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Steve Stubbs: ". . . I finally figured out how the thing could be done by trickery. . . " ??

Mar 10, 2002 09:20 AM
by Daniel Caldwell

Steve Stubbs: ". . . I finally figured out how the
thing could be done by trickery. . . " ??

Steve, you wrote:

"As for the materialization, I finally figured out how
the thing could be done by trickery, which is not to
say that it was done by trickery, but that does away
with its value as scientific evidence of
materalization. I persist in the belief that it makes
more sense to tackle the difficult problem of
explaining these things than to take the easier way
out and deny that the incidents ever happened."

The above quoted from:

Steve, I am assuming that the materialization that you
are referring to in the above extract is the "cup and
saucer" incident. And I am also assuming that when
you write:

"I finally figured out how the thing could be done by
trickery. . . "

you are referring to your "third possibility"

If my assumptions are correct, then I am somewhat
puzzled and baffled by several of your comments.

In the text of your "third possibility" speculation


you write:

"So here we have a very hot day in India. It is
proposed to take a shovel and dig into hard ground
which is impacted with tree roots in the middle of a
boiling hot day. I can guarantee you that Sinnett did
not turn a hand in that operation, but entrusted the
job to one of the Indian servants, while he laid back
as usual."

"The servant, who is not a confederate, then spends
some considerable time trying to break through hard
ground and tree roots. This is not very entertaining
so Sinnett and the others get bored. At some point
they are easily distracted by conversation. The
digging goes on but nobody is watching what is

Steve, is this serious speculation on your part?

In the accounts by both Olcott and Sinnett, the
eyewitness testimony contradicts your speculation.

Olcott wrote:

"She [Blavatsky] consented; and, looking about the
ground here and there, finally called Major Henderson
to bring a knife and dig in a spot she pointed to. He
found the ground hard and full of small roots of a
young cedar tree near by. These he cut through and
pulled up to a depth of say 6 inches, when something
white was seen in the black soil; it was dug out, and
lo! a cup decorated in green and gold, exactly
matching the others Mrs. Sinnett's servants had
brought. Madame told the Major to dig more; he did so,
and at last found a saucer to match the cup! They were
imbedded in the ground like stones naturally there,
and the cedar roots grew all around them like a net 
work, and one root as large as your little finger had
to be cut away to get at the saucer." 

Quoted from:

Steve, the above eyewitness testimony says that Major
Henderson --- not some servant --- was the one who dug
up the cup and saucer. And please note that it was
done not with a shovel but with a knife.

Turning again to the first hand accounts, Sinnett
himself wrote:

"Then she [Blavatsky] marked a spot on the ground, and
called to one of the gentlemen of the party to bring a
knife to dig with. The place chosen was the edge of a
little slope covered with thick weeds and grass and
shrubby undergrowth. The gentleman with the knife
[Major Philip Henderson] tore up these in the first
place with some difficulty, as the roots were tough
closely interlaced. Cutting then into the matted roots
and earth with the knife, and pulling away the debris
with his hands, he came at last, on the edge of
something white, which turned out, as it was
completely excavated, to be the required cup. A
corresponding saucer was also found after a little
more digging. Both objects were in among the roots,
which spread everywhere through the ground, so that it
seemed as if the roots were growing round them."

Quoted from:

So we see in Sinnett's account that it was Henderson
who dug up the cup and saucer using a knife. 

Your speculation ignores all of the first hand
accounts of what was reported to have actually

Plus you speculate that "we have a very hot day in
India". But was October 3, 1880 "a boiling hot day"
in Simla, India? Remember Simla's elevation is about 
7224 ft. 

See chart at:

for Simla's "Maximum average temperature in
Fahrenheit" in October and September. Doesn't appear
to be "very hot" to me.

Steve, if your speculation was meant to be taken
seriously, then your conjecturing only shows the truth
of Dr. Ray Hyman's statement:

"it is ALWAYS possible to 'imagine' SOME scenario in
which cheating no matter how implausible, COULD HAVE 
occurred." Caps added.

I hate to quote Barzun and Graff again but what they
say is totally applicable to your "third possibility"
speculation. They wrote:

"The rule of 'Give Evidence' is not be be violated. .
. .No matter how possible or plausible the author's
conjecture it cannot be accepted as truth if he has
only HIS HUNCH [which is not evidence] to support it.
Truth rests not on possibility or plausibility but on
probability. Probability means the balance of chances
that, GIVEN SUCH AND SUCH EVIDENCE, the event it
records happened in a certain way; or, in other cases,
that a supposed event did not in fact take place."
Caps added.

Steve, your speculation is contradicted by the
testimonial evidence.

You have simply used the "unpacking method" that I
outlined in the post at

Steve, in spite of what I write above, I do appreciate
very much your detailed comments. This shows that you
have spent time and energy thinking about the
incident. Your comments have been quite helpful and I
and others have no doubt learnt from them. 

Daniel H. Caldwell
"...Contrast alone can enable us to appreciate things at
their right value; and unless a judge compares notes and
hears both sides he can hardly come to a correct decision."
H.P. Blavatsky. The Theosophist, July, 1881, p. 218.

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