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Lot #547
Arthur Conan Doyle

The Sherlock Holmes author recounts his ghostly encounter

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The Sherlock Holmes author recounts his ghostly encounter

Scottish author (1859–1930) whose stories featuring fictional detective Sherlock Holmes revolutionized the genre of crime fiction. Holmes himself would eventually earn a place among the most familiar and durable characters in the annals of English literature, and his exploits would inspire countless incarnations on stage and screen. Handwritten seance manuscript, one page, both sides, 5.25 x 7, dated February 15, 1924, on his Buckingham Palace Mansions letterhead. Doyle describes a seance given by the well-known medium George Valentine. He lists others present, writers and journalists, and describes the manifestations:

“Then came the shrill piping voice of one control followed by the deep soar of another (an Indian). Then long silence. Then came a spirit voice down near my knee, very weak & husky. Arthur. Arthur. Then Arthur Conan Doyle. After questions he said he was Innes [Doyle’s brother and collaborator, Brigadier General Innes Doyle, who died in 1919 from post-war pneumonia].

“‘I materialized for you in New York.’ Then came allusions to Miller, description of room & house all correct. 55th Street. This was all very good indeed, unless perchance the medium had been present that night. I asked him afterwards if he knew Millar [sic]. He said he did not. Either he lied or this was quite evidental. He also said he had met Hodson (who was at school with him in Richmond) at Oxford. Hodson said this was true. Others got the messages which interested them but the voices were low and there was always a chance of error. B. said it was the worst they had had. I have however no doubt V is a true medium. Someone struck a light once & he got a terrible bruise on the groin.” In fine condition, with intersecting folds, and just a hint of subtle, light toning Accompanied by a transmittal envelope, labeled “Seance with Valentine,” in Doyle’s hand.

After the death of his wife Louisa in 1906, and the deaths of his son Kingsley, his brother, his two brothers-in-law, and his two nephews in World War I, Doyle sank into depression. He found solace supporting spiritualism and its alleged scientific proof of existence beyond the grave. He even wrote The History of Spiritualism (1926) in which he praises the psychic phenomena and spirit materializations produced by mediums Eusapia Palladino and Mina “Margery” Crandon. Doyle was friends for a time with the American magician Harry Houdini, who was a prominent opponent of the spiritualist movement in the 1920s. Although Houdini insisted that Spiritualist mediums employed trickery (and consistently attempted to expose them as frauds), Doyle became convinced that Houdini himself possessed supernatural powers, a view expressed in Doyle’s The Edge of the Unknown. Houdini was apparently unable to convince Doyle that his feats were simply magic tricks, leading to a bitter public falling-out between the two. At one time, Doyle was totally stunned when Houdini pulled off his thumb and then replaced it. In his book A Magician Among the Spirits, Houdini gives details on an investigation of Valentine by a committee from Scientific American and states: “In the estimation of the committee, Mr. Valentine was just a common, ordinary trickster.” Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RRAuction COA.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title:
  • Dates: #356 - Ended April 14, 2010