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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Spiritualism as a Witness in a Murder Case.

It would scarcely be safe as a general thing to trust the intervention of spiritual powers for the detection of crime and for the evidence sufficient to convict its perpetrators. But in a murder case in Connecticut a grand juror, an able counsel, a learned judge and we know not how many others seem bound to convict a person of the capital offense of murder on the strength of revelations made to a pretended spiritual medium. The story is told by the Herald’s special correspondent in another column. We are assured on the authority of one of the prosecuting lawyers that all the circumstances attending the cruel murder of poor Mary Stannard were minutely described to a member of the Grand Jury by the medium, even to the description of the weapons used and the words spoken during the enactment of the tragedy. An interview between our correspondent and the clairvoyant confirms the wonderful tale. Exactly how the evidence is to be used on the trial of the Rev. Mr. Hayden, who has been rearrested, is not explained. Perhaps the medium is to be induced to pass into the clairvoyant state and describe the murder after the fashion of Hamlet’s players. But then how is the oath to be administered that is necessary to make the testimony legal? What is to become of the right of the defense to a cross-examination? Who is to vouch for the credibility of the witness when the mediums themselves do not seem to know whether they are used by good spirits or bad spirits—by truthful spirits or lying spirits? Many such legal difficulties suggest themselves in such a case. Even should they be overcome, who can vouch that the jury will not be composed of men of common sense, who will remember that the medium’s wonderful disclosures were made after he had enjoyed the opportunity to examine the spot, measure the distances and arrange blood-stained stones at his pleasure, and so make up their minds that he is an arrant humbug?

It would be fortunate for the accused if more material circumstances had not occasioned his second arrest. Should it be proved that he purchased arsenic on the morning of the murder, and that the poison was found in the stomach of the victim, it will not need a spiritual medium to convict him of the cruel crime,  nor will any efforts of Spiritualism save him from the full penalty of the law.

Reprinted from “Spiritualism as a Witness in a Murder Case,” New York Herald, October 10, 1878.

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