Wallace Letters Online

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Record number: WCP428

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Violet Isabel Wallace
[December] [1886]

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Boston, Massachusetts, USA to Violet Isabel Wallace, [Nutwood Cottage, Frith Hill, Godalming] on [December] [1886].

Record created:
01 June 2002 by Lucas, Paula J.
Verified by:
21/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline (All except summary checked);


Re. a sťance at which he observed the ghosts of an Indian man and a baby; travel by sleeping-car from Baltimore; white and black populations in Boston and Baltimore.

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

View item:

LETTER (WCP428.428)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP1/5/8
Copyright owner:
©A. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
21/08/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Item notes

Physical description

Transcription information




Sunday -- Boston

My dear Violet

Last night I went to a séance and saw a whole lot of ghosts. I examined the room well, fastened one of the doors with sticking plaster privately marked, & had my chair against the other so that nobody could possibly get into the room after we sat down, & I went down stairs & made sure there were no trap-doors in the floor. The cabinet was merely a curtain across one corner of the room with solid walls, perfectly clear & simple. The medium sat in chair inside and I was opposite about 10 feet off. Light sufficient to see every body. The medium came out of the cabinet with a woman in white, and also a young man figure. Afterwards 3 female figures in white came out together [[2]] also a tall Indian either alone or with them. He danced and shook my hand, a large, hard, rough hand like that of a labourer. Afterwards a woman with a baby came out, & I was told I might go & examine the baby. I felt its face, nose, & hair & kissed it, and it was a nice soft live baby & no mistake. A lady next [to] me said the same, yet as soon as the séance was over the gas was turned up, the medium came out of the cabinet & we found nothing but bare walls, & the door fastened as I had fastened it & no possibility of any body getting in or out. This is going on every day with 3 - 4 mediums in [[3]] Boston. People recognise their friends who talk to them about private matters, tell then their names & give other tests, yet all the learned & scientific & fashionable people treat it all as imposture. A gentleman then recognised his son whom he had often seen there and at other mediums & who had given him many tests by referring to persons & things only of interest to themselves.

When I came from Baltimore last week I had my first journey in a sleeping car. The beds are very comfortable, twice as big as on board ship and beautifully clean & comfortable. If it was not for [[4]] the rattling & shaking, and the awkwardness of undressing & dressing it would be as good as being in a house. At the hotel at Baltimore it was not near so nice as here; though the white people were rather better looking than those of Boston, but half the population are negroes or coloured people, most of them ugly. I enclose some stamps for Willie which please give to him with my love. I hope you persevere with your reading history & biography & travels & other useful & instructive books. Tell Ma that Mr. Sharpes opinion is quite correct. My lectures do want "flummery", but the "slides" serve the purpose in some of them.

Your affectionate Papa | Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

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