Richard Hodgson's investigations




Hodgson's personality

Richard Hodgson (1855-1905), born in Australia, after graduating in law at the University of Melbourne moved to England to study moral sciences at Cambridge, where he later became a teacher of philosophy and poetry. With a strong personality and an individualistic and nonconformist character, in 1881 he refused to accept his degree during a ceremony at Cambridge's University: the ritual provdede that the new graduates should kneel before the rector, and Hodgson declared that he would never kneel before any man. He then became an active member of the Cambridge Society for Psychical Research, and helped unmask various fraudulent mediums. When the SPR was established in 1882, Hodgson was one of the first to join. Very active, he received from the SPR the task of traveling to India to investigate the Theosophical Society and its leaders, including the founder Helena Blavatsky. After spending over four months in India, Hodgson became convinced of the fraudulent nature of the alleged powers of Blavatsky and other exponents of Theosophy, giving rise to a bitter controversy with the supporters of their authenticity. Once back in England, Hodgson investigated many mediums for physical effects, reporting the results of his investigations into a report for SPR in which he stated, in no uncertain terms, that «almost all professional mediums are a gang of vulgar impostors more or less in cahoots with each other».

Hodgson's activity in America

In 1887 Hodgson moved to Boston where he became secretary of the ASPR (the American branch of SPR). Until the end of his life he held this position, and in this respect he can be considered the first salaried professional in the field of psychical research, even if, due to the financial hardship in which the ASPR was, sometimes his salary was paid by an anonymous benefactor, without him being aware of it. In Boston William James, of whom Hodgson had become a close friend, introduced him to the medium Leonore Piper, whose powers had impressed James: for 18 years Hodgson investigated the medium with constant perseverance and extreme accuracy, reserving himself three sessions a week. The first results of the investigation were not very favorable: Hodgson later said that «during the first years I had no confidence in her powers, and my goal was only one: find out if there were frauds or tricks, so to be able to unmask her». Hodgson presented to the SPR a first report on the sessions with Piper, published in 1892 in volume 8 of the Proceedings under the title A record of observations of certain phenomena of trance. It is a very accurate document, a true 170-page monograph, in which Hodgson reports the results of the sessions held with Piper from May 1887 to October 1891.

Hodgson had managed to obtain the free collaboration of a stenographer lady for the registration of the sessions, whose detailed reports were attached to the aforementioned report. Of the results of this first phase of the investigations we will say shortly. It should be added that Piper had already been studied, besides by William James, also by Sir Oliver Lodge, another authoritative member of the SPR, and Lodge's observations had been the subject of an article published in volume 6 of the Proceedings. During this first phase of Hodgson's investigation, Piper's control was a soi-disant Dr. Phinuit, whom the scholar believed to be a second personality buried in the medium's subconscious. However, somehow, this fragmented personality seemed to be able to read minds and to communicate information coming, at least according to appearances, from disembodied entities.

The case of George Pellew

Hodgson's attitude began to change in 1892, following the death of his friend George Pellew. Coming from a wealthy New York family and a law graduate from Harward, a poet and author of books and essays, Pellew died at the age of 32 falling from his horse. The deceased Pellew became one of the control entities of Piper (in his accounts Hodgson mentions it under the name of George Pelham): while the existence of Phinuit in life could not be verified, Pellew had been known by Hodgson in flesh and bone. The communications from Pelham entity received through Piper were the main cause of Hodgson's abandonment of his previous theories, based on the subconscious personality of the medium, in favor of a more spiritualist hypothesis: there was in fact too much individuality, too much intentionality and persistence in the manifestations of George Pelham, to attribute them to telepathy alone. One thing, Hodgson reflected, was to draw on a person's mind or a supposed cosmic reservoir for information, and another thing – quite different – that that mind or reservoir could turn back and manifest itself with the fullness of a whole complete personality, and not only with fragments of information. A second monograph of almost 200 pages was published in volume 13 of the Proceedings (1897/98): Hodgson compared the telepathic hypothesis with the spiritual one, and argued about the validity of the latter.    

