Duguid, David (1832–1907)
Scottish medium, chiefly famous for his automatic and direct
drawings. Duguid was born in Glasgow and became a cabinetmaker
by trade.
His two brothers, Robert, of Glasgow, and Alexander, of
Kirkcaldy, also claimed psychic powers, but David eclipsed
them both with phenomena comprising the whole scale of séance-room
manifestations. Above and beyond the more common
raps, he supposedly moved objects without contact; heavy
music boxes sailed about in the room in the dark and invisible
hands wound them up when they ran down. Sitters reported
hearing direct voices, usually in husky whispers but sometimes
in thunderous tones. Reportedly on one occasion, the medium
was levitated, placed on the table in his chair, to which he was
bound, and a coat was put on him without disturbing the knots.
Often objects were brought out from closed rooms, psychic
lights were seen, phantom hands touched the sitters, redolent
perfumes were produced, and, according to the testimony of
Thomas S. Garriock, as quoted in E. T. Bennett’s Direct Phenomena
of Spiritualism (1908), ‘‘On one occasion Mr. Duguid put his
hand into the blazing stove, took out a large piece of coal and
walked round the room with it for five minutes.’’
The beginnings of all these marvels dated from 1865, when,
out of curiosity, he took part in table-sitting experiments at the
house of H. Nisbet, a publisher of Glasgow. At one of these sittings
he felt his arm shake and a cold current ran down his
spine. When Nisbet’s daughter, who was an automatic writer,
placed her right hand on his left it at once began to move and
drew rough sketches of vases and flowers, and then the section
of an archway. Duguid began to sit in his home for automatic
painting. The influence that manifested claimed to feel Duguid
hampered by absolute lack of artistic education. On his suggestion
Duguid took lessons at a government school of arts for four
months.
Later the influence suggested that after his usual work on
large pictures Duguid should draw or paint on little cards in the
presence of onlookers. In eight to ten minutes he turned out
complete pictures. Working in total darkness, sitters reported
that the ‘‘spirits’’ would arrive in less than a minute and, independently
of the medium’s hands, produce a new picture in as
short a time as 35 seconds. They were tiny and sometimes so
fine in execution that their merit was enhanced if viewed under
a magnifying glass. Now and then, many of these little oil paintings
were found on a single card. The noise of the brushes and
paper, prepared in light, would be heard by those present as
coming from well above the table. When the paintings were
completed, everything was dropped. Invariably the paper
would be found with painted side up, wet and sticky. As a rule
these little paintings were then freely distributed among the sitters.
To ensure control, Duguid allowed himself to be held or
tied. When the light was put on, the bindings were often found
exchanged. If the medium was too tightly bound he was liberated
in a few seconds in the darkness and the ligatures were quietly
dropped into the lap of one of the sitters. On several occasions
the little cards were found missing. As soon as the
darkness was restored they were heard to drop onto the table
from above.
To prevent substitution, the cards were usually signed at the
back with the initials of the sitters. Later, a better method of
identification was employed. A corner of the card was torn off
and handed to a sitter before the painting began. For several
years, Duguid took no fee for his séances.
In August 1878 Frank Podmore attended a sitting at which
this method of control was already employed and discerned the
method of its subversion. Describing how he placed the fragments
of the cards securely in his pocket and how the medium
was fastened with silk handkerchiefs, with adhesive paper on
the ends, he writes in Modern Spiritualism (2 vols., 1902)
‘‘After a quarter of an hour the lights were turned up and
two small oil paintings, one circular, about the size of a penny,
the other oval and slightly larger, were found on the two cards.
The colours were still moist and the fragments in my pocket fitted
the torn corners of the cards. The two pictures, which lie
before me as I write, represent respectively a small upland
stream dashing over rocks, and a mountain lake with its shores
bathed in a sunset glow. The paintings, though obviously executed
with some haste, were hardly such as one can imagine to
have been done in such a short interval and in almost complete
darkness. For many years I was quite at a loss to understand
how the feat could have been accomplished by normal means.
The explanation, which I have now no doubt to be correct, is
an extremely simple one. Duguid, it has been seen, would not
suffer profane hands to touch the cards; and, when he had torn
off the corner of a card, he no doubt dropped into the sitter’s
hand not the piece torn from the blank card on the table, but
a piece previously torn from a card on which a picture had already
been painted.’’
Podmore’s explanation also suggests other methods that
could have been employed in the dark and often were employed
by mediums such as Duguid.
The first extended publicity to David Duguid’s mediumship
was given by the North British Daily Mail in 1873 in a series of
articles entitled A Few Nights with the Glasgow Spiritualists. It was
later followed by the report of a subcommittee of the Psychological
Society of Edinburgh. They claimed to witness 11 distinctly
different forms of manifestation that they could not explain
as normal. Direct writing that began to alternate with
direct painting and drawing was among the phenomena observed.
Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and German scripts were produced,
sometimes on a folded sheet of paper enclosed in a
sealed envelope.
(It was by this method that the frontispieces of three volumes
of William Oxley’s Angelic Revelations were allegedly illustrated.)
