Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

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Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

By W.A. Carrithers

The Recess and the Bricked Frame


The skeptical visitor of October 14th, 1883, having raised "doubt" on finding a door in the recess behind the Shrine, H.P.B. had it removed and the front of the recess closed up by a wall (222).

1. Had this door concealed a secret passageway through the brick-and-plaster wall behind the Shrine, obviously the only way to insure its concealment during these alterations would have been to leave the door in the recess and wall it up.  According with Hodgson's calculations, it could have been removed later in secret, if necessary.

2. Yet, by November 10th, it was gone (325, cf. 236-37).  (See Section V).  The recess, however, was not closed up by the new, papered, plastered, brick-and-wood wall until "about the middle of December, 1883, or perhaps several days later" (222).  Where then was the "secret passageway" during the interim, when carpenters (329) erected the wood frame, when masons (77) laid the brick and plaster (no claim was made that Mons. Coulomb did this work), when Mrs. Morgan arrived to find the bricked frame "being substituted" for the door (325), and when General Morgan "frequently examined the shrine and the wall at the back of the shrine up to January 1884. . . ."? [21]  Here, Hodgson's silence seems to say, "The less said, the better!"

3. On May 18, 1884, a sideboard was found against this new wall, and passage existed between bedroom and recess by way of apertures in sideboard and wall (see Plate II), though nothing but the Coulombs' word indicated these apertures existed before H.P.B.'s departure in 1884.  Although Hodgson examined the sideboard  [22] and (bricked?) frame (228), he reported nothing to counter the objections that these apertures were newly-prepared, even when he quoted (from Annie Besant) the description by Mr. Judge:  "a rough, unfinished hole in the wall. . . . From each edge projected pieces of lath, some three inches, others five inches long. . . . The plaster was newly broken off, the ends of the laths presented the appearance of freshly broken wood, and the wallpaper had been freshly torn off." [23]

4. Hodgson claimed the sideboard was so situated directly after the wall was finished (222); but, instead, the order for the sideboard's construction was not given until some time afterwards (326), a remarkable oversight if it had been intended to conceal an aperture planned since the door's removal 45 days or so earlier!

5. "M. Coulomb states that he removed the bricks as soon as the sideboard was in position" (223), which, according to Hodgson, was just before "the anniversary" or Convention time at Adyar, 1883.  Dr. Hodgson credited Mme. Coulomb's allegation that, about mid-January, 1884 (223), her husband could not close up this aperture because it was "near Madame's departure" --- twenty-five days prior thereto (77)! --- and "visitors were constantly coming and going" (76).  Yet, he ignores the absurdity of Mons. Coulomb in the sideboard, noisily knocking and ripping through the new wall, with the Morgans looking on, as Theosophists arrive for Adyar's biggest event, the Convention!

6. The "Shrine-phenomena," says Hodgson, "which were in abeyance during these alterations, began again immediately after their completion" (223).  Why should this be so if, as he insinuated (248), sleight-of-hand was sometimes used at the Shrine with impressive results?  As a matter of fact, restrictions on phenomena were put in effect as early as October 8, 1883, due to H.P.B.'s "physiological enfeeblement." [24]

7. That Mme. Coulomb knew such Shrine-phenomena were not "in abeyance" until "the sideboard was in position" is shown by her contrary claim (suppressed by Hodgson) that the bricked-frame aperture preceded the sideboard which was made later and, "In order to conceal the hole which had been made in the new frame" (71).  Apparently, only her imagination --- or lack of it --- concealed "the hole" before this!

8. That Hodgson claimed he "entered a space through a hole the dimensions of both of which were at least an inch less than the dimensions given by Dr. Hartmann" (229) in describing the recess and bricked-frame aperture, proves nothing.  Hodgson failed to claim:  (a) that the spatial relation of this "hole" to "space" duplicated the actual relationship at issue as found at Adyar; (b) that both had to be entered under 27in. from floor-level; (c) that to enter by duplication he had to "crawl in," as through an adjacent sideboard, before he "stood upright" (229); nor (d) does he say how much difficulty he had getting in.  He even fails to tell whether he got out the same way!

9. Witnesses objected that the narrowness of the hollow left between the front and back walls of the recess was insufficient to house anyone performing trickery.  How reliable Hodgson was in answering this appears in his Plan where, as if to widen this space for a trickster, the thickness of the back wall "of bricks" (220) --- which had fronted on two rooms and so bore two layers of plaster as against one for the new wall --- is graphically reduced to no more than the thickness of the front wall "of half-size bricks" (222).

10. Moreover, Hodgson's references to his inspection of the (bricked?) frame are overshadowed by his conflicting claims that (a) he found it "stowed away in the compound" (228); and (b) "lying in the dust-heap of the compound." [25]

11. But that the bricked-frame was not designed, as claimed (71), to provide a secret aperture, is evidenced by:  (a) the aperture having to be hacked out from the framework, and not "properly" so (76), leaving lath projections, broken haphazardly;  [26] and, (b) had the bricked-frame and sideboard been built with coincident apertures in mind, the wall aperture would not have been restricted to 27in. X 14in. (228) or less, for the sideboard, "about 3ft. high and 34in. wide" (22), could have accommodated and concealed an opening almost thrice that area and would then have agreed with Mme. Coulomb's false description, "a sideboard . . .one of the wings of which covered a little more than the space of the aperture" (71).



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