Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

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Obituary The Hodgson Report on Madame Blavatsky

By W.A. Carrithers

The Sitting-Room Bookcase Phenomenon


One of the stories by Mme. Coulomb --- taken up by Hodgson in his report --- was that on one occasion a Mahatma letter was delivered by the hand of a household servant, which was mistaken for that of a Mahatma (in apparition).  She claimed (71) that the "massive sham door," after being removed from the recess (see Section III, Part H-2), was made to serve as the back of a bookcase in the recess in the north wall of the Sitting-Room (see Plate II, where Hodgson purports to illustrate this); and, that it was "utilized" on November 24, 1883, when S. Ramaswamier, in presence of several witnesses, received a letter dropped into the room by "an astral hand" which, issuing from this bookcase, "was visible for a few seconds, and then vanished into air right before our eyes" (344-45).

1. Immediately after the phenomenon, a "careful examination" by the chief witness, V. C. Iyer, showed the back of the bookcase to be "a thick wooden plank" (344), whereas the door, found there at the "exposure," had four planks with cross-and-sidepieces.  Although we may be sure that Hodgson tried to resolve this discrepancy and persuade Mr. Iyer to identify the door with crosspieces as the "plank," Hodgson omits to say he succeeded.

2. Despite his efforts to show the "hand" was that of a servant reaching through a "sliding panel," Hodgson:  (i) failed to show that the door found at the back of the bookcase in May, 1884, had been there before H.P.B. left Adyar that year; (ii) failed to show that in 1883 the bookcase had been built or altered after the door was removed from the bedroom recess; (iii) failed to show that the panel as constructed could ever have been opened and shut without the "considerable difficulty" encountered by his own operation of it (339); (iv) failed to show that any opening had existed by which a suspect could have reached through the "oil cloth" (345) which had ornamented the back of the bookcase interior.

3. The oil cloth in the back of the shelf, as described in the original account of November, 1883, has (like the muslin and calico behind the Shrine) disappeared from Hodgson's Plan; and, in his written and graphic reporting two years later (Plate II and cf. 345, 346), has become transformed into "curtains" at the front of the bookshelf!



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