The First Psychic – New Book From Peter Lamont

The First Psychic

How many times have we written in praise of the UK’s newspaper The Scotsman? Dozens. We never fail to find great magic stories within its pages.

Today was no exception.

We don’t know why we like it but we sure do. Call us “crazy,”
“deranged,” “weird,” or even “loathsome,” but we love verbal abuse. We
also love books about the history of magic. We always have, it’s just
the way we’re built.

So when we read Peter Lamont was coming out with a new book — a
follow-up to his great work on the Indian Rope Trick that never was —
about one of the first psychics in our faux-history, we skipped and
whistled.

Daniel Dunglas Home was denounced by George Eliot as “an object of
moral disgust”, by Harry Houdini as a moral pervert and “a hypocrite of
the deepest dye”, and as “utterly contemptible” by scientist Michael
Faraday.

“A moral pervert!” Houdini had a way with words.

“Most Victorians had come across mediums of some sort, but
Home was different, he was really difficult to explain,” says Peter
Lamont, a magic and paranormal researcher within the Koestler Institute
– Edinburgh University’s parapsychology research department. “That’s
what made people take such polar views.

“The first medium who came to Britain was a Mrs. Hayden and she did
the usual spirit raps and messages. You asked the spirits a question
and you got an answer.

“Most would see this as a simple trick. You could mechanically
produce raps with your knees, and gleam information from people through
their body language. You could explain it.

“But Home could make tables float, and magicians and scientists
couldn’t explain it. And so he was problematic, he annoyed skeptics as
he was difficult to explain.”

Mr. Lamont’s book is titled The First Psychic: The Peculiar Mystery of a Notorious Victorian Wizard.

The author turned magician turned magic author lives in Scotland and
is the former chairman of the Edinburgh Magic Circle. He believes Mr.
Home’s story is more than interesting, it is profound for today’s
psychics and debunkers.

“Home remains the single most interesting person in the
history of psychic phenomena,” enthuses Peter. “He’s the exemplar. If
you want to decide whether psychics are real or not, then look at the
best case. If he’s not real, then the rest aren’t.

“It’s in my very nature to be skeptical, but when I read some of
his accounts, I just don’t know how he did what he did. I’ve been a
magician since I was a small boy, I’ve performed magic for years and I
couldn’t do what he did under the same conditions.”

He adds: “My inspiration for the book goes back to the most common
question you get asked in this game [parapsychology] – ‘Have you ever
come across something you can’t explain?’ And that’s when I talk about
Daniel Home.

“Most of these things [paranormal events] sound very impressive, but
when you look into the evidence it all starts to look less so. With
Home, he’s the…

The First Psychic

How many times have we written in praise of the UK’s newspaper The Scotsman? Dozens. We never fail to find great magic stories within its pages.

Today was no exception.

We don’t know why we like it but we sure do. Call us “crazy,”
“deranged,” “weird,” or even “loathsome,” but we love verbal abuse. We
also love books about the history of magic. We always have, it’s just
the way we’re built.

So when we read Peter Lamont was coming out with a new book — a
follow-up to his great work on the Indian Rope Trick that never was —
about one of the first psychics in our faux-history, we skipped and
whistled.

Daniel Dunglas Home was denounced by George Eliot as “an object of
moral disgust”, by Harry Houdini as a moral pervert and “a hypocrite of
the deepest dye”, and as “utterly contemptible” by scientist Michael
Faraday.

“A moral pervert!” Houdini had a way with words.

“Most Victorians had come across mediums of some sort, but
Home was different, he was really difficult to explain,” says Peter
Lamont, a magic and paranormal researcher within the Koestler Institute
– Edinburgh University’s parapsychology research department. “That’s
what made people take such polar views.

“The first medium who came to Britain was a Mrs. Hayden and she did
the usual spirit raps and messages. You asked the spirits a question
and you got an answer.

“Most would see this as a simple trick. You could mechanically
produce raps with your knees, and gleam information from people through
their body language. You could explain it.

“But Home could make tables float, and magicians and scientists
couldn’t explain it. And so he was problematic, he annoyed skeptics as
he was difficult to explain.”

