Religion: Spiritualist Heyday

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The demise of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle last fortnight (TIME, July 14) provided immediate opportunity to test his and many another man's belief in a spirit-life after Death. Sir Arthur's family cheerfully buried him last week in the trim kitchen garden close to the Sussex hut where he wrote both his fiction and his documents on Spiritualism. So voluminous were those documents, so widely did he distribute them that Spiritualists called him their "St. Paul."

Although he did not promise to send any message after his passing, his family and all other Spiritualists expected one. It would convince skeptics, mockers. Said Lady Doyle last week: "Although I have not spoken to Arthur since he passed, I am certain that in his own time and his own way he will send a message to us. We are not trying to communicate with him, because in the Beyond [he called it Summerland] you cannot call them as you would on a telephone. I am sure he will make contact with us first."

Professional mediums—in the Bronx, N. Y., in Vancouver, B. C., in Neuilly, Paris suburb—at once began reporting "messages." The Doyle family declared them all spurious. Said Son Adrian Doyle: "There is no question that my father will often speak to us just as he did before he passed over. We will always know when he is speaking but one has to be careful because there are practical jokers on the other side, as there are here. It is quite possible that these jokers may attempt to impersonate him. But there are tests which my mother knows, such as little mannerisms of speech which cannot be impersonated and which will tell us it is my father, himself, who is speaking."

Lady Doyle sent a formal notice to all British newspapers: "Lady Conan Doyle informs news editors that any message purporting to have come from her late husband is unauthenticated and no such message can be accepted. As such unless it receives her personal endorsement."

Sunday of last week the proof convincing to Spiritualists of an After Life developed. Ten thousand people pushed into huge Albert Hall, London. On the stage was a chair placarded with Sir Arthur's name. It was the chair he occupied corporeally when he had directed Spiritualist demonstrations there. Beside his chair sat Lady Doyle, near her his two sons and two daughters.

The ceremony began by the Spiritualists extolling their late St. Paul. Sir Oliver Lodge, 79, great scientist, great Spiritualist, could not attend, but sent a message: "Our great-hearted champion will still be continuing his campaign on the Other Side with added wisdom and knowledge. Sursum corda [lift up your hearts]."

The speakers were cheerful, occasionally whimsical. One speaker made the audience laugh when he actively illustrated Sir Arthur's love of cricket.* Another speaker, Ernest Oaten, made the audience weep by suddenly looking upward, raising his hand, and loudly crying: "We thank you! God bless you, Doyle!''

Then came the Spiritualist evidence. A Mrs. Estelle Roberts, clairvoyant, took the stage. She declared five spirits were "pushing" her. She cried out their messages. Persons in the audience confirmed their validity.

Suddenly Mrs. Roberts looked at Sir Arthur's empty chair, cried: "He is here."

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