THE foregoing introductory survey was written by Dr. T. Glen Hamilton a few months before his death on April 7, 1935. It contains the opening remarks of a paper dealing with his researches in teleplasm and the bearing of his findings on the enigma of survival. He was to have read it before the Winnipeg Medical Sunday at their April meeting.
While his paper made no extensive reference to his own work, the main lines of his interest are evident. These followed two diverse yet clearly related aspects of the subject: the problem and nature (a) of the physical forces and the biological products he had observed and recorded; (b) of the psychic intelligences which in his experience invariably accompanied psychical phenomena.
His orthodox religious upbringing and conventional medical training had made him very hesitant to entertain the idea that deceased persons might be connected with the phenomena. When he began his serious study of psychical events, his sole purpose had been to investigate telekinesis. Yet after only one year of observing the telekinetic and other phenomena of the medium Elizabeth M., what he had seen by 1922 not only had strengthened his belief in the validity of the investigation, but also had convinced him that there must be no
a priori rejection of any aspects of the inquiry, however bizarre or repellent they might seem. By then he had come to realize the importance of both aspects of the subject, for while his early studies offered little to support the survival theory, on the other hand, nothing gave sufficient grounds for its rejection.
From 1922 on, those of his medical colleagues who shared his interest, requested and received invitations to participate in the observations of the Elizabeth M. experiments. It was at their urging that Dr. Hamilton somewhat reluctantly agreed to present a paper dealing with his researches to the Winnipeg Medical Society in April 1926. In this, his first public report, he outlined the factual results of a
four-year period of study of Elizabeth's telekinesis. Since these results were extensive and in essence duplicated much of the work done earlier by Crawford
(1, 1a) they will not be discussed here.
By 1923 Elizabeth's psychic potential had developed in a second direction -
spontaneous deep trance. This now became a regular occurrence at the weekly sťances, so that in addition to the telekinetic phenomena, this second feature was to give Dr. Hamilton an excellent opportunity for the next four years, to observe closely the trance state and to record its various products. Many of these trance products
- speech, writings, visions - were found to contain facts relating to the lives and activities of certain individuals known to be dead, and in particular, to the life and writings of Robert Louis Stevenson. When a very high percentage of such facts were finally verified by careful and intensive literary research, the question arose
- how to account for them? Was the concept of surviving earth memories enough? Or would it be necessary to take a great leap forward and look to the spiritistic hypothesis for a completely satisfying solution?
Subsequent work in a related field of psychic phenomena would supply a possible answer.
In 1928 a second medium, Mrs. Mary Marshall (identified in this report as 'Mary M.' and later as 'Dawn') joined the Hamilton group. Within a few months her latent psychic ability developed rapidly in a totally unexpected direction when there began to manifest in her presence those rarest of all psychic phenomena
- teleplasms. Invariably these extrusions were accompanied by the working of an autonomous intelligence which displayed continuously what we will call
intentional activity. In brief, this intelligence was quite objective about the apparently anomalous and to us incomprehensible materializations. As such phenomena exceeded our understanding from every conceivable point of view, clearly it became necessary to make some assumption regarding their source. Although the admission of the existence of a supernormal intelligence was alone insufficient to account for the biological aspects of these phenomena, the work with Mary M. demanded inescapably the acceptance of an intelligence which functioned demonstrably independently of the medium's own capabilities.
Confronted with this enigma, Dr. Hamilton now admitted to a serious consideration of the spiritistic hypothesis.
An examination of the biological properties of the Mary M. teleplasms established certain points: the reality of the substance was
re-affirmed; many similarities between the Mary M. products and those observed by earlier investigators became evident; in many cases it was possible to secure some notion of the mechanisms involved in their production.
Data leading to a consideration of the spiritistic hypothesis were thus seen to present themselves in reverse order, First came the Elizabeth M. products which at one point could be interpreted adequately by the theory of survival of memory. These were followed by the Mary M. phenomena. Within themselves these contained relatively little evidence for the reality of the
known dead; yet considering their internal evidence they were insistent on their demand for the postulation of an intelligence independent of that of the medium.
