Exhibits in the Haunted
Museum are based on the work of Troy Taylor from his
book, Ghosts by Gaslight!
Click on the Cover for More About the Book!
If there was a single word that best fit Daniel Douglas
Home (pronounced “Hume”), it was “arrogance”. Considered by many to be the
most gifted medium who ever lived, Home avoided contact with other
Spiritualists, declaring that he had nothing to learn from them. And perhaps
he was right, or perhaps it was because he chose not to mingle among the
common people for Home used his purported paranormal powers to mingle among
the rich, the royal and the famous. Regardless of what he did with these
skills though, he remains an enigma to many researchers today, especially
those who consider Spiritualism to have been nothing more than entertainment
and illusion for the masses. Home stands unique in that many of the feats
that he allegedly performed have yet to be duplicated by anyone!
was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in March 1833 and his psychic talents,
said to have been inherited from his mother, began to show themselves when
he was only an infant. His aunt reported that his cradle would rock by
itself, as though moved by an unseen hand, and at age 4, Home accurately
foretold the death of a cousin. He was a sickly and strange child and
believed by his family to have remarkable powers. When he was just nine
years-old, Home moved to America to live with an aunt in Connecticut. His
health continued to decline and he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Unable
to exert himself as most boys could, he spent most of his time walking in
the woods and reading his Bible. He came to believe that the spirits of
the dead constantly surrounded him.
Shortly after he turned 15, the Fox sisters created a
sensation with their table-rapping and Spiritualism was embraced by the
public. Not long after, Home’s own paranormal talents began to increase.
Daniel Douglas Home
was living with his aunt, Mary Cook, at the time and she grew to believe
that the eerie events that took place around the boy were the work of the
devil and she threw him out. For most of the rest of his life, Home had no
place of his own to live. Staying in various households as a guest, he
traveled about, holding séances for those who were interested. His séances
however, were different than most others as he always held them in brightly
lit, rather than darkened, rooms. Home had attended many other séances in
the past and regarded most mediums as frauds. He decided to do the opposite
of what was being done elsewhere, showing the public that he had nothing to
During these sessions, he produced spectral lights,
rappings, ghostly hands which ended at the wrist and which reportedly shook
hands with audience members, moved tables, chairs and other objects, played
spectral music, spelled out messages from the dead using lettered cards and
amazingly seemed to be able to shrink his body in size. While he was doing
these things, he would ask the sitters to hold his hands and feet to prove
that he was not somehow manipulating the objects with secret devices or
wires. He claimed that all of his feats were made possible by friendly
spirits over whom he had no control.
In August 1852, Home moved beyond what many would
consider to be parlor tricks (although darn clever parlor tricks!) and first
accomplished the feat that would make him famous. To put it bluntly, Home
managed to fly!
The séance took place in the Connecticut home of Ward
Cheney, a wealthy businessman. Also present that night was a local
journalist, F.L. Burr, whose assignment it was to find something
incriminating against Spiritualism in general and especially about Home, who
had debunkers in an uproar with his excellent reputation. However, instead
of writing an article that exposed Home as a fraud, Burr wrote:
"Suddenly, without any expectation on the
part of the company, Home was taken up into the air. I had hold of his hand
at the time and I felt his feet -- they were lifted a foot from the floor.
He palpitated from head to foot with the contending emotions of joy and fear
which choked his utterances. Again and again, he was taken from the floor,
and the third time he was taken to the ceiling of the apartment, with which
his hands and feet came into gentle contact."
A Dramatic illustration of one of Home's levitations. Did He really
accomplish what most believe to be impossible?
But how was this accomplished? Home claimed not to
know himself. He stated that an “unseen power” simply came over him and
lifted him into the air. Needless to say, most readers who came upon this
article (and it was re-printed many times) were skeptical, as are most who
come across it today. Full-body levitation is, and always has been,
considered impossible. Throughout history, only a few saints had ever been
alleged to be able to lift themselves from the ground in such a manner,
although some practitioners of strict meditation techniques claim to be
able to manage a few inches from the floor today. Who knows? But back in
America of the middle 1800’s, there was only one man, Daniel Douglas Home,
who could levitate with the aid of mirrors, ropes or even a safety net.
In 1855, Home traveled to Europe, where he began
associating with the rich and famous. He conducted séances in England and
on the Continent, gaining supporters and wealthy patrons. In 1858, he was
married to the daughter of a Russian nobleman with whom he had a son,
Gregoire. His wife passed away in 1862.
