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THE NEW YORK TIMES Feb. 12, 1925 Page 21, Column 1
MARGERYS SPIRITS FAIL TO WIN PRIZE
Scientific American Committee Holds She Produced No Supernormal Phenomena.
HER CASE IS NOW CLOSED
One of the Judges, However, Was Convinced That She Was a Genuine Medium.
HOUDINI CHARGED FRAUD
Other Three Deny Any Tricks Were ExposedOther Aspirants to Be Tested.
The Scientific Americans Committee on Psychic Phenomena, which for nearly a year has been investigating Margery, the most famous of mediums since Palladino, rendered a verdict on the case yesterday. Their verdict was that Margery has failed to produce any evidence of supernormal phenomena.
In an effort to collect the $2,500 prize offered by The Scientific American for proof of supernatural phenomena, Margery gave scores of sittings to the five investigators who form the Committee on Psychic Phenomena. She puzzled them for more than any of her predecessors who have claimed the award, but she has been unable, according to the investigators, to show anything supernormal under conditions excluding fraud. Her case is marked Closed, and the committee announced that it will now proceed to examine other aspirants for the money and for the prestige of the committees stamp of genuineness.
Four of the committeemen voted to veto Margerys claim. The fifth, Hereward Carrington, went on record as believing her genuine. Three of the othersDr. Walter Franklin Prince, Daniel F. Comstock and Dr. William McDougallconcurred in the opinion that Margery failed to give positive evidence of any exceptional gifts. Harry Houdini, the fifth of the judges, has denounced her as a fraud and has alleged that he obtained abundant proofs of quackery. Judges Prince, Comstock and McDougall, while expressing their own skepticism, deny that Houdini exposed anything.
A Promising Medium.
Margery was at the outset the most promising of the mediums who appeared before the committee. As long as she controlled the situation, she produced remarkable effects. But as conditions were laid down to prevent trickery, her phenomena grew fainter and fainter, according to the investigators.
The first thing in Margerys favor was that she was a strictly private and non-commercial medium. Her real name is Mrs. Le Roi G. Crandon and she is the wife of a physician of standing in Boston. She had never sought to exhibit psychic powers for hire. She belonged to an entirely different class from the usual run of fee-taking spiritualists.
There was a presumption against those who earned their living by producing phenomena before paid audiences, but a presumption in favor of a woman in good social position who had no obvious motive for falsely laying claim to the possession of supernormal gifts. She had no history of associations with magicians, mediums and jugglers who might teach her the art of mystification.
Secretary Was Enthusiastic.
Malcolm Bird, secretary of the committee, wrote enthusiastically of her personality and charm. The first published accounts of her work said that, without being caught cheating in any way, she has caused the spontaneous appearance of many lights, had wafted window poles through the arms and legs of investigators, wrecked cabinets, thrummed invisible ukuleles and played the pianoforte with invisible fingers.
Margery, wrote Bird, seems to make progress toward rock-ribbed demonstration; so, since neither her patience nor ours appears to be exhausted, we go right on with her.
Some of the committeemen thought the Secretary was too optimistic and he retired from office. The investigations went on. Dr. Prince and Dr. McDougall continued their sessions with the medium much longer than the others in search of definite proof or disproof. Yesterday they gave their conclusions in a joint statement.
We have shared in the labors of the committee, which has devoted a large amount of time and careful observation to this case, affording every facility for the production of phenomena, they said. We have observed phenomena, the method of production of which we cannot in every case claim to have discovered. But we have observed no phenomena of which we can assert that they could not have been produced by normal means, although we have looked for such phenomena patiently and with open minds. It is obvious that we cannot prove that the medium never has produced and never can nor will produce supernormal phenomena. But in our opinion we have afforded the medium ample opportunities for the demonstration to use of such phenomena and no such demonstration has hitherto been made.
Therefore, we report that, in our judgment, the medium is not entitled to the award of the prize offered by The Scientific American.
Say Sittings Were Denied.
Dr. Prince made these supplementary comments:
In November last I guardedly stated that thus far the experiments have not scientifically and conclusively proved the exercise of supernormal powers by Margery.
Since then I have had three sittings: two of these were unworthy of consideration since, what, with the complete darkness and the mediums husband close to her on one side, no proof of genuineness in the phenomena produced was possible. The third was under conditions which I considered satisfactory for the time being, since I had secure control of the mediums hands and feet in near-daylight, with the bell box on my knees a few inches from those of the medium. Twice when my attention was momentarily abstracted the sound of a bell came from the region of the bell box, but ceased instantly as I looked down, with no movement of the contact board perceptible. Since the medium volubly promised me repeated experiments under precisely similar circumstances I expected in one or two further sittings to be able to determine whether the sound of a bell actually issued from the bell in the box or from another such as could easily have been concealed between the mediums knees and under her garments.
But all such opportunities have since been denied me in spite of my repeated efforts to obtain them, nor have I been able to secure and prospect that sittings in a red light would be allowed me. For some weeks Dr. Crandon has refused to allow my presence under any circumstances. The work of the committee having been brought to an end through his own act, the time has come for my final official statement.
No sitting at which I was present was to me convincing, and I am still profounding [sic] unconvinced.
Sees Only Normal Means.
Dr. McDougall made these additional comments:
As long ago as November, 1923, when I had enjoyed only a few sittings, I wrote Margerys husband, stating frankly that I was inclined to regard all the phenomena I had observed as produced by normal means, possibly with the admirable design of testing and exposing the gullibility of scientific men who venture to dabble in the field of psychic research. Since that date I have taken part in three series of sittings, eagerly looking for evidence o f supernormal phenomena and doing my best to keep my mind open to such evidence. During this period the inclination described above has grown steadily stronger, in the main, in spite of some minor fluctuations, and now has become well-nigh irresistible.
After reviewing the case, Orson D. Munn, publisher of The Scientific American, which offered the prize, said:
Last November, two members of the committee filed statements declining to recommend the granting of the award to Margery. Together with the two statements now announced, these constitute a vote of four out of five. The psychic award will not be granted to Margery. It is only fair to state, however, that this fact has no financial significance. At the beginning of the sittings with her, Margery stated that she was not applying for the money award and would not accept it personally, if received.
The Margery case being disposed of, so far as the committee and The Scientific American are concerned, the committee will now proceed with the investigation of other persons who have applied for the award and whose cases are awaiting attention. There has been no change whatsoever in the personnel of the committee, nor in its plan of procedure.
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