Mr. Henderson Teleports

Mr. Henderson Teleports. British Library image

It’s international Skeptics Day so let’s celebrate with the story of a skeptical English gentleman’s miraculous teleportation.

Some of you may remember the unique Fortean flight of Mrs Elizabeth Guppy, materializing medium extraordinaire. She was famous for showering onto séance tables lavish apports of flowers, fruit, snow, eels, and, ultimately, her buxom self in deshabille clutching a pen with the ink still damp upon it, when transported across London that night in 1871.

I say, “unique,” but there was another, equally remarkable teleportation in Mrs Guppy’s circle. I refer to the flight of Mr Alexander Henderson in November, 1873.

INSTANTANEOUS TRANSFERENCE OF A SCEPTICAL GENTLEMAN FROM WITHIN A LOCKED ROOM, TO A DISTANCE OF ONE MILE AND A HALF.*

[*This Report was offered to the Daily Telegraph, the Standard, and the Daily News, but was refused by those journals.]

We take the following from the Medium of December 5th. It is now no secret that “Mr. Blank”—the subject of the remarkable experience related—is Mr. Henderson, Photographer, of King William Street, City. The well-known antecedents of this gentleman in regard to Spiritualism require this publication of his name as a guarantee of his bona fides in the matter. This makes the chain of testimony complete, for it must be presumed that he subscribes to the truth of this relation, as no retraction of it by him has appeared.—Ed- S-M.

To the Editor of the “Daily Telegraph.”

Nov. 14th, 1873.

“Sir,—The object of this communication is to place on record an event of most remarkable character, which occurred on the 2nd inst., when a gentleman—making one of our party at a séance—was transferred, unconsciously as he alleges, from within a sitting room, duly locked, and with windows closed and shutters bolted, to a distance of one mile and a half, under the circumstances herein detailed and testified to by the writers of this letter.

[Description of Mrs Guppy’s “teleportation.”]

“It is well-nigh needless to add that despite such attestation and the plenitude of details the report was received with considerable derision and incredulity; but notwithstanding a probable repetition of such ridicule and in full anticipation of the utmost scepticism the undersigned deem it simply their duty to give publicity to the following facts, not only on account of their essential strangeness, but because of the corroboration they afford to the occurrence of two years ago thus briefly recalled to notice. We therefore offer the following

“RECORD OF A SEANCE.

held without pre-arrangement or appointment in the sitting-room of Mr. Guppy’s house, 1 Morland Villas, Highbury, on the night of November 2nd, 1873, commencing at ten minutes to ten o’clock:—present Mr. and Mrs. Guppy and eight visitors as follows, Colonel Greck, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher, Messrs. Proszynski, Volckman and Larkam, also a lady and gentleman (husband and wife) who for private and commercial reasons wish their names suppressed and who for the purpose of this communication will be named Mr. and Mrs. Blank. After the door of the sitting-room had been locked on the inside, the key being left in the lock, and after the room had been further secured and darkened by the closing and fastening of the windows and shutters thereof directions were received by raps to change the positions of the sitters, (all of whom were seated around the table each touching his or her neighbour’s hands,) and to thoroughly close the curtains above the shutters. To so adjust the curtains the gas was re-lit, and in two or three minutes was a second time extinguished, the sitters being arranged in the order shown on the following diagram.

Mr Henderson Teleports Diagram of séance room

“All hands having been again joined various members of the party in obedience to further raps—directing the sitters to wish for something—expressed their desires as follows:—Mrs. Guppy that some one might be carried out of the room; Mr. Fisher for some cigarettes, five of which were brought; Mrs. Fisher for some pencils, three of which were brought; Mr. Guppy for some grapes, a bunch being brought as also were some walnuts presumably at the request of Mr. Volckman for fruit. After these events, which occurred while all present were holding hands, a very violent rocking of the table commenced and was continued for some little while, during which time chairs were removed from under two of the visitors (Mrs. Fisher and Mr. Blank), and were heard to be moving about the room. By reason of the violent movements of the somewhat cumbrous table we had much difficulty in maintaining an unbroken circle, and some of us now and again momentarily lost hold of each other’s hands. We had kept up however an animated conversation when to the general surprise both the voice and hands of Mr. Blank were suddenly missed, he having ceased to answer us notwithstanding our repeated calls to him. Whereupon a light was struck, and revealed the fact that no Mr. Blank was in the room. More than ten minutes could not have elapsed since the last time the gas had been extinguished to the moment of discovering Mr. Blank’s absence,—while from first to last we estimate the sitting as of twenty minutes’ duration.