Mr. Lamont’s book is titled The First Psychic: The Peculiar Mystery of a Notorious Victorian Wizard.

The author turned magician turned magic author lives in Scotland and
is the former chairman of the Edinburgh Magic Circle. He believes Mr.
Home’s story is more than interesting, it is profound for today’s
psychics and debunkers.

“Home remains the single most interesting person in the
history of psychic phenomena,” enthuses Peter. “He’s the exemplar. If
you want to decide whether psychics are real or not, then look at the
best case. If he’s not real, then the rest aren’t.

“It’s in my very nature to be skeptical, but when I read some of
his accounts, I just don’t know how he did what he did. I’ve been a
magician since I was a small boy, I’ve performed magic for years and I
couldn’t do what he did under the same conditions.”

He adds: “My inspiration for the book goes back to the most common
question you get asked in this game [parapsychology] – ‘Have you ever
come across something you can’t explain?’ And that’s when I talk about
Daniel Home.

“Most of these things [paranormal events] sound very impressive, but
when you look into the evidence it all starts to look less so. With
Home, he’s the most impressive psychic of all time.”

Maybe we are being defensive but can we admit something — just between us?

We perform mentalism, read about mentalism, love mentalism, and even
mistakenly married a woman who claimed to be the disembodied spirit of
Margaret Fox (the pretty one of the three Fox sisters – Maggie, Kate,
and Leah), but we never knew about this part of history. We never heard
of Mr. Home. Ever.

We were just joking about Margaret Fox being the more pretty, they
were kind of equal but beauty is on the inside and her insides were
more pretty than that tramp of a sister Leah or that doltish,
sheep-like Kate.

But it is like our uncle used to say about Coca-Cola, “This drink is
so wonderful that if it did not already exist, man would have had to
invent it.”

We knew there had to be a first. Mr. Home was the first.

Mr. Lamont points out “He was the first, of course, and the
word psychic was actually invented for him.
“It’s not deception, not hallucination, the phenomena were real and it
wasn’t supernatural – it was natural. So, in 1871, after experiments
with him were done, scientists came up with the phrase “psychic” to
explain it.”

Before Mr. Home passed away at the young age of 44, he did some
pretty incredible stuff. We’re talking Banachek-quality stuff here.

His many psychic feats courted publicity, with the most famous involving levitation out of a window.

“He floated out of a window of a third-floor London apartment and
floated in another,” says Peter. “There were three witnesses and all of
them were very respectable, two were Lords and the other an Army
officer. Many tried to solve that one, including Houdini.

“All magic tricks come down to conditions. What Home did was walk into
a room in Amsterdam full of self-proclaimed skeptics and levitates a
table that was examined before, during and after. They examined him,
and afterwards said the table – big enough to seat 14 people – floated
in the air in a way that cannot be explained.”

So how did he do it?

Remember his table floating was performed almost a century before
Losander even existed. That means Mr. Home did his floating table
well-before the various knock-offs of Losander’s outstanding
innovations were sold through magic magazines for a quarter of the
price.

[We want to explain why we included our vicious attack at those who
would knock-off Losander’s life’s work and craftsmanship, or at the
editors and publishers who would sell ad space to those who sell with
impunity but no conscience. We certainly do not mean to suggest Mr.
Home would not have purchased a Losander table for full-price because
he was a Scottish and therefore miserly and cheap. We find that
stereotype offensive. It’s like saying all Irish magicians are drunks
— we’re sure that’s likely not true. Of course either cultural
stereotype is far less offensive than the actions of those who would
preach the importance of protecting magic’s intellectual property and
then sell ads to those who abduct the infant lambs of our favorite
magic citizens].

Does Mr. Lamont believe Mr. Home was a psychic?

“But, yes, I believe the stories. Do I believe that’s what really
happened, though? Well, you never know,” he adds, with a smile. “He was
the best magician I’ve ever come across, and if it was trickery I have
no clue how he did it.”

Mr. Lamont’s book will debut on August 29th and is published by Little, Brown.

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