In March 1893, Piper underwent a delicate surgical operation to remove a traumatic tumor, thus freeing herself from the cause of the continuous illnesses that had negatively affected, for several years, the performances of the sittings. These resumed regularly until 1895, when a hernia appeared that was operated in February of the following year. The sittings were again suspended until October 1896. Before presenting a brief summary of this second cycle of sessions, let's see how Hodgson led his life in America. For almost twenty years he lived in a small apartment in Boston, spending three days a week studying Piper and investigating many other cases. He worked and read until late at night, and was a heavy smoker. He often joined William James' family on a New Hampshire estate. He was much loved by James' children because of his muscular and agile appearance and for his serene, jovial and nature-loving character.      

Hodgson manifests himself

After Hodgson's death in 1905, attempts were made to communicate on his behalf through Piper. On 8 January 1906 the entity Hodgson manifested himself, explaining that it was extremely difficult for him to communicate, because he had not yet awakened sufficiently, and had not learned how to use the instrument, that is, the body of the medium. On the 23rd of the same month, during a session in presence of the wife and a son of William James (Billy), Hodgson manifested himself through the medium's vocal apparatus and said: «Look, this is Billy! Aren't you Mrs. James and Billy? God bless you! Well, well, Thet's okay (laughter)! I found the way, I'm here, be patient with me... where is William?... I'm not strong, but be patient with me... I'll tell you everything...». The entity Hodgson then told of having met Myers (who died in 1901), and asked that Oliver Lodge be informed of everything. He asked Billy how he went swimming and fishing, two sports they had often practiced together, then asked him to give George Dorr (who looked after Hodgson's business left over after his death) some instructions about his private documents. Many other personal information of a private nature were given which could prove Hodgson's identity, who concluded by saying that communicating was much more difficult than he had imagined when alive, and that he could now understand why Myers communicated so little. During a session with Piper, the anonymous benefactor who had contributed to the payment of Hodgson's salary (always through ASPR staff, since he did not want Hodgson to know where money came from) was thanked by Hodgson entity for support received in life.        

In the next seven or eight months, many people who knew Hodgson had sessions with Piper. The entity did his best to offer information that gave them the certainty that his true personality was communicating, and that it was not a thought-reading game. However, he said, it is not at all simple to transfer information correctly: it is very difficult for the spirit to remember names, and many memories related to this world come and go, not to mention the difficulty of communicating through the medium's organism. «I feel the same difficulties as a blind man trying to find his hatHodgson said to professor Newbold on 23 July 1906 – and I am not entirely aware of what I am saying because verbal expressions come out automatically, according to how they are impressed in the machine (the medium's mind). I transmit my thoughts to the instrument, which records them randomly, also because sometimes they are undoubtedly difficult to understand. Now, however, I understand the modus operandi much better than when I was in your world».

He once remembered that William James had told Newbold that he (Hodgson) was a very discreet and rigorous person. Newbold claimed not to remember such comments, and Hodgson exclaimed: «Listen to me, Billy, he said so». Later James confirmed to Newbold that he had actually expressed himself in those terms. According to James, during the many sessions with Piper in which Hodgson communicated there was a vivid sensation of a personality that understood the situation very well. Hodgson gave advice to James about his skepticism, adding that (James) expected too much of him, almost pretending that he could express himself effectively and consistently as when he had a body.     

The 1892 report

The report presented by Hodgson in 1892 began with some observations on Mrs. Piper's trance, during which the medium lost consciousness and the control Phinuit took possession of her body, expressing himself in words. A certain degree of anesthesia was found in the woman's nose, mouth and tongue, and sometimes in other parts of her body. It was always Phinuit who told whether he felt or not painful sensations as a result of stimuli applied by the author on Piper's body. Hodgson's report went on to explain all the precautions taken by him to exclude any hypothesis of fraud by Piper, explicitly stating that he felt obliged to presume, in the first instance, that the medium resorted to conscious expedients (assuming preliminary information, in first person or through others, on the participants in the sessions), or to partly conscious and partly unconscious perceptions, through the interpretation of muscular movements, nods, gestures or tones of voice produced by the sitters. In order to speak of conscious fraud in the latter case, it should have been proven that Piper simulated her trance.     