In 1866, the Spiritual Anthenaeum was founded with Home
as the Secretary and soon after, he became embroiled in a scandal involving
a wealthy widow who would later claim that Home tried to bilk her out of a
large sum of money. Home maintained that the money was freely given for his
"spiritualistic services" and the widow did not demand the return of the
fortune until he refused her sexual advances. The trial became an
embarrassing affair and many of Home’s supporters abandoned him. When it was
over, he was forced to return the money.
During the scandal, Home was apparently at his best when
it came to producing incredible phenomena. In December 1868, his most famous
feat took place at the home of Lord Adare. During the evening, Home
reportedly went into a trance and floated out the window of the third floor,
then floated back in another window - all before the eyes of a number of
stunned witnesses. The event occurred in front of three irreproachable
members of London’s high society, Lord Adare, his cousin Captain Charles
Wynne and the Master of Lindsay.
Skeptics contend the event was a mass hallucination or
was somehow accomplished through trickery. They base this on the fact that
there are slight discrepancies in the accounts of Adare and Lindsay, mostly
concerning the size of the windows that Home floated out of and how high
they were off the ground and whether or not the night outside was dark or
moonlit. The debunkers ignore the statement of Captain Wynne, which was
simple and straightforward. “The fact of Mr. Home having gone out of one
window and in at another I can swear to,” he wrote. “Anyone who knows me
would not for a moment say I was a victim of a hallucination or any other
humbug of the kind.”
It should again be noted that during Home’s entire
spectacular career, he was never seriously accused of fraud (all of those
accusations have come much later) and he was never caught cheating, as so
many of the mediums of the day were. It is also worth noting that this feat,
like his other levitation, was accomplished in the home of someone that he
was visiting for the first time and was among people of limited
acquaintance. Any opportunity that he had to rig up elaborate machinery or
engage the services of an accomplice to do so was nonexistent. There is no
evidence to say that he ever resorted to such tricks.
And who can say that he could have even if he had wanted
to? When not “entranced by the spirits”, Home was not exactly a robust
character, thanks to his tubercular condition. It seems that he would be the
last person to have gone fumbling about on ropes and pulleys outside of the
window of Lord Adare’s mansion on a cold December night. And how could he
have rigged them in place anyway?
Of course, if we listen to the debunkers, it never
happened at all. Home was nothing more than a hypnotist and a cheap conjurer
and he convinced everyone present that he floated out the window. But isn’t
it often the case that the incredible claims of the debunkers are harder to
believe than accepting that the paranormal may have actually occurred?
In 1871, Home married again and that same year began a
series of tests with Sir William Crookes, a scientist interested in
Spiritualism. To determine if Home could somehow manipulate electro-magnetic
energy, Crookes wrapped an accordion in copper wire and then placed it in a
metal cage. He ran an electrical current through the wire, which he believed
would block any magnetic energy coming from Home. The medium was still able
to make the accordion play, leading Crookes to believe that he possessed an
independent psychic force.
In 1873, after two years of testing with Crookes, Home
announced that he was retiring. Tired and in poor health, he traveled with
his wife and son until his death from tuberculosis in 1886.
After his death, dozens of explanations were given about
how Home accomplished his feats through trickery, but not a single one of
these theories was ever proven. In addition, the most prominent stage
magicians in the world all claimed they could duplicate his stunts on stage
but for some reason -- they never did.
Home was shadowy figure in the annals of history and soon
became forgotten by all but the most stalwart Spiritualists. He is
remembered today largely because of the sheer variety of phenomena he was
said to have produced and for his alleged ability to fly. Whether or not
Home could actually do the things that he and his followers claimed remains
a mystery but most believe that it is worthy of continued research.
Most debunkers would dismiss the idea of any research
into Home (or mediums of his day altogether) though and say that what he
claimed to do was impossible. These debunkers may be those who profit in
some way from “exposing” the unexplained or may simply have an obsession
with the paranormal and a desperate need to try and destroy it before it
disrupts their otherwise orderly world. Theses pundits for the rational defy
the true meaning of the word “skeptic” by closing their minds to anything
they don’t personally agree with instead of considering everything until
proven impossible. In this way, Daniel Douglas Home, whose feats made him a
foe of rationality, had many enemies in his time and still has them more
than a century and a half later!
© Copyright 2002 -2008 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.
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