For this reason this study is presented in the reverse order of its topical appearance. The first section will discuss the Mary M. teleplasms with emphasis on
intentional activity by the various trance controls or extraneous intelligences. The survival theory will be introduced later in discussing the Elizabeth M.
Experimental techniques and Group
sťance or sitting can be described very simply.
A group of people sit themselves in a darkened room. They join hands; after a few minutes one or more of their number passes into a
sleep-like state. This is the trance. It may display various automatisms, such as writing or visions, or speech. This latter occurs when the medium's own voice is used by a
trance personality whose speech habits and voice timbre generally differ quite considerably from those of the medium in a normal waking state. In the Mary M.
sťance the principal trance personality, identified as 'Walter', frequently directed his remarks to Dr. Hamilton, giving precise instructions for photography and other procedures. He often talked and joked informally with the group members. Occasionally the entire sitting would pass in silence, with only a few words from 'Walter' at the close of the
sťance. Other trance controls, distinctively different from 'Walter' also spoke from time to time.
The Hamilton group co-operated with the unseen directors to a very considerable extent in matters of
sťance techniques. Indeed, the group's attitude toward the trance intelligences was definitely an important part of the working hypothesis underlying the whole investigation. It was this: by whatever conditions deemed necessary, allow the phenomena, both mental and physical, to occur; to adopt a
semi-detached attitude towards the content of the phenomena; to record all observations at the time of the phenomenon's occurrence; and to base opinions solely on the records.
The only tool which Dr. Hamilton used to record teleplasms and trance-states was the flashlight photograph. One might think that in the choice of focal distances and exposure times he could have used his own judgment, and thus in an experimental sense have been entirely free of the trance personalities. By choosing the opposite course
- that of entering into full co-operation with them, it is evident that he was able to secure many more photographs of teleplasm than would have been possible otherwise. He
"Our experimental room was kept continuously and absolutely dark, except for the free use of red light whenever necessary. Either before, or shortly after the
sťance began, cameras were opened without injury to the plates. They were left open until an exposure had been made or the
sťance was ended. This, added to the fact that the flashlight was released by a
push-button held in my hand and connected to an electrical firing device, made it possible to expose the plates at a moment's notice.
"But the question will arise - how did we know where to focus the cameras, and when to release the flashlight? Astonishing as it may seem, days, weeks, and sometimes months in advance, we were informed by the leading trance entity at what point the coming phenomenon would in all likelihood appear. This might be on Mary M.'s face, to her left, to her right, at some spot within the cabinet or at a point close to the centre of the room. The trance directors as well arranged for and gave the signals for exploding the flashlight. When it is known that only two photographs out of
sixty-odd led to negative results, it will be seen that this procedure is amply supported by experimental
Walter often requested songs with stirring tunes to which the entranced mediums would move rhythmically. Singing during
sťances was regularly practised. Apart from an imagined loss of dignity in scientific investigations, this technique is perfectly
admissible. Indeed, it appeared to be a distinct help in establishing well defined
sťance routines aimed at minimizing the medium's natural inhibitions to taking on the trance state. It is probable that through acquired habit the mediums formed an association with music they liked, and that this music used in an identical setting at each
sťance, aided in trance onset.
Regarding trance onset, it must be emphasized that neither Dr. Hamilton nor any group member attempted to induce the trance state by any means whatsoever, including all the popular misconceptions conjured up by the word 'concentrate'. As far as the group was concerned, trance onset was spontaneous, although it was conditioned in the sense and setting of the
sťance, as already indicated.
Walter insisted that the sitters join hands in a chain formation for the full time of the
sťance, claiming that not only was this a necessary contra-fraudulent technique, but that it also assisted in the production of teleplasm.
The group generally numbered ten persons. Over the years some thirty individuals took part. Those most frequently mentioned in the records are briefly noted here. Dr. Hamilton was the acknowledged head and chief investigator. Closely associated with him, and active in a
non-psychic sense was his wife Lillian. Occasionally she acted as a recorder in the
sťance, and she did all the secretarial work involved in filing and analysis of both the written and the photographic records. She had full charge of the Elizabeth
M.-Stevenson trance products and their matching and verifying with the literary works of R. L. Stevenson. She helped to prepare many of Dr. Hamilton's papers and articles.