“All eyes turned instinctively to the door and it was at once observed that the table covering placed at its foot, to exclude the light, was undisturbed although the door opens into the room. The handle of the door was then tried but only to assure the party that the door was still locked, the key being found in the lock in the inside of the room as left at the commencement of the séance. The windows also were found closed and the shutters thereof duly fastened to the satisfaction of all present. The house and garden were then searched, but the only further discovery made was that Mr. Blank’s great coat and hat were also missing, but not his umbrella. Mrs. Blank shortly after this search, and fearing to lose the last train, took her leave at about half-past ten o’clock and about fifteen or twenty minutes after her husband’s disappearance, taking his umbrella with her. The remainder of the party then stood at the table in the light, and were informed by raps that Mr. Blank was a considerable distance off, had been carried away, and would not be seen by us again that evening. It is necessary here to add that the room in question contains no means of egress or entrance other than the door, the chimney and the windows, and is devoid of lengthy curtains, cupboard or other means of concealment. Its walls were papered throughout some three months ago, and its floor is covered over the entire area with a carpet (nailed down at the edges in the ordinary manner), upon which again are two pieces of druggeting also firmly nailed down and presenting no traces of recent disturbance. It must also be stated that the door of the room could not have been opened during the séance without detection through the letting in of light;—for the room door faces the street door which has glass panels, and the nearly full moon was affording considerable light notwithstanding the cloudy and wet weather prevailing on the night in question.

“So far we have concisely stated our own experiences as confined to the sitting room at Highbury. We now proceed to record the statement we have received from Mr. Blank, as made by him, partially by letter and afterwards in full detail to the various members of the séance individually and collectively. This statement (given to us by Mr. Blank, under promise that we should not divulge his name in any report we might publish), is briefly as follows:—

“That Mr. Blank has a full remembrance of the séance above recorded, his last impression of it being the violent rocking of the table. That his next impression was one of semi-consciousness, in which condition he felt himself as rolling from off the roof, his left hand tightly grasping something. That in a dazed and confused state, he then found himself on his feet in a paved yard, surrounded by walls and outhouses. That he tried a door which opened into a stable where was a horse. That on trying another door, he was assailed by cries of ‘Police,’ that voices from a window or roof above him then accosted him asking ‘Who he was? What he did there?’ &c. That he replied by asking, ‘ Who are you? Where am I? I’m not drunk,’ and so on. That his voice was then recognized by the persons to whom he was speaking, who immediately addressed him by name, and let him into the house by way of the yard door. That he then found himself in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Stokes and family (recent acquaintances of his) in their house at No. 29, Kingsdown Road, Holloway. That the family had just finished supper, the time being five minutes after ten o’clock, or thereabouts. That during supper he had been a subject of their conversation.

That as soon as he had sufficiently recovered himself from his nervous condition he told them of the séance at Highbury, and that he was wholly unconscious of how he got into their premises.  That they examined his clothes, and found them free from such moisture as might reasonably have been expected on such a rainy night, his boots, except under the soles thereof, being soiled by dry mud only, and presenting no traces of recent walking or running. That his face, however, was pallid and covered with perspiration. That his breathing was not unusually rapid. That a stain of reddish-brown paint was found on his left hand. That he had on his great coat and hat. That he made inquiries for his umbrella, which could not be found. That he was informed by Mr. Stokes’ stable-boy that the distance between Highbury and Kingsdown Road was two miles. That after staying a short time to refresh himself he departed, and by cab and tram car reached his home, where he found his wife had arrived about half-an-hour previously and in a state of much alarm.