Thomas Power was quoted by Bennett as saying
‘‘The plain paper was put into an envelope. The three gentlemen
placed their fingers on the sealed envelope and turned
off the gas. In three minutes the gas was turned on, the envelope
cut open and the drawing was found in its complete state.’’
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Duguid, David
459
The control who worked through Duguid did not disclose
his identity for a long time. He called himself ‘‘Marcus Baker.’’
Eventually he promised a copy of one of his masterpieces. The
medium worked for four days, four hours at a time, on a large
painting. It was initialed ‘‘J.R.,’’ and from Cassell’s Art Treasures
Exhibition it was recognized as ‘‘The Waterfall,’’ by Jakob Ruysdael.
The copy was not exact, however; some figures were omitted.
The control, when questioned, said those figures were
added later by Bergheim. When they consulted Ruysdael’s biography
this was found to be true.
The second of Duguid’s painting controls also claimed a famous
name, that of Jan van Steen. Apparently neither of them
had taken the trouble to always produce original compositions.
Great inconvenience arose from this for the medium after the
arrival on the scene, in August 1869, of ‘‘Hafed,’’ the third of
Duguid’s famous guides.
From the book that he dictated in 46 sittings between 1870
and 1871 it appears that Hafed lived nearly 2,000 years ago as
a warrior-prince of Persia. At an early age he fought against an
invading Arabian army, was later admitted to the order of the
Magi, and was ultimately chosen arch magus. He described the
creeds and social life of ancient Persia, Tyre, Greece, Egypt,
Judea, Babylon, and many other long perished civilizations
that he studied in travels.
The climax of his story was reached when he revealed that
he conducted the expedition of the Three Wise Men to Judea
to the cradle of Jesus. He was summoned by his guardian spirit
to go on the journey with two brother magi and take rich gifts
to the babe. He described the youthful years of Jesus that are
not chronicled in the Gospels. According to his story, he traveled
with Jesus in Persia, India, and many other countries and
marveled at the miracles the young child performed. After the
martyrdom of Jesus he became a Christian himself, met Paul
in Athens, preached the gospel in Venice and Alexandria, and
finally perished at age 100 in the arena at Rome.
The book, as taken down in notes by Hay Nisbet, was published
in 1876 under the title Hafed, Prince of Persia His Experiences
in Earth Life, being Spirit Communications Received Through
Mr. David Duguid, the Glasgow Trance Speaking Medium, with an
Appendix, containing Communications from the Spirit Artists Ruisdael
and Steen, illustrated by Facsimiles of Forty-Five Drawings and Writings,
the Direct Work of the Spirits. Reportedly the book was produced
in trance. Trouble arose, however, over the illustrations,
and the first edition of the book had to be withdrawn as some
of the sketches were discovered to be copies from Cassell’s Family
Bible. In the second edition, published in the same year,
eight full-page plates had been withdrawn, although Cassell’s
protest only applied to three full-page and one half-page
plates.
Suspicion of the rest of the expunged drawings appears to
be justified. E. T. Bennett submitted an Arabic doorway inscription
that supposedly came in direct writing but is also visible in
an illustration in the Family Bible according to the expert examination
of Stanley Lane-Pool. He found the text to read,
‘‘There is no conqueror but God,’’ the characteristic motto of
the Moorish kings of Granada, which occurs on all their coins
and all over the Alhambra. ‘‘But the writer of the direct card,’’
he says, ‘‘evidently had not the Alhambra nor the Syrian Gateway
in his mind, but Cassell’s Family Bible. The engraver of the
cut in the Bible, which you sent me, made a muddle of the lower
line of inscription under the lintel, not knowing Arabic, and the
direct card exactly reproduces the engraver’s blunders.’’
There was a sequel to Hafed, titled Hermes, a Disciple of Jesus
His Life and Missionary Work; also the Evangelistic Travels of Anah
and Zitha, two Persian Evangelists, sent out by Hafed; together with
Incidents in the Life of Jesus given by a Disciple through Hafed
(1887). Thomas Garrioch, a member of Duguid’s circle, acted
as recorder. According to Hay Nisbet’s preface, this book was
only one-third finished by 1887. The remainder was composed
of the life and missionary work of a Brahmin priest who was
raised from the dead by Jesus, the autobiographies of an ancient
Mexican priest and a red Indian chief, and various other
spirit autobiographies, tales, addresses, and answers to questions.
Hermes—after the lesson learned from the publication of
Hafed—was not illustrated. Supposedly, the misadventure of
the Hafed illustrations was brought to the attention of the controls.
They defended themselves by saying that the memory of
these pictures was retained in Duguid’s subconscious mind. If
so, these impressions were apparently subject to elaboration in
the reproduction as, for instance, a ruined church nave of the
Family Bible appears in a restored condition in Duguid’s book.
A similar incident occurred in Duguid’s demonstrations of
spirit photography. His Cyprian priestess, a recurring spirit
photograph, was found to be the exact copy of a German picture,
Night.