Another non-psychic member was Mr. H. A. Reed, a telephonic engineer holding a very responsible position with the Manitoba Telephone System. He contributed substantially to the construction and maintenance of the photographic and other equipment.
Dr. Hamilton's brother, Dr. James A. Hamilton, was a member throughout the entire inquiry. He was medical observer and chief controller of Mary M.'s right hand during the teleplasmic experiments.
Mr. W. B. Cooper, a businessman who joined the group late in 1927, was chief controller of the medium's left hand.
Miss Ada Turner, M.A., head of the English Department of one of Winnipeg's large secondary schools, began attending in the mid 1920's. She had the responsibility of searching and supervising Mary M. before each sitting.
None of these group members held any specific conscious intention towards the production of teleplasm.
This statement applies also to the mediums. Elizabeth M., the first medium whom Dr. Hamilton investigated, will be considered later in this report.
The second medium, Mrs. Marshall (known as 'Mary M.' or 'Dawn' in the records) was of Scottish and Irish parentage. She had come with her husband and three children from Scotland to Winnipeg shortly after World War I. While the circumstances of her early life were such that she had had few educational advantages, she was nonetheless an intelligent and capable woman. Save within the confines of the
sťance room, in no way could she have been termed 'suggestible'. She was poised, cheerful, a
self-respecting hardworking individual, devoted to family and church, with a healthy outlook on life, and esteemed by all who knew her. Able to 'see' and 'hear' from childhood in a manner she could not understand, she appeared to have demonstrated incipient mediumship quite early. For some years before joining the Hamilton group she had occasionally attended
sťances, and at times had been controlled by various alleged communicators. However, this condition appears to have been superficial, and it may reasonably be claimed that the development and full maturing of her faculties took place under Dr. Hamilton's surveillance.
In January 1928 she became a regular member, and soon showed a spontaneous deepening of her already partially developed trance. Her clairaudient and clairvoyant receptivity to
extra-sensory stimuli increased. Accompanying these new developments was the appearance of a new trance personality whom both Elizabeth M. and Mary M. claimed to see and hear. They described him as a fair-haired,
blue-eyed young man, with a humourous mischievous temperament, totally unlike any other psychic personality they had ever encountered.
Up to this point the Elizabeth telekinetic and trance events had taken up the greater portion of each sitting. As the weeks passed, gradually more and more time was given to Mary M.'s development until it came to occupy almost
two-thirds of the total sťance time. By March 15, 1928, the Fair Young Man had made his first request for active
"Mary M. enters the cabinet after the Elizabethan portion of the sitting. Presently she begins to laugh heartily. She says she sees the fair young man who was so full of mischief at the previous sitting. She volunteers the remark that he can be very much in earnest at times. Again she laughs and says that the man says 'she must do her stuff! ' She sees him playing a tin whistle of some kind, hears him remark that his bagpipes are 'bust! ' Now she sees him fixing an electric bell. Now he is very serious and tells her that she will hear this bell ring. Now he laughs and says something about the Scotch. He says 'We are so Scotch that the heather is growing out of our
T.G.H. asks where the bell is to be placed. The reply
'Anywhere in the
Within a few days Dr. Hamilton had constructed a
bell-box similar in design to the Scientific American bell-box used in Dr. Crandon's experiments with the medium "Margery". (In brief, a
6-inch deep wooden box, containing two dry batteries as source of electrical power, wired to a bell. An
over-lid, supported by a spring, was hinged to the lid proper. To make the bell ring, the circuit to the bell could be closed only by depressing this
over-lid, which required the application of pressure in the amount of 10 grams.)