Sometimes the skepticism of the superficial critics of the paranormal (both of the past and contemporaries), little and badly informed, wants to let the SPR researchers pass for inexperienced people, naive and easily deceived by the mediums. All the numerous reports published at the time, and still available, show the lack of foundation and the inconsistency of this assumption: both Hodgson and most of those who were entrusted with investigations on mediumistic phenomena proved to have taken into account, under every possible aspect, all the possibilities of fraud on the part of the mediums and of having carried out many control investigations. Hodgson also hired investigators to keep under control both Mrs. Piper and people who could take information on behalf of her, and considered as valid investigative material only that relating to information that the medium could not otherwise have come to know through ordinary means. Moreover, Hodgson had already unmasked various fraudulent mediums and was cunning and well-informed about the tricks of the conjurers, to whom he himself asked to engage to reproduce the phenomena usually attributed to spirit agents.       

In his report Hodgson stated that «we must suppose that Mrs. Piper has an astuteness at least equal to ours, and there is hardly any single fact about any single person of which a medium may not be legitimately supposed to have acquired some knowledge, either accidentally or by systematic secret inquiry». This does not seem to be the attitude of a person inclined to be easily deceivede. «However – Hodgson continued – the difficulty in supposing that Phinuit's knowledge has been acquired in this way is owing to the large number of facts communicated concerning a large number of different sitters, special care having been taken with the view of preventing Mrs. Piper's knowing anything of these persons beforehand». Hodgson therefore believed that, although in some cases Mrs. Piper – if she were prone to fraud – could have obtained by ordinary means some of the information that Phinuit gave to the sitters, the hypothesis of fraud did not stand in front of the amount of information provided to those who contacted the medium for the first time anonymously or under a false name.   

Failures and successes of the control Phinuit

Although Hodgson did not think that Mrs.Piper consciously resorted to fraudulent systems, he did not completely rule out that Phinuit control did not in some cases use methods of recognizing the sitters' reactions. However, it was precisely Phinuit's many mistakes, messes and naiveties that made Hogson suppose the absence of a method of verification by what he considered a secondary dissociated personality of the medium. If in some sessions Phinuit proved to be clairvoyant, in others he showed such a capacity for confusion and misunderstanding and such a lack of lucidity that – if these were his only manifestations – Hodgson himself would have undoubtedly labelled Mrs. Piper as an impostor. The control justified himself as follows: «Sometimes when I come here, do you know, actually it is hard work for me to get control of the medium. Sometimes I think I am almost like the medium, and sometimes not at all. Then (when the control is incomplete) I am weak and confused». Despite the many errors, misunderstandings and ambiguities on the part of Phinuit, there were also some correct communications, carefully investigated by Hodgson, above all to verify the hypothesis of thought-transference from the sitters to the medium. Hodgson discarded this hypothesis first of all for negative considerations: Phinuit in fact often was not able to communicate, or failed, the names of people who were well present to the sitter's conscious mind. However, the same Phinuit was sometimes able to provide complete or partly correct information about people or events to which the sitter at that moment was not thinking (although he knew them) or, in some cases, of which the sitter had no knowledge at all.  

Among the failures of Phinuit we can cite the following episode: a lady (Hannah Wild), before dying, had made a pact with her sister (Mrs. Blodgett), to whom she had left a letter written and sealed by herself, saying that – if she survived in the afterlife – she would try to communicate the contents of the letter through a medium, so that her sister could have a certain proof of her survival by comparing her communication with the letter's content. After Hannah's death, her sister, without having read the letter, sent it to William James, who read it, sealed it again and gave it back to Mrs. Blodgett, thus becoming the only living person aware of its content. Leonore Piper was consulted a few times by both William James and Mrs. Blodgett herself, in the presence of Hodgson, and Phinuit provided three distinct versions of the letter's content – two very detailed – none of which, once brought to the attention of William James, proved to be corresponding to the letter written by Hannah Wild. However, in presence of Mrs. Blodgett, Phinuit – acting as if in turn controlled by Hannah Wild – recognized several objects belonging to the deceased and correctly named some people she knew, even if he made mistakes or confusion about other names requested by Mrs. Blodgett. As a result of these experiments both Mrs. Blodgett, who was still inclined to believe in survival, and Hodgson, ruled out that they were dealing with the spirit of Hannah Wild. Hodgson opted rather for a subconscious transmission of information known to Mrs. Blodgett, but noted that in some cases Phinuit was able to obtain correct information from objects belonging to Wild, and touched by the medium's hand, even in the absence of Mrs. Blodgett or William James.     