“This statement Mr. Blank consistently maintains, especially and repeatedly emphasising the fact that as to his transit from within the sitting room at Highbury to within the stable yard at Kingsdown Road he has not the smallest knowledge or reminiscence. But the writers of this letter, desiring to judge for themselves, sought direct testimony to all such parts of Mr. Blank’s statement as it was possible for Mr. Stokes and his family to verify or contradict. Accordingly three of the sitters paid an early visit, without appointment, to 29, Kingsdown Road, were received by Mr. and Mrs. Stokes, and were permitted to examine the stable yard and surroundings of Mr. Blank’s arrival. The house—which they estimate as one mile and a half from the house at Highbury—is a corner one, and its stable yard abuts a side street running out of Kingsdown Road, being enclosed on the street side by a brick wall, varying from six to eight feet high, and on the other sides by the adjoining houses and their gardens. The stable roof may easily be reached from the street door steps, is about nine feet high at the eaves, and adjoins the roof of another house about seven feet high at the eaves, both roofs being skirted by a metal gutter painted in a reddish brown colour. The sum total of their inquiries amounts to the corroboration in all essential particulars of Mr. Blank’s statement as above rendered, and to which they are enabled to add Mr. Stokes’ assurance that he tried and found his yard gate to be duly locked at the time of the discovery of Mr. Blank on his premises. In confirmation of these particulars and of Mr. Blank’s statement in general, and also as an emphatic declaration by Mr. Stokes and family of no collusion between themselves and Mr. Blank or any other person whatever in this matter, we have the pleasure to be able ere to append the names of nine witnesses signed by themselves) being all the persons who have any direct knowledge of Mr. Blank’s arrival and discovery as above detailed) viz.:

“Joiner Stokes. “Edward Bullock (stable-boy).

“Alice Stokes. “Emma Cotton (servant).

“Lizzie Stokes. “William Mannion.

“Kate Stokes. “Charlotte Mannion (per W. M., her husband). 

“Florence Stokes.

“All of No. 29, Kingsdown Road.

“Beyond these nine witnesses no adults were in the house; but two children, the one two and a half years and the other five and a half years old, were in bed. We are also informed that Mr. Stokes and family are investigators of the phenomena alleged to be spiritual, and occasionally hold séances at which curious manifestations sometimes occur. They had not, however, been sitting on the evening in question, are not professional mediums or employers of public mediums, but rely for mediumship, so called, upon their own family circle.

“In thus faithfully recording the salient feature of this strange occurrence we (the writers of this report) have no wish to obtrude, or give prominence to, any theory of our own in explanation, but would merely venture such comments as naturally arise out of this event, especially as taken in connection with the alleged transference of Mrs. Guppy on June 3rd, 1871. On that occasion the solution most favoured by many—who did not give themselves the trouble to enquire of the highly respectable witnesses —was that of trickery by professional mediums from interested motives. But such explanation entirely left out of account the fact that Mrs. Guppy, the real principal in the matter, is not a professional medium at all, and by social position is removed far above the operation of any such motive. Moreover, Mrs. Guppy had and has a reputation as a medium which is of European extent, and includes the testimony of hundreds of persons of unimpeachable integrity in the best English and Continental society,—society which would not continue to receive any one addicted to purposed deception. Whatever the ‘professional medium’ solution may be worth it will not avail, however, as explaining Mr. Blank’s ‘transference,’ for none of the parties to the séance at Highbury, or witnesses at Kingsdown Road, are professional mediums in any sense,— while Mr. Blank not only makes no pretension to mediumship, so called, but is notorious amongst his friends as a great sceptic [my emphasis] concerning the phenomena so frequently alleged to be of spiritual origin.

“It is worthy of notice in this connection that the evidence as to the ‘departure’ of Mrs. Guppy on her serial flight was considered weak—at any rate numerically—it comprising beyond her own statement the testimony of Mr. Guppy and Miss Neyland only. But in the case of Mr. Blank the fact of ‘departure’ is a matter testified by nine witnesses besides himself. As a feature of likeness, however, between the two events we have in each case the fact of so-called mediumship, in some form or other, as present at both the ‘departure’ and ‘arrival’ points of the journeys.

“The theory that Mr. Blank has himself played a practical joke, and duped several long known friends, will doubtless be raised by many of your readers. We therefore urge attention to such further particulars as will aid those whose minds take that direction. First, then, on any theory of deception by Mr. Blank (and apart from his emphatic disclaimer of trickery), we would assert his absolute necessity for accomplices both inside and outside of the room as indispensable to the successful performance of such a conjuring feat. For in an incredibly short space of time he must have eluded the adjoining sitters, have got out of the totally dark room without allowing a ray of light to enter, have relocked the door, leaving the key in the lock upon the inside, and have replaced the cloth inside at the foot of the door. So far however as accomplices inside of the room are concerned, we for ourselves entirely reject that explanation. All the sitters in question are well known to each other and to Mr. Blank, and have frequently sat in séance before, together and with other visitors; we are thoroughly assured of each other’s good faith, and can answer the one for the other— and for Mrs. Blank—as not having during the sitting for a moment quitted the table,—which was nine or ten feet from the door. In regard to the outside of the rom we have the testimony of Mrs. Guppy’s servants, immediately sought and obtained, that they knew nothing whatever of the matter and had no cognisance of the fact, mode, or manner of Mr. Blank’s departure from the house. The only other persons known to be in the house were the baby and a child but four years old, at that time in bed. Beyond this we are unable to venture any assertion as to outside accomplices (if any), and therefore put forward the fact of ‘time’ as of the most importance,—apart from Mr. Blank’s repeated assertion of his absolute unconsciousness of his transit.

