Spending a whole year gawking at the most amazing paranormal phenomena for a Harry Houdini to demonstrate that you have been sold a bill of goods, does not happen without your mental stability being affected to a greater or lesser degree. That is why after the unmasking of a false medium, four of the most prominent members of the Society for Psychical Research -Gurney, Barret, Lodge and Myers- were forced by the SPR Governing Board to attend the consultation of Ernest Jones, one of Sigmund Freud’s English outstanding disciples. (Freud refused to treat them personally because he still resented the breakage of a guitar in his head during a séance).
Ernest Jones was skeptical not only in relation to paranormal phenomena but also to phenomena as normal as birth (he was convinced that babies were found in a cabbage patch) or death (according to him, only fools died). He resolved to try group therapy with the four members of the SPR. They had to pass a ball made of rags to one another, then they were interrogated about their feelings about it. Gurney thought it was nonsense. Myers dissented: he judged it to be an idiotic thing, and for Lodge it was a waste of time. Only Barret was receptive and agreed to practice in private during his free time. Another of Jones’s group therapies was to make the four of them run around three chairs, and when he rang a gong, everyone should try to sit down. The one who remained standing was treated separately in long individual sessions in which many sobs were heard. On one occasion, Gurney tried to strangle Jones with his belt, but his companions stopped him at the very last moment. Interestingly, within a few days it would be Gurney who would save Jones from being strangled by his companions. On another occasion, the four members of the SPR, in view of the exacerbated skepticism of Jones, invited him to attend a séance with a trusted medium (the one that had led them to that state of emotional stress was met by Henry Sidgwick in the cell of a Chelsea police station). Jones reluctantly agreed.
On the afternoon the séance was scheduled, Jones arrived with a rifle and two pistols in his belt. After a tense argument, Gurney got him to leave the armament in the lobby. The medium intuited that Jones was an adverse subject when he refused to shake her hand and called her “witch” and “hysterical”. Even so, the séance was carried out and it was a success. The medium managed to contact the deceased father of Jones. But it turned out that the both of them had a complicated, if not hostile, relationship and Jones ended up breaking the medium’s dishes. However, he came out of the séance deeply impressed, and for the first time in his life he recognized that, after all, perhaps babies were not found in a cabbage patch “but they certainly don’t come from a birth”. In a fit of rage, the four SPR members grabbed him and took him to the home of a woman in labor and forced him to witness the birth. As a result, Jones suffered an anaphylactic shock and had to remain in a hospital for several months. For fear of reprisal, the Society for Psychical Research had to temporarily relocate its headquarters to Brighton.
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