Catalogue number: WP1/5/8
Letter from Wallace to his daughter Violet giving the details of a séance and the train journey to Boston, undated, probably December 1886.
Wallace writes in detail about a séance he attended in Boston, USA. He describes the measures taken to investigate the authenticity of the experience. He states, 'I examined the room well, fastened one of the doors with sticky plastic privately marked, and had my chair against the other so that nobody could possibly get into the room...there were no trap-doors in the floor'.
Next, Wallace reveals that he saw 'a whole lot of ghosts...a woman in white, and also a young man figure'. A spirit woman appeared with a baby. Wallace writes, 'I felt its face, nose and hair and kissed it...a nice soft live baby and no mistake'. He was astonished.
Today we might wonder why Wallace was convinced it was a spirit baby and not a real living baby, brought into the room. Since he found no evidence of anyone being able to enter the room, he assumed that it must be a ghost. Séances were a major craze in Europe and the USA. As a naturalist used to working out theories, Wallace saw phenomena that needed an explanation. He did his own investigations, as described in this letter, but was unable to find any physical explanation. Gradually he was converted to spiritualism.
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View high resolution scans and transcripts of Alfred Russel Wallace's correspondence, including all surviving letters between him and Charles Darwin.