On April 2, F.Y.M. appeared to Mary M. in her home and told her his name was "Walter" and that he was brother and control of "Margery". Meanwhile, Dr. Hamilton had hung the completed
bell-box by a heavy cord inside the cabinet, well beyond the reach of medium and sitters. On April 11, F.Y.M. spoke through Mary M. voicing strong disapproval of the box's location, insisting that it be put on a shelf well out of reach. Still only casually interested,
T. G. put the box on the sťance table. On April 18 it rang twice, and Mary M. reported hearing Walter say: 'Unless the box is placed on a shelf as I requested, I will not come again! They will not believe you! They said my sister spoke with her ears!' This statement, implying an intimate knowledge of the
Margery-Walter voice phenomenon, broke down Dr. Hamilton's somewhat prolonged scepticism, and for the first time he felt like giving active
co-operation. Finally, he constructed a shelf at the very top of the cabinet wall, placed the
bell-box on it, and on April 25 it rang repeatedly by apparently supernormal means. Dr. Hamilton was absent from that sitting attending a Medical conference. Commenting on the success of the
bell-ringing, Walter-Mary M. said: 'Pity the Old Man isn't here! He won't believe you! '
From then on bell-ringing occurred often. Dr. Hamilton next proposed to photograph the
bell-box and its immediate environment at a moment when the bell was ringing. To this Walter readily agreed, and suggested that the exposure be made at a
pre-arranged signal which would be rung by the bell itself. This was done exactly as planned on June 4, 1928.
After a recess for summer holidays, experiments resumed in August. A photograph secured August 5, 1928, disclosed not only the circumstances of the phenomenon, but also showed a curiously twisted white mass hanging from the medium's nostrils.
(See Plate 9.)
In quick succession other masses appeared and were photographed; and it became more and more evident that credit for these successes had to be given to Walter's explicit directions and careful planning.
While Mary M. was usually quite willing to attend the sittings, not infrequently over the years she expressed a wish to withdraw. When these uncooperative moods came over her, it took a great deal of persuasion to keep her to the regular attendance so necessary for satisfactory results. Her attitude was understandable. To her, as to the other mediums, the greater part of each sitting meant literally nothing. Rarely did she remember what had taken place, and she was never allowed access to the
sťance records. Time spent in a sitting was a gap in her normal life. No doubt she often found the sittings boring; and in some cases they were physically very fatiguing to her. Frequently only the earnest pleading of the group members, and sometimes, of Walter himself (whose words would be repeated to her at the end of the sitting) served to bring her back to the point where she would agree to continue to give her time. In such cases it is interesting to note that Walter's attitude appeared to be completely opposed to that held by Mary M. She did not consciously and actively share Walter's specific intention to produce teleplasms. Like the other group members, she shared it only passively.
Here we mention two other sitters who were to become mediums. First was Mrs. Susan Marshall, Mary M.'s
sister-in-law, known in the records as "Mercedes". She too had come to Canada from Scotland with her husband and children soon after the end of World War I. To a small extent she had functioned as a
trance-speaking medium both in Scotland and later in Canada. She was an exceedingly pleasant person. Walter claimed that he could 'use' her
- presumably in connection with the production of teleplasm, and Dr. Hamilton readily agreed to invite her to join the group. Once she had become a unit in the Mary M. group mediumship, such psychic faculties as she had earlier shown disappeared, to be replaced by other trance functions. "Mercedes" had no ulterior motive for joining the group. Three personalities operated through her trance: Walter; "Lucy", appearing with regularity, and showing consistent personal characteristics; and "Katie King", frequently after 1930. These three personalities displayed marked individual differences, both between themselves, and in comparison to their medium. All three shared in
Walter-Mary M.'s expressed intentions to produce experimental results.
The other sitter who developed into a trance medium has asked that his name be withheld for personal reasons. Known in the early records as 'the Boy ', Walter later bestowed on him the name 'Ewan'. He is a man of University training in one of the professions. Very soon after joining the group in 1928 he unexpectedly found himself showing tendencies to pass into a trance state. While he allowed these to deepen, at the same time he consciously and actively maintained a very hypercritical attitude towards his own and the other medium's trance products, casting doubt on their intrinsic value, and heaping ironic derision upon many of the more bizarre forms which some of the teleplasms displayed. He accepted the teleplasms as genuine, on the grounds that they could not have been otherwise under the conditions which prevailed in the
Ewan's critical attitude toward his own trance made its inset and maintenance very difficult. The
sťance records show much evidence of the strife between the normal Ewan and the Ewan
trance-controls - Walter and "John King". In spite of this conflict these intelligences gave much sound evidence that they too shared the
Walter-Mary M. specific aim to produce teleplasm.