In another case, a lady (Miss Z.) told of having had only one sitting with Piper, to whom she had not given her real name. During the sitting, Phinuit suddenly said she saw a lady named Mary, in a room with her daughter named Stella, and that Mary had a disease that manifested as an eczema on the back of her hands and wrists. Miss Z. was not aware of this fact, and wrote to her aunt Mary, who lived in Vermont, more than 200 kilometers away from Boston, and who had a daughter (Stella), to have confirmation of this information, which turned out to be correct. Hodgson considered it unlikely that Miss Z. had been previously aware of her aunt's illness, then erasing it from her conscious memory. On another occasion Phinuit told a certain Mrs. W. that her son Nelson – who had been away from home for 17 years and of whom Mrs. W. had no news for three years, ignoring where he could be – was returning home, and that she would have news of him within two weeks through a letter from a friend of his, which would be followed by a letter from Nelson himself. The letters actually arrived from California at the times that had been foreseen, and were followed by a third letter in which Nelson announced his return home. Although this episode had been confirmed by two other people (Mrs. W.'s sister and a friend) Hodgson thought that he could not verify it because the facts were two years old and in the meantime Mrs. W. was dead.    

Phinuit was able to give, in some cases, fairly precise information in relation to people to whom strands of hair that were presented to the medium, wrapped in silk or paper, had belonged. In other cases, however, he did not answer or give incorrect answers. Hodgson also did some experiments to obtain from Phinuit information about people whom certain objects (of which Hodgson himself did not know the origin and that were given to him by acquaintances) had belonged to, sometimes obtaining remarkable results. Although Phinuit often stated the contrary, he did not seem to be trying to get such information from other spirits, but gave the impression of perceiving the influences of the objects, even if in a non-decipherable way. Hodgson also took into account the spirit hypothesis based on the information offered by Phinuit and other controls of the medium. In particular, he told of a series of 45 sittings, from November 1886 to June 1889, that Piper granted to Miss W., who had kept accurate records. During 41 of these sessions the control had been taken «by a personal friend (of Miss W.) whose subjects of conversation, forms of expression, and ways of looking at things were distinctly unlike either Mrs. Piper's or Dr. Phinuit's». Miss W. adds that the personality of her friend, whom she called T., was so well defined as to give her the most convincing proof of the medium's supernatural powers, although it was impossible for her to present such proof as objective.   

In life, T. had served as a congregation's minister, and when he took control of the medium he often discussed with Miss W. about religious matters (for which Phinuit showed no interest), professional matters, common friends and many private facts known only to him and Miss W. Being a man of the West, he often used the typical expressions he had used in life, quite anomalous if compared to Boston English. The conversations with T. as a control, reported by Miss W., were very interesting and full of remarkable identifying details: in some cases the topic dealt with the skepticism shown in life by T. about mediumistic phenomena. Moreover, T. sometimes referred to Miss W. facts of which she was not aware, and of which she could later verify the authenticity. Some prophecies made by Phinuit or T. also occurred on time. Hodgson began to seriously consider the survival of the spirit when information of this kind was offered to him by the entity George Pelham.   

In his first report, however, Hodgson was inclined towards the hypothesis of transmission of thought – or rather, of the subconscious contents present in the sitters' minds – to the medium's subconscious, to which the controls, considered as dissociated personalities of the same medium, would draw. He also presented a series of plausible reasons, in the light of the various facts mentioned, which led him to favor this hypothesis, even if he openly acknowledged that some facts were not attributable to this scheme. It should be noted that the limit of the hypothesis advanced by Hodgson – even with the exceptions of which he himself was aware – is due to the fact that it offers no theoretical explanation on the way in which information can transfer from a person's subconscious to another's one. In fact, in Hodgson's time, knowledge about the functioning of the brain was so vague that the hypothesis of transmitting the contents of the mind by electromagnetic (or other kind) waves could be given as plausible: the same explanation was considered plausible for all cases of telepathy among the living. But no energy field of a physical nature capable of performing this function has been identified until today.     

