materialised face of my mother in front of me with such clearness that I could distinguish the wrinkles round her eyes. No wax cast by the most clever artist could have been more exact. The ladies upon each side of me, my wife, and Lady Cowan, saw it as clearly as I did.


Upon another occasion the face of my nephew, Oscar Hornung, appeared in the same way. Later, at a séance with another medium, he referred to this materialisation. Upon learning that I could not persuade a relation of his that he had actually returned he burst out sobbing, which is one of many instances where I have noted the pain which springs from the frustration of their endeavours at communication.

When I was in America I sat again with Miss Besinnet and took with me my manager, Mr. Lee Keedick, a hard-headed agnostic. Never shall I forget his cry of "Shackelton!" as the explorer materialised before him. They had been close friends. "His face was not six inches from mine," said Keedick. How can anyone who was not present have the effrontery to say that these things are not true?

But if they are true — is it not the greatest revelation that ever came upon earth? And how terrific is the responsibility of those who have intervened between it and the human race!

Let me give another experience. I attended a séance with Mr. Phoenix as medium in Glasgow. There were present some fourteen Glasgow citizens of repute, one of them a mayor, another the gentleman who was at that time the editor of the "Glasgow Record." We were all "of one accord," we prayed together, our minds were tuned to the infinite, and we had such results as the cold and sceptical inquirer can never hope for. The matter is psychic and responds to psychic conditions — a fact which some researchers seem unable ever to comprehend. A strong wind blew round the circle, tongues of fire flickered over us, and a strong, clear voice spoke to us from above, addressing us each in turn.

In my own case it spoke of what would happen that night, and the prophecy came true. I addressed a meeting of 6,000 people that evening, and I told them that the very signs we read of in apostolic days had been seen in Glasgow that morning. The men and women who had shared my experiences were on the platform beside me. They could check whether my words were true, but who else in the world is in a position to do so?

Sometimes the simplest psychic phenomena are the most, convincing. For example, when Mrs. Wriedt, came to visit me we held a sitting, at which only my wife, myself, Major Wood, my secretary and the medium, were present. We sang a hymn, on which a rich, strong voice joined in the singing. I stopped and checked the other three voices. Each was audible, but this beautiful voice of the spirit singer soared above them all.

Lights, too, are among the evidence of spirit presence, which are simple, evident and convincing. I have seen then, of every degree from little glow-worms to flashes which could only, be compared to lightning. Upon one occasion one of them darted past while my eyes were averted. My wife remarked upon it. I said, "I saw no light."


The next instant it shot towards me, as a firefly might have done, and settled upon my moustache. I felt the impact and was conscious for some seconds of the glow. It could not have said more clearly, "Can you not see what is under your nose?"

On another occasion I snapped a muscle in my calf. I consulted Dr. Abraham Wallace, who told me that the fibres were torn and that it would be a long job. I answered that I had to lecture next evening, and would do so, if needs be, on one leg, like a stork. He did not seem hopeful.


That evening I had a seance in my own home. My son Kingsley came at once, and said, "I will help you, daddy." The next moment I felt a strong hand upon the very seat of my injury — (the medium had no idea where it was) — and for some minutes the whole circle could hear the "Swish, Swish!" of the steady massage. The result was that I had the pleasure of lecturing next day on two legs, and of seeing the surprised and smiling face of Abraham Wallace among my audience. "It was a miracle," said he afterwards. So it was, but a miracle is only the interposition of some higher natural law.

These are but a few cases drawn from my experience. and in every case that experience is checked by witnesses. How long will the world wait before they realise these things? Will these outer forces wait indefinitely for recognition? Or will they find their own way breaking through? The future will show. Meanwhile there are an ever-increasing number of us who have come to be thankful for the greatest gift that life can bring.