From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Other-World People is a book written by J. W. Herries published in 1926 by William Hodge & Co., Ltd. including a foreword written by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Foreword by Arthur Conan Doyle
I have read the proofs of your very interesting book — all the more interesting for being as sober a statement of facts which have in most cases come under your own personal observation. In three out of the four subdivisions of your work I have myself some definite views or experience, so perhaps my remarks may be less redundant than prefaces are wont to be.
I have held several seances with the two ladies whom you chronicle. In the course of my psychic investigations, which extend back for the greater part of my adult lifetime, I have had a very varied experience of mediumship, good and bad. I should think that I have sat with not less than twenty mediums for the direct voice. I place the Misses Moore very high among these exponents of a wondrous truth. In mere strength of voice, or sustained power of conversation, and conveyance of individuality there are others whom I would place before them ; but, on the other hand, I know none who by their obvious honesty and sincerity are less likely to suggest the idea of trickery to even the most idiotic psychic researcher.
It so happens that I have never had any very evidential personal experience with them, but I have been present when other sitters have had them, and my convictions are reinforced by your record, for I could never understand why people should in this subject disregard all evidence which is not direct to themselves. In astronomy one does not say — "This honourable person claims to have seen rings round Saturn, and the same is recorded in many corroborative books, but as I have never seen them myself I really cannot say if they are really there." Such an attitude would be absurd, and I hold that it is no less so in Psychic Research. So long as every novice insists upon beginning the whole process ab initio and nothing is standardised all progress is delayed.
I notice in your account that you allude to the barking of dogs. On one occasion, sitting with these mediums, I had the same experience. The room was filled with the sound. We felt them brushing against our legs, and one laid his head with perceptible weight upon my knee. It was about the height that would be reached by a favourite old collie, who has at another time been seen by a clairvoyante in my company. Such manifestations bear out the assurance of our spirit friends that our heavenly homes are brightened by the presence of those pets who have learned to love us upon earth.
I pass now to your intensely interesting account of the Egyptian necklace. I think my wife and I can claim to be more free from superstition than any people I have known. When I say that our whole family started for Australia on Friday, 13th September, with a bishop on board, you will grant that we are fairly immune. Finding myself one of thirteen at table, I took care to be the first to rise. Ladders, cracked mirrors, and spilled salt present no terrors to us. And yet we are very much of the opinion that we want no Egyptian antiquities in the house. Nine and ninety may be harmless. The hundredth may be such a one as you describe in your essay.
The first thing which made me take these Egyptian charms seriously was the story told me by Sir William Ingram, owner of the Illustrated London News, concerning the death of his son, or younger brother. The youth brought a mummy back from Memphis. On the breast was an inscription which, when deciphered, meant that a curse should fall on whoever moved the remains, and that his own remains should receive no burial. Within a few years the man was killed by a buffalo in Somaliland. The body was left in a dry gorge while his friends went for assistance. In their absence heavy rain fell, a torrent swept down the gorge, and the body was never recovered. Such, roughly, was the story Sir William told me, and it seemed to me to be beyond the range of coincidence.
And now see what has happened in the case of the mummy of Tutankhamen. I was in New York at 'the time the tomb was opened, and I remarked in public that I thought it was a dangerous business to desecrate such a grave. Other Spiritualists, notably the Rev. Charles Tweedale, uttered similar warnings in England. We were, of course, laughed at for our pains. But look at the sequel. Lord Carnarvon, the director of the expedition, is dead. The Hon. Aubrey Herbert, who was present, is dead. Sir Douglas Reid, who had undertaken to X-ray the mummy, is dead. Professor Laffleur, who investigated the tomb, is dead. The two French Egyptologists, Benedite and Casanova, who helped in the work, are both dead. Is all this coincidence?
Mr. Arthur Weigall, the famous Egyptologist, has given even more dramatic particulars recently in the Morning Post. He says that on the very day on which the tomb was laid bare, a cobra, a very rare snake in Egypt in the winter months, got into Howard Carter's house and swallowed his pet canary. The cobra was, of course, the symbol of royalty in old Egypt. Whether the canary was the symbol of a peaceful household can only be conjectured. It is also stated in the some article in the Morning Post that a mark was found upon the face of the King which was in the exact position of the mosquito bite which killed the English peer. On the other hand, many great Egyptologists have died in their beds, as we all hope Mr. Carter will do. Sir Flinders Petrie has reached an honoured old age. Does this disprove the danger? Not at all. It only shows that there are psychic laws, unknown to us as yet, by which one man is immune and another is not. If we knew more perhaps we could make all men immune. But, however that may be, it is impossible for any reasonable man to doubt that there is a malign psychic influence connected with some of these old objects when used for sepulchral purposes. Your narrative only corroborates what was already amply shown. Finally, I would say a word as to the Achallader case, which is an extremely instructive one. It is perfectly clear that some one or some thing brought information to Mr. Norman M'Diarmid as to the position of the missing man. That is certain and undeniable. Even names of the search party were given. Now, who was it who brought that information? There are two possibilities. It may have been an unconscious extension of Mr. M'Diarmid's own personality. This is an explanation which should never be lost sight of. We are spirits here and now, though grievously held down by matter. What a spirit can do we can do if we can get loose. I am just as sure that the explanation of many mediumistic phenomena lies in this direction as I am that there is a large residue which could only come from external intelligent beings.
Let us, however, exhaust this possibility. It means that the medium's spirit went forth exploring and brought back information. But we have the evidence that the medium was perfectly normal at the time. We should have expected trance had his soul really left the body untenanted. Then, again, this strange messenger did not know Scotch. He had to ask for information from the medium. Is this consistent with the idea that he was actually part of the medium? Finally, he used some strange words which Mr. M'Diarmid (who courteously answered my inquiries at the time) could not explain. I think that those words cast some light upon who this helpful spiritual being may have been.
The first word was "gernadion," used evidently in the sense of a messenger — an inferior messenger, apparently, who was sent out by some superior control. Upon Mr. M'Diarmid asking what language "gernadion" was, the answer was "Eschadoc." Now Eschadoc in Greek signifies "beyond the limits of humanity," and gernadion is connected with a Greek root which gives the idea of one who is bearing something. The latter may be obscure, but the former is perfectly clear. It was while discussing the incident with Mr. H. A. Vachell, the famous novelist, that this discovery was suggested by him. It would seem, then, that the main control is a Greek — probably an ancient Greek who retains some memory of his old speech. It would certainly be interesting to know what knowledge Mr. M'Diarmid has of Greek, but undoubtedly in his normal state he was not aware of the derivation of these words.
This fact disposes also of the possibility that the messenger was actually the spirit of the lost traveller. The only supposition which covers the case seems to me to be that Mr. M'Diarmid's control or guardian spirit is a Greek, that he interested himself in the case of the traveller, that he had messengers at his beck, that he sent them forth, and that he then conveyed the result to the brain and the hand of the medium. If there is any better explanation which does not ignore the facts I should be glad to hear of it.
Now, I have taken up enough of your space. Every ventilation of the things of the spirit is of advantage in these days, when the whole world, including the Churches, are so sunk in materialism. Either they deny spirit entirely, or they take the strange view that evil is stronger than good, and that it is evil which we meet with when we cross the border. The border belongs to God, even as this world belongs to God, and where He dwells good predominates. As well refuse to walk the streets because there are wicked people abroad as shut out all spiritual knowledge and experience because there as here there is light and shade. In both worlds one gets what one attracts and what one deserves.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.