Finally, Hodgson made an accurate investigation into the origin of the personality of Phinuit – who claimed to have been on Earth a French physician, Jean Phinuit (or Phinnuit) Scliville, who lived between 1790 and 1860 – showing that the control was not able to speak French, and could not give information about the most prominent personalities of his time, in the French medical field. On some occasions Phinuit was able to make fairly accurate diagnoses on the health status of the sitters, although in other cases he was wrong: according to a doctor who had three sittings with Piper, Phinuit's medical knowledge did not go any further than Piper herself could have read in the magazine Domestic Medicine. As for the name, Hodgson thought that it could be a transposition of Dr. Finnet (or Finny), one of the controls of a certain Mr. Cocke, a paid medium –in Hodgson's opinion completely devoid of real psychic powers – to which Mrs. Piper was addressed in 1884 for a consultation on an alleged tumor she feared to have. It was on that occasion that the medium had her first trance, having for control an Indian girl who said her name was Chlorine. Piper then did many more sessions with Mr. Cocke, having first Chlorine as control, then a number of other spirits, including Phinuit who eventually took over. It should also be noted that in 1891 the entity claimed that Phinuit was not his name, but that he was called Jean Alaen Scliville, born in Metz.     

The second report (1897): automatic writing

In his 1897 report Hodgson began by noticing that the communicating entities through Mrs. Piper had become numerous, and largely independent of Phinuit, who had not shown up in the last year's sittings. The medium's trance had also undergone an evolution in the sense that the automatic writing induced by another entity, distinct from the one that communicated verbally, was added to the verbal communication, and often the two modes of communication (verbal and written) occurred simultaneously. The genesis of automatic writing in Piper was surprising: on March 12, 1892, while Phinuit observed a ring worn by a sitter lady and belonged to a certain Annie, correctly indicating the owner's name, the medium's arm slowly lifted until the hand was above her head, stiffening in that position while the hand was shaken by convulsive tremors. Phinuit exclaimed several times: «She took my hand away! She wants to write», probably referring to the entity Annie. Hodgson put a pencil between the fingers of the medium's hand, and a notepad on her head, but without result, until, obeying a Phinuit order, he did not grasp the hand of the medium holding it firmly to the wrist to prevent vibration. Then the hand wrote (always in that strange position): «I am Annie D. (surname correctly given) ...I am not dead ...I am not dead but living ...I am not dead ...good bye ...I am Annie D». The hand began to relax as Phinuit murmured: «Give me my hand back, give me my hand back». The arm remained in its contracted position for a short time, but finally, as though with much difficulty, it moved down to the side, and Phinuit appeared to regain control over it.

At several other sittings in the course of the next two weeks more writing was produced very similarly, the block-book being held on the top of the medium's head, until on April 29,1892, Hodgson placed a table so that Mrs. Piper's right arm could rest comfortably upon it, and suggested that the hand should write on a book-block on the table instead of on the head. It was necessary, however, to repeat the suggestion several times, also using the force during repeated attempts, to force the arm to leave the vertical position and stand on the table: finally the hand began to write in the new position, adopting it as a rule from that day on. However, spasmodic movements continued to occur occasionally, both when the arm was preparing to write and, to a lesser extent, when Phinuit regained control. Many pencils were broken or thrown away from the table.   

Usually, communications through automatic writing came directly from some friends or acquaintances of the sitters, who thus managed to express themselves autonomously instead of using the control. Hodgson noticed that the quality of writings was very variable, depending on the excitation of the communicating entity or the frequency of its written communications. He also had the feeling that the communicating entity was unaware of writing, and was only concerned with transmitting his/her thoughts to the medium, so that they could reach the audience. On some occasions Hodgson managed to get both medium's hands to write simultaneously, obtaining two messages from two distinct entities, while Phinuit kept on talking about a different subject. However, the left hand wrote much more rarely than the right, probably because of its lower efficiency as a writing machine.   

Communications by George Pelham

In the course of a sitting at which Hodgson was also present, while Phinuit communicated verbally with a sitter, the medium's hand began to write a message to Hogson from a deceased friend of his, who had no connection with the sitter, «as if – Hodgson said – a caller should enter a room where two strangers to him were conversing, but a friend of his also present, and whisper a special message into the ear of the friend without disturbing the conversation». Frequently the entity that communicated in writing was George Pelham, Hodgson's friend who died in 1892, who from time to time also used the medium's voice. The friendship between Hodgson and George Pellew had been more intellectual than emotional. As we have said, George was very versed in literature and philosophy, to which he devoted much of his time. In the last three years before his death he had lived in New York, well integrated into the cultural society of that city where he was well known. He was also a member of ASPR, although he was skeptical about the possibility of a future post-mortem life, an event that he considered, from the philosophical point of view, not only unbelievable but also inconceivable. On this subject there were many long discussions between him and Hodgson, who, although he did not believe in survival at the time, nevertheless maintained that it could be a hypothesis at least conceivable. George eventually agreed with Hodgson, and promised him that if he died before him and found himself still conscious, he would actively work to reveal the reality of this new existence.    