Dr. Hamilton's own words summarize the attitude of the entire group:
"Before recounting the facts necessary to describe the Winnipeg phenomena, I wish to state that in all these investigations I had the able and untiring assistance of a number of men and women of this city whose standings in the various callings and professions to which they severally belong, is of the highest. Let me also say that the mediums whose faculties have made the success of these researches possible, have from first to last given unreservedly of their time and talents, solely in the interests of truth, without thought of reward of any kind. I wish further to state that we entered upon these researches activated entirely by a spirit of curiosity to know the facts for ourselves. Sentimentalities and religious beliefs played no part
|Plate 1a: Diagram
showing sťance room arrangement for Mary E. experiments.
Throughout the entire course of Dr. Hamilton's experimentation, exacting
contra-fraudulent techniques were maintained. It is not our purpose to dwell upon the question of fraud, for under the external conditions imposed on the Mary M. studies, fraud could not, and did not exist. Furthermore, the complexity of the
group-mediumship, the nature and reactions of the trance states, the internal evidences displayed by the teleplasms themselves
- all indicated that that we were dealing with a mass of facts so inextricably interlocked and so impossible to simulate, that to suggest fraud as an explanation was simply to show a bias against the theoretically unacceptable, instead of a favour for the descriptive empirical truth. Nevertheless, because the question of fraud has been associated with psychical research for so long
- sometimes with just reason - Dr. Hamilton instituted as a matter of routine techniques guaranteeing the accuracy of observation and the absence of fraud.
The sťance room was situated on the second floor of Dr. Hamilton's home. Plate la shows its general arrangement. The simple furnishings consisted of plain wooden chairs, a plain unvarnished deal table, built after the lines suggested by
Crawford(4), an electrically driven phonograph mounted on a shelf at the back of the room, a
three-sided roofless wooden cabinet. The room's two windows were securely boarded over on the inside. Its one door was kept locked between
sťances, and was locked or bolted from within during each sťance.
Plate 1b shows the photographic equipment. This included several cameras using 5 x 7 plates; two stereoscopic cameras; one camera fitted with a
wide-angle lens; one equipped with a quartz lens. Also shown are the flashlight devices which could be fired electrically in a series by the three push buttons. At first magnesium flash powder was used; later it was replaced by photo flash bulbs of the highest speed obtainable. Guests and sitters were encouraged to bring their own cameras and films, thus serving a double purpose
- a check on the mediums and the sitters, and independent photographic records of events.
|Plate 1b: Arrangement
If and when an exposure had been made, Dr. Hamilton, accompanied by one of the sitters, developed the plates in his own dark room. Any plates belonging to visitors or sitters were returned to them for identification and development.
A further important contra-fraudulent measure was the preparation of the main medium Mary M. prior to each sitting. This practice was introduced early as a precautionary technique, and was followed meticulously for the entire series. In a room apart from the
sťance room Miss Turner helped Mary M. undress, then sponged her head, neck, shoulders and breasts and
under-arms with warm water. At Walter's request, such parts were not dried, but left moist. Miss Turner then helped the medium dress in fresh undergarments, a
low-necked, sleeveless dressing-gown and slippers, supplied by Mrs. Hamilton.
Still under Miss Turner's oversight Mary M. entered the sťance room and took her place in the circle, left of Mr. Cooper. The first part of the sitting was given over to the Elizabeth M. activities, with that medium seated in the cabinet. For the second part, Elizabeth withdrew from the cabinet, and Mary M. took her place, with Dr. J. A. Hamilton on her left, Mr. W. B. Cooper on her right, Each joined hands with Mary M., maintaining such hand contact for the rest of the
When Walter, by way of trance speech, indicated that a plasmic extrusion was imminent (and the trance entities alone held such an opinion), a moment or two before giving the signal for firing the flash, an additional control technique was used. It was this: without letting go of Mary M.'s hands, both Dr. J. A. Hamilton and Mr. Cooper passed their right and left hands, respectively, over her head, neck and breast, and declared that they could detect no substance on or near these parts. They also declared that because of the watchful control they exercised, no substance could have been placed on or near these parts by normal physical means. These comments were noted by the secretary.
A competent note-taker was always present at each sťance. Over the years these included Mr. John D. Macdonald, a young business man; Mr. W. E. Hobbs, a civil engineer; Dr. Bruce Chown, then a paediatrician and pathologist for the Children's Hospital of Winnipeg; Miss E. McTavish, Dr. Hamilton's secretary; Margaret L. Hamilton, his daughter.
