The Spiritualist Movement; D.D. Home
The following is an excerpt from Anatomy of a Ghost; a Guide to Analyzing the Dead, from Chapter Two which discussed the advent of the Spiritualist Movement. of the 1800's.
At the height of the spiritualist movement emerged the era's most talented physical medium, Daniel Douglas Home. A few things separated Home from his medium colleagues. For one thing he never insisted on holding his séances in the dark, he never balked at skeptics that would examine his sessions for fraud, he was never publicly caught or denounced for fraud, and he never accepted payment for his séances. The last point is astounding, as Home was the invited guest of the most of the royalty of Europe at one time or another.
He reportedly conducted séances for the Czar of Russia, the king of France, the king of Naples, the queen of Holland, the king of Bavaria and the German emperor, just to name a few! He met and married his first wife, Alexandrina de Kroll, the sister-in-law to Count Koucheleff-Besborodka while in Rome. He had Alexandre Dumas as a groomsman, and Count Alexis Tolstoy the writer and Count Bobrinsky, a chamberlain to the emperor, as invited guests to the affair. And yet he lived most of his life on the brink of poverty, relying on the largesse of devotees, roaming from one country to another as his welcome wore out.
Daniel Douglas Home (pronounced Hume) was of rather questionable descent. According to a footnote in Home’s own autobiographical book Incidents in My Life (1863) his father was the “natural son” of Alexander, the tenth earl of Home, and his mother, a lass of the Highlands, claimed to be descended from the Brahan clan descendants of Kenneth MacKenzie. From birth, Home was said to have special powers, being able to rock his own cradle. During his childhood, Home was considered to be of nervous disposition and poor health, and was at times not expected to live to adulthood (19).
He passed his early childhood in Portobello, Scotland, but moved at the age of nine to the U.S. when he was adopted by a childless aunt, a Mrs. McNeill Cook. He lived for a time in Greeneville, Connecticut and Troy, New York. Reportedly he was a sensitive child with a keen memory and strong observation skills. He had his first vision at the age of 13, when a deceased school mate named Edwin visited him in his home in Troy. Four years would pass before his second vision when Home predicted to the hour, his mother’s death. When strange rappings and tappings started occurring around the house, his aunt first attempted to have Home exorcised and then finally evicted from her home (19, 20).
Aside from being able to speak with spirits via a spirit guide, he was able to produce rapping sounds on command, strange lights and spectral hands. One ghostly hand appeared at a séance with Napolean III which was able to sign his name on a piece of paper producing the signature of Napolean I (20). Home was able to call forth music on ghostly guitars and move objects about the room. Later he was able to elongate his body as much as 11 inches to a height of 6 ½ feet, and then to shrink to five feet while onlookers saw his shoes disappear under his trousers. He often had onlookers hold his frame to prove that he wasn’t faking it, and he allowed those present to measure the differences, all again in a lighted room to disprove fakery (19).
At the age of 19 he developed the ability to levitate, at first bobbing up and down a few feet off the ground before gently floating up the ceiling (21). He later was able to hone his skills and onlookers swore that he could fly. Home swore his abilities were made possible with the aid of friendly spirits, the most frequent of which was Bryan (19).
Home was as much loved as despised. He was criticized as being tempermental, with bouts of anxiety and depression, and to have homosexual leanings. He was also described as vain and somewhat simple. He disdained contact with other mediums with whom he felt he had nothing to learn. The only medium with whom he had a friendship, ironically, was Kate Fox. His gifts were at times considered sinister. The Italian populace found him particularly loathsome, accusing him of witch craft and sorcery.
When Alexandrina de Kroll died in 1862, the family attempted to withhold Home’s inheritance. Home was forced to wage a long legal battle, during which time he had no steady income. He tried to become a student of sculpture, going to Rome for a time to study. He was forced to leave the city after a somewhat extended scuffle with the Papacy who accused Home of sorcery. He them emigrated briefly to the U.S. to attempt his hand as stage orator. It is said that his recitations of Howard Brownell’s poems were well received by audiences, but he left before long to return to Europe. Throughout his career there were at least two attempts on his life, and he took knife wounds to the abdomen and the hand. Certainly it is hard to imagine a psychic that was as famous as infamous, as punished as rewarded for his gifts (20).
Ill health eventually forced Home to retire. He married a second time, to a wealthy Russian widow, Julie de Gloumeline and declined public séances thereafter. He traveled for the rest of his life, dying of tuberculosis while in Auteuil ,France in 1886 (19).
During a time when skeptics were actively attempting to disprove psychic mediums, there was never any substantial evidence revealed to prove Home a fraud. Certainly skeptics suggested trickery, often after his death when fraud could not proven one way or another, and yet some of the sharpest minds couldn’t figure out how he produced his great feats.
He even cooperated with psychical researcher Sir William Crookes in an experiment. Crookes could detect no foul play and announced Home’s abilities as true. The skeptical Frank Podmore grudgingly admitted that, “Home was never publicly exposed as an imposter; there is no evidence of any weight that he was even privately detected in trickery.” Although Podmore did not concede that Home had mediumistic abilities, he neither refuted his abilities either. Even the great Houdini couldn’t figure out how he produced the results he did. Whether truly a medium of outstanding abilities or a very clever conjurer is still disputed. He remains therefore, the greatest medium of the age (19, 20).
19. Cheung, Theresa (2008). The Element Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Hauntings. Barnes and Noble, Inc. in cooperation with Harper Collins Publishers. pps. 211-214.
20. Melton, Gordon, Editor (2001). Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology; Fifth Edition. Gale Group, Inc. Farmington Hills, MI Volume 1 A-L pps 737-740.