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Mrs. Piper & the Society for Psychical Research by Michael Sage

IX Further consideration of the difficulties of the problem--George Pelham--Development of the automatic writing.

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Phinuit's empire remained uncontested till the month of March 1892. He sometimes yielded his place to other controls, but rarely through a whole sitting. However, in March 1892, a new communicator appeared, who imposed his collaboration on Phinuit, with the latter's consent or without it. This newcomer called himself George Pelham,[52] and asserted that he was the disincarnated spirit of a young man of thirty-two, who had been killed four or five weeks before by a horse accident. However that may be, this new control had more culture, more moral elevation, and a greater love of truth than the so-called French doctor. The latter benefited by the companionship; he tried to be more truthful, and seemed to make fewer appeals to his imagination; in short, all the sittings improved, even those in which Phinuit appeared alone.

The newcomer did everything in his power to establish his identity. His success is still a matter open to discussion, in the view of some persons, and their doubts at least prove that, in order to solve this greatest of all problems, it is not enough that the communicators should give us numerous details which would seem at a first glance to establish their identity, though the few cases in which identity appears to be proved furnish us with a strong presumption in favour of survival after death. If George Pelham is what he says he is, future generations will _owe_ him profound gratitude; he has done all that he could, under circumstances which are, it appears, very unfavourable, although we are not in a position to understand the difficulties.

It is not always easy to prove identity, even between the living. Imagine a man in England, at the end of a telegraph or telephone wire; imagine that a certain number of his friends at the other end of the wire, in France, refuse to believe him when he says he is So-and-so, and say, "Please prove your identity." The unfortunate man will be in difficulties. He will say, "Do you remember our being together in such a place?" The reply will be, "Nonsense; somebody has told you of that incident, and it does not in the least prove that you are the person you say you are." And so on, and so on. One fact is incontestable, however; there is somebody at the end of the wire. The telepathic theory asserts that, in spite of appearances, there is no one at the end of the wire, or, at least, that no one is there but the medium, temporarily endowed with powers as mysterious as they are extraordinary. But to return to George Pelham.

Pelham is not his exact name. The last syllable has been slightly modified, from motives of discretion. He belonged to a good family in the United States, which counts Benjamin Franklin amongst its ancestors. He had studied law, but when his studies were finished he gave himself up exclusively to literature and philosophy. He had published two works, which brought him much praise from competent judges. He had lived for a long time in Boston or its neighbourhood. The last three years of his life were passed in New York. In February 1892 he fell from his horse and was killed on the spot.

He had interested himself in Psychical Research, though very sceptical about the matter. He was a member of the American Society, and later of the American Branch of the Society for Psychical Research. Dr Hodgson knew him very well, and liked to talk to him on account of the soundness of his judgment and the liveliness of his intelligence. But neither time nor circumstances had allowed ties of affection or real friendship to be established between them.