Supplied with writing materials and a watch with an illuminated dial, the secretary recorded events and their times of occurrence. Trance speeches giving plans and instructions for
sťance procedures were noted in detail. "Nonsense" conversations, easily recognised as part of the struggle of the trance entity to dominate the medium's normal personality, were not generally recorded, nor were other speeches tending to be religious or philosophical. All notes used in this report have been abridged with the utmost care so as to retain the exact contextual meaning.
Sťance notes were typewritten as soon as possible after each sťance, and both the original and the typescripts were retained. When teleplasms of unusual magnitude were anticipated, Dr. Hamilton invited doctors or lawyers to attend as special scrutineers and observers. They wrote and signed their own reports, which were filed with the records. On those occasions when very important phenomena occurred, the individual group members signed statements before an
Attorney-at-Law, attesting to the validity of the pertinent facts as recorded by the secretary, and by the flashlight
From this brief outline of experimental methods, it is evident that the group as a whole
co-operated closely with the trance entities. This act of co-operation implies that the group adopted the working assumption that
Walter-Mary M., "Lucy"-Mercedes, and "John King"-Ewan were connected in some way with the production of teleplasm. The transfer of this concept from a working assumption to a tenable hypothesis is once of the main purposes of this study. A careful study of the
sťance notes and the photographic records leads us to the discovery of international activity
- the idea referred to earlier in this chapter.
Intention is discovered in a statement of intention, and is proven with the establishment of a causative relation between the stated intention and the observed resultant activity.
A simple example of this would be: "I, John Smith, intend to place a block of wood on the table." We observe that after the statement the wood actually has been placed on the table. This establishes a causative relationship between the statement and the act. We thus have adequate proof that a statement of intention has been made, and not a mere speech of what might have been imagined to have taken place.
A similar situation is found in the case of the Mary M. teleplasms and their related mental trance products. By their conversations,
Walter-Mary M. and the other trance personalities demonstrated their awareness of the existence of the teleplasms. The rational nature of this awareness becomes evident when their statements of intention and their descriptions of the plasms (through trance speech, recorded by the secretary, after exposures had been made and while the exposed plates were still in the cameras and the types of teleplasm unknown to any living person in the
sťance room) are compared with the developed and printed photographic records.
The Mary M. teleplasms divide naturally into groups which exhibit definite centres of intention.
For instance, we will find four separate teleplasms, each one disclosing a miniature face in the likeness of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. We will see two separate teleplasms showing miniature face-forms in the likeness of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Apart from two groups dealing with the physical properties of teleplasmic material, this report will adopt the method of presenting teleplasms in groups which have obvious centres of intention.
The trance personalities claimed that they were deceased persons whose specific minor intent was to give through the Elizabeth M. phenomena, evidence of the life memories of certain deceased individuals, and through the Mary M. channel evidence of rational knowledge of the phenomenon of teleplasm, of which as yet, living man has only the most meagre understanding. In short, for them the production of teleplasm was an intentional activity of secondary importance.
Behind this minor intention their major intention was evident: by the temporary use of the mediums' bodies and mental and psychical faculties in certain ways, these trance personalities strove for a recognition of their identity as discarnate persons. This primary intention was clearly indicated by the contents of many of the
Such a claim can never be proven absolutely. It can be established only beyond reasonable doubt.
In this present chapter we have tried to give some idea of the nature and scope of this study. By presenting details of
sťance procedures and outlining the principal method of evaluating intentional
activity, to a considerable extent we have forecast the conclusions towards which the threads of evidence will be
(1) T. G. Hamilton, Journal of the American Society for Pyschical Research, September 1931, Vol. XXV, No.
(1a) W. J. Crawford, D.Sc., "The Reality of Psychic Phenomena" (E. P. Dutton & Co., New York,
(2) T. G. Hamilton, Journal, A.S.P.R., May 1934, Vol. XXVIII, No. 5, p.
(3) T. G. Hamilton, Address to British Medical Association during its Convention in Winnipeg, August
(4) W. J. Crawford, op. cit., p. 38 (Table No. 1). Back