Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie had a taste for occultism which led them, in 1857, to invite to the Tuileries a famous Scottish spiritist. His name is Daniel Dunglas Home.
He comes for the first time to the Palace one evening in February. He is immediately taken to the Emperor’s private apartments. Napoleon III and Eugenie are surrounded by a few intimates, which include Princess Pauline de Metternich who reports the scene in her Souvenirs.
The Emperor is anxious and asks the spiritist if he thinks that he will succeed. Dunglas Home is certain that he will. the Empress seems nervous and asks how “they will manifest themselves”. Dunglas Home tells her that it is unpredictable, and asks everyone to be seated and remain calm. He senses that “they” are there. The Emperor asks if the lights should be extinguished. Home replies that the lights should remain. Then he sits down.
Everyone settles into an impressive silence. And suddenly, astonishing things happen. Princess de Metternich tells us that
“enormous pieces of furniture that six men would lift only with difficulty to remove the carpets, in Spring, began to move. Chairs, armchairs, as if carried away by a furious wind, went from one corner of the room to another. The crystals in the chandeliers began ringing. From all sides, knocks were heard. To resume, it was a real witches’ sabbath”.
The Emperor and the Empress are very emotional. As for the other people present, filled with horror, they wipe their faces with fine linen handkerchiefs.
Suddenly, a little table, on which there is a lighted candle, starts to move, then rises in the air where it begins spinning like mad. However, Princess de Metternich notices that, not only does the candle not fall, but that its flame, instead of burning vertically, bends over as it follows all of the table’s movements. Which is contrary to all of the laws of Physics.
At last, the table lands gently on the floor and remains still. Then, the piano, which has no-one near it, starts to play, on its own, a lugubrious air. When it stops, panting can be heard and a few people, terrified, feel an icy breeze on their necks.
Suddenly, a hand appears on a table placed near Eugenie. In spite of her repulsion, the Empress wants to touch it and instantly cries out:
“It’s my father’s hand!”
After which, she has an attack of nerves. While they try to calm her, Napoleon III approaches the table and touches the hand in turn. But he lets it go straight away, saying:
“God, it’s cold!”
Farther away, the Duke de Mortemart, too, sees a hand appear and advance towards him, flying like a bird. Frightened, he backs away; but the hand pursues him through the salon where, completely flustered, he starts to run in all directions, knocking over chairs and armchairs. Finally, the hand disappears the same way that it had come.
Home then orders the spirits to stop manifesting themselves. It is time. The Empress is shaken by an attack of nerves, the Emperor is livid, Madame de Mortemart prostrated and the whole gathering absolutely terrorised.
This agitated evening does not stop Dunglas Home from being invited again to the Tuileries where, one evening, he made a little white well-groomed hand appear before the sovereigns, who were very impressed. The hand picked up a pencil and traced on a sheet of paper the nervous and very recognizable signature of Napoleon I.
Naturally, everyone in Paris wants to receive the extraordinary Scottish medium and converse with Marie-Antoinette, Pascal, and even Saint Louis, as do, thanks to him, Napoleon III and Eugenie.
One evening, Prince Murat organizes at the home of Monsieur and Madame Jauvin d’Attainville, 23 rue de la Paix, a seance of “communication with the after-life” which was rather eventful. One of the guests, Princess Pauline de Metternich, recounted all the details.
“The apartment was very big, roomy, richly furnished and lit as if it were day. I insist on this circumstance and add that the chandeliers and the lamps were burning during all of the seance. Nothing could escape our gazes. There were about fifteen of us.
“Suddenly, the door opens and, beside Prince Murat we see the mysterious hero of the day, Dunglas Home, who had made us wait a long time and who inspired both anxiety and fear.
“Prince Murat presented him to Madame Jauvin and to us. I was able to examine him at leisure.
“He could have been thirty-six years, forty at most. Fairly thin, well built. In evening clothes with white tie, he could pass for a man of the best society. An expression of gentle melancholy rendered his face sympathetic. Very pale, with clear eyes of China blue, the gaze absent, or rather veiled, thick hair with a reddish tinge, in brief, an agreeable aspect.
“We arranged ourselves. Each one sat wherever he wanted at a round table covered with a cloth. Nothing had been prepared. This table, around which the family had the habit of sitting, was in its usual place. Some people were right against the table, others at a certain distance – each according to his own convenience. Dunglas Home sat in an armchair three or four metres away. All contact between him and the big table was absolutely impossible. In a slightly veiled voice, he asked: “I don’t know if they are already here, if they will come…?” These words made the ladies shiver… “They”, the spirits!… Home tipped his head back on the armchair and closed his eyes. He became more and more pale: “The trance is starting”, whispered Prince Murat. Suddenly, Home cried out an English name: “Bryan… Bryan, are you here?”
“At the same moment, two brief knocks arrived from the direction of the table, clear, very close together, and of a rhythm so singular that I seem to hear them still: “Bryan comes nearly always when I call him; he’s my best friend.”
“At the same instant, the crystals in the chandeliers rattled and, from the end of the room, there came, as if moved by an irresistable force, a chair which stopped in front of us. Home remained motionless in his armchair. Suddenly, he called out: “They have come, they surround us. They are going to manifest themselves and each of you will be able to convince himself of their presence.””
To be continued.