Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

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Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

By W.A. Carrithers

Relative Positions of Door and Shrine


1. Necessary to his case though the claim was, nowhere did Hodgson maintain that his measurements of this door revealed its "secret aperture" could ever have opened into the alleged wall-Shrine passageway.

2. The door had been "at the back of the recess" (221, 70), "on" (328, 331-32), and nailed "on the east side of the wall" behind the Shrine (333).  But thus positioned, as seen in Figure A, Plate I, the sliding panel and the "hole in the wall" do not align, both being blocked by solid barriers.  To correct this, the door is reversed in Figure B, but note that now the door, as taken from Hodgson's drawing, cannot be "on" the wall nor "at the back of the recess."  Moreover, with the bevelled edges of the door reversed against the convergence of the bedroom-recess walls, the "block" (lowest sidepiece of the door), which held the moveable panel in place (340) when in the north recess of the sitting-room, would itself no longer be held in place by recess-walls.

3. The horizontal juxtaposition of door and Shrine, assumed in Figure B, depends entirely on Hodgson's graphic positioning of the Shrine (critical by inches), a location for which he admitted no firsthand knowledge, named no authority, reported no testimony.

4. Since "The wall" (not "portion of wall") "immediately" behind the Shrine was "covered" (not "partly covered") by two widths of white calico which "met in a vertical line passing behind the centre of the Shrine" (221, 327), if Hodgson's Plan is correct the widths would have been (a) unequal, (b) odd-sized, viz., 4ft. 9in. and 6ft. 9in. wide.  But if H.P.B. had made such a peculiar demand upon the tailor (when, otherwise, the same wall could conveniently accommodate two equal widths, each of two yard-wide strips sewn together and overlapped 3in.), and if the tailor had prepared wall-cloth of such specific, troublesome widths to cover asymmetrically a commonplace wall about 12ft. wide, it would have been such an unusual and significant circumstance that Hodgson could not have resisted exploiting it to prop up his case, after his questioning the tailor (327).  But his very silence here disrupts any notion his positioning of the Shrine was correct.

5. Relocated at the only place both logic and evidence suggest, coincident with the joining of wall-cloth and the vertical centerline of the wall behind, the centerpoint of the Shrine back measured 5ft. 9in. from the Occult Room's northwall; and here the south vertical sidepiece (3in. wide) of the door in the recess behind would block one-third of the width of the alleged Shrine-aperture, and would reduce by almost one-half the effective width of the "hole in the wall" (as Hodgson related Shrine and "hole").  Instead of a "sham door" being built to accommodate an already-fixed passageway, we find Hodgson displacing the Shrine one foot northward, as if to move the imaginary passageway (marked by the alleged aperture in the Shrine back) out of line with this obvious obstruction! [20]

6. Again, Hodgson's Plan denies the reader a view of the vital, vertical dimensions.  Despite this, we may approximate the truth, although it is sufficient in itself to merely object that he once again failed to prove his case at a most critical juncture, inasmuch as he omitted to show that the location of the known aperture in this door he examined and measured could have coincided with the alleged position of wall-and-Shrine aperture.  Why so serious an omission?

Assuming that, as shown with the vertical crosspiece, the horizontal crosspiece of the door illustrated as positioned upon the center cross-line of the door and was 4in. wide (like the vertical crosspiece illustrated), the door fitting the back of the recess and being approximately 8ft. in height (222), the lower south panel (as situated within the recess) would then extend 3ft. 10in. to the floor below.  If this panel dropped to make an aperture of ten inches below the crosspiece, the aperture would be located vertically 3ft. to 3ft. 10in. above the floor of the recess.  This floor was about two feet higher than the floor of the Occult Room (220).

On the opposite side of the wall and within the Occult Room, the Shrine, of equal dimensions in width and height (221, the width being approximately four feet according to Hodgson's Plan), would be situated approximately 3ft. 10in. above the Occult Room floor (328 cf. 334), allowing four inches of this for the drawer and shelf below (221).  A division halving the rear middle panel of the Shrine would then be 5ft. 10in. (3ft. 6in. plus 4in. plus 2ft.) above the Occult Room floor or 3ft. 10in. above the recess floor.  In fact, as thus arrived at by mean calculation deduced from Hodgson's own Plan and figures, the alleged opening in the back of the Shrine, shown on raising the reported top half-panel, would not correspond with the aperture in the door in the recess but would be blocked altogether by the door's upper south panel and the horizontal crosspiece in the door below this panel.  No wonder Hodgson was careful to omit any plan of vertical dimensions!

7. Finally, Hodgson relates, when operated, the moveable lower south panel in the door had to be forced down "about 10 inches" (222) and into "the hole in the terrace made for the panel to sink into" (340).  But on examining the floor of the recess behind the Shrine position, did he find there traces of this necessary "hole"?  Not if his strange silence at this point means anything!



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