About five weeks after his death, George first manifested at a Piper sitting attended by Hodgson and a mutual friend of both, introducing himself to the medium under the false name of Mr. Hart. George communicated using Phinuit as an intermediary. Later, in addition to giving his real name, George cited exactly the names and surnames of several of his friends, including Mr. Hart, reporting some events that both Hodgson and Hart were unaware of. He also recognized the cufflinks that Hart wore as his own, giving a correct version of the way his friend came into their possession. He instructed Hart to give a message to the daughter of two of his dear friends, Katharine Howard: «Tell her, she'll know. I will solve the problems, Katharine». The message had no particular meaning either for Hart or Hodgson, but when Hart, on the following day, reported the message to Katharine's father, James Howard, the latter was very impressed: he remembered that when George had been their guest, some time before his death, he often spoke with his daughter Katharine, then fifteen, about topics such as space, time, God and eternity, pointing out how unsatisfactory the commonly accepted opinions on these issues were. He used to end these discussions by telling Katherine that sooner or later he would be able to find a solution to these problems, and then he would let her know.     

George referred to other circumstances related to mutual friends, including William James, and to their acquaintances. Even since this first sitting, both Hodgson and Hart felt a profound impression, because they had recognized in detail, in the many personal and intimate references, and in the same way of expressing himself or conversing, the true personality of their friend as it was perceived by them when he was alive. Several sittings followed, in which George's other friends took part, with whom the entity showed a keen desire to come into contact, so often Phinuit said to Hodgson: «George says, when are you going to bring Jim (Howard)?» or «George says he wants to tell you about the philosophy of this life».   

A lively mediumistic conversation

On April 11, 1892, the Howard, husband and wife, who never had any interest in psychical research nor did feel so predisposed, took part under a false name in a private sitting with Piper, after being convinced to do so by Hart when the latter reported the message to Katharine. The Howard were very impressed by the various and precise references to common friends and private circumstances and affairs, so much so that they reported having brought back the impression of an authentic conversation with the friend they had known for so many years. What follows is an excerpt from the notes taken by James Howard, which shows well the lively character of the conversation.  

George: «Jim, is that you? Speak to me quick. I am not dead. Don't think me dead. I'm awfully glad to see you. Can't you see me? Don't you hear me? Give my love to my father and tell him I want to see him. I am happy here, and more so since I find I can communicate with you. I pity those people who can't speak... I want you to know I think of you still. I spoke to John about some letters. I left things terribly mixed, my books and my papers; you will forgive me for this, won't you?»
Howard: «What do you do, George, where you are?»
G. «I am scarcely able to do anything yet; I am just awakened to the reality of life after death. It was like darkness, I could not distinguish anything at first. Darkest hours just before dawn, you know that, Jim. I was puzzled, confused. Shall have an occupation soon. Now I can see you, my friends. I can hear you speak. Your voice, Jim, I can distinguish with your accent and articulation, but it sounds like a big bass drum. Mine would sound to you like the faintest whisper».
H. «Our conversation then is something like telephoning?»
G. «Yes».
H. «By long distance telephone. (George laughs). Were you not surprised to find yourself living?»
G. «Perfectly so. Greatly surprised. I did not believe in a future life. It was beyond my reasoning powers. Now it is as clear to me as daylight. We have an astral fac-simile of the material body... Jim, what are you writing now?»
H. «Nothing of any importance».
G. «Why don't you write about this?»
H. «I should like to, but the expression of my opinions would be nothing. I must have facts».
G. «These I will give to you and to Hodgson if he is still interested in these things».
H. «Will people know about this possibility of communication?»
G. «They are sure to in the end. It is only a question of time when people in the material body will know all about it, and every one will be able to communicate... I want all the fellows to know about me... What is Rogers writing?»
H. «A novel».
G. «No, not that. Is he not writing something about me?»
H. «Yes, he is preparing a memorial of you».
G. «That is nice; it is pleasant to be remembered. It is very kind of him. He was always kind to me when I was alive. Martha Rogers (deceased daughter) is here. I have talked with her several times. She reflects too much on her last illness, on being fed with a tube. We tell her she ought to forget it, and she has done so in good measure, but she was ill a long time. She is a dear little creature when you know her, but she is hard to know. She is a beautiful little soul. She sends her love to her father... Berwick, how  is he? Give him my love. He is a good fellow ; he is what I always thought him in life, trustworthy and honourable. How  is Orenberg ? He has some of my letters. Give him my warmest love. He was always very fond of me, though he understood me least of all my friends. We fellows who are eccentric are always misunderstood in life. I used to have fits of depression. I have none now. I am happy now. I want my, father to know  about this. We used to talk about spiritual things, but he will be hard to convince. My mother will be easier». 

