Home, Daniel Dunglas (Edinburgh, Scotland, March 20, 1833 – June 21, 1886): Physical Medium
Considered by many to be the greatest physical medium ever, Daniel Dunglas Home (pronounced Hoom in Scotland, Hume in England) was born near Edinburgh, Scotland but moved to the United States at age 9 when adopted by an aunt in Greeneville, Connecticut.
Many educated people who heard the stories about the levitations and other mediumstic phenomena surrounding Home dismissed them as so much humbug, suggesting that Home was either a magician or hypnotist, or that the witnesses had had too much to drink. However, there were so many stories about Home from credible people that Sir William Crookes, one of England’s most distinguished scientists, decided to investigate. Crookes, later admitted that he undertook his investigation intent on demonstrating fraud. He opined that the increased employment of scientific methods would drive such stories into the unknown limbo of magic and necromancy.
But upon closely observing and studying Home, Crookes, who discovered the element thallium, and later invented the radiometer, the spinthariscope, and the Crookes tube, a high-vacuum tube which contributed to the discovery of the X-ray, changed his views. “The most striking cases of levitation which I have witnessed have been with Mr. Home,” Crookes wrote after 28 “sittings” with Home over a two-year period (1870-71), stating that he saw Home levitated on three different occasions and that there were at least a hundred recorded instances of Home rising from the ground in the presence of many credible witnesses. In one of the levitations, Crookes passed his hands under Home’s feet and over his head to rule out any kind of invisible wires, as was suggested by some of Crookes’ scientific colleagues.
Crookes referred to Home “being levitated” rather than Home having the ability to levitate himself, as Home claimed his “spirit controls” were lifting him. In fact, when levitating in the upright position, Home’s arms were usually rigid and drawn above his head, as if he were grasping the unseen power raising him from the floor. When he went horizontal, it was as if invisible hands were supporting his body.
Home’s most famous levitation is said to have taken place on December 16, 1868 on the third floor of the Ashley House, the London mansion of Lord Lindsay. It was witnessed by Lord Lindsay, Lord Adare, and Captain Charles Wynne. After the three men and Home were seated, Home slumped in his chair and went into a trance. He then got up and walked out of the room. The three men apparently didn’t know what to make of the departure and remained seated. They then heard the sound of a window in the adjoining room being raised. They looked out the window in their room and saw Home standing on air, three stories above the ground. Home then floated to the closed window out of which they were looking, opened it, stepped into the room, went to his chair, and sat down, still in a trance state.
As the three men questioned what they had seen and wondered how Home got out the window in the adjoining room, which was open only a foot or so, Home got up from his chair, walked to the other room, went through the open space, head first, and then floated back in the same window, feet first.
On March 4, 1869, Adare, Wynne, and Adare’s father, the Earl of Dunraven, accompanied Home on a tour of the ruins of Adare Abbey. There they observed Home leave the ground and float horizontally for, according to Adare, “at least ten or twelve yards.”
In addition to levitations, Crookes and his guests witnessed floating tables, luminous “spirit hands,” beautiful music coming from an accordion floating in the air, while also hearing the spirit voices. In one sitting, Ellen Crookes, Sir William’s wife, was levitated while sitting in a chair. All of it took place in clear light.
Crookes asked the communicating spirits why there was so much tomfoolery and they explained that they had just learned how to produce such phenomena and were experimenting on their side just as Crookes was on his side. Voices were sometimes heard in which one invisible being seemed to be instructing another invisible being on how to effect the levitation.
Many affluent and distinguished people were among the observers at the Crookes home, including Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution. On one occasion, Wallace and Crookes, two of the world’s most famous scientists, were crawling around on their hands and knees under a levitating table searching for some kind of physical explanation. In his book, Perspectives in Psychical Research, Wallace, defended Crookes against attacks by other scientists who had concluded that Home was a magician and that Crookes had been duped. One of the critics, Sir David Brewster, sat with Home and saw a table levitate right in front of him, but still concluded that since there was no natural explanation for what he saw that Home had to be a magician. Brewster scoffed at the idea that spirits played a part in it and saw no other explanation beyond sleight of hand that was beyond his understanding.
“To reject the recorded evidence on this subject is to reject all human testimony whatever; for no fact in sacred or profane history is supported by a stronger array of proofs,” Crookes wrote, stating that he took every possible precaution to rule out fraud.