“On the question of ‘time’ it must be borne in mind that the clocks and watches of private houses and individuals are not regulated with railway accuracy, and that we did not foresee or immediately realize that ‘time’ would be an element of so much importance in the séance. But it is remarkable that Mr. Stokes makes the arrival of Mr. Blank at Kingsdown Road to be about five minutes earlier than our estimated time of his departure from Highbury. Such a discrepancy, while easily accounted for as a difference between watches, minimises rather than otherwise the interval necessary to Mr. Blank for his performance of the distance either by horse, cab, or running. In any case the haste necessary to such a performance, in face of the sloppy roads and wet weather of that night, must have left some traces of dirt. But such traces, on the testimony of Mr. Stokes and family, were not to be found on Mr. Blank, his boots especially being free from other than dry mud and only damp on the under part of the soles—a circumstance of considerable importance taken in connection with the distance of Moreland Villas from the cab thoroughfare; while the use of a vehicle at all is difficult to reconcile with the fact of perspiration on Mr. Blank’s face; and further, the séance itself being unpremeditated well-nigh excludes the probability of that previous preparation obviously necessary on the part of Mr. Blank for the successful performance of a practical joke involving so much elaboration and such rapid exertion.

“But all those (and they are many) who like ourselves have the pleasure of Mr. Blank’s acquaintance know him to be uncompromising in his endeavours to expose imposture. [My emphasis.] Indeed there is no more interesting feature of this case than that the ‘transference’ now recorded is not that of an acknowledged or alleged medium, as in former instances, but has occurred to a gentleman making no mediumistic claims and avowedly sceptical concerning the manifestations alleged to take place at seances. We cannot therefore (for ourselves) entertain the theory of “practical joking by Mr. Blank” without attributing to him an untruthfulness of which we sincerely believe him incapable; to say nothing of hospitality abused and the bad taste involved. And in this case it must be remembered that Mr. Blank was not dealing directly with “Spiritualism ” or with thick and thin partisans thereof, but with several friends who own no higher relation to the subject than that of investigators, and who are entitled, as much as he is, to that social, professional and mercantile consideration he claims for himself. (Vide 3rd paragraph.)

“It will occur to many that this event is not one of mere ‘weight-carrying,’ but involves the passing of solid matter through solid matter, thus further complicating the case in favour of scepticism. To this we reply that however incredible the fact of solid matter passing through solid matter may appear, to persons who have not investigated the phenomena in question, it is none the less one of the best attested and, for years past, one of the most frequently occurring manifestations in the mediumship of Mrs. Guppy. As illustrating this feature of the case we are permitted to add for the further bewilderment of your readers that within the last month two other very remarkable séances have taken place at which some of us were present. At the first of these one of the undersigned visitors asked for a sunflower—a momentary wish on his part, and one he certainly had not previously disclosed. Almost immediately a whole sunflower plant over six feet high was placed on the table, together with about half a bushel of mould about its roots. At the second sitting some forty articles were brought, including (among fruit, flowers, and. vegetables) two living gold fish, a live lobster, and two living eels—one of which, to the no small alarm and annoyance of Mrs. Guppy, was placed around her neck. On both occasions the party sat under test conditions, the door and windows fastened, and all present holding hands. The difference between bringing a sunflower plant into a closed and bolted room, and taking out Mr. Blank—a gentleman of over fifteen stone weight—is little more than that of degree, and equally needs the explanation which we hope some of your intelligent readers may be able to afford.

“We are, yours truly,

“P. Greck,* 66, Hereford Road, Bayswater.

“Felix Proszynski, 56, Hereford Road, Bayswater.

“William Volckman, 12, King Edward Road, N.E.

“Margaret Fisher, 155, Palmer Terrace, Holloway Road.

“Edward Fisher, 155, Palmer Terrace, Holloway Road.

“Arthur Larkam, 32, Tollington Road.

“Samuel Guppy, 1, Morland Villas, Highbury Hill Park.

“Elizabeth Guppy, 1, Morland Villas, Highbury Hill Park.