Hodgson noted that all of George's mentions were correct, and also reported in detail on the various tests conducted both by himself and by other sitters to establish the identity between the entity George and the personality of George Pellew. He also stated that George had never failed in identifying objects and their related personal associations, and in recognizing people. Among the many sitters who introduced themselves to Piper anonymously, George always recognized his friends by addressing them as he would have done in life, remembering episodes and citing things associated with them with an identical emotional participation to what Pellew's personality had shown towards each of them.    

A genuine and consistent personality

George's tenacity in carrying out his task during the many sittings that took place for over five years, with only some breaks due to the medium's bad health, was due, according to Hodgson, to the promise made by his friend that, if he died first and discovered he still existed, he would do everything in his power to communicate this discovery. George's manifestations were never of an occasional or intermittent nature, but always showed indicative signs of a living, coherent and persistent personality, endowed with all the features of an autonomous intelligence, completely independent of the presence or absence of this or that sitter. In Hodgson's opinion, George's continued interest in his family and friends, his memories, and his personal affairs, was precisely what would have been expected from Pellew's intelligence if he had been alive. Hodgson also accounted for some failures or errors that occurred to George, highlighting how the entity had always tried to explain to the interlocutors the difficulties of communication and recognition of people and events of this dimension, especially when the light was not good because of the health of the medium or other disturbances of the tuning.   

Two hypotheses in comparison

In his report, Hodgson then compared the spiritualistic hypothesis with the telepathic one among the living, in an attempt to find an explanation for the facts reported. He reconnected to the conclusions of his previous report to confirm, first of all, that the hypothesis of fraud by the medium, already declared unsustainable, was even more so in the light of these new events. The developments of Mrs. Piper's mediumship, with the communications coming from different entities manifested through automatic writing, and the recognition of the autonomous and coherent intelligence of each of these entities – and in particular of George – distinguished these sessions from those in which Phinuit was the only intermediary control. The contemporaneity of different manifestations weakened the hypothesis tending to consider Phinuit as a dissociated subconscious personality of the medium. The coherent sets of memories associated with different communicating personalities, the peculiar emotional manifestations that distinguished each of these personalities, the complexity required for playing this or that character and the absence of any apparent common link between thoughts and feelings associated with one or the other personality, all of this made Hodgson inclined to recognize an individual autonomous and persistent element that evidently could survive the bodily death.     

This last part of Hodgson's report – which occupies 50 pages of Proceedings (volume 13) – was divided into two chapters: in the first the hypothesis of communication by the spirits was compared with that of telepathy among the living, considering the pros and cons of each of the hypotheses in explaining the vast experimental material collected by the author; in the second, all the circumstantial elements that led him to positively consider the hypothesis of spirit survival were highlighted. I do not think it appropriate to make a summary of Hodgson's reasoning, which should eventually be the subject of a separate study. Suffice it to say that it consists of intelligent, precise and in-depth arguments, which try to take into account all the possible objections that could be reasonably put forward. Hodgson once again confirmed his commitment as a serious, tenacious and critical scholar, sincerely devoted to search for truth and free from biases of part. For this reason, his work deserves to be kept in mind even today, by anyone who wants to devote himself to psychical research.


Hodgson's research
Medium Etta Wriedt
Victor G. Duncan
Materialized ghosts
Robert G. Bolton
Experiments & spirits
Harry Price's case
Samuel G. Soal
Gordon Davis case
The alien spirit
The end of an era?
A  new interest
A  medium's life story