Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

[Statement of Colonel Olcott
concerning the Shrine and Environment]

by Richard Hodgson

[First published in Richard Hodgson's "Account of Personal Investigations in India,
and Discussion of the Authorship of the 'Koot Hoomi' Letters,"
Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Volume III, 1885, Appendix IV,
Section titled "Colonel Olcott," pp. 335-336.  For more on the Shrine,
see Walter A. Carrithers, Jr.'s overview and analysis.]

It was not until after my investigations had been continued some time, and I had expressed at the Theosophical headquarters my appreciation of the great dearth of evidence for any examination of the west side of the wall behind the Shrine, that on one of my visits to Adyar I was informed that Colonel Olcott had that morning found a letter in his drawer, written in red ink, and said to be from Mahatma M.  Colonel Olcott declared that he had entirely forgotten the circumstances to which this note referred until finding it in his drawer. It ran as follows: -

"Henry, now that your fever is cured, I want you perform something that will cure it for ever. It would not do for you to have it at Ceylon. Call Babula and a cooly or two and lifting off the cupboard Shrine clean off the wall (you can do so without taking it off its wires or nail), write my sign on that spot of the wall which corresponds with the centre and four corners of the cupboard. The signs must be very small, and thus. [The letter contained a rough sketch of the positions of the marks.] When you return from Ceylon the answers will be there. Copy them. You must not let Upasika [HPB] see what you have done, nor tell her. Especially keep this secret from the Coulombs."

Colonel Olcott then told me that the finding of this letter had recalled to his mind the fact that he obeyed these instructions. He calculated the date to be December 17th, 1883. He declares that he looked again on a date calculated by him to be February 13th, 1884, and found the wall in the same condition as on December 17th. There was no mention of these events in his diary. Colonel Olcott said there was muslin behind the Shrine, and Babula, - who was summoned by Madame Blavatsky, not at my request, - said that he remembered the incident, and that he moved the Shrine, &c., very carefully, because he was afraid Madame Blavatsky would be angry. Colonel Olcott, in reply to my inquiry made at the time when this note was first shown me, said that he thought he must have observed any panel or hollow if there had been such behind the muslin, which he said was moved at the different positions so as to allow him to write the initials. Colonel Olcott’s confidence, however, soon increased considerably, and in a later conversation he asserted that he saw the whole bare wall at once after removing the "stuff" between it and the Shrine! The reader however may remember that to see the whole bare wall at once it would have been needful to remove not only the muslin but the other fabric, which, according to the evidence of Mr. Lane-Fox, closely covered the wall immediately behind the Shrine.

Examination of Colonel Olcott’s testimony in other cases (see Report, pp. 231-239, analysis of his evidence given before the Committee), even without the discrepancy noted above, is enough to show the impossibility of placing any reliance upon his isolated "remembered" indirect observation of the wall behind the Shrine.

Most probably this Mahatma note is an ex post facto document foisted upon Colonel Olcott by Madame Blavatsky. Had it really been written at the close of 1883, it should have been mentioned in Colonel Olcott’s detailed diary, and it should have been found by Colonel Olcott immediately on his arrival at Adyar from Europe at the end of 1884, when he professes to have made a careful search through his papers for documents of value as against the Coulombs’ charges; nothing, however, was heard of it till the moment when evidence for inspection of the Shrine wall was known to be lacking.