Arthur Conan Doyle’s Interest in Spiritualism
Arthur Conan Doyle became interested in Spiritualism as early as 1886 (Byrne 72). He read a book written by the US High Courts Judge John Worth Edmonds (1816-1874), one of the most influential early American Spiritualists, who claimed that after the death of his wife he had been able to communicate with her. Edmonds also met with the Fox sisters, known as the “Rochester knockers” and Doyle appreciated his account of the girls’ communication with spirits. (Lycett 138) When Doyle practised as a physician at Southsea, he participated in table turning sittings at the home of one of his patients, General Drayson, a teacher at the Greenwich Naval College. In his Memoirs and Adventures, he wrote:
I was so impressed that I wrote an account of it to Light, the psychic weekly paper, and so in the year I actually put myself on the public record as a student of these matters.
In 1893, Conan Doyle joined the British Society for Psychical Research, a society formed in Cambridge one year earlier in order to investigate scientifically the claims of Spiritualism and other paranormal phenomena. Other members of the Society included the future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, philosopher William James, naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace, scientists Williams Crookes and Oliver Lodge, and philosopher and economist Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) and poet and philologist F. W. H. Meyers (1843-1901). After carrying out a series of experiments, Conan Doyle became convinced that telepathy, or ‘thought transference’, does exist. In 1917, Conan Doyle gave his first public lecture on Spiritualism. Later he wrote books, articles and made public appearances in Britain, Australia and America to promote his beliefs. He held numerous séances together with his second wife Jean to communicate with members of their family killed in World War One and other spirits. On the summit of his literary fame caused by the Sherlock Holmes stories, Conan Doyle, decided to abandon writing fiction and devoted himself almost entirely to the study of paranormal. Doyle was convinced that intelligence could exist apart from the body, and that the dead could communicate with the living. (source – victorianweb.org)
(featured image – sherlockholmes.ch)