The Amazing Fetes Of Daniel Dunglas Home
By James Donahue
He didn’t have the newspapers of the
yellow journalism days to promote him, but in his day, the late Scottish Spiritualist Daniel Dunglas Home accomplished fetes
that some might have thought surpassed those of American magician Harry Houdini.
While Houdini was an accomplished trickster,
who used tools of the magician’s trade to escape from what appeared to have been impossible and deadly entrapments,
Home claimed to have genuine “gifts” that allowed him to levitate, speak with the dead, make objects move around
the room and cause other unnatural things to occur at will.
Home’s fame grew and he has been said
to have been the “most celebrated medium” of his time. It was said that during his short lifetime he conducted
over 1,500 sťances and physic demonstrations throughout Europe and America. His fetes were studied by world famous scientists
who were unable to show that what he was doing was a hoax.
Home was born in 1833, the son of Elizabeth
(McNeill) Home, a known “seer” and daughter of a long line of people said to have been “cursed with second
sight.” His father, William Home, was said to have been the illegitimate son of Alexander, the Tenth Earl of Home, thus
he had a touch of royalty in his blood as well.
He was born into a large family and because
his parents could not afford to raise him, an aunt raised him during his early years. When he was nine, he joined his parents,
then living in Connecticut in the United States. It was after this that the family began noticing poltergeist type of events.
There were knocking sounds, furniture moving around the room, lights mysteriously turning on and off. Because she was a clairvoyant,
Home’s mother suspected that he was causing the strange occurrences.
When he grew to adulthood, Home began giving
sťances. People said tables rose from the floor, rappings were heard on walls, and even “spirit” voices were produced.
Home even levitated people against their will. Adding to Home’s credibility was that he never charged for his services
and he always held his showings in well-lit rooms and always in places other than his own home so he could not be accused
of staging a hoax. He made a living giving lectures on spiritualism.
They said Home even shocked strangers in
his audience by telling them accurate details about their lives that he should not have known. His other fetes included an
ability to elongate his body up to an extra foot in length, levitate so easily that he once floated out of a third story window
and then back in again, and hold hot burning coals in his hand without burning his skin.
Sir William Crookes, noted physicist of his
day, conducted controlled experiments with Home in 1871, testing his skills at telekinesis. Crookes wrote later wrote papers
in which the word “psychic” was coined.
One test set up by Crooke involved an accordion
locked inside an iron cage. The cage was placed on a table in front of Home. Crooke wrote that Home was not only able to levitate
the instrument, but he even played a brief tune on it.
During his life Home performed before royalty
of Europe and once was received by Pope Pius IX after briefly turning to Catholicism. His vans included Queen Victoria, Charles
Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Home had his detractors as well. They included
the famed poet Robert Browning, and not surprisingly, the contemporary spoiler James Rande, who has written an essay in which
he maintains Crooke’s research was carelessly done and that Crooke and Home were good friends. He suggests various ways
in which Home might have carried out a life of trickery and believes he was even caught at it, but such events were never
Homes was married twice. His first wife,
Alexandria was a god daughter to the Russian Tsar. She died four years later. In 1871 he married his second wife, Julie de
Gloumeline, from another affluent Russian family. They moved to the Mediterranean because Home was suffering from tuberculosis.
He died there in 1886 at the age of 40.