Princess Pauline de Metternich is describing a seance with Daniel Dunglas Home at the home of Monsieur and Madame Jauvin d’Attainville, 23 rue de la Paix. Prince Murat has organized it. The year is 1857. The medium has just announced that the spirits are present, and are going to make their presence felt by everyone.
“At this minute, I felt an iron hand seize my ankle and I screamed. Others felt the contact of this iron hand, some on the neck, some on the arm. This grip didn’t hurt at all, we only felt the pressure of the fingers, I would say almost each finger separately; you need to have felt this sensation to have an idea of it.
“Slowly, the cloth on the table rose. And we saw underneath, something which resembled hands under a sheet reaching out to us. I retreated instinctively. The gentlemen, my husband notably, seized these hands and squeezed them energetically so that they did not escape. When, in spite of their efforts, they saw, one after the other, the seized object evaporate between their fingers, they hurried to lift the cloth to see if they weren’t dupes of some disappearing trick. They looked everywhere, they found nothing. Some had even slipped under the table to keep watch. Home looked at them without moving and with indifference. After a few minutes, these gentlemen reappeared and went back to their places. They were hardly seated than knocks, following each other at brief intervals, came from the table. I deliberately say came “from the table”, for that was our impression. It could be believed that they were made by someone hidden under the table-top. So my husband, unable to restrain himself, declared that he wanted to sit under the table so as to observe how these knocks, which seemed to come from below, were being produced. As soon as he sat down, he called out:
“”Ah! stop knocking up there. No jokes, please!”
“We replied that no-one among us had moved, and that we had heard the knocks coming from below, just like before.
“The society remained speechless for a moment. We didn’t know what to think. My husband came out from his hiding-place and the experiences continued. Suddenly, Home, white as a sheet, cried out:
“”The spirits surround us, there is one right next to you. You should feel it like a gentle breeze.”
“And effectively, we felt, one after the other, the sensation of a breeze, a breath which caressed our shoulders and our hair. The gentlemen, whose scepticism was absolute, were obliged to admit that they had felt it, just like the women.
“At one moment, Home, then in a full trance, exclaimed:
“There is one who is approaching the piano; I am going to order it to bring you the bouquet of violets that one of you put over there.”
“His head fell down on the back of the armchair; at the same instant, we saw the bouquet start to move, or better, slide over the smooth surface, rise in the air and shakily cross the open space which separated the piano from the table around which we were gathered; it finished by falling onto my lap. My husband seized it immediately to examine if a thread or a hair could be discovered on which it had been suspended. He found nothing and, very disappointed, he gave it back to me. He was lost for words.
“At last, Home asked in a weak voice if we had an accordeon.
“”The manifestations are today so favourable that we could make them play; perhaps they would like to do it and could.”
“”They”, it was naturally the spirits again. Two of our friends offered to go to a music shop, on the boulevard, and bring back an accordeon to satisfy the spirits. This proposition having been welcomed with enthusiasm, the gentlemen left in a hurry. However, Home, after having slowly risen from his armchair, approached us. The crystals in the chandeliers continued to rattle; on every side, we heard knocking in the furniture, the woodwork, but no-one – neither the medium nor we – took any more notice of it.
“Meanwhile, our friends brought back the accordeon as if it were a trophy. Home asked me to take it in one hand, to hold it up in the air and to place myself in the middle of the room. I slipped my right hand into the strap that surrounded the vestibule and waited. Suddenly, I felt pressure exercised on the instrument, as if someone had pressed the vestibule – I was petrified – and suddenly, I heard, like everyone present, a marvellous melody, so perfectly sweet and harmonious that you could have said it was celestial.
“The agitation was at its height. The sounds produced by this instrument which seemed enchanted were, or at least seemed supernatural; therefore, many of us had tears in our eyes.
“This piece of music ended the seance of Dunglas Home at Madame Jauvin d’Attainville’s home.”
That is the account by Princess de Metternich who concludes:
“The spirits seemed exhausted.”
The next day, when this evening was described to Napoleon III and Eugenie, the Empress exclaimed:
“Monsieur Home is the greatest medium of all time. He should enter government. In the case of war, he would replace an army, all on his own, with the spirits, and we would be sure to vanquish!”
Unfortunately, when war broke out in 1870, Mr Home was in London.
Daniel Dunglas Home was born in 1833 in Edinburgh, in a family which apparently had several clairvoyants already. His childhood was unusual. It is said that, from a very young age, he set in motion mysterious forces, by his presence alone. When he entered the kitchen, all the saucepans went wild and started spinning as if caught in a tornado, and when he penetrated a library, the books flew off their shelves. Such manifestations annoyed his parents. In the end, he was thought to be possessed by the Devil, and was sent to an aunt who lived in the United States of America.
To be continued.