Daniel Dunglas Home
The most notable physical medium in the history of Spiritualism. According to a footnote in his Incidents in My Life (1863), his father was a natural son of Alexander, the tenth earl of Home. Through his mother he was descended from a Highland family in which the traditional gift of second sight had been preserved. Home was a sensitive, delicate child of a highly nervous temperament and of such weak health that he was not expected to live. Adopted by Mrs. McNeill Cook, a childless aunt, he passed his infancy at Portobello, Scotland, and was taken to the United States at the age of nine, growing up in Greeneville, Connecticut, and Troy, New York. He saw his first vision at age 13. A schoolfellow, Edwin, died in Greeneville and appeared to him in a bright cloud at night in Troy, thus keeping a childish promise with which they had bound themselves that he who died first would appear to the other. Home's second vision came four years later. It announced the death of his mother to the hour. From that time on his thoughts turned more and more to the life beyond. One night he heard loud, unaccountable blows, the next morning a volley of raps. His aunt believed him to be possessed by the devil and turned him out of doors. Thenceforth, although he never asked for or received direct payment, Home appears to have lived on the hospitality of friends attracted by his curious gift. Home's first levitation occurred in the South Manchester house of Ward Cheney, an eminent American manufacturer. Strains of music were heard when no instrument was near. Home went to England in April 1855. The conversion of many of the later leaders of the Spiritualist movement in England was attributed to Home's phenomena. Among the first who asked Home to attend a séance was Lord Brougham, who came to the sitting with Sir David Brewster. Lasting harm was done to Home's reputation by Robert Browning 's poem, "Mr. Sludge, the Medium," which was generally taken to refer to Home. Browning and his wife, who accepted Spiritualism, had attended séances with Home. The reason for this vicious attack may have been jealousy over his wife's enthusiasm for Home's phenomena. In the early autumn of 1855 Home went to Florence. His name and fame soon spread there, too. False rumours arose among the peasants that he was a necromancer and administered the sacraments of the church to toads in order to raise the dead by spells and incantations. This rumour may explain an attempt against his life on December 5, 1855, when a man ambushed him late at night and stabbed him three times with a dagger. Home had a narrow escape. About this time he was told by the spirits that his power would leave him for a year. In Home's state of seclusion from supernormal contact, Catholic influences found an easy inroad into his religious ideas. He converted to Catholicism and decided to enter a monastery. He was received by Pius IX and treated with favour. Home changed his mind, however, and left Italy for Paris, where, to the day from the announced suspension, his powers returned. The news reached the French court and Napoleon III summoned him to the Tuilleries. An account of the first séance in Home's autobiography, Incidents in My Life, tells how Napoleon followed every manifestation with keen and sceptical attention and satisfied himself by the closest scrutiny that neither deception nor delusion was possible. His and the empress's unspoken thoughts were replied to, and the empress was touched by a materialized hand that, from a defect in one of the fingers, she recognized to be the hand of her late father. When, soon after these séances, Home left Paris for the United States, rumours were rife that his departure was compulsory. On his return to Paris, however, he was speedily summoned to Fontainebleau, where the king of Bavaria was interested in a séance. Home was in great power at the time and so much sought after that the Union Club, where fashionable sophisticates congregated, offered him 50,000 francs for a single séance. Earlier, in Italy, Home had been introduced to the King of Naples. The German emperor and the Queen of Holland soon joined the ranks of the curious who were besieging Home with requests for séances.In Rome during the spring of 1858 Home was introduced to Count Koucheleff-Besborodka and his wife. Soon after he became engaged to Alexandrina de Kroll, the count's sister-in-law. The wedding took place in St. Petersburg. It was a great society affair. Count Alexis Tolstoy, the poet, and Count Bobrinsky, a chamberlain to the Emperor, acted as groomsmen. Alexandre Dumas, a guest of Count Koucheleff-Besborodka, was one of the witnesses. Many of Dumas's fantastic stories about spirits entering into inanimate objects were derived from Home's mediumship. From Home's marriage to Alexandrina de Kroll a son was born. Shortly after Home returned to England, friends tried to bring about a meeting between him and Michael Faraday, the famous scientist and proponent of the involuntary muscular action theory to explain table movement. Faraday was not satisfied with demanding an open and complete examination, but wished Home to acknowledge that the phenomena, however produced, were ridiculous and contemptible. Home's phenomena also radically changed Robert Chambers who attended a séance Robert Bell wrote about in Cornhill Magazine. He was too afraid of losing his reputation to make a public statement, although he allegedly received startling evidence of continued personal identity from his deceased father and daughter. Nevertheless, Chambers anonymously wrote the preface to Home's autobiography in 1862. Home's wife died in July 1862. Relatives disputed his right of inheritance to the fortune of his wife, and, looking about for a means of livelihood, he decided to develop his keen artistic perception. He hoped to become a sculptor and went to Rome to study. In January 1864 he was summoned before the chief of the Roman police and ordered, on the grounds of "sorcery," to leave Rome within three days. He left for Naples, where he was received by Prince Humbert, and returned in April to London to demand diplomatic representations on the subject of his expulsion. There was a debate in the House of Commons, but no representation was agreed upon. Then came the disastrous proposition of Jane Lyon, a wealthy widow, that she adopt Home, with the intention of securing his financial stability. Lyon took a fancy to Home and proposed to adopt him if he added her name to his own, in which case she was prepared to give him substantial wealth. Home assented and changed his name to Home-Lyon. Lyon transferred £60,000 to Home's account and drew up a will in his favour. Later she repented her action and sued him for the recovery of her money on the basis that she was influenced by spirit communications coming through Home from her late husband. Home slowly broke with nearly all of his friends and spent most of his time on the Continent. In 1876 his death was falsely reported in the French press. He lived in declining health for ten more years and died on June 21, 1886. His grave is at St. Germain, Paris, and his tombstone is inscribed "To another discerning of Spirits." In the Canongate of Edinburgh there is a fountain erected to his memory. It is not known who erected it nor why it was placed opposite the Canongate Parish Church.