“P.S.—This record has been read by Mr. and Mrs. Blank, and is forwarded for publication with their full cognisance.”

The Spiritual Magazine, Vol. 9, January 1874: pp. 22-

Well. Quite.

What can we make of this?

Several things stood out for me: One was the comment that practical joking by Blank/Henderson was impossible. Another was the bit about the chair being pulled out from under “Mr Blank” and hand-holds broken. I snorted at the straight-faced comment that since Mrs Guppy was not a “professional medium,” she could have no motive for fraud.  But perhaps the most significant items were the fact that “Mr. Blank’s great coat and hat were also missing, but not his umbrella.” and that “Mrs. Blank shortly after this search, and fearing to lose the last train, took her leave at about half-past ten o’clock and about fifteen or twenty minutes after her husband’s disappearance, taking his umbrella with her.” Regardless of what we are told about her later anxiety, if your husband vanished from a dark séance room, would you wait no more than 15-20 minutes or be worried about trains? Either Mrs Henderson was an exceptionally cool customer or she was in on the stunt.

Mr. Henderson Teleports. Reverse of one of Alexander Henderson’s photographs, showing his royal warrant. http://www.cartes.freeuk.com/album/album.htm

Alexander Lamont Henderson (1838-1907) was a noted figure in London and American photographic circles. He also positioned himself as a “skeptic” and while, as a fancier of wonders, I would like to believe that he teleported from the séance room to a back-yard in Kingsdown Road, his record suggests that (contrary to the testimony of the narrator above) he was known as a rather boisterous fellow and did enjoy playing pranks and flouting the rules. For example:

Sunday trading was an infraction of the local law, but Henderson set it at naught and took his sitters [in his cheap photography studio] as fast as they could come in on the day of rest. Punctually every Monday morning he was summoned before the Lord Mayor and fined for his Sabbath breaking offence: roughly one dollar and costs. This little farce went on for years and Henderson received each week a splendid advertisement in the newspapers. Wilson’s Photographic Magazine, Vol. 45, 1908: p. 78-9

He was also a clever and innovative man, studying and patenting devices for vignetting glasses, securing tripods, and various photographic development methods such as rapid emulsion solutions. One of his best party tricks was producing “spirit photographs.”  A friend of Henderson, entomologist, zoologist, and illustrator Robert H.F. Rippon, sent an extensive account of his experiments with Henderson’s sham spirit photos to The Medium & Daybreak:

My Dear Sir ,—A few days ago I was enjoying the pleasure of a visit to my esteemed friend Mr. A. L. Henderson, of King William St, London Bridge, and New Cross. In addition to other kindnesses, he, at my request, consented to my sitting for the investigation of some of his remarkable ghost-photographs, i.e., in imitation of the alleged spirit-photographs of Mr. [Frederick] Hudson, Mr. [William H.] Mumler, and others. This was to be done under the strictest tests and severest scrutiny which I as a non-professional photographer could subject him to. Feeling that a short account of the particular results of that sitting might be interesting to your readers, and important for many other reasons hereafter to be seen, I ask you to favour me with space in your journal for the subject.

FIRST TRIAL.

Previous to commencing, a lady had been photographed in the ordinary manner, anal no alteration had been made in the camera before I sat. I carefully looked round the studio, and examined everything which I thought might in any way assist in the production of the anticipated phenomena. Being satisfied thus far, I went with Mr. Henderson into the dark room, and we closed the door. He now took up a plate of glass and cleaned it, exactly as he would do for an ordinary photograph. When ready I examined it, and was certain that it held no trace of a former negative on it. I was careful also to keep close to my friend and to watch as far as possible every movement of his hands and even of his face. When the plate was clean, he poured the collodion film over it.

When, in a moment or two, it was ready, I scratched my initials on it in two places. The plate was then immersed in the nitrate of silver bath. There now remained to enclose the sensitive plate in the frame that protects it from the light and air, that it might be carried and placed in the camera as soon as I was posed. We now left he dark room for the studio, which I again looked round, not forgetting the camera. I then seated myself, was posed, my eyes never losing sight of the operator. The plate was exposed for a few seconds, and the picture only required to be taken out and developed.

Here, however, there was some little trouble with the camera, for the frame holding the picture was a little unglued on one side at the joint, and Mr. Henderson had some trouble in getting it out. I grew rather suspicious at this, especially as he had the dark cloth over it which is used in the posing of the sitter, thereby hiding his hands. But presently it all came right, and we went into the dark room. The picture was developed before me, and there came out a bad figure of myself, and a very distinct vapoury figure of a spirit on my left, a part of R.H.F. Rippon being seen through the drapery of the spirit. It was a female form, draped from head to foot, not ungracefully with the full face quite visible—and far from handsome.

As I had watched Mr. Henderson very closely, I was satisfied that so far (if the trouble with the frame meant nothing) he had done something, to me at last, very wonderful. I may remark that he was greatly excited, and almost trembled when we went into the dark room.

SECOND TRIAL.

[Virtually the same as the first; the narrator marked the plate, took the frame out of the camera and developed the plate, whereupon it showed a “spirit form.”]

THIRD TRIAL.

I now made a most minute examination of the studio from ceiling to floor, removing every curtain, and inspecting every object in the place, during which time I brought down a bar of wood on the bridge of my nose, cutting it open, and nearly stunning myself. I made another examination of the camera; then went into the dark room, cleaned off the picture which had been taken on the plate in the second trial, and by Mr. Henderson’s permission, took the glass nitrate of silver bath from its frame, turned over the frame, and proved that it contained nothing else, and that the bath had nothing in it but the chemicals. After this, my plate, with its flaw in it, went through the same processes as before, and in the same way I marked it with initials, and we stood again together in the studio.

“Now,” said I, “I am going to test you more closely; off with your coat, sir!”

My friend objected at first, but, as I wished it much, the coat came off.

“Off with your waistcoat!” He obeyed.

“Now remove every article from your trousers pockets.” This was done.

“Are you satisfied?” he asked. “I am,” I replied.

This time, as I sat, I had a mirror near me, by which, while watching the operator, I could also see if anything else were going on in the room, even if behind me. I took the precaution to shade my eyes with my hand also, so as to see the camera more clearly. Mr. Henderson did nothing but taking the picture, and I went over and removed it from the camera into the dark room, though I did not develop it this time, as I felt it was not necessary.

The results were a good distinct figure of myself, with a draped female spirit-form, the unhandsome face quite plainly brought out, standing a little before me on the right (the left hand in reality, as I sit in the picture.) A part of the mirror and distant objects in the room can be clearly seen through the drapery and part of the body and head. The initials, marks, and flaw of the glass were all there to prove that the plate I selected had been used. This ended the séance.

Now, with one or two exceptions (and I acknowledge they are important ones), the test I put Mr. Henderson through were as severe as those to which Mumler and Hudson have submitted, and the results closely resemble some of those of the former gentleman. I think I understood Mr. Henderson to say that he could produce these ghost-photographs in great variety, and really of great beauty, under conditions exactly similar to those of Mumler.

The question therefore arises, are these ghost-photographs of my friend genuine manifestations of spirit or psychic force, as Mumler and Hudson claim theirs to be, or are they the results of some clever manipulation which my generally acute powers of observation failed to detect? I unhesitatingly say that some Spiritualists would believe they were truly supernatural phenomena, and Mr. Henderson a great medium. I know but little of photography, but am aware of a few curious things that can be done by its means, and therefore was on my guard against them. I am satisfied that the results which I witnessed were not produced by any trickery which I could detect or even guess at.

Notwithstanding, they are produced in a natural way and by the simplest means, and in each of the three trials by a different method. A hundred other ways are possible, Mr. Henderson says. As soon as this letter is published he promises to put me in possession of the secret, though not for publication at present. He showed me afterwards something that would enable me to go into a court of law, and on oath affirm that these are not the result of spirit-power, though I cannot even divine how they are produced. When I am acquainted with the modus operandi I will write again….I may add that, no copies of the third picture taken by Mr. Henderson have been printed even for me, but I have the negative in my possession.

Yours faithfully, Robert H.F. Rippon.

9 Petersfield, Park Side, Cambridge.

The Medium and Daybreak 7 June 1872: p. 216-217

Rippon’s account suggests a skeptic thoroughly enjoying the mystification of his friend, even though, like all good conjurors, Henderson was reluctant to share his professional secrets. I cannot find that he ever revealed how his teleportation or his spirit photographs were done, although there appear to be gaping windows of opportunity in the accounts above. No mention is made of anything unorthodox in any of the notes about him in photographic journals or in his obituaries. One wonders if he took part in any more of the Guppy circle séances after this triumph or decided to rest on his levitational laurels?

Other information about Henderson’s paranormal interests? Or even a portrait of the man himself? Clean the plate thoroughly before